view of the Vienna Danube
photo: Donauturm

Vienna Danube Guide 2024: 16+ River Discoveries To Dive Into

In this extensive insider guide to the Vienna Danube I’m going to share what the Donau in Wien looks like, the best places to explore and enjoy yourself and where you’ll likely arrive by cruise ship. Although the Danube flows through Vienna it is not the only Vienna river. Further down you will also learn about the eponymous Wien river.

The Danube River In Vienna

Approximately 23 km of the 2,850 km long Donau flow through Vienna. The Danube river in Vienna as of today didn’t always look like this. It is the result of two regulations in the 19th and 20th centuries to control floods. Since 1875 the Danube Canal, instead of the main Danube, flows alongside the city center. The actual Donau now passes a few kilometres north east of the center. The long and narrow Danube Island (Donauinsel) splits the Vienna Danube into the Donau and the parallel side arm Neue Donau (New Danube). The crescent-shaped side arm of Neue Donau is the Alte Donau (Old Danube).

The Wiener Donau has a few fabulous places to eat, drink, bike, swim and rent a boat. This list focuses on the Danube in Vienna, including Klosterneuburg. Many of them are not in tourist guides. Find practical information and tips on Wachau Valley and Melk Abbey in Lower Austria.

The Other Vienna River

Vienna river promenadeMuch smaller than the multinational Danube, the Wien river flows south west of the Donau. Having its source in the Western Vienna Woods, the 34 km long Wien crosses the city for its last 15 km until it ends up in the Danube Canal between the first and third district. On its way, it passes Schönbrunn Palace, flows underneath Naschmarkt und then resurfaces at Stadtpark before passing the Museum for Applied Arts / Contemporary Art and entering the Danube Canal. Because the Vienna river can massively swell during the rainy season and thaw, it flows through a concrete river bed in the city. 

When in Vienna you can see the river close to two main attractions: First, when the Vienna river runs parallel to the main entrance of Schönbrunn Palace. Second, when in Stadtpark use the Wien river promenade close to the Art Nouveau Wienfluss-Portal, which forms part of my Art Nouveau Walk

Map of Vienna Danube

 Check out my favourite places along the Vienna Danube, the Old Danube and the Danube Canal on this map. Click on the + sign at the bottom left to zoom in. You can read more about these highlights  below.

Danube Resort Kritzendorf

Vienna Danube: house in KritzendorfIn the early 20th century Kritzendorf was known as the Riviera On The Danube. The riverside settlement is a charming old Danube resort and largely unknown to travellers. 

Most of all, Kritzendorf is known for its unique stilted houses that were built along the banks of the Danube River. They date back to the late 19th century when the Danube frequently flooded its banks. Today they have turned into a cultural landmark.

During many summers I used to stay at a typical stilt house in Kritzendorf, swimming in the Danube, walking among the willow trees, eating apricot dumplings and watching the adults sip red currant wine. Definitely the best things to do there are to explore the old riverside resort, take a shoreline walk and a careful swim, and lunch at riverside restaurant Fischer.

Address: Strombad Kritzendorf, 3420 Klosterneuburg

Klosterneuburg Abbey

Vienna Danube: Klosterneuburg AbbeyAs one of Austria’s oldest monasteries, Klosterneuburg  also boasts a 900-year-old wine cellar. It is packed with medieval art treasures and stories about the very beginnings of Austria more than 1,000 years ago. Few people know that Klosterneuburg’s Imperial State Rooms almost became the Habsburgs’ summer residence, if there hadn’t been Schonbrunn Palace. You can see the abbey from the Danube, though the interiors are much more impressive.

When the Vienna State Opera closes during the summer, the Oper Klosterneuburg offers a fantastic alternative with their open air operas in the historic courtyard. Find out about the art wine tour that I did there.

Address: Stift Klosterneuburg, Stiftsplatz 1, 3400 Klosterneuburg

Otto Wagner’s Danube Weir

As the Danube enters Vienna it flows through a terrific Art Nouveau weir and the so called Schemerl Bridge: For example, when cruising into Vienna, you’ll pass right underneath that bridge. Find out more in Otto Wagner in Vienna.

Address: Am Brigittenauer Sporn 7, 1220 Vienna

Danube Island

Vienna Danube: DonauinselSimilar to Budapest’s Margaret Island the Danube Island (Donauinsel) stretches across much of the local Danube. It’s great for biking, swimming and going round by electric boat in the New Danube arm. Sunken City is a buzzing summertime leisure area packed with riverside cafes, bars and restaurants. If you have adventurous kids, check out the climbing park just opposite Donauinsel.

The best eatery along Wiener Donau is contemporary style Marina Restaurant. If you’d like to stay on the Vienna Danube, take a look at the Hilton Danube.

Vienna’s Danube Tower

Vienna Danube: Danube Tower restaurantAs early as the 1980s my father started to take all our visiting friends from abroad to the Donauturm (Danube Tower). They loved the 360-degree rotating café and restaurant at 160 metres height, and the fabulous views over Wien. Since 2019, the tower restaurant shines in its re-interpreted 1960s interior design.

Because of its height and positioning you will hardly get more breathtaking sceneries of the city of Vienna and Vienna wineries from the Danube. From November 2023, an illuminated slide on the northern outside of the tower will allow you to glide from the central floor through a transparent work of art to the viewing level at a height of 150 meters. The project by the German object artist Carsten Höller is intended to last for three years.
Address: Donauturmstrasse 8, 1220 Vienna

Boat Rides On The Vienna Danube

If you don’t have much time and want to combine a Vienna sightseeing tour with a Danube boat ride, your best bet is the Vienna Danube boat ride (more in Boat Trips). It takes you along both the Wiener Donau and Donaukanal (Danube Canal).

Danube National Park

Vienna Danube: Nationalpark DonauauenIn the very East the Vienna Danube turns into a nature reserve of wetlands with jungle-like side arms and great wildlife. The Donau-Auen National Park, or Danube-Auen National Park, covers a vast area of floodplains, wetlands, meadows, and forests along the Danube River. Among its oxbow lakes, marshes, and riparian forests you can spot otters, beavers, and various fish species. On land, watch out for red deer, roe deer and wild boars if you are lucky.

Especially the local boat tours and hiking trails are popular with children. Some areas of the national park have designated cycling paths. Rent a bike and explore the surroundings at your own pace, enjoying the fresh air and scenic views.

The best seasons to visit the park is in the spring and summer, though make sure you take insect repellent with you.

Find out more about Nationalpark Donauauen and how to get there in my July travel tips.

Address: Nationalpark Donauauen, Schlossplatz 1, 2304 Orth/Donau

Danube Cruise Ship Piers

Danube cruise ship Crystal MozartIf you arrive on the Vienna Danube by cruise ship, you will most likely alight at Wiener Schifffahrtszentrum on Handelskai 265. Since more than 350,000 cruise ship passengers land here between March and early January every year, expect a busy welcome center.

On the one hand, most cruise liners offer guided day trips and shuttle services.  On the other hand, exploring Vienna on your own will change the way you connect to the city. To begin with, take metro U1 from nearby station Vorgartenstrasse and whizz to the Vienna city centre in less than 10 minutes. If you need help pulling together your own off-shore day programme, check out my Vienna travel planning services.

Address: Schiffahrtszentrum Wien, Handelskai 265, 1020 Vienna

Best Places Along Alte Donau / Old Danube

Small side streets often beat majestic broadways in charm. As for waterways, this rings true for the Vienna Danube and the Old Danube. At Alte Donau you enter a local riverside community that has successfully hidden from mass tourism over the past decades.

Renting A Sofa Boat

Vienna Danube: sofa boatsMy favourite place on the Old Danube is a boat. There is nothing better than floating on a large round sofa boat across Alte Donau in the summer. You can lunch or dine on your boat, jump into the water and exploring typical riverside cabins and tiny Gansehäufel island. The electric boats use a simply joystick for navigation. Read more about my sofa boat experience in Vienna boat tour.

Address: Meine Insel, Laberlweg 19, 1220 Vienna

Bootshaus Café and Restaurant

Vienna Danube Guide: Das BootshausTo discover the area on foot, stroll along the promenade ‘An der Oberen Alten Donau’ starting from Floridsdorfer Brücke. Right at the waterside you will find Das Bootshaus, serving delicious sandwiches, wine and caipirinhas.

In fact, the new owners, who also run traditional Café Landtmann and Café Museum, fulfilled a long cherished dream for themselves when opening this stylish Danube café.

The best places to take a swim in the Old Danube are quiet Kaiserwasser, the Old Danube Promenade and wild Donau-Oder-Kanal, a canal project to connect the Danube with German Oder which never finished.

If you’d like to really discover this authentic stretch of riverside Vienna, stay at Eva Elbaranes-Kolls eclectic Bed and Breakfast The Rooms.

Address: An der unteren Alten Donau 61, 1220 Vienna

Danube Canal: Spittelau

Vienna Danube: Hundertwasser designed waste plant SpittelauThe Danube Canal is much narrower than the Danube river in Vienna but flows right next to the city centre and is lined with a few impressive buildings. One of those is, weirdly enough, Vienna’s waste incineration plant in Spittelau. It was designed in the 1970s by Viennese artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser to increase the Viennese’s acceptance of waste incineration. 

Watch out for the large golden stopper stuck onto the blue tower before artful checks and blotches of colour appear on the main building.

Address: Müllverbrennungsanlage Spittelau, Spittelauer Lände 45, 1090 Vienna

Summerstage At The Canal

Vienna Danube Canal : Summerstage

A bit further down you will find buzzing riverside hangout Summerstage. Between May and September locals love to relax with a glass of wine or beer on the large wooden terrace while listening to occasional live music. Summerstage is open from 5.00 pm on week days and from 3.00 pm on weekends.

Address: Rossauer Lände 17, 1090 Vienna

Otto Wagner’s Schützenhaus

Another lovely eye-catcher is Otto Wagner’s Schützenhaus, an Art Nouveau jewel that is now housing a restaurant. It was designed to cover and protect various lifting devices to help regulate the Danube Canal. In the restaurant you can still see some of them.

Address: Obere Donaustraße 26, 1020 Vienna

High Speed Catamaran To Bratislava

Vienna Danube: Motto am FlussThe Danube Canal’s most central part is at Schwedenplatz, a 10 minutes walk from St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the city center. From there you can also take one of the high speed catamarans to Bratislava. Read my story about whizzing down to Bratislava in mini Danube cruise. The pier itself hosts riverside restaurant Motto am Fluss.

Probably the best place for rooftop views of the Danube Canal and the city is restaurant Le Loft at luxury hotel Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom. The dark shiny tower goes on the account of French star architect Jean Nouvel.

Address: Twin City Liner Pier, Schiffstation Wien City, Franz-Josefs-Kai 2, Schwedenplatz/Kai, 1010 Vienna

Badeschiff

A few strokes further and you will land at Badeschiff, a pool constructed on a converted cargo ship. While taking in views of the city visitors can swim in one of Vienna’s hippest locations for dining out, and dancing. There are sunbeds and seating areas around the pool, providing a comfortable space for sunbathing and relaxation. It’s a popular place to unwind, especially during sunny days. In the evenings, the Badeschiff can transform into a lively spot with a unique nightlife atmosphere, feature DJ performances or themed parties.

In the winter you can also play bowling and do ice curling.

Address: Badeschiff, Donaukanallände, 1010 Vienna

Strandbar Herrmann

Vienna Danube: Strandbar HerrmannSince a couple of years Vienna has got its own riverside beaches. To be honest, the Danube Canal isn’t the most picturesque site for this but those sandy oases have improved the canal aesthetics a lot. The best spot to stick your toes into the sand while juggling a cocktail is Strandbar Herrmann, just opposite Wiener Urania planetarium.

You can see all these and more places during a one hour boat tour on the Danube Canal. If you are a group of max. eight people and like doing something authentic between 1st May and 26th October consider renting a Wiener Bootstaxi.

Address: Strandbar Herrmann, Herrmannpark, 1030 Vienna

Best Vienna Danube Festivals and Events 2024

Donauinselfest: Europe’s biggest open air festival rocks the Danube Island for a weekend each June – though this year in September. Find out more in Vienna Music Festival.

Light Festival (Lichterfest) on the Old Danube: While the Donauinselfest rocks, the Lichterfest gently sways. Prepare for evergreens, decorated boats, illuminated shorelines and a massive firework on Alte Donau on an evening in July. In 2024 the festival will take place at the end of July (exact date tbc). Above all, be quick if you want to rent a boat there that evening.

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