Hot summer days in Vienna can be overcome with a visit to some of the numerous bathing spots in and around the city. Just seven stops from the main city square Stephansplatz, you can find probably the most popular summer escape among Viennese - the Old Danube (Alte Donau in German). This natural oasis, and a recreational area of a special kind, is located just next to the high-rises of the Vienna's Donau-City.
The Alte Donau is a natural remnant of what the Danube used to be before humans have rectified the river into its current shape. In the past, the Danube branched into many individual arms and channels in the Vienna area and formed a wide, wild meadow area. The main arm changed after the repetitive heavy floods over the years. Before the regulation works in the 19th century that dug a new river arm as the flood protection, what is now called the Alte Donau was the main arm of the river. Curiously, the newly dug channel is now the main arm of the Danube. The Alte Donau lies directly next to the Danube and another neighboring channel New Danube (Neue Donau). While it doesn't have a direct connection with neither of them, it's mainly fed by the groundwater.
Several very popular public beach resorts can be found along the shores of the Alte Donau, including the Gänsehäufel, the most famous of them all. The Gänsehäufel is a sandy island with lush vegetation, with all the necessary facilities such as showers, changing rooms, toilets, and even sports fields. It is dedicated to summer fun and boasts idyllic swimming conditions.
My favorite bathing spot is a series of wooden piers that stretch on the east side of the Alte Donau, starting at the metro station of the U2 purple line. The docks are equipped with curvaceous wooden reclining seats and sunbeds. They are a popular meeting place of the younger generations and are also known for the pier-parties and night swimming. The best atmosphere, and the view, is when the dusk is approaching. Vienna is one of the most beautiful cities to watch sunsets.
If you want to find a little bit calmer spot, you should head for Romaplatz, which is a more family-friendly place, due to the abundance of shade. Here, you can even find a swimming pool, for those who don’t enjoy a lakeside setting of the Alte Donau. Sports enthusiasts can enjoy beach volleyball facilities, table tennis amenities, and a basketball court.
The Alte Donau is probably Vienna’s first address for water sports of all kinds. Sailing is very popular here, as well as surfing, rowing, swimming, and stand-up-paddling. There are around 500 rowboats, and electric and paddle boats for rent. In the winter, when it gets cold enough and the water freezes, you can even go ice skating here.
The area offers various dining options. There are about forty restaurants and many food stands here.
The contrast between the adjacent urban landscape of the Vienna's Donau-City with many high-rises and the idyll of the Alte Donau is particularly appealing for visitors. In order to enjoy a hot day in Vienna, the Alte Donau is excellent for those looking for a perfect summer escape, located in the city.
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