This year I discovered that among the best apartments I
could rent for two weeks in Vienna during September was one in Nussdorf, an area in
the 19th district on the outer edge of the city. Its borders include the Danube River and vineyards
rising up the hills of Nussberg and Leopoldsberg. I was hesitant to rent this apartment because
I have never stayed so far away from the city center. However, I like Nussdorf, which I have visited many times during the
last couple of decades to access walking trails and try the local heuriger
(establishments serving “new wine”). I decided to give it a try.
|Hearty Welcome to Nussdorf|
The idea of living in Nussdorf for a couple of weeks in
September appealed to me mainly because it would be harvest time in the
vineyards, the weather would be great for walks, and many outdoor heuriger would
be open. On the down side, I knew that it
takes 25 to 30 minutes to get into the center of the city by public
transportation, and the travel time would deter me from going there. I decided this time I would trade the cultural
attractions of the city for the pleasures of village life, fresh air and local
I was not disappointed with my decision. The last half of September
was a great time to be in Nussdorf.
In and Around Nussdorf
For most of Vienna’s existence, Nussdorf – like the neighboring
villages of Heilingenstadt and Grinzing – was a long carriage ride on dodgy
roads from the center of Vienna. The
existence of “Nut village”(the English translation of its name) dates back many
centuries, and until buses and trams connected it with the Vienna downtown, the
village was an isolated spot to which Viennese made day trips or in which
they rented rooms to escape from the big city and to enjoy walks in the Vienna
Woods. Also, many imbibed at the local wine taverns.
|"Nussdorf City Hall, 16th Century" at Kahlenberger Strasse 8|
The appearance of the old village can be glimpsed in the buildings along Kahlenberger Strasse, a street that starts in the center of
the Nussdorf and goes (partly by road, the rest of the distance by walking
trail) up to the top Kahlenberg, one of two famous mountain peaks to the north
of Nussdorf. Many of the old buildings along
the first blocks of Kahlenberger Strasse have their age noted on their facades.
For example, as shown in the picture above, one building was the Nussdorf city hall in the 16th century.
|Sign Marking a House where Beethoven Lived in Summer 1817|
Perhaps inevitably, because Beethoven moved frequently and
loved solitary walks, one house on Kahlenberger Strasse has a sign
commemorating his stay there in the summer of 1817. His extended visits in the village and
nearby Heiligenstadt likely inspired giving the name Eroicagasse to a street
that connects the two villages.
My Nussdorf apartment was on Zahnradbahn Strasse, a half
block from the D Strassenbahn end station. The track at the end station circles
a building that looks like a train station, which it once was. It was the terminal
for the cog wheel train (Zahnradbahn) – hence the name of the street -- that from 1874 to 1919 took people to the top
of Kahlenberg via Grinzing and Krapfenberg. No doubt this train was crammed on
sunny days in spring and fall as people traveled up the mountain to look out
over the city and to walk down to Grinzing, Heiligengstadt, or Nussdorf through
the Vienna Woods and the vineyards.
|Cog Wheel Train with Kahlenberg in the Background|
The old open train car used for the trips up the mountain is
now exhibited on the top of Kahlenberg, which can be easily reached by Bus 38a,
that runs from the Heiligenstadt U-Bahn (subway) station through Nussdorf, Heilgenstadt,
and Grinzing before ascending the steep roads up to the top of the mountain. At
the top of the mountain is an old church with a memorial commemorating the 1683 battle in which the Polish King Sobiesky marched over Kahlenberg to turn the precarious fight against the invading Turkish army into a victory. See http://www.wien.info/en/sightseeing/green-vienna/Kahlenberg
|Guest House at the Cog Wheel Train, Nussdorf|
The former Zahnradbahn train station in Nussdorf now houses
a restaurant. Sitting close to it is an open carriage modeled after the one that was hauled up Kahlenberg by the old cog wheel train. That carriage is now pulled
by a tractor dressed up like a locomotive to take visitors on a tour of the various heuriger in
the area. It is called the Heurigen Express,
and it operated on weekends while I was there (see http://www.wienrundfahrten.com/tour-heurigen-express.html).
The street car trip to and from downtown Vienna begins and
ends at the Nussdorf station. Going into
the city, the D heads in the direction of the Hauptbahnhof, the
other end station. It goes down Heiligenstädter
Strasse (passing the massive Karl Marx Hof) to the Gürtel, then weaves its way toward the ring going by a huge university complex and the Franz Josef Bahnhof. Its first stop on the Ring is Schottentor,
located by the University of Vienna. It
goes around the Ring with stops in front of the gothic Rathaus (city hall) and
the Burgtheater; near the Parliament building; across the street from the
entrance to the Heldenplatz; and in front of the Opera. It then turns off the
Ring and heads up Prinz Eugen Strasse, with a stop by the Belvedere Palace. The trip on the “D” used to terminate at the South Train Station, which has been demolished. Now, its last stop is the new
Hauptbahnhof (Main Train Station) that is being developed as the city’s
central transportation hub.
|D Street Car Headed Out of Nussdorf|
The pokey, but comfortable, street cars are not the only way
to travel from Nussdorf to other spots in and around Vienna. For example, if traveling to the West Train Station, you can take the D to the Spittalau stop, which has a subway connection
(U-6) that take you to the West Train Station via other places along the Gürtel,
including the Volksoper. If you want to
go to Schwedenplatz (which has a terminal for an airport bus) or to the
Landestrasse/Wien Mitte station to catch a train to the city’s airport, you can
take the D to the Heilgenstadt stop (in front of the center of Marx Hof) and
there change to a U-4 subway. This subway also goes also to Karlsplatz and Schönbrunn.
In short, it is easy to get from Nussdorf to most places in
Vienna by public transportation, but the travel times are not short. Fortunately, there is enough to do in
Nussdorf and vicinity that frequent trips to the center of the city are not
What to do in
Nussdorf is a great location for walks and wine. One of the first things to do in the village is
walk around it to get a better feel for its layout and attractions. Start at
the beginning of Kahlenberger Strasse (near the intersection of Greinergasse
and Zahlradbahn Strasse, just up from Nussdorfer Platz). Walk several blocks on this
narrow street to enjoy both the old and new architecture that you see along the
way. When you reach the flat, yellow Restaurant Schiefer, turn right off of Kahlenberger Strasse onto Eroicagasse, heading toward the hills to to enjoy more of the village style buildings plus some very expensive suburban houses. At
the end of Eroicagasse, you will reach the entrance to the Nussdorfer cemetery and paths up to the vineyards. Turn right onto Nussberggasse and walk to the end of
the street, turning right on Hackhofergasse, a part of the the village with newer and
less interesting buildings. Go down Hackhofergasse and you will reach Nussdorfer
Platz. Turn right and walk a couple of blocks, and you are back to where you
started the hike.
|Near the beginning of Kalhenberger Strasse, Nussdorf|
|More of Kahlenberger Strasse|
After you have scouted around the village, go drink some new
wine at Kierlinger or Schübel-Auer Heuriger. They are located side by side, with entrances on Zahnradbahngasse, across from the D end station and on Kahlenberger Strasse (numbers 20 and 22). Check out their websites here: http://www.kierlinger.at/ and http://www.schuebel-auer.at/
After that introduction to the city, here are some other
things you should do.
Walk along the
Danube, visiting Kahlenbergerdorf and climbing on the trail to Leopoldsberg
Nussdorf is located by the spot where the Danube canal
splits off from the main river. Although you cannot see the Danube from most
places in Nussdorf (it is hidden by the train station and an elevated highway),
you can get quickly to the banks of the river. Head to the train station, which
is located across the street from Nussdorfer Platz along the busy Heiligenstädter Strasse, and go through the tunnel underneath the station:
there is the river and wide paths for walking and bicycling.
As you exit the tunnel, you see the start of the Danube canal
and shortly downstream is a bridge (guarded by lions) with a river flow
regulation system underneath it. The walk toward the city is
comparatively under-developed, so the best choice is to walk upstream along the
river, away from the city. Fortunately, the
pedestrian trail is separated from a paved path for bicycles.
|Sitting by the Beginning of the Danube Canal|
The beginning part of the trail lies under an elevated
highway built to get people heading north quickly out of the city. After that, the walking path is lined with
trees and shrubs, with great views of dachas built on the side of the mountains and the famous river.
About a quarter of a mile up the trail from Nussdorf are
moorings for passenger ships that sail the Danube. This form of tourism –
traveling the Danube by ship – has apparently become quite popular, and every
time I walked this path two to four boats were docked there.
|Passenger Ship for the Danube, Moored near Nussdorf|
About 20 minutes up this walking trail from Nussdorf is
another village, this one surrounded by woods, hills, and vineyards. Its name
is Kahlenbergerdorf, and it is an old village worth exploring. I know something
about Kahlenbergerdorf because I was there many times in 1971-72, one of my
academic years in Vienna, to walk with my housemate Joerg Wollman up a steep and
winding path to the top of Leopoldsberg. The path (Waldbachsteig) is still there and as
popular as ever. However, I am not sure I could still make it to the top. If you are up to it, you will enjoy the climb and the views at the top.
|Church in Kahlenbergerdorf|
|Another View of the Kahlenbergerdorf Church|
|At the Entrance of Waldbachsteig, a Path to the Top of Leopoldsberg|
Kahlenbergerdorf lies on the other side of Heiligenstädter Strasse from the walking trail along the Danube, and it is accessed by a tunnel
under the highway. Once you take a look at the village, it is possible to walk back to Nussdorf without returning to
the Danube trail. Another trail along the side of the Nussberg mountain links
the two villages. Most of the trail is for pedestrians, but a portion of it
goes to a sidewalk along the heavily traveled road. Then it ascends again to walking
path that ultimately takes you back to the center of Nussdorf.
|Concerned Dog along Trail from Kahlenbergerdorf to Nussdorf|
Heiligenstadt, Grinzing, and the Vineyards above Them
Part of a walking agenda should include visits to
Heligenstadt and Grinzing. Heilgenstadt can be reached via Grinzing Strasse or
by walking up Kalhlenberger Strasse to Eroicagasse or Armbrustergasse, then walking down one of those streets (in the direction of downtown Vienna) to Probusgasse. At the intersection of Eroicagasse and
Probusgasse is the Pfarrplatz, which has an old church and a house where
Beethoven lived. Beethoven first came to Heiligenstadt in 1802 to escape the city and seek treatment for his growing deafness. He returned many times to the village during the remainder of his life. http://www.pfarrplatz.at/en/beethovenhouse/beethovenhouse.html.
This small square has an old heuriger, Mayer on Pfarrplatz, that claims roots going back to the 17th century. It is a bit of history that merits
a visit http://www.pfarrplatz.at/en/heuriger/the-heurige.html. Two other heuriger are open for
business along Probusgasse between Eroicagasse and Armburstergasse (discussed
later). This area also some attractive restaurants to explore in this area.
|The Beginning of Armburstergrasse, which Links Nussdorf|
To get to Grinzing, walk along Beethovengang, which begins at the D end station in Nussdorf. Keep going straight when it crosses Kahlenberger Strasse and soon
you will be on Wildgrubgasse. Keep going along this paved trail and you pass a
large cemetery. Just past the entrance to this cemetery, you will see to the
left a small path crossing a stream and heading up a hill. This path is the
Grinzinger Steig (steps) and if you follow it, you will reach the center of
Grinzing, another ancient village with character that is worth some your time.
Grinzing is famous for its many heuriger. Its main drawback is that its fame
attracts too many tourists and way too many tour buses. (From Gringing, it is
easy to return to Nussdorf by taking the 38a bus toward the Heiligstadt station
and exiting at the Heiligenstaeder Strasse stop.)
|Directions to Beethovengang at the "D" end station|
Walking up Weingrubergasse, if you decide that you do not
want to go to Grinzing, the trail heads up the mountain toward Kahlenberg. Going up, there are many smaller trails to take among the vineyards and woods. All offer pleasant hikes with memorable views of the city and the river.
|Austrian Vineyard Laborer with a View of the Church|
on Leopoldsberg in the Background
Another, and faster, way to get to trails in the vineyards above
Nussdorf is to walk up Eroicasgasse in Nussdorf. At the end of that street, turn left on Dennweg
and you will see many trails, both paved and unpaved among the vineyards. Alternatively, and more strenuously, you can walk up Kahlenberger Strasse all the way to Eichelhofweg which cuts across the vineyards and offers glorious views.
Another good, and easier, way to walk in the Vienna woods
and among the vineyards is to take the 38a bus (catch it at the corner of Heiligenstaedter Strasse and Grinzinger
Strasse) to the top of either Kahlenberg or Leopoldsberg, then walk down a trail from there. If you are like me, you will get lost, but ultimately
will find yourself in one of the three villages at the bottom of the mountains.
|View of the Church atop Kahlenberg|
Visiting the Heuriger,
The Taverns Selling “New Wine”
The heuriger are establishments (wine taverns, wineries, guest houses) that
sell new wine (heurige = new wine) made from grapes grown in their own vineyards,
which are often located a short walk up the mountain from where you drink the
wine. New wine –wine made from recently harvested grapes -- is tart, sometimes
sour. I like the white heurige; you may not. If you don’t, you can choose many of other types of wine that the vintner has bottled. You may like the gruener veltliner, a dry white wine that is an Austrian specialty. If you prefer red wine, an excellent local red wine is zweigelt, also an Austrian specialty. (Bottles of these wines can be amazingly
inexpensive when purchased in Austria.)
Typically, if you want to order a heurige, you ask for a
viertel (1/4 of a liter), and it is served in a mug-glass with a handle. If you
want a regular wine, the basic serving is an achtel (1/8 of a liter), and it is
served in a wine glass. The price of a viertal heurige is between 2.5 to 3
Heurige is served in restaurant- and tavern-type
settings, most featuring wooden tables and rustic artifacts; these are scattered throughout
Nussdorf, Heiligenstadt, and Grinzing villages. During warmer months, heurige is available in more primitive settings, mainly outdoor areas up
the mountains amid the vineyards. The locations of many, but not all, heuriger
in the vicinity of Nussdorf and Heilgenstadt are shown on a map posted at the
beginning of Kahlenberger Strasse.
The heuriger has a long history. In 1784, Emperor Joseph II issued an edict allowing people making wine to sell their own wine without needing a restaurant license, which could be expensive or hard to get. However, their right to sell their own wine came with restrictions: the places where they sold their wine could be open only a limited number of days and they were not allowed to serve hot food at their establishments.
|Map of Heuriger, Posted at the beginning of Kahlenberger Strasse|
After this edict, numerous small, sometimes crude, wine-taverns opened in the villages on the edge of the city and others opened in vineyards by trails up to Kahlenberg and Leopoldsberg. As late as the 1960s and early 1970s, many small wine-taverns were selling selling their own wine and serving cold ham, cheese, and salads. I recall in 1971 hiking out with some friends to a heuriger with no electricity in the middle of some vineyards near Kahlenberg.
A few of the old-style heuriger still exist, but most now resemble restaurants, serving hot food with their wine. Many are open year round. Nevertheless, whether they are open all the time or only seasonally, most heuriger still hang small boughs of fir or pine trees by their front doors to let people know when they are open and serving new wine. When the small pine or fir branches are hanging, the heuriger is said to be “ausg’steckt.” It is open for business.
During this trip, I, along with my friend Natalia, sampled
several of the heurigen; we had visited some of these, and others, on
previous visits. Here are some
observations about them.
We found the best tasting heurige was served at Feuerwehr
Wagner located on Grinzinger Strasse (#1 on the map). (Feuerwehr means fire brigade; in 1900, the owner of the winery was chief of the Heiligenstadt volunteer fire department.) According to the winery's website, the Wagner family has operated a winery for 350 years.
In addition to excellent wine, Feuerwehr Wagner also has excellent food (like most
heuriger, you do not order it restaurant style, but go to a counter, order it,
and carry it yourself back to the table). The service was not so good this visit, but it was fine when we were
there previously. Check out the Feuerwehr Wagner's website here: http://www.feuerwehrwagner.at/english/home.html
|Feuerwehr Wagner's Vineyard above Nussdorf|
Another heuriger that we greatly enjoyed this visit, and previously, is Buschenschank Ing. Andreas Wagner at Wildgrubergasse 48. It offers outdoor seating surrounded by vineyards, and is a relaxing place to sample heurige on warm, sunny days.
|Buschenschank Ing. Andreas Wagner on Wildgrubergasse;|
Note that the Fir Bough in Front shows it is "Ausg'steckt
We walked all the way
from Nussdorf to sit outside at tables on a
sloping hill, many are shaded by trees. While we loved the setting, we found the heurige a bit sour, though still refreshing. We bought a bottle of Andreas Wagner’s gruener veltliner to take with
us, and liked it very much. See http://www.wildgrube48.at/
Just up from my apartment on Zahnradbahn Strasse, across
from the D end station, are the entrances to two large Nussdorfer heuriger. (As noted earlier, both also have entrances on Kahlenberger Strasse.) Both Kierlinger and Schübel-Auer Heuriger have peaceful gardens
for drinking heurige outdoors during warms days, plus classic wooden tables
inside. Both have the feel of the old time heuriger, plus very good heurige.
Both are recommended. See their websites here: http://www.kierlinger.at/ and http://www.schuebel-auer.at/
Next door to Heuriger Muth was Heuriger Ing. Werner Welser (Probusgasse 12). We did not have time to try this heurige during our visit (so much wine, so little time), but we will go there next time. See its website at http://www.werner-welser.at/gheuriger.html
Unfortunately, two heuriger that we would have liked to sample were not open when we walked up to see them. They are located halfway up a mountain (a long walk uphill, not served by public transportation!) where Kahlenberger Strasse intersects with Eichelweg. The two open air establishments are Sirbu Hans (for some great pictures of it, go to http://www.sirbu.at/ ) and Mayer am Nussberg (see http://www.mayeramnussberg.at/ ).
|Entrance to Zum Martin Sepp in Grinzing|
Both places have tables in open fields surrounded by vineyards, with views of the mountaintops and the city. Both are on our list of places to visit the next time we are in Vienna.
This year we did not visit heuriger in Grinzing, but when we were
in Vienna last December, we had a tasty wiener
schnitzel and some heurige at Zum Martin Sepp. This place seems to be a very good restaurant that
serves its own heuriger and sells other wine from its winery. We recommend it. See http://www.zummartinsepp.at/
One of the most interesting heuriger I visited I found accidentally on the mountain above Nussdorf. Hiking on a trail just above the village, I noticed an unusual “ausg'steckt” sign: it was a wine bottle hanging from a piece of wood that had "ausg'steckt" written on it. It seemed to point up the hill.
I could not resist and walked up a steep grade between two
rows of grapevines (I admit I sampled the small green grapes along the way and
found them sweeter than any other grapes I have ever eaten). After huffing and puffing for ten minutes, I found
a small heuriger and two or three dozen people sitting around drinking its
wine. The setting and the heurige were memorable.
|Strange sign on a Nussberg Trail Pointing to a Mountain Heuriger|
|Walking Up a Path to the Mountain Heuriger|
|Reaching the Mountain Heuriger|
|People in Line for the Heurige|
|Enjoying the Heurige and the Setting Amid the Vineyards|
Conclusion: the Nussdorf Option is Great for a Late Spring, Early Summer, or Fall Visit to Vienna
At the end of the two weeks in Nussdorf, I was very glad that I opted for the Nussdorf option when making this September
visit to Vienna. While I doubt that I would want to be here in middle of the summer or in
winter when walking would be less attractive because of the weather, late summer, early fall, and likely late spring seem to be perfect times to enjoy what the village has to offer. If you are ready for more wine with fresh air and less culture on your next visit to Vienna, find a place to stay in Nussdorf.