Rising gently above Vienna's northern reaches, the Kahlenberg Heights offer a variety of delightful experiences, including a visit to one of Austria's foremost monasteries, a lovely mountain drive overlooking the city, an immersion into the life of Ludwig van Beethoven, and a sampling of the famous Heuriger wines right where they're made.
You'll need a car for the complete excursion, although it's perfectly possible (and easy) to visit the two most interesting parts of it by commuter train, subway, and tram.
By Car, head north along the Danube on Heiligenstädter Strasse (B-14) to Klosterneuburg and visit the abbey. Continue south on Höhenstrasse through Leopoldsberg and Kahlenberg. Turn left on Cobenzlgasse into Grinzing, then continue east on Sandgasse and Grinzingerstrasse to Heiligenstadt. The farthest point on this trip, Klosterneuburg, is 7.5 miles (12 km) north of Vienna.
By Public Transportation, take the U-4 or U-6 subway to Spittelau, then the commuter train to Klosterneuburg-Kierling. The commuter train can also be boarded at the Franz-Josefs Bahnhof or at Heiligenstadt. Visit Stift Klosterneuburg, then return on the train to Heiligenstadt for the short walk to the Beethoven sites and/or to Grinzing. It is not very practical to include the Kahlenberg Heights by public transportation, although the #38A bus from Heiligenstadt provides some service.
Good weather is essential for this trip. Note that some of the minor sites are closed on Mondays. Those coming by car should be sure to have a designated driver if sampling more than a few sips of the wine, which tastes deceptively smooth but can pack a punch. See transportation details on page 17.
FOOD AND DRINK:
This driving tour ends in Grinzing and Heiligenstadt, two villages within Vienna that abound in Heuriger, those delightful wine taverns where you can get a bite to eat along with sampling the fresh local wines.
Cobenzl Restaurant and Café (along the Hohenstrasse on Cobenzl Heights) Spectacular views of Vienna along with gourmet dining in a restaurant, light meals in the café, and fresh wine in the Heuriger — all at a lovely old schloss. T: (01) 320-5120, W: cobenzl.com. €€ and €€€
Stiftscafé Klosterneuburg (in the abbey complex) Light meals and refreshments, with plenty of atmosphere and traditional Austrian cuisine. T: (02243) 200-70, W: stift-klosterneuburg.at. €€
Altes Presshaus (Cobenzlgasse 15 in Grinzing) Grinzing's oldest Heuriger dates in part from 1527. T: (01) 320-0203. € and €€
Mayer am Pfarrplatz (Pfarrplatz 2 in Heiligenstadt) Beethoven lived here in 1817; now it's an atmospheric Heuriger that's not overrun with tourists. Simple foods and local wine indoors or in the courtyard. T: (01) 322-416, W: mayer.pfarrplatz.at. Opens at 4 p.m. Mon.-Sat., at 11 a.m. on Sun. & holidays. € and €€
Numbers in parentheses correspond to numbers on the map.
From the Klosterneuburg-Kierling train station turn left onto Stadtplatz, then left again across a stream and up to the:
*STIFT KLOSTERNEUBURG (Klosterneuburg Abbey) (1), T: (02243) 411-212, W: stift-klosterneuburg.at. Open daily 9-6. English tours on Sat.,, Sun., and holidays at 2, otherwise given in German. Restaurant. Café. Gift Shop. €€.
Founded in the early 12th century on the site of a Roman fortress and greatly altered over the years, the abbey at Klosterneuburg is a favorite destination for cisitors to nearby Vienna. Stylistically it progresses from the original Romanesque to the Gothic, then to the Baroque, and finally to Neo-Gothic. Although still in use as a religious center, much of it is open to visitors on guided tours that normally include the Church and its chapel, the Cloisters, and the Imperial Apartments. The highlight of the tour is the magnificent *Verdun Altarpiece of the late 12th century, one of the greatest masterpieces of medieval art.
After the tour, you might want to visit the Stiftsmuseum (Abbey Museum) located above the Imperial Apartments. On display here are additional parts of the Verdun Altarpiece, Gothic paintings, sculptures, and the hat of an archduke. Museum open daily 9-6. €€.
The town of Klosterneuburg has a few other minor attractions that might interest you, including the delightfully narrow Martinstrasse, which leads uphill to an 8th-century church. Contemporary art, primarily Austrian, is on display in the Sammlung Essl at An der Donau-Au 1. T: (02243) 370-5015, W: sammlung-essl.at Open Tues.-Sun. 10-7m remaining open on Wed. until 9. €€.
Leave the abbey via Leopoldstrasse, crossing Weidlinger Strasse and becoming Höhenstrasse. This winding road with hairpin turns and several scenic lookouts takes you through woods before climbing to the top of the *Leopoldsberg (2), where from the square opposite a church there is an extensive view from a height of nearly 14,000 feet (425 meters) across the region. A fortress was erected here in 1101 to defend the northern approach to Vienna, but this was blown up in 1529 to prevent its falling into the hands of invading Turks. The church dates from 1679, and was severely damaged in 1945 after the Nazi army set up an antiaircraft battery on the spot. It was later repaired, but the fortress remains in ruin.
Return to Höhenstrasse and turn left to the Kahlenberg (3), pausing at the lookout opposite a restaurant. Here, from a height of 1,585 feet (483 meters), you will get a glorious *panorama across all of Vienna. A stone marker on the 17th-cdentury church nearby records the salvation of Vienna from the Turks by combined German and Polish forces on September 16, 1683.
Continue down Höhenstrasse, eventually turning left onto Cobenzlgasse, and following that into the picturesque village of Grinzing (4), actually a part of Vienna. Well-known to generations of tourists — and even native Viennese — Grinzing is surely the most popular of the wine villages. Wine taverns, called Heurigen, serve up the smooth new wine of the neighborhood along with simple foods and often sentimental Schrammelmusik to accompany the joyful atmosphere. Being a heavily touristed place, prices in Grinzing tend to be higher than in other — and more authentic — wine villages such as nearby Heiligenstadt. That said, you'll still have a good time here, perhaps after visiting Beethoven's old haunts described below.
Leaving Grinzing on Sandgasse, make a left onto Grinzinger Strasse and turn left on Armbrustergasse, then right on Probusgasse. You are now in Heiigenstadt, one of the more interesting of the many places that Ludwig van Beethoven called home. Enter the doorway at Probusgasse 6, the Testamenthaus (5), whose courtyard gives acess to a small museum. It is traditionally assumed that this is the house where Beethoven wrote his profound Heiligenstadt Testament of 1802, a letter to his two brothers in which all the grief and despair brought on by ever-increasing deafness is poured out in an emotionally charged document. Be sure to read the English translation. T: (01) 318-8608. Open March-Dec., Tues., Thurs., Sat., Sun. 10-noon and 1-4:30. €.
Turn left on Pfarrplatz and stroll a few blocks up the quiet Eroicagasse to the Beethovengang (6). Here a footpath to the left follows a tiny brook in a setting of rural tranquility, along which the immortal musician often strolled, gathering the strength that manifests itself in his works. At the end you will find the earliest memorial (photo, above) to his genius, erected in 1863.
Retrace your steps to the Eroicagasse and return to Pfarrplatz. The house at number 2 is now a Heuriger (7), serving both new wine and food. Beethoven lived here in 1817. Although his rooms cannot be visited, you may very well enjoy sitting at one of the tables in the courtyard (photo, below) and enjoying the local product. This is a somewhat more authentic wine tavern than those found in Grinzing, and the perfect spot to end the day.
Extracted from Daytrips Austria
Copyright © 2008 by Earl Steinbicker