One Viennese tradition in winter is to turn a few circles at the open-air ice rink run by the Wiener Eislauf-Verein (Viennese ice skating association).
The rink is remarkably close to the city centre, along Lothringerstraße. The road was named after Franz Stephan von Lothringen, the husband of Empress Maria Theresa, though it’s not known if the imperial feet ever graced a pair of skates.
The prime central location is why stories often pop up in the local media about the future of the site. But the association has a rental agremeent that runs until 2058 and the latest development plans include retaining the rink.
So ice skating won’t be disappearing anytime soon.
Despite its closeness to the centre, the rink’s setting is not as romantic as you might imagine. On one side is the majesty of the Konzerthaus (concert hall), but the opposite side is the concrete monolith that’s the Intercontinental Hotel.
The rink’s rear also looks like a 2-storey office block covered in advertising. However, the area is set to undergo significant development and the surrounds will be changing in the coming years.
All-in-all, then, ice skating here is more practical than fairytale, but still popular, with over 250,000 visitors typically twirling (or stumbling) their way around the 6,000 sq.m. of ice.
The skating season usually runs from late October to early March, with the rink open from the morning through to late evening. Entrance fees at the time of writing were €7-8 for adults, with reductions for kids and families. Check the website for details. You can also hire skates at the attached sports boutique.
The Eislauf-Verein itself was first established in 1867 and has a prestigious history. For example, European, World and Olympic figure skating champions have emerged from its midst. It moved to its current home in 1901, which at one point was the largest artificial ice rink in the world.
The Viennese approach to figure skating (inspired by the American skater Jackson Haines) also played an influential role in moving the sport away from the rigid (British) approach and toward the more fluid, dynamic sport we know today.
Subway: U4 to Stadtpark
Tram: D, 71 or 2 to Schwarzenbergplatz (and a short walk)
Bus: 4A to Akademietheater
Address: Wiener Eislaufverein, Lothringerstraße 22, 1030 Vienna