The Donaukanal channel of the Danube slices through Vienna’s centre offering a path through the city free of four-wheeled vehicles. But what’s the best way to travel its length?
- Nature hotspots and the most friendly footpaths are east of the town centre
- The Donaukanal-Radweg cycling path extends along the entire southern bank
- Boats leave from the centre for the Donau-Auen national park, Bratislava and round trips around the channel and Danube
- See also: The Donaukanal – overview for visitors
By foot, bike and boat
We begin our journey with a look at the best options when using your own legs.
As you might imagine, you can walk the whole Donaukanal on both sides using paths or pavements and without having to share space with any cars. (You may find yourself joined by cyclists on some parts.)
So does this make the Donaukanal the ideal lengthy hike across town, free from traffic?
Yes and no. It all depends on what you’re looking for.
Inevitably, the closer you get to the city centre, the more the environment drifts from natural to urban, though barely any section can truly be described as countryside.
In terms of pleasant walks and a spot of nature, here my suggestions:
On the southern bank
The nicest part is between Stadionbrücke bridge and Franzensbrücke bridge, with sizeable leafy footpaths often bounded by historical housing ensembles.
Beyond Stadionbrücke it stays largely green but gets a little industrial in parts. Beyond Franzensbrücke and you’re into urban bustle.
The walk from the start of the Donaukanal around Heiligenstadt down into town is not bad, either. We saw signs of beavers, for example. But the paths are less expansive and/or countrified than on the other side of the centre.
Oh, yes, beavers.
Apparently, around 300 of them live in the city. Vienna has a lot of green space and water, but 300? I’m beginning to question everything I ever knew about city life.
On the northern bank
The most pleasant stretch on the northern bank is the landscaped path that begins around Rossauer Brücke to the east of the very centre, takes you through Wettsteinpark, and continues on along the Anton-Schmid-Promenade.
The broader promenade begins to peter out around Gürtel Brücke, but the walk after is quite agreeable, too, albeit a little closer to the busy road.
This side of the river seems to have far fewer cyclists, too.
The entire southern side of the Donaukanal has its own cycling route (the so-called Donaukanal-Radweg), beginning at the Schemerlbrücke where the channel leaves the Danube and ending over at the dock area where it rejoins the main river.
Much of the northern side is also doable on bike, particularly upstream, but it lacks one continuous route and has fewer stretches without other vehicles or pedestrians. You’re often no more than half a kilometer from a bridge at any point on the journey, though, if you wish to swap sides.
Parts of the dedicated Donaukanal-Radweg take you along paths shared with pedestrians. And parts occasionally take you up onto a wider road that runs parallel to the river.
At the time of writing, the Citybike rental service, for example, has several bike stations along the route (mainly at subway stations on the south side).
Walk the Donaukanal and, in the part that adjoins the city centre, you’ll meet two landing stages for river trips.
At the time of writing:
- The more rustic looking option offers, for example, excursions in a small boat out into the Donau-Auen national park, which is a floodplain and wetland area just downstream of Vienna. The trip includes a short walking tour. (More info)
- The Twin City Liner service leaves from the striking modern-looking landing area at Schwedenplatz. A sleek catamaran takes you out and down the Danube to Slovakia’s capital Bratislava and back. (More info)
- The DDSG Blue Danube service uses Schwedenplatz, too, as a launch point for boat tours of the Donaukanal, for example, but also for trips down the channel then back up the Danube proper and optionally all the way round and back down to the start. (More info)
For further details of what the Donaukanal has to offer visitors to Vienna, check this summary.