Coronavirus Vienna (with 36 pictures you never saw before)

Leigh Turner
Leigh Turner

Coronavirus Vienna: one person’s experience of lockdown, closures – and a wonderful city, even in coronavirus times.  Plus 36 pictures.

When I lived in Istanbul from 2012-16, people often asked me whether I was concerned about terrorist attacks, crime or civil disturbance.

At the end of my walk on 29 March, with wild boar effigy

‘Of course I worry about them a bit,’ I would say.  ‘But the thing I worry about most is being knocked down by a taxi or motorcycle as I try to cross the street.’

Taxis, Istanbul

Istanbul taxis are famed for their driving style

The same is true in Vienna, in the coronavirus pandemic.  I’m doing what I can to avoid catching the virus: working from home, observing the social distancing rules and so on. My fear is that, as I try to avoid other pedestrians on narrow pavements, or cross unusually empty streets, my concentration will slip and I’ll become a traffic accident.

No such thing happened when I went out for a walk in Vienna on 29 March, two weeks into the Austrian government’s strict self-isolation and social distancing policy.  What does Vienna look like In the Time of Coronavirus?  Here are some pictures of a day out showing little-known parts of the city, and how it is coping with the pandemic.

St Marx Cemetery Vienna Austria

The St Marx Cemetery was open from 1784-1874

I live in the Third District of Vienna.  Last weekend I drove my car to some scenic hills and we went for a walk there; but government advice is now to avoid driving more than necessary, or walking anywhere you might need to be rescued, to damp down demand on the emergency services.  So I walked out of my front door and headed south.

Grave of Josef Madersperger, inventor of the sewing machine

Joseph Madersperger, inventor of the sewing machine, is buried at St Marx

The government has closed many of the open spaces of Vienna, such as the gardens of the Schönbrunn and Belevedere Palaces, and the Augarten, to prevent people congregating there.  Some popular spots which are still open, such as the Danube Canal and the Danube Island (Donauinsel) can get a bit crowded.  But if you stroll out of town you can find many sparsely-populated beauty spots, such as the pretty St Marx Cemetery.

St Marx Cemetery, Vienna, Austria

Like Highgate, my favourite London cemetery, St Marx is chaotic in places

The grassy alleyways amongst the tombstones provide plenty of opportunities to keep your social distance from other visitors – we saw perhaps half a dozen in half an hour.  Mozart is buried somewhere in the St Marx cemetery, but no-one knows where.

St Marx Cemetery, Vienna, Austria

St Marx is full of wildlife…

St Marx Cemetery Vienna Austria


… and melancholy memorials to infant mortality

Continuing past the cemetery I headed to the Löwygrube, the site of an old brickworks which is now a park with fine views towards Slovakia.  On the way I passed a shabby restaurant, closed since 16 March like all restaurants in Vienna, with a splendid name.  I’d like to visit it when it reopens.

Infinity Bar, Vienna, Austria

Truly an alluring name for a watering hole

In the 19thC in Pimlico, my London base, there was a huge pub called “The Monster”.  This name also appeals to me; cats named “Monster” feature in two of my novels.

The Monster Pub, Pimlico, London

The Monster was destroyed by a parachute mine in 1941

The Löwygrube turned out to be a splendid park.  It is big enough for plenty of people to keep their distance.  Interestingly, whereas many Vienna parks have a “Hundezone” (dog zone) for people to “exercise” their dogs, the whole of the Löwygrube is a Hundezone – like most UK parks.  This obviously has pros and cons.

Löwygrube, Vienna, Austria

An entrance to the Löwygrube

Vienna parks often alert visitors to the dangers they can expect, in lurid detail.  The signs above warn (i) that in snowy and icy conditions you should keep to paths which have been treated with salt or grit, or cleared of snow; and (ii) that stormy weather may be dangerous.

Löwygrube, Vienna, Austria

The yellow sign says that the playing field and goals are off-limits because of coronavirus.  You can see some dog owners observing social distancing

Löwygrube, Vienna, Austria

The Löwygrube is little known in Vienna but surprisingly extensive

The Tenth District is the most populous in Vienna, with extensive public housing and other facilities built by the City of Vienna.  The Amalienbad, opened in 1926, is an architectural gem inside and out.

Amalienbad, Vienna, Austria

The main entrance of the Amalienbad

With the public housing comes public art.  I liked this steel worker.

Public Art, Vienna, Austria

The worker’s hammer rests on a girder; he is supported by another girder which appears to project from the building

All restaurants are closed; many are trying to offer a takeaway service.

Oberlaa, Vienna, Austria

This closed restaurant in Oberlaa offers to deliver pizzas

Closed restaurant, lockdown, Vienna, Austria

This “lounge restaurant” also offers deliveries

Restaurant menu, Vienna, Austria

I felt sorry for this restaurant at Oberlaa which had planned the menu for the entire year: a month each of herring, strudel, schnitzel, beef etc.

I eventually reached Oberlaa.  The park was opened in 1974 as an international garden exhibition and features lakes and themed gardens (“Allergy garden”; “Japanese Garden”) as well as the famous Oberlaa Cake Shop, also closed for coronavirus (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).

Oberlaa, Vienna, Austria

The park at Oberlaa has several large lakes

Oberlaa covers around 86 hectares, so the few dozen people I saw had plenty of space.

Oberlaa, Vienna, Austria

Spot the visitors

While strolling to and from Oberlaa I was struck by posters advertising a rich variety of mostly cancelled events.

Cancelled events, lockdown, Vienna, Austria

Both of these look intriguing.  NB lack of traffic

It was striking to walk for hours without seeing a single building – apart, possibly, from the Amalienbad – which was “typically Viennese”.  Like many cities famous for their beauty and architecture (think Paris, Prague or St Petersburg) much of Vienna, while lovely to live in, is not particularly architecturally distinguished.

Cancelled events, lockdown, Vienna, Austria

Don’t fancy either of these much

Cancelled events, lockdown, Vienna, Austria

Plenty of high culture, too 

I saw an explosion of signs announcing social distancing measures, or shop closures.

Lockdown, Vienna, Austria

Instructions on social distancing, in numerous languages

Lockdown, Vienna, Austria

A second hand clothes shop closed since 16 March

Lockdown, Vienna, Austria

A hairdresser, also closed since 16 March

Lockdown, Vienna, Austria

Ayhan usually offers a range of services

Coronavirus lockdown, Vienna, Austria

This Turkish restaurant makes my mouth water.  It offers a delivery service

Coronavirus lockdown, Vienna, Austria

Food stores, such as this Azeri-themed bakery, can stay open

On my route back home I passed through two more parks.  The first was the Dr Helmut Zilk Park, opened in 2016 on ground formerly occupied by a railway marshalling yard.  Helmut Zilk was mayor when I first lived in Vienna from 1984-87.  It is only around 7 hectares in size but is full of young trees and has a fantastic children’s playground – closed, like all others in Vienna, because of the coronavirus.

Coronavirus lockdown, Vienna, Austria

The closed playground in Dr Helmut Zilk Park.  In the background are new developments built on former railway land

Coronavirus lockdown, Vienna, Austria

The chap in the foreground is practising his juggling – excellent exercise – while keeping away from others. The mast behind is sometimes called “the exploding doner”

Coronavirus lockdown, Vienna, Austria

This block of luxury flats, opened in 2019, is part of a complex designed by Renzo Piano

My final photo stop before returning home was the Palais Metternich, now the magnificent Italian Embassy.  They had two large banners outside.

Coronavirus lockdown, Vienna, Austria

“Never give up…”

Coronavirus lockdown, Vienna, Austria

“…we are all with you.”

For anyone who wants to stretch their legs without getting too close to anyone else, I recommend a stroll around the 10th and 11th Districts of Vienna.  I enjoyed it, and learned a lot about the history and character of the area.  Here is a characteristic photo, near the Reumannplatz.

Coronavirus lockdown, Vienna, Austria

Note the graffiti; the nursery; and someone relaxing in the sunshine.

Vienna is a wonderful city, even in times of coronavirus.  Enjoy it.

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P.P.S. If you are short of things to read in your coronavirus social distancing phase, my most recent books are here.

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2 Responses

  1. Love your walk around Vienna; brought back great memories 🙂
    Will have to check out Löwypark next time I am in town – never knew about that one!

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