The Danube River in Vienna isn’t as dramatic as rivers in other European cities, like the Thames in London, Seine in Paris, Spree in Berlin, and Vltava in Prague. Unlike in Budapest, the Danube doesn’t flow through picturesque parts of the city. Instead, it crosses the upper section of Vienna, away from the beautiful Ringstrasse buildings in the city center.
The other river in Vienna is the Wien or Wienfluss. The Wienfluss promenade runs along the riverbed on the eastern edge of the city center. It breezes by the outdoor Naschmarkt food stands, restaurants, and flea market and passes by Schönbrunn Palace. Sections of the Wien River mysteriously flow underground, and parts of Vienna are built over it.
“Underground sections of the Wienfluss often serve as unique locations for TV and film productions. The river played the part of a sewer in the 1949 film The Third Man” shot in Vienna and starring Orson Welles as Harry Lime.” Visiting Vienna
Sometimes the Donaukanal (Danube Canal) is mistaken for the Danube River. The Donaukanal isn’t really a canal, it’s a wide channel forking off the Danube River and rejoining it on the other side of Vienna.
The Donaukanal is lined with street art and graffiti, walking and cycle paths, and sightseeing boats. Many small bridges span the Donaukanal, and it’s where riverboats line up to take people on cruises. The cruise is pleasant enough but forget images of a raging river – it’s not like that.
“The Donaukanal was the main arm of the Danube in Vienna’s “early days”. Over time, floods changed the width and course of the river. The main arm shifted away, leaving the city “perched on the edge of a less impressive Donaukanal”.
The “artificial long sliver of land between the Donaukanal and Danube River” is Danube Island (Donauinsel), a popular Viennese recreation zone. It’s the venue for Europe’s largest free music festival. You can enjoy a great view of the island from Danube Tower, which reminds me of Berlin TV Tower.
Giant Ferris Wheel
I hope to explore the island during my stay in Vienna and hop a ride on the nearby Giant Ferris Wheel (Riesenrad). The Ferris wheel was originally built in 1897 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Emperor Franz Josef I.
“The 21-kilometer-long (13-mile) Danube Island is not only the favorite recreational region of the Viennese, but also an unforgettable experience for visitors.” wein.info
Floods and Alte Donau
To the northeast of the Danube, there’s another small waterway, the Alte Donau or Old Danube. It was once a main arm of the river. In the late 19th century, the “authorities had enough of the damaging floods and vagaries of the Danube. They put an end to it all, by forcing the Danube into its current route,” and cutting off the “Old” Danube from the “new” formation.
“The Third Man Tour is an unforgettable way to experience the world of the classic 1949 film noir set in Vienna.” wien.gv.at
The “actual” Danube “underwent further regulation in the 1970s,” when it was “split” into two parallel arms, as it passed through the city. The southern arm is known as the Danube River, while the northern part is referred to as the “New Danube”. Now, I’m really confused...
The Alte Donau is a favorite “recreational lake with water sports, bars, lidos, and events”. The Old Danube draws about a million visitors per year. The Lichterfest (Festival of Light)” is held there annually but has been cancelled the last three years because of covid-19 restrictions and major construction in the area. The popular festival is scheduled to return in 2023.
The weather was gorgeous, and even though the cruise wasn’t very “exciting,” my feet were tired from walking, and a ride along the Donaukanal was relaxing. I sat on deck with a fun couple from Germany.
Other than the Spittelau (Wasserleitungsstrasse) waste incineration plant and a few interesting buildings and bridges, the trees were the most engaging sightseeing along the Donaukanal. The pleasing cyprus were easy to spot, but many of the other trees were unfamiliar. Photos are uncaptioned.