I’ve never been fair to Vienna. Having used her as a stopover to other stomping grounds in central Europe. With just over a day to spend in the grand capital, this occasion would be no different. But experiences are rarely ever the same.
Entering the heart of the city, one can feel humbled by the grandiose facades and streets clean enough to lick an apfelstrudel off the sidewalk. But it only took a few hours of shuffling around on foot with my partner to remind myself how much I hate walking.
In short order we made our way to a nearby bicycle shop and rented bikes for the day. The staff was friendly and accommodating and for €14 each, presented us with 3-speed cruisers and a map of the city followed by a gesture of sayonara.
Unravelling the map and referring to the red lines in the legend revealed that Vienna was webbed with cycling paths. A quick mental note of a nearby bike lane was all that was needed to begin our trek to the Naschmarkt, as I prefer to rely on the GPS on my phone when I inevitably get lost.
Rolling onto the cycle path Schottenring Street felt like red carpet treatment. The emerald-green cycling tracks were pristine and spacious, fitting for this dynamic urban space and an obvious sign that it was serious about cycling. It would have been near impossible to remove the grin from my face as I gestured to those on foot on what they’re missing.
The path continued to encircle the city, acting as a major artery towards all sites and landmarks. The Heldenplatz, Rathaus, Belvedere Palace and the Naschmarkt were just some of the places that were easily reachable by bike. With some casual pedalling, our sightseeing checklist was complete in a few hours.
We took an alternate route to the bike shop through the old town. Traffic was unusually calm during rush hour while my GPS did an admirable job navigating through the tightly knit streets. After dropping off our wheels, we would reminisce on how much we saw thanks to our bikes.
There is unmatched level of refinement in the Vienna with its opera houses, grand imperial palaces and chandelier-lit coffee houses. Riding a bike may seem like a contrary experience to waltzing around in the streets in the classical sense. But the bicycle has been embraced in the Austrian capital and is a perfect complement to a city that combines its glorious past and present so effortlessly.