Dreaming up Döbling: Of Ancient Hills and Heuriger
People walk more slowly here. In town they may rush, but at home in Döbling, the journey is its own reward. The 10 communities within the district are green and residential, at points almost bordering on rural. It’s a gateway to the Vienna Woods, skirting the sprawling Alpine foothills, where the city’s close, turn-of-the-century buildings subside into spread-out villas and long stretches of greenery. The tree-lined streets and lush surroundings create a mini-escape from the metropolis, still so close, but far enough to breathe easy.
It is residential, but in good company – it’s been home to actress Romy Schneider, former chancellor Bruno Kreisky, playwright Franz Grillparzer, Secession co-founder Koloman Moser, composer Johann Strauss and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. Beethoven lived in several homes here, and composed part of the Eroica Symphony in a modest, two-story Biedermeier building on Döblinger Hauptstraße, now called eroicahaus and part of the Wien Museum. Something about Döbling fosters creativity.
To live, perchance to dream
Living here means exchanging convenience for privacy. While the area boasts the Q19 mall for essentials, döblinger hauptstraße is more interesting. This tree-lined high street has independent booksellers and toyshops, confectionaries, florists, bakeries, small beauty salons, boutiques, children’s clothing stores and restaurants, with a quieter, small-town feel.
Past the shops, the winding, meandering max-patat-weg, accessible from Silbergasse or northern Döblinger Hauptstraße, feels like a secret garden – shady, peacefully still, with the odd bench or picnic table and a picturesque tiny pond, the dreamy, rural atmosphere encapsulated to perfection.
Here too are rambling villas, diplomat’s residences, and perhaps a private school. But Döbling also has student dorms, affordable community housing, Kleingärten (weekend cottages with garden plots), and plenty of farmers, wine-related and otherwise. The co-existence of these communities with families here for generations is different from other parts of town. Space, both private and shared, is generous, making it easier to get along.
Younger people frequent clubs on the Gürtel at the boundary of the 9th, or cafes like the inexplicably popular, noisy blaustern. But things change up in the hills. On the leafy Nusswaldgasse is the zacherlfabrik, a former insecticide factory that has been renovated and re-purposed as a venue for art exhibits and musical evenings from June to September.
There are also off-the beaten-path alternatives to discover, like the genial fischer bräu, upscale sushi at teka, pizzeria francesco, and the snazzier hill restaurant.
Living here is endlessly child-friendly: In Oberdöbling is gelati da salvo, a choice ice cream shop with exotic flavours like blood orange, Malaga and Zuppa inglese. Families also love the annual Neustifter Kirtag (23-26 August 2013), a four-day festival rich in tradition, held since Maria Theresa’s reign. Stalls selling wine, Schnaps, local cheeses and crafts line the closed-off streets. People mingle and meet with neighbours and down an array of quirky beverages, while kids enjoy the costumes and parade.
Dripping in Döbling
Döbling is perhaps best-known for the Heuriger. Quintessential Viennese fixtures, these wine taverns serve their own vintage from the current year. Seated at long wooden tables, guests nosh on a simple buffet of pate and spreads on warm rolls, sausages and salads.
For downtowners it’s a break from the bar scene, and Döblingers each have a favourite on the ancient streets of Grinzing, Sievering, Nussdorf, Neustift am Walde. Once the top destination for wine taverns, Grinzing has lost some of its former cosiness to the tourist buses. To get the original Gemütlichkeit, it’s better to visit Nussdorf or Neustift am Walde.
One of the stars is das schreiberhaus, with a flowery garden and warmly lit, rustic interior whose cheer and comfort are enveloping. At a real-deal Heurigen, look for a sprig of pine branches outside the door and sign proclaiming "Ausg’steckt" – open for business.
For Döblingers, the outdoors is their backyard. Many more own cars than in town, cruising up the curvy höhenstrasse, a partly cobblestone hillside road, bridging the Cobenzl and Kahlenberg (see "Am Kahlenberg", TVR April 2012 ) with sweeping views over the forest, fields and city below.
The vineyards cover hilly expanses of green meadows rising up to the peaks of Kahlenberg, Leopoldsberg and Cobenzl; all within Döbling. On clear days, you can see Bratislava from the hilltops and take the meandering Wanderweg to watch as city slowly becomes forest. Cafés and small attractions are dotted throughout this part of Sievering, but oktagon am himmel is a favourite, the glass walls of which give the illusion of being outside and the kitchen serves seasonal dishes, with mostly local products, and a fantastic weekend brunch.
Famous names have left their mark: The sisi kapelle, a neo-Gothic chapel glowing in white, commemorates the wedding of the melancholy empress to Franz Joseph. Then there is Himmelstraße, rumoured to be the spot where Sigmund Freud developed the idea of Traumdeutung. On the site of a former spa hotel is the bellevuewiese – a favourite venue for picnicking and kite-flying – and a stone slab commemorating the doctor of dreams.
Grinzinger Straße 50
Gelati da Salvo
Oktagon am Himmel
Am Himmel, Ecke Höhenstraße