Vienna maintains almost 322km (200 miles) of cycling lanes and paths, many of which meander through some of the most elegant parks in Europe. Depending on their location, they're identified by a yellow image of a cyclist either stenciled directly onto the pavement or crafted from rows of red bricks set amid the cobblestones or concrete of the busy boulevards of the city center. Some of the most popular bike paths run parallel to both the Danube and the Danube Canal.
You can carry your bike onto specially marked cars of the Vienna subway system, but only during non-rush hours. Subway cars marked with a blue shield are the ones you should use for this purpose. Bicycles are not permitted on the system's escalators -- take the stairs.
You can rent a bike for 3€ to 5€ ($4.80-$8) per hour. You'll usually be asked to leave either your passport or a form of ID as a deposit. One rental possibility is Pedal Power, Ausstellungsstrasse 3 (tel. 01/729-7234; www.pedalpower.at). There are rental shops at the Prater and along the banks of the Danube Canal. You can also rent a bike at Bicycle Rental Hochschaubahn, Prater 113 (tel. 01/729-5888; www.wien.gv.at/english/leisure/bike/bikerental.htm).
One terrific bike itinerary (quite popular since it has almost no interruptions) encompasses the long, skinny island that separates the Danube from the Neue Donau Canal. Low-lying and occasionally marshy, but with paved paths along most of its length, it provides clear views of central Europe's industrial landscape and the endless river traffic that flows by on either side.
Wear a straw boating hat and hum a few bars of a Strauss waltz as you paddle your way around the quiet eddies of the Alte Donau. This gently curving stream bisects residential neighborhoods to the north of the Danube and is preferable to the muddy and swift-moving currents of the river itself.
At An der Obere along the Danube, you'll find some kiosks in summer, where you can negotiate for the rental of a boat, perhaps a canoe, or a kayak. There are, of course, organized tours of the Danube, but it's more fun to do it yourself.
The two golf courses in or near Vienna are chronically overbooked, forcing even long-term members to be highly flexible about their starting times. The busier, and more challenging, of the region's two golf courses lies within a 15-minute drive north of Vienna, on the grounds of the Prater, at the 18-hole Golfplatz Wien-Freudenau 65A (tel. 01/728-9564). If there's an available tee-off time, nonmembers with a minimum handicap of 28 can play for a fee of 75€ ($120) per person. More likely to have an available tee-off time on a weekday (but rarely on a weekend), is Golfplatz Föhrenwald (tel. 02622/29171), an 18-hole course that's positioned about 48km (30 miles) south of Vienna, at Bodenstrasse 54 in the hamlet of Klein Wolkersdorf, just outside the suburb of Weiner Neustadt. If space is available, greens fees there cost 55€ ($88) for tee-offs Monday to Friday, 85€ ($136) for tee-offs on Saturday or Sunday, and require that prospective players have a handicap of at least 45.
Even if you're not registered there, you may use the exercise facilities at the popular health club, Health & Fitness (Living Well Express), in the Vienna Hilton, Am Stadtpark (tel. 01/717-00-12800). Positioned on the third floor (designed in the access elevators as level "M1") of the also-recommended hotel, it charges nonresidents of the hotel 19€ ($30). Know in advance that men and women share the same sauna and steam room facilities, either with or without the discreet covering of a towel, so if you're feeling shy or modest at the time of your visit, plan your sauna rituals accordingly. (Women who prefer to have their sauna alone are directed, by appointment only, to a private room.) Open daily from 10am to 10pm. Hotel residents can use the exercise facilities at this place 24 hours and at no charge.
You're likely to expend plenty of shoe leather simply walking around Vienna, but if you yearn for a more isolated setting, the city tourist offices will provide information about its eight Stadt-Wander-Wege. These marked hiking paths usually originate at a stop on the city's far-flung network of trams.
You can also head east of town into the vast precincts of the Lainzer Tiergarten, where hiking trails meander amid forested hills, colonies of deer, and abundant bird life. To get there, first take the U-Bahn to the Kennedy Brücke/Hietzing station, which lies a few steps from the entrance to Schönbrunn Palace. Take tram no. 60, then bus no. 60B.
We strongly recommend that if you're an avid skier, avoid the flatlands of Vienna completely and head for mountainous regions in western and southern Austria, particularly the Tyrol, Land Salzburg, the Vorarlberg, or perhaps Styria. (For more about the ski resorts of those regions, refer to this edition's companion guide, Frommer's Austria.)
If you're absolutely dying to go skiing and you're not able to wander far from the relatively flat landscapes in and around Vienna, there's a limited amount of skiing within about an hour's drive of the city, on the gentle slopes of Mount Semmering (the Hirschenkogl Ski Lifts) and Mount Schneeberg (the Rax am Schneeberg Lifts; tel. 02664/20025 for information about either venue). Most visitors find it infinitely easier to reach these areas by car, but in a serious pinch, you can ride the U4 subway to the Hütteldorf station, then take bus no. 49B to the city's far-flung 14th district. For additional information about skiing in Austria, either near Vienna or within the more appealing zones of the country's western regions, contact the Austrian National Tourist Office, Margaretenstrasse 1, A-1040 Vienna (tel. 01/588660).
Despite the popularity of certain beaches on islands in the Alte Donau Canal in summer, swimming in either the Danube or any of its satellite canals is not recommended because of pollution and a dangerous undertow in the main river.
To compensate, Vienna has dozens of swimming pools. Your hotel's receptionist can tell you about options in your neighborhood. One of the most modern is in the Prater. For locations of any of the city's many indoor or outdoor pools, contact the Vienna Tourist Office, Obere Augartenstrasse 40 (tel. 01/24-555).
Your hotel might have a connection to a tennis court in Vienna, or might be able to steer you to a court nearby. The Askoe-Sport-Centrum-Schmelz, Auf der Schmelz 10 (tel. 01/982-1333; take U3 to Jungstrasse), is a modern complex with about six outdoor courts. Depending on the time of day, prices range from 11€ to 17€ ($18-$27) per hour. If nothing is available, we recommend that you contact one of the city's largest tennis agencies, Askoe Wien, Hafenleitengasse 73, in the 11th District (tel. 01/545-3131). It will direct you to one of several tennis courts it manages throughout the city and might charge a small referral fee.
Austria has no seacoast, but from Bodensee (Lake Constance) in the west to Neusiedl See (Lake Neusiedl) in the east, the country is rich in lakes and boasts some 150 rivers and streams.
Swimming is, of course, possible year-round if you want to use an indoor pool or swim at one of the many health clubs in winter. Swimming facilities have been developed at summer resorts, especially those on the warm waters of Carinthia, where you can swim from May to October, and in the Salzkammergut lake district between Upper Austria and Land Salzburg.
The beauty of Austria underwater is attested to by those who have tried diving in the lakes. Most outstanding are the diving and underwater exploration possibilities in the Salzkammergut lake district and in the Weissen See in Carinthia. You can receive instruction and obtain necessary equipment at both places.
If you prefer to remain on the surface, you can go sailing, windsurfing, or canoeing on the lakes and rivers.
The sailing (yachting) season lasts from May to October, with activity centered on the Attersee in the Salzkammergut lake district, on Lake Constance out of Bregenz, and on Lake Neusiedl, a large shallow lake in the east. Winds on the Austrian lakes can be treacherous, but a warning system and rescue services are alert. For information on sailing, contact Österreichischer Segel-Verband, Seestrasse 17b, A-7100 Neusiedl am See (tel. 02/167402430; www.segelverband.at).
Most resorts on lakes or rivers where windsurfing can be safely enjoyed have equipment and instruction available. This sport is increasing in popularity and has been added to the curriculum of several sailing schools, especially in the area of the Wörther See in Carinthia, the warmest of the alpine lakes.
If you're interested in riding the rapids of a swift mountain stream or just paddling around on a placid lake, don't miss the chance to go canoeing in Austria. You can canoe down slow-flowing lowland rivers such as the Inn or Mur, or tackle the wild waters of glacier-fed mountain streams suitable only for experts. Special schools for fast-water paddling operate May through September in the village of Klaus on the Steyr River in Upper Austria, in Opponitz in Lower Austria on the Ybbs River, and in Abtenau in Salzburg province.