Trotting racing on the Krieau trotting track
© Lichtfeld e.U. Jürgen Schindler

Prater stories

A distinctly stony-faced ticket clerk takes our five euro entry fee and, filled with curiosity, we make our way out to the only surviving stand of the original three at the Krieau harness racing track. Anyone expecting ladies in chic hats and gentlemen dressed to the nines will be in for a big surprise. Horseracing’s glamorous heyday is well and truly over, and Vienna’s smart set rarely puts in an appearance. But that does not necessarily mean it is in terminal decline. In fact, it just makes a glimpse of authentic Vienna much more likely: old men hoping to strike it lucky. Their wives and girlfriends seemingly more interested in their white wine spritzers than the racing. Laughing children cheering on the stars of the Krieau – the harness drivers and their charges.

Harness racing and having a flutter

Soon enough we’ve been bitten by the betting bug and get to work scrutinizing the race program. Should we back Victorious or maybe Wonder Boy? Or should we wait and see where the odds are heading? Perhaps we should grill the regulars for tips? Ultimately we end up putting a little bit of money on multiple horses. That said, there’s no sense in overdoing it.

Our betting slips sorted, an announcement crackles through the loudspeakers: “The next race will begin in a few minutes.” There is a flurry of activity out on the tracks and the scene is like something from another world. To one side we see the historic tower above the finishing line, whose best days are definitely behind it. And in the background we can see the modern Viertel Zwei building complex – a contemporary residential and office district that has sprung up here over the past few years. And then the horse-drawn sulkies thunder past us – far too fast for us amateurs to see who crossed the finishing line ahead of all the others. Elated shouts here and there, the odd groan of disappointment, and the majority of spectators head back to the bookmakers.

City center oasis

After three harness races and some sustenance from the buffet (Semmel rolls with Leberkäs and Schnitzel) we decide to head out for the peace and quiet of the Prater park. Crossing the main boulevard we follow City Hiking Trail 9 and wander over to the Heustadlwasser, a former branch of the Danube proper. We continue deep into the woodland until the Lusthaus is far behind us. It’s fantastic how simple it is in Vienna to go from all the hustle and bustle to relative solitude. We are constantly surprised by the fields, woods and bodies of water – the ideal backdrop for a stroll, hike or other form of exercise. Out in this oasis of tranquility it is hard to imagine that big city life is just a few kilometers away.

Life’s a merry-go-round

After a lengthy stroll we decide to take a bit of a shortcut and travel part of the way on the historic Liliputbahn. This miniature narrow-gauge railway and its unique locomotives have been around since 1928. We pay for our tickets using our winnings from the race track. And there we are chugging along in an open carriage through the peaceful wetland woods before the noise of the merry-go-rounds, roller coasters, shooting galleries and the din of voices brings us back to reality. It does not take long for us to make our own contribution to the unique atmosphere, sitting 117 m above ground on a chain carousel – blissfully un­aware of what is to follow. Known as the Wurstelprater, the amusement park is not only the perfect end to a great day, but full of surprises ... 

Text: Angelika Lechner

Green Prater between Praterstern and Winterhafen

Prater, 1020 Wien
  • Accessibility

    • Car parks Main entrance
      • Parking spaces for people with disabilities
        at Riesenrad (Giant Ferris Wheel) and Schweizerhaus (1.-Mai-Strasse)
    • Further information
      • Wheelchair accessible restroom available.
    • Comments

      Wheelchair-accessible restrooms: Messegelände / Parkplatz, 1.-Mai-Strasse (in the middle), Calafattiplatz.

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Prater

Prater, 1020 Wien
  • Prices

  • Opening times

    • 15 March to 31 October
      Main season
  • Accessibility

    • Car parks Main entrance
      • Parking spaces for people with disabilities
        at Riesenrad (Giant Ferris Wheel) and Schweizerhaus (Waldsteingartenstraße)
    • Further information
      • Wheelchair accessible restroom available.
    • Comments

      Wheelchair-accessible restrooms: Messegelände / Parkplatz, 1.-Mai-Strasse (in the middle), Calafattiplatz.

       

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Heustadlwasser Prater

Stadionallee 1, 1020 Wien
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Café Restaurant Lusthaus Vienna

Freudenau 254, 1020 Wien
  • Opening times

    • January to March
      Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday noon - 5 p.m.
    • April to September
      Monday - Friday noon to 10 p.m., Saturday, Sunday and holidays noon - 6 p.m., closed Wednesday
    • October to December
      Daily from noon - 5 p.m., closed Wednesday
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Miniature Railway (Liliput-Bahn)

Prater 99, 1020 Wien
  • Opening times

    • März daily, 10:00 - 17:00
    • April daily, 10:00 - 18:00
    • Mai-Juni daily, 10:00 - 19:00
    • Juli-August daily, 10:00 - 20:00
    • September daily, 10:00 - 18:00
    • Oktober daily, 10:00 - 17:00
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