VIENNA -- Wine country, oddly enough, is in the city here, albeit
at the outskirts. That provides an ample opportunity for tourists
to heed the Viennese exhortation: "Gemma zum Heurig'n!"
The exhortation -- "Let's go to a heuriger!" -- refers to a
tradition that took root in 1784.
That's when vintners were given permission to open their own
establishments to serve wine from their last grape harvest (they
cannot, by law, serve someone else's wine).
Today, going to a heuriger gives visitors a chance to get some
local flavor, including a down-to-earth atmosphere, a taste of
local wine (mostly whites) and some real Viennese home cooking.
The word "heuriger" refers both to the wine from the last
harvest and the establishment itself.
When heurige were first introduced, vintners provided the wine
and guests had to bring their own food.
But that evolved so that now each heuriger has its own kitchen,
and all you need to bring is yourself.
At Mayer am Pfarrplatz, where our group drank and dined, I
walked to a deli-type counter and ordered a plate of sausage,
Wiener schnitzel and basically one of anything that looked
The place was packed, even for a weekday night, and many if not
most of the customers were locals. This contributed to the
atmosphere, as did the songs sung at other tables.
A bonus for tourists in Vienna is that it doesn't take much to
get to a heuriger. The vineyards are within city limits and about a
15-minute drive from the city center.
But if you come the way we did, it takes a little longer.
Odd looks greeted us as our bright red and green heuriger train
ride wound its way through wealthy neighborhoods, wine-growing
villages and Vienna woods.
The motor-driven choo-choo, Tschu Tschu being the actual brand
name, pulled an open-air tram in which we were riding.
The Vienna Heurigen Express -- a bit of a misnomer, since it
would be pushing it to reach 20 mph and the ride takes 30 to 40
minutes -- was on one of its first rides when we took the trip in
That explained some of the looks from residents who undoubtedly
had never seen the contraption before.
The rides depart hourly from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., mid-April through
the end of October, from Zahnradbahnstrasse in the 19th District,
at the terminus of Tram D. It drops riders off in Grinzing, a
popular wine-growing district and within easy walking distance of
about 10 heurige, or directly at Mayer am Pfarrplatz, which is in
Every hour at half-past the hour, the Express picks up
passengers at the main drop-off point in Grinzing for the return
trip home. But customers who miss the last train back, at about
7:30, can take a tram back to the city center.
The Heurigen Express ride costs about $6.30 and offers some time
to enjoy views of the homes and scenery. Another option, about $33,
includes a three-course heuriger menu and two free drinks.
Remember that the tram is open-air, so if it's cold outside, the
riders will be cold on board.
But perhaps they'll be warmed by the humor of Express owner and
operator Mario Galler, also Mayer am Pfarrplatz' production
manager, an Australian whose ride introduction includes such quips
as, "If you didn't pay, your seat will eject."
Vienna Heurigen Express
Phone: (011) 43-1 479-2808
Fax: (011) 43-1 479-2880
E-mail: [email protected]