Vienna′s most legendary lido

Vienna has several public swimming pools and swimming areas on and off the Danube. Especially in the era of the "Red Vienna" during the 1920ies, lots of public baths and recreational grounds were built for the labourers of the city. However, Vienna has only one Gänsehäufel: The legendary open-air lido that started with a crazy nudist more than a century ago still ranks among the city′s favourite places during the summer months.

The term "Gänsehäufel" means "pile of the geese" and refers to a pile of sand in the 22nd district of Donaustadt that formed a small island in an old side-branch the Danube. The locals used the Danube as a convenient "natural fence" and bred geese on the pile of sand - Gänsehäufel. After the Danube was trained and massive stone flanks were built between 1870 and 1875, the river became a lot more predictable and attractive for all sorts of uses. One branch of it, the Alte Donau, became more or less a lake with several islands, including the Gänsehäufel .

Soon after the river training was finished, the Vienna village nudist Florian Berndl now discovered the Gänsehäufel island as a retreat. In 1900, he rented a part of the island - officially for the planting willows on it with seemingly commercial intentions. In fact, he just wanted a place where he could run around naked in privacy.

Gänsehäufel 1900: Secret Nudist's Paradise

This privacy was in fact rather short-living: He was soon joint by other nudists. The Gänsehäufel became an insider tip for nude bathing and increasingly popular. At some point, the city of Vienna took notice of this and started to transform the "wild swimming" into a proper lido. Berndl himself was reasonably impressed. When the public lido was opened in 1907 and the "Gänsehäufel" took an official turn, he rented the piece of Danube shore just to the opposite of the island.

He called this property "Brasil in Vienna" ("Brasilien in Wien") and founded a colony of allotment gardens - of course in order to have space for running around naked again. The colony was called "Neubrasilien", a term still used as a name by an inn at the Gänsehäufel today.

In the last days of WWII, the Gänsehäufel lido was hit by bombs and completely destroyed. In 1948, the city of Vienna started to rebuild the facilities according to plans by Max Fellerer and Eugen Wörle. The original huts were restored in their 1907 appearance and only supplemented with modern facilities. The historical "core" of the Gänsehäufel is still preserved. Today, the Gänsehäufel offers space for up to 30,000 swimming enthusiasts a day.

Gänsehäufel Today: Pulbic Lido in Vienna

In the spirit of its anarchist founder, the Gänsehäufel still has an "FKK" or nudist section, which spans approximately two kilometres of shoreline. In the general part, you find sport and leisure facilities, a children swimming pool with pre-heated water (we all know how this comes to happen), playgrounds, water slides and a "Hochseilgarten" (a rope course for climbing practice).

The culture that has developed around the Gänsehäufel is typical for Vienna′s working class pride. To honour the Gänsehäufel, the Wien Museum put together an exhibition in 2007, celebrating the 100 years of history of the "official" lido. Attractions nearby are limited, but the Vienna International Centre is a rather obvious landmark.

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Further Reading

Official Website of the Vienna Gänsehäufel

City of Vienna on the Gänsehäufel

Conservation Department: On the Gänsehäufel