few activities are more quintessentially winter than ice skating on a frozen pond, but Austria ice skating just took it to a whole other level with Viennese Ice Dream. The massive ice skating complex has two restaurants, a 1,600-foot ice trail through an urban park, and more than 100,000 square feet of ice rink spread across two levels — and yes, you can skate from one floor to the next.
This isn’t the first year for Viennese Ice Dream, but it started with much humbler plans. The Austria ice skating rink first opened in 1996 in the same location outside Vienna’s City Hall. In the early 2000s it began adding live DJs, and added a skating route through the famous Rathauspark urban park in 2005. But in 2019, it made engineering history by opening the first two-level skating rink. And in 2022, it’s back — but like every year, you only have from late January to the first week of March to skate the night away.
While making the two-story ice rink isn’t especially different from building any two-story building, the challenging part is building the ramp between the two levels, which takes a huge amount of space to ensure it’s gradual enough to be safe (especially on the downhills). That’s part of the reason why Viennese Ice Dream is one of the largest ice-skating rinks in Europe, only behind Budapest‘s Varosligeti Mujegpalya city ice rink (130,000 square feet of ice). But with hundreds of thousands of neon lights, live music, a skating path that winds under huge trees covered in Christmas lights, outdoor bars, and nearby food trucks and vendors, Viennese Ice Dream is more of a winter activity hub than just an ice skating rink.
Tickets are surprisingly cheap at just under €8 (about $8.60 USD) for adults, and skate rentals are roughly the same. But if you’re not ready to fork out the cash, you’re in luck: there are two ice skating areas that are totally free to access to help beginners learn the basics of moving on ice before stepping up to the big leagues.
The entire complex is a partnership with private partners and the City of Vienna Marketing Council as a way to create affordable, family-friendly activities during the winter months. And because it’s partially funded by city taxes, it comes with another benefit: all students in kindergarten through primary school get in completely free all winter long.
Tickets are available online, and while a park this large doesn’t usually sell out, it does require one thing before you can step through the gates: proof of vaccination against COVID-19. Guests need to wear masks while off the ice (except when eating or drinking), but you can remove your mask when you’re throwing double axels (or just trying not to fall) on the massive rinks.