At the border between Austria and Hungary you’ll find a lake with tall reeds and soil excellent for wine growing. That’s Neusiedlersee. Or Fertő tó, depending on which side of the border you’re on.

Neusiedlersee Viennese Sea UNESCO Austria

Austrian wine growing country with Neusiedlersee on the horizon

As both are landlocked countries, lakes are popular getaways, and Neusiedlersee / Fertő tó is no exception. Known as ‘The Viennese Sea’ (it is only 1 hour from Vienna), it’s a popular weekend getaway for water sports, golf, birdwatching and the like. The lake covers an area of 315 km2 and is one of Europe’s largest lakes, yet it is not even 2 metres deep. Nice and windy, though, so excellent for windsurfing and sailing. And since it’s a very flat area, cycling is a good way to get around as well.

So what is special about this area? The inscription:

The Fertö / Neusiedler Lake area has been the meeting place of different cultures for eight millennia. This is graphically demonstrated by its varied landscape, the result of an evolutionary symbiosis between human activity and the physical environment. The remarkable rural architecture of the villages surrounding the lake and several 18th- and 19th-century palaces adds to the area’s considerable cultural interest.


Neusiedlersee Viennese Sea UNESCO Austria

Neusiedl am See is where I hop off the train and begin walking. A small town on the north shore of the lake, it is on the main train route between Vienna and Budapest. Past the vineyards I wander, down to the lake, around Neusiedl am See.

I walk quickly as I have to be back in Vienna for dinner in just a few hours. But slow enough to get an initial feel for the place. A taste. Just enough to realise this area needs more time, at a leisurely pace. Plan a few days around Neusiedlersee if you can – to cycle or sail or ride. I’d like to visit a few more of the villages, especially those on the border, as well as Hungary’s answer to Versailles, the Esterhazy Palace in Fertő also part of the world heritage listing).

Neusiedlersee Viennese Sea UNESCO Austria

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Fertö / Neusiedlersee Cultural Landscape is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites from around the world.