The Vienna Woods lie alongside the River Danube in the north of Vienna, a region of gentle forested uplands that roll northwards towards the foothills of the Austrian Alps. Originally hunting grounds for Viennese royalty, the region was forested in the 16th century, and thanks to the onslaught of urbanization, some 1,350 km2 were given protected status by UNESCO in 2005 in order to stop the decimation of the eco-system. Now the woods form a haven for rare birds and green lizards as well as mammals including deer and wild boar.
At weekends walkers and hikers flock out from the city to follow way-marked routes through the forests; one of the most popular trails leads in four hours up the slopes of the 484-meter-high peak of Kahlenberg for superb views back across the city. The Vienna Woods are covered with vine-clad hills, making Vienna one of the few cities in the world to have its own vineyards. Producing dry sparkling white and rich red wines, many local wine producers run traditional taverns known as heurigen, where local dishes such as schnitzel and strudel are served alongside young wines; on summer days these can be enjoyed on sun-filled terraces looking out over the vineyards.