Reader question: Is it legal to drink in public in Austria?

Drinking in public is no only legal in Austria, but it is much more socially acceptable in many other countries. Here’s what you need to know.

Reader question: Is it legal to drink in public in Austria?
Drinking in public is common in Austria. Photo by Julian Jagtenberg from Pexels

With bars and restaurants closed during the pandemic, the only place to have a drink other than your house was the park, square or anywhere else in Austria. 

When restaurants and bars reopened in 2021, while many of us grabbed our proof of vaccination, recovery or negative test and went straight to the pub, some of us might have gotten a little attached to drinking outside. 

Fortunately, not only is drinking outside perfectly legal in Austria, but it is not frowned upon socially to the same extent it might be in other countries. 

Everyone over drinking age – which is 16 for beer and wine and 18 for schnapps, cocktails and spirits – is allowed to drink in public in Austria. 

In most Austrian cities, towns and villages, having a few drinks in the park or a square is very socially acceptable – provided of course you keep the noise down and don’t start singing “it’s coming home” at full volume while goose-stepping down the sidewalk. 

Austria is also very fond of the ‘Wegbier’, which is the beer you drink when you are on your way somewhere. 

Quite often this is on the way home from work or on the way to the pub, but it can also be the point of the activity in itself – i.e. meeting up for a Wegbier or three, just walking around the neighbourhood. 

It might surprise plenty of people arriving from English-speaking countries but Austria, like neighbouring Germany, tends to have a policy of policing the conduct rather than just policing the drinking. 

So drinking in public is possible everywhere? 

There are some public squares and places where drinking is forbidden, but this is relatively rare. 

Drinking in the Praterstern area in Vienna, including the train station, is not allowed. There are also bans in Salzburg’s main station and Südtiroler Platz, as well as Heiligengeistplatz in Klagenfurt and the main square in Graz. 

Many public transport companies forbid drinking at stations, on platforms and while on the train or bus itself. 

However, this tends to only be enforced where people become loud or unruly; watching people drink a Feierabendbier – a beer when you finish work – quietly and calmly while on the way home is relatively common. 

During the Covid pandemic there were also some bans in alcohol consumption in public places in some parts of the country, however these were largely wound back when the lockdown measures were eased. 

The official rules for alcohol consumption in Austria can be seen here (in German). 

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Five books to read to understand Austria

Austria is a small landlocked country of about 9 million residents, but it was once a powerful (and enormous) empire. How did that change? Here are five books that can help you understand the country as it is now.

Five books to read to understand Austria

Austrian capital Vienna was once the political centre of one of the world’s largest and most powerful empires. The dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary, led by the Habsburg family, ruled over most of central Europe and was a centre for arts and culture. 

The Alpine country, of course, is still a great producer of arts, culture and science, but from having a population of 37.5 million by 1843, Austria is now a small landlocked country of about 9 million people. 

There’s much history in between (and before) and if you want to understand Austria better, several books can help you out, according to a list published by The Economist. Here are five of the books to learn about Austria.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why is Austria so rich?

The World of Yesterday, by Stefan Zweig

Stefan Zweig was a very well-known Austrian author and journalist. He was famous for his historical studies of famous writers including Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoievsky, and Honoré de Balzac. He also wrote biographies on historical figures including Marie Antoinette. 

When the Nazi party rose to power in Germany, he emigrated and then settled in Brazil. His memoir, Die Welt von Gestern (the World of Yesterday) was published in 1942 and is a long description of life during the final years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 

The Economist called it a “requiem for the liberal, cosmopolitan Vienna of the late Habsburg empire”. Many see it as the most famous book on the power family that ruled much of Europe.

READ ALSO: 8 TV shows you should watch to learn about Austrian culture

Heldenplatz, by Thomas Bernhard

Heldenplatz, which is also the name of the area in front of the Hofburg Palace, a symbol of Austrian politics (and the place where Adolf Hitler was greeted happily after the annexation of the country to Nazi Germany), is a stage drama first performed in 1988.

The play reflects on nationalism, the denial of the past and the ongoing anti-Semitism in modern Austria – it created a scandal in the country at the time. 

The Austrian playwriter, Bernhard, was vilified and died of a heart attack only a few months later.

READ ALSO: One day in Vienna: How to spend 24 hours in the Austrian capital

Vienna, by Eva Menasse

“In “Vienna”, her first novel, published in 2005, Eva Menasse blends fact and fiction to tell the story of three generations of Menasses, a chaotic, voluble Viennese family with Jewish roots.”, wrote The Economist.

The book is a celebrated German-language novel and a lighter view of the decades it represents (which include the Holocaust period). It was, of course, criticised by many for “brushing over” such issues. 

It is still a delightful read according to reviewers and shows another side of Austrian history.

READ ALSO: 11 maps that help you understand Austria today

Leopoldstadt, by Tom Stoppard

A play that explores Jewish identity while recounting the tragic stories of a Viennese family that lived in the homonymous neighbourhood – which once had a thriving Jewish community. 

Unlike Vienna, this play brushes over none of the tragedy, crimes and horrors of the Holocaust period. However, it starts even earlier as the multigenerational story begins on Christmas Day 1899, following family members until 1955.

It’s a short but beautiful read.

READ ALSO: How Austria’s newest citizens reclaimed a birthright stolen by the Nazis

Vielgeprüftes Ӧsterreich, by Paul Lendvai

Author Paul Lendvai had already published “Inside Austria” a personal account of 50 years of the country’s history – but now, Vielgeprüftes Österreich (something like “much-tested” or “long-suffering” Austria) acts as a sequel of sorts, according to The Economist.

The book hasn’t been translated into English yet, but the writer looks into Austria’s political history from the Habsburgs to the Ukrainian war, touching on subjects such as why anti-Semitism and xenophobia continue to grow in Austria and why Austrians still fall for demagogues.

READ ALSO: Why is support for Austria’s far-right FPÖ rising?