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Five of the best things to do in Vienna this summer

Summer is when the Austrian capital Vienna comes alive with a long list events for the public and people flock to the river banks as temperatures rise. Here's a look at some of the best things to do this summer.

Five of the best things to do in Vienna this summer
Vienna is filled with green areas. (Photo by HyoSun Rosy Ko on Unsplash)

Austria is not known for its summer tourism, as the alpine country seems to be the perfect destination for winter sports and activities.

However, summer is actually when most people visit the country, according to Statistik Austria. And as traditional summer destinations got overcrowded and connections to Austria increased, the number of tourists in the season jumped by 31.9 per cent from 2012 until just before the pandemic hit in 2019.

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

Of course, Austria and its capital, Vienna, have a lot to offer during the hottest months, especially for those who enjoy swimming and, yes, even those who want to go to the beach. So, if you are staying or visiting Vienna during this time, here are a few of the best things to do.

(We have skipped traditional tourist attractions, including the Prater amusement park – which is a great place to visit also during summer.)

Swim in the Danube and public pools

When the heatwave comes, there’s nothing like going for a swim. Even though Austria is a landlocked country, there is no shortage of amazing swimming spots to head to. Actually, Austria was recently awarded the title of the home to the “best bathing waters” in Europe, according to a European Environment Agency research.

READ ALSO: Austria home to the ‘best bathing waters’ in Europe, new ranking claims

Some of the best places to go for a swim are just natural areas, such as the Old Danube (Alte Donau) river, its recreational area, loads of green spots, shades, and swimming places.

Gänsehäufelbad is one of Vienna’s public bathing areas that are more structured, and you pay an entry price (€6.20 for adults). This one is located on an island in the Alte Donau and has almost anything you can think of, from the beach area to a sports pool, wave pool, high rope climbing garden and countless other activities and settings.

There are many public pools in Vienna with different offers, from water slides to saunas, and they are all easily accessible although you’ll have to pay. Two others that are quite popular are the one in Schönbrunn (because why not swim on old palace grounds?) and Krapfenwaldbad which offers a fantastic view over Vienna.

Go to the beach

You don’t need to fly off to the Caribbean to feel the sand under your feet. Vienna has many riverside beaches with lovely sunbathing, swimming and chilling areas, especially in the Alte Donau.

READ ALSO: The best lakes and swimming spots in Austria

Additionally, many bars in the city open the summer season with beach chairs and sandy floors, perfect for enjoying a caipirinha or an Aperol Spritz. Many places in the Copa Beach area also offer that Rio de Janeiro feel (Copa Beach, by the way, used to be called Copacagrana, paying homage to the famous Brazilian shore).

If you miss walking by the beach shore and hopping in and out of different trendy bars, then you belong to the Donaukanal and its endless list of cool places to visit just by the river canal.

Enjoy the festivals and events

One of the best things about Austria and Vienna is simply the number of open and free events offered. Even in winter, people face the cold to visit lovely Christmas Markets. In summer, this can be seen almost daily.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Austria this summer

Besides the Donauinselfest, Europe’s largest free open-air festival, with music, activities, drinks and foods, there are several pop-up exhibitions and events. In addition, open-air cinemas all over town are pretty popular, and of course, the Rathaus summer festival, with concerts shown on the large screen outside of the town hall and many food trucks surrounding the square.

If you enjoy more classical things, then the Summer Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic is for you. It takes place every year at the Schönbrunn Gardens. In 2022, the event will happen on June 16th – it is free, and no tickets are required for attending.

Try outdoor sports

After all the eating, you’d be glad to hear that Vienna also hosts many outdoor sports activities during the summer months.

Most of them are paid or on a donation basis, and you can find Yoga on rooftops, spinning classes by the Donaukanal, HIIT in the Stadtpark, stand-up paddle or wakeboard in the Donau and much more.

Visit the beergardens and heurige

Are you done with that yoga on a surfboard in the Donau? Then it’s time to head out to a beer garden or heuriger to enjoy the evening as the sun sets.

One of the most traditional beer gardens is in Prater, the Schweizerhaus, where you can get local food and fantastic beer. For those who feel more like wine drinking, heurigers are all over the city, but the 19th District certainly has some of the best. First, go up to Kahlenberg for the view, then walk down for a heuriger crawl with great wine, delicious food and fantastic views.

But don’t forget to watch out for the weather

Just because Austria is not known to be a summer destination doesn’t mean it won’t get scalding here. During the summer months, temperatures average between 16C and 27C. It may not seem like much, but heat waves have brought thermometers closer to the 40C mark.

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8 things to know if you’re visiting Austria in December

From Christmas markets to possible strike action and the start of the ski season, here’s what you need to know when visiting Austria in December.

8 things to know if you’re visiting Austria in December

December in Austria is exactly how you would imagine it – twinkling lights, wintry weather and wafts of Glühwein in the air.

And this year, the festive season is set to be even more enjoyable after many Christmas celebrations were put on hold for the past two years due to the pandemic.

So if you’re planning to travel to Austria this December, here’s what to expect.

READ MORE: How to save money and still go skiing in Austria

No travel restrictions

There are currently no Covid-related travel restrictions for entering Austria.

Previously, people arriving in Austria had to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test (known as 3G), but those rules came to an end in May.

This year will be the first Christmas season in Austria without Covid travel restrictions since December 2019.

Christmas markets are on

Another welcome return this year in Austria is the Christmas markets. 

Last year, many markets around the country were cancelled after a snap lockdown in November, although some events still went ahead with strict rules in place.

But this year, the Christmas markets are back in full swing without restrictions, so make sure you visit one (or two) to really get into the Christmas spirit.

Austria’s most famous markets are in Vienna, like the Christkindmarkt in front of the Town Hall that runs from November 19 to December 26.

FOR MEMBERS: IN PICTURES: A guide to the main Christmas markets in Austria

Some Covid-19 rules still apply

The stressful days of pandemic lockdowns might be behind us (fingers crossed), but there are still a few rules in Austria to be aware of.

In Vienna, it is still mandatory to wear an FFP2 mask in pharmacies, on public transport and at stations. So if you arrive at Vienna International Airport and take public transport into the city centre, expect to be asked to put on a mask.

Nationwide, masks are also required at all health and care facilities, including hospitals and clinics.

Possible strike action 

Like in many countries in Europe right now, inflation is rising (see more on this below) and many workers unions are in the process of negotiating pay rises. 

This has already led to a strike by rail workers at ÖBB, Austria’s national rail operator, on Monday November 28, with the possibility of further strike action if a deal can’t be reached. 

Retail workers and beer brewers are also threatening to strike in early December for similar reasons. 

So if visiting Austria in December, prepare yourself for some possible upheaval. Although the latest rail strike caused minimal disruption.

READ MORE: Train strike: What are your rights in Austria if your trip is cancelled or delayed?

Everything is more expensive

Inflation in Austria is currently over 10 percent, which has led to price increases for everything from daily groceries to energy bills and dining out.

Even the Christmas markets are more expensive this year due to higher prices for the Glühwein mugs. This means some markets in Vienna are charging almost €5 for the Pfand (deposit) for that first glass of mulled wine.

The same applies to ski resorts with hotels, lift tickets and restaurants all costing more this year.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Is travelling to Austria this winter worth it?

Public holidays

Besides Christmas (December 25) and Stephan’s Day (December 26), December 8, when Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Mariä Empfängnis), is also a public holiday in Austria.

Of course, there are also several celebratory dates in December. For example, every Sunday until Christmas is an Advent Sunday, and Austrian families commemorate it in many ways, including lighting up candles.

On December 4, there is Barbaratag, while on December 5 Krampus pays his visit to Austrian villages and cities. On the next day, December 6, it’s time for St Nikolaus to bring chocolate and tangerines to children who were nice during the year.

Christmas Eve, Day, and St Stephen’s Day (December 24, 25 and 26) are important dates for Austrian traditions.

It’s also worth noting that Austrians celebrate Christmas on the evening of December 24, usually with a family meal.

READ ALSO: Is skiing still possible on Austria’s glaciers?

Start of ski season

In some parts of Austria, like on high-altitude glaciers in the Alps, the skiing season is already underway. 

Elsewhere, some resorts tentatively open in early to mid-December before the winter season officially starts at Christmas. So you can possibly save some money (and avoid the crowds) by going skiing earlier.

For example, in St. Johann in Tyrol, the adult day pass rate is €29 between December 8 to 23 – far below the €53 in peak season (from December 24). 

These off-peak rates don’t apply at all ski resorts but it’s worth checking before booking a trip to the mountains.

New Year celebrations

Expect lots of fireworks on New Year’s Eve (Silvester) in Austria – no matter where you are.

Most major cities have a large fireworks display planned for midnight on December 31 and hotels tend to book up quickly – especially in cities like Salzburg.

In Vienna, the bells ring out at St. Stephan’s Cathedral to welcome in the New Year, which is also broadcast on national television. This is followed by fireworks and some even take part in a communal waltz on Rathausplatz in front of the Town Hall.

But if you really want to celebrate New Year like an Austrian, then give a marzipan pig to your nearest and dearest. The little pigs represent a good luck charm and are handed out every year on New Year’s Eve.