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Heatwave: Nine of the coolest places in Austria

As summer temperatures reach Austria, bringing temperatures well above the 30C, there are a few places you can go to help you cool down.

Heatwave: Nine of the coolest places in Austria
A woman enjoys basking in the sun on the swimming pier in the Buchau, in Achensee, Tyrol (© Achensee Tourismus)

Europe’s heatwaves are no laughing matter, and temperatures even in alpine Austria can get close to 40C on many occasions during the summer. If you want to find places to cool down and avoid the heat, there are many beautiful locations to visit all over Austria.

From aquariums to caves and stunning lakes, here are some of the spots that will not be too sweltering even in the hot summer months.

Vienna aquarium haus des meeres

Vienna’s aquarium, the Haus des Meeres, is a great place to visit. (Photo: Daniel Zupanc/Presse)

In Vienna, visit the Haus des Meeres

Vienna has many places you can visit literally to cool off, as the city has a comprehensive plan to face heat waves. There are fog showers around the city, which spray a fine mist into the air to cool down passers-by; water features in its parks and drinking water fountains all over the city.

However, if you want more of an attraction for your summer months, a good call would be the Viennese aquarium, also known as Haus des Meeres.

READ ALSO: Five of the best things to do in Vienna this summer

Unless you spend some time in the “tropical” section, most of the building is climatized, and you get to see cool animals and beautiful aquariums. The Haus also has a rooftop bar with lovely views of Vienna.

Vienna woods

The beautiful Vienna Woods. ((c) Niederösterreich Werbung/Andreas Hofer)

In Lower Austria, venture into the Wienerwald

The Vienna Woods, which encompass the west and southwest of the city’s capital, are the forest where many great minds used to go for walks to get inspired – Mozart, Beethoven and Kafka are all closely linked to the Wienerwald.

READ ALSO: ‘Waldeinsamkeit’ in Austria: Five peaceful forest walks near Vienna

The region is beautiful throughout the year, and the greenery helps the area stay cooler than the cities over summer.

It’s a perfect setting for walks, picnics, and mountain biking, and several summer events take place over the hot months.

In Upper Austria, go to the Nationalpark Kalkalpen

Austria’s second-largest national park is within the Northern Limestone Alps mountain range, and it’s most famous for having the largest forested area in Central Europe. You can escape the summer heat under the cover of the trees, reach high panorama-view towers, climb peaks and enjoy horseback riding trails.

READ ALSO: Six German expressions to entice your Wanderlust

The forest is a truly special thing. It’s the first World Natural Heritage forest in Austria and is home to some of the oldest trees in Europe.

The Kalkalpen is also where several rare animals can be found in Austria, including bears, the lynx and the golden eagle.

Styria has beautiful bike tours with fantastic views (© Steiermark Tourismus | Tom Lamm)

In Styria, visit the wine roads south of the state

Styria is home to what is known as Austria’s Tuscany region. The Weinstrassen are a beautiful and idyllic setting of roads full of twists and turns around vineyards.

Though the best time of the year to visit is arguably around September, to enjoy the fruits of the grape harvest, it is also a lovely (and a few degrees cooler than in city centres!) place to visit over the summer months.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about cycling in Austria

The wine roads are also a great region to cycle through, with lovely towns perfect for overnight stays, such as Ehrenhausen or Berghausen.

A woman enjoys basking in the sun on the swimming pier in the Buchau, in Achensee, Tyrol (© Achensee Tourismus)

In Tyrol, go swimming at the Achensee

Achensee is the largest lake in the Western state of Tyrol – also known as the “Tyrolean Sea” or even “Fjord of the Alps”.

READ ALSO: How to explore the Austrian mountains in the summer like a local

The lake has crystal clear waters – and the quality is near drinking water, with sight up to ten meters below the surface. It’s a perfect place to cool off, especially since, being an alpine lake, water temperatures tend to be refreshing and rarely over 20C.

Achensee’s shores have sandy beaches, and visitors enjoy plenty of summer activities, including windsurfing and sailing. It is said that even Austria’s emperors liked to go there to escape the city’s heat and cool off during the hottest months.

In Salzburg, explore the Dachstein Caves

There is no more effective way to cool off than literally entering an ice cave.

Salzkammergut, the lake region in Salzburg, has many beautiful places to visit over summer and lovely swimming spots to enjoy (Attersee is a must if you are in the area).

READ ALSO: Salt of the Alps: ancient Austrian mine holds Bronze Age secrets

However, those looking to really escape blistering temperatures and the blazing sun will be entirely at home at the Dachstein Caves, a world of ice and underground halls.

There are two main caves: Dachstein Eishöhle, the icy and illuminated one, and Mammuthölle, one of the deepest and longest caves in the world.

Bregenz austria lake constance

The beautiful Lake Constance in Austria ((c) Christiane Setz)

In Vorarlberg, go skinny dipping at Bodensee

If the heat is just too much, it might be time to strip down to your birthday suit and go for a swim in the lake.

Austria is very nonchalant about nudity, but be sure to keep your bathing suit on unless you are in the designated FKK (Freikörperkultur) areas. Nudity sections or not, the vast Bodensee lake (also known as Lake Constance) has beautiful shores with turquoise waters for you to cool off and enjoy the view.

READ ALSO: The 10 biggest culture shocks experienced by foreigners in Austria

What view, you may ask? The lake borders Germany and Switzerland, the Rhine river flows to it, and Alpine mountains surround it. Heat or no heat, it’s a fantastic place to be.

The Neusiedler See (Neusiedler Lake) in Burgenland. Von Flame99, CC BY-SA 3.0, Creative Commons, Wikicommons

In Burgenland, go for a swim at Austria’s ocean, the Neusiedler See

We know we risk being repetitive, but Austria is not known for its mountains and lakes for nothing, and Neusiedler See is undoubtedly one of the most famous ones.

The lake is one of the largest in Europe, and it straddles the Austrian-Hungarian border, covering 315 square kilometres.

READ ALSO: Discover Austria: Five beautiful hikes and destinations south of Vienna

It is not even two meters deep at maximum depth, so it does warm up considerably during summer. The constant and strong winds help cool off, though, and the region is well known for its water sports and surfing possibilities.

There are lovely little towns surrounding the lake, and a visit to Rust, where you can see many stork nests on top of the houses, is a must.

In Carinthia, enjoy a resort vibe in Faaker See and Ossiacher See

If all that is missing for you is to feel like you are in a beach resort, then Carinthia has the perfect solution.

Two lakes, Faaker See and Ossiacher See, offer beautiful views, nice swimming spots, and plenty of activities close to Villach, one of the state’s largest cities. 

Do you know any great spots to cool off during Austrian heat? Let us know in the comment section below or send us an email at [email protected]

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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.

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