Vienna’s free ‘cooling centre’ lets you avoid Austria’s stifling heat

Vienna's Red Cross has set up a 'cooling centre' with airconditioning and rest areas for when the heat is too high - and other locations to help you keep cool.

Vienna cooling centre Austria heatwave
There are several places to cool off from the extreme heat in Vienna, including a dedicate "cooling centre" in the 21st district (Amanda Previdelli / The Local)

As temperatures near 40C in Vienna, people might be looking for areas where they can cool off, especially since not many apartments and houses in Austria are prepared to handle such scorching temperatures.

Vienna’s Red Cross has set up a free “cooling centre” where people can enjoy a quiet climate-conditioned room to recover from the heat stress.

The centre is located inside the Shopping City Nord, in Vienna’s 21st district, and it’s open when heat days are expected. You can check the dates on their website, which is updated weekly.

READ ALSO: Heatwave in Austria: How hot is it getting this week and where?

Besides the cool air, people can find tables to sit and work, beach chairs to relax, and a water supply. In addition, the Red Cross has partnered with brands to offer a few “gifts” like a straw hat and a pamphlet with tips for hot days.

The establishment is free and everyone is welcome, particularly those who suffer from the heat the most, like older people and people with chronicle diseases.

People can also bring their pets, as long as they don’t cause disturbances.

Pets are welcome in the cooling centre the Red Cross has set up in Vienna (Photo: Amanda Previdelli / The Local)

Tips for visiting the cooling centre

The Red Cross recommends that people suffering from extreme heat plan to stay at least two to three hours resting there – but adds that any other period of time is possible during opening hours (from 12 pm to 5 pm).

They recommend you take something to pass the time with, like a book, crossword or mobile phone – there are a few drawing books and crayons for kids.
People can also bring food and drinks (as long as they don’t disturb other guests) and tap water is available.

Red Cross’s tips for staying cool despite the heat

The Red Cross also has a brochure with tips for the heat days.

They include recommendations such as “drink lots of water even if you are not thirsty”, ventilating your apartment, caring for other people (especially neighbours or family members that might be part of the risk group), avoiding being outdoors and freshening up your body with a cool (not cold) shower, for example.

READ ALSO: How to stay cool in Austria as the heatwave hits

The organisation also suggests people wear light and bright clothes, eat light and fresh meals, search for cool places to be and do not leave people or animals in parked cars.

The cooling centre offers tap water, beach chairs, tables, and even some drawing books – but the Red Cross recommends people bring their own entertainment (Photo: Amanda Previdelli / The Local)

Other places to cool off in Vienna

Vienna has many places where you can cool off and spend some of the hottest hours. For example, many of its historical buildings with thick walls and made of stone (like most churches) can be very cool during the day even without air conditioning.

A word of caution, though: the beautiful St. Stephens Cathedral is a big exception to this rule, as it is usually packed with people, gets loads of hot sunlight, and its doors are always open, bringing hot air in.

READ ALSO: Heatwave: Nine of the coolest places in Austria

You can also visit some of the city’s museums or cafes for some extra dose of culture and cake while the sun is blazing outside.

If things are too hot to handle, there is always the polar area in the Schönbrunn Zoo, where you can spend some quality time in (not quite) subzero temperatures with the penguins.

READ ALSO: Austrian heatwave: Six tips to get a better night’s sleep

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Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

Europe's blistering summer may not be over yet, but 2022 is already breaking records, with nearly 660,000 hectares ravaged since January, according to the EU's satellite monitoring service.

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

And while countries on the Mediterranean have normally been the main seats of fires in Europe, this year, other countries are also suffering heavily.

Fires this year have forced people to flee their homes, destroyed buildings and burned forests in EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Some 659,541 hectares (1.6 million acres) have been destroyed so far, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) showed, setting a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006.

Europe has suffered a series of heatwaves, forest fires and historic drought that experts say are being driven by human-induced climate change.

They warn more frequent and longer heatwaves are on the way.

The worst-affected country has been Spain, where fire has destroyed 244,924 hectares, according to EFFIS data.

The EFFIS uses satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

The data comes after CAMS said Friday that 2022 was a record year for wildfire activity in southwestern Europe and warned that a large proportion of western Europe was now in “extreme fire danger”.

“2022 is already a record year, just below 2017,” EFFIS coordinator Jesus San-Miguel said. In 2017, 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13, rising to 988,087 hectares by the end of the year.

“The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all of Europe this year and the overall situation in the region is worrying, while we are still in the middle of the fire season,” he said.

Since 2010, there had been a trend towards more fires in central and northern Europe, with fires in countries that “normally do not experience fires in their territory”, he added.

“The overall fire season in the EU is really driven mainly by countries in the Mediterranean region, except in years like this one, in which fires also happen in central and northern regions,” he added.