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Life in Austria: Must-do activities to add to your bucket list

Austria might be small but it’s definitely not short on unique experiences. Make sure you don’t miss out with The Local's Austrian bucket list.

Snow and frost on the Nockspitze in Mutters, Austria.
Exploring the Alps is a must-do in Austria. Photo by Paul Gilmore/Unsplash

From skiing in the Alps to listening to classical music in Vienna, Austria is a hub of must-do activities. 

To help you get started, here’s an ultimate guide for making the most of life in Austria.

Drink Austrian wine at a Heuriger

Anyone that lives in Vienna (or in the east of Austria) will be familiar with a Heuriger, but for people in other parts of the country it might be a new wine term.

Basically, a Heuriger is a wine tavern where local winemakers serve their new wine. In fact, the phrase “Heuriger Wein” actually means “this year’s wine”, so for people looking to sample the freshest Austrian wine, a Heuriger is the place to be – especially in summer.

If travelling outside of Vienna, just be aware that these wine taverns are not known as Heuriger everywhere in Austria. For example, in Styria, Heurigen are better known as Buschenschank, but are essentially the same thing.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Austria’s wine industry

Sip coffee in Austria’s highest cafe

Cafe 3.440 in the Pitztal region of Tyrol is Austria’s highest cafe at exactly 3,440 metres above sea level and is surrounded by 50 mountains at more than 3,000 metres.

Panoramic views and homemade food are not the only attractions at Cafe 3.440 though, with architecture fans drawn to the location for its futuristic UFO-like appearance and lounge ambience. It’s also Austria’s highest registry office and event space.

The cafe can be reached with the Gletscher Express lift, followed by the Wildspitzbahn gondola.

Go skiing in the Alps

Austria is known as a winter sports playground so don’t miss an opportunity to get out of the city and explore the Alps in the west of the country for a few days.

Even if skiing or snowboarding is not your thing, there is still plenty to enjoy in the mountains, like winter hiking, wellness hotels, gourmet restaurants and traditional mountain huts.

Then there are events for your calendar like the famous Hahnenkamm downhill ski race in Kitzbühel or the Snowbombing music festival in Mayrhofen.

READ MORE: The best events and festivals in Austria in 2022

Listen to classical music in Vienna

No visit to Vienna is complete without attending a classical music concert. After all, the city is famous for its cultural scene and is known as the capital of classical music.

The Wien Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestra put on regular concerts across the city and some of the best venues for classical music include the Golden Hall at Wiener Musikverein, Kursalon, the State Opera, Schönbrunn Palace, St Peter’s Church and Karlskirche.

Pro tip: If you want to secure a good seat, book a ticket well in advance as most concerts sell out fast.

Visiting Vienna should be on every Austrian bucket list. Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash.

Spend the night at an Alpine hut

Winter is definitely the most important season in the Austrian Alps, but summer is also a great time to visit. 

The mountain regions are home to countless hiking routes and traditional mountain huts where people can enjoy a refreshing lunch, or even stay the night.

Accommodation at most huts is basic, so don’t expect five-star luxury, but the experience of waking up on the side of a mountain is one that you won’t forget in a hurry. Just be sure to book ahead for a visit during the peak months of June to August.

Go wine tasting in Burgenland

Burgenland is one of the most prominent wine producing areas in Austria and is within easy reach of Vienna, making it the perfect location for a day trip or long weekend.

One of the hotspots in Burgenland is Neusiedlersee where visitors can enjoy swimming in the lake, as well as sampling local wine (although probably not at the same time). Or if you want to venture a bit further, try visiting wineries from the 17th and 18th Centuries in the historic town of Heiligenbrunn in south Burgenland.

Alternatively, rent a bike and tour the region on two wheels, stopping off at wineries and taking in the landscape along the way.

FOR MEMBERS: How to maximise your annual leave in Austria in 2022

Watch ski jumping in Innsbruck

Ski jumping is a sport for daredevils and the Bergisel in Innsbruck is the perfect place to witness skiers (or “eagles” as they are known) flying through the air.

Every year, the Four Hills Tournament (German-Austrian Ski Jumping Week) descends on Innsbruck in early January and crowds flock to the outdoor stadium to watch the contest amid a party atmosphere. Ski jumping is the main attraction of the event, but spectators also take full advantage of the many Glühwein and hot food stands.

The Bergisel is famous for hosting the Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976, and provides panoramic views across the city.

Visit Hallstatt

The town of Hallstatt sits on the shore of Lake Hallstatt in Salzburgerland. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and represents a slice of traditional Austrian life.

Hallstatt was built in the 16th Century as a salt mining town and is home to narrow streets and historic buildings, which further adds to the dramatic charm of the picturesque settlement.

The town is incredibly popular with tourists from all over the world and was regularly featured by travel influencers on Instagram in pre-Covid times. 

As a result, it can be crowded, but don’t let the hype put you off – if only to see for yourself why developers in China were so impressed with Hallstatt that they created a replica of the town in the Guangdong province in 2012.

Go to Oktoberfest

The most famous Oktoberfest takes place in Munich in Germany, not Austria. But for people based in the west of the country, Munich is actually within easy reach. This means Oktoberfest is also accessible.

Oktoberfest is the world’s largest Volksfest (folk festival) that runs for around 16 days every year, usually in mid-September. It’s known for serving beer in one-litre steins, patrons dressing up in traditional outfits of dirndls (for girls) and lederhosen (for boys), and lots of raucous partying.

In 2020 and 2021, Munich’s Oktoberfest didn’t take place due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it has been confirmed for 2022 (depending on the situation) from September 17th to October 3rd.

If travelling to Munich is not an option, smaller events also take place in towns and cities across Austria between September and October, including in Vienna.

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Donauinselfest: What you need to know about Austria’s biggest open air festival

Austria has the largest free open-air festival in Europe, and the Donauinselfest is taking place this weekend. Here is what you need to know.

Donauinselfest: What you need to know about Austria's biggest open air festival

The Austrian Donauinselfest is known as the largest free open-air music festival in Europe, and it happens yearly on Vienna’s Danube island. The festival attracts around three million visitors over its three days of events and is starting on Friday in the Austrian capital.

The festival has been taking place yearly since 1983 on the 21.1-kilometre river island. This year, it has 14 different areas and 11 stages, according to the official website. Visitors can expect more than 600 hours of program.

READ ALSO: The best festivals and events to enjoy in Austria this summer

Here is what you need to know to enjoy the programme fully.

When and where is the festival?

The festival has an extensive range of events starting on Friday, June 24th, and lasting until Sunday, June 26th. It takes place on the island between the new Danube and the Danube rivers, known as the Donauinsel.

READ ALSO: 7 things to know about driving in Austria this summer

It is easily accessible via the U1 (Donauinsel station) and U6 (Handelskai station) metro and there are no parking spaces available near the festival site.

Admission to the event is free.

The festival is back after the pandemic

After two years of reduced capacity and many Covid-19 restrictions, the Donauinselfest is back to (almost) normal. There is no limit to the number of visitors, no requirement to show proof of vaccination or recovery from the disease, and no mask mandate.

However, the authorities have asked that people take “personal responsibility” as coronavirus infection numbers have been rising.

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

The organisers have requested people to get tested before visiting the vast festival, reported.

People gather on the shores of the Danube river, in Vienna during a hot sunny day and Danube Day on June 29, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KLEIN

“We ask everyone who would like to visit the Donauinselfest this year to take a PCR or rapid test in advance and thus protect themselves and others. People with symptoms are not allowed to enter the festival grounds.”, said organiser Matthias Friedrich.

Though masks are not mandatory, they are recommended on-site if it is too full of people and no social distancing is possible. Besides, there is a masks requirement to all Donauinselfest workers in indoor areas.

Watch out for what you cannot bring

There is an extensive list of things that are not allowed on the festival site. For example, visitors are not allowed to take large bags and backpacks (“A3 format”, according to the website). However, a gym bag is not considered a backpack.

Animals, including dogs, are prohibited – except for guide dogs and service dogs.

You are also not allowed to bring umbrellas, alcoholic beverages, cans, glass bottles, or drones. The list of prohibited items includes “propaganda material”, spray bottles, whistles, large or bulky objects, bicycles and skateboards, stools and chairs, food and more.

Check out the complete list here.

Danube festival

Vienna’s “Danube-island” Festival will return this weekend. (Photo by DIETER NAGL / AFP)

READ ALSO: Forecast: Austria set for high temperatures and storms throughout weekend and beyond

You can – and should – bring plenty of water and sunscreen, as temperatures are expected to be around the 30Cs over the next few days.

What kind of music is there?

The festival has several stages and a broad programme selection. The bands are usually more regional, with a significant presence of Austrian, German, and Italian bands.

You can find all sorts of music, from pop to rock, rap, and techno. There are even tribute bands like Break Free, which will play Queen’s best signs on the rock stage.

The program includes other activities as well, such as poetry slam, art stages, sport areas, and even events for families and children.

You can check the official program here.