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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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The five best places for stargazing in Austria

If you live in a city, chances are light pollution is stopping you from seeing many of the stars in the sky. But there are many areas in Austria where you get completely dark skies and can enjoy stars and constellations in all their glittering glory.

The five best places for stargazing in Austria

Unsurprisingly, there’s generally less light pollution in the Austrian Alps and away from urban areas.

Night skies in Europe are reportedly getting some six percent lighter each year, with Austria’s skies exceeding this average by six to eight percent. Yikes.

“If it carries on like this, then by 2040, there will be the first few areas where you won’t be able to see any stars at all with the naked eye,” Stefan Wallner, astronomer at the University of Vienna told Austrian newspaper Kurier.

You can see just how bad light pollution is in your area here.

Fortunately, Austria has so-called star parks (see below) where they are making a conscious effort to keep light pollution down to a minimum.

It’s always a good time to check the skies out, but it should be particularly special from August 11th to August 13th with the Perseids meteor showers – possibly the most beautiful night of the year for stargazing as you should see between 50-110 ‘shooting stars’ per hour!

You might need to set your alarm, though, as the best time to see them is between 9pm and 6am, looking to the north-east.

No telescope? No problem. We’ve put together a list of the best places across Austria where it’s dark enough to see stars even with the naked eye.

Sternenpark Naturpark Attersee-Traunsee, Upper Austria
In 2021, this park was certified as Austria’s first star park by the International Dark Sky Association.

This means everyone in the area makes it their job to keep light pollution at very low levels – you’ll struggle to find any brightly lit buildings or advertising hoardings here. Street lighting is kept to a minimum, too.

You can find out more in the video above (in German).

The park offers many different trails and discovery tours, as well as photography workshops for beginners and more advanced snappers, and other creative courses, such as natural drum-making.

Durrenstein hut to Locatelli hut by night

The Dürrenstein wilderness area is Austria’s first World Natural Heritage site. Photo by Mia Battaglia on Flickr.

Ybbstaler residence in the Dürrenstein wilderness area, Lower Austria

Fans of stargazing can stay in this chalet on the 1,343-metre-high Ybbstaler Alps, in the Dürrenstein wilderness area.

Unesco declared Austria’s only wilderness area the country’s first World Natural Heritage Site in 2017 – giving it the same protection as the likes of the Dolomites and the Grand Canyon.

Given its position and protection, it’s easy to spot the milky way and zodiacal light (that faint white triangular glow you see just after sunset or before sunrise), as well as thousands of stars, with the naked eye.

And it’s a great place to spend a bit longer, too: there are 3,500 hectares of wilderness to discover via tours, excursions and hiking trails.  

Visitors can explore the wilderness area on guided tours and excursions, which also provide a view of the Rothwald, or on the official hiking trails.

Hohe Dirn Star Park, Upper Austria

Grab your torches and something and reach for the stars – and the milky way – at the 1,100-metre-high Star Park observation point in the Upper Austrian municipality of Reichraming.

They also hold special events and public observation evenings (see above video) where you’ll get a short intro to the starry night. They’ll point out key constellations, answer your questions on astronomy and, depending on conditions, you might be able to see some objects up close with a telescope.

You can register for the next ones here.

Frauenberg and Hochtor

The summit to the right is the Hochtor, part of the Gesäuse National Park and the highest mountain in the Ennstaler Alps in Styria, Austria. Photo by Bernd Thaller on Flickr.

Gesäuse National Park, Styria
This 12,000-hectare national park in the mountainous region of Upper Styria extends over Admont, Johnsbach, Weng, Hieflau, Landl and St Gallen – Jonsdach was recently found to be the darkest place in Austria, so you know the views are going to be good here.

It’s said that people have even been able to see the milky way here without a telescope.

As well as stargazing opportunities a-plenty, they also have exhibitions, a photography school, and climbing, cycling and boating routes.

Plus, there’s a designated camping area.

telescope in front of mountain residence

There’s no light pollution on the Emberger Alm. Photo by Sattleggers Alpenhof

Mountain residence with observatory, Carinthia
If you fancy spending more than an evening with the twinkly ones, then how about a star-watching holiday?

Sattleggers Alpenhof on the Emberger Alm in Carinthia offers just that – there’s a mini observatory at 1,800 metres, a weather-proof star-watching hut with a retractable roof, astronomy photography workshops, and crucially, very dark nights with no light pollution.

waiting for the stars in grossmugl

Waiting for the stars at Großmugl. Photo by captain.orange on Flickr.

And Vienna (!)
Even if you’re in Vienna, all is not lost.

Just outside the city, you’ll find the Georgenberg Sterngarten observatory.

They hold lots of events for star fans, including tours, lectures, observation evenings, shooting star nights and picnics under the stars.

There’s also the Großmugl star walk just 30 minutes from Vienna.

The path is suitable for all ages – it’s about 1.5km long and has information boards all along it describing the phenomena you might see in the night sky.

And what about if it’s raining? Then head to the planetarium!

Austria’s largest planetarium allows you to stargaze whatever the weather.

There are events for young and old star-spotters alike, including watching the spectacular Perseids meteor shower (12th August, 2022) and private tours.

You can even dine under the 9,000 twinkling stars. Prices start at €149 per person.

The Urania Observatory, Austria’s oldest – yet most modern – observatory is also in Vienna. Thanks to a super-powerful automatic double telescope you can still observe the skies despite the brightness of the city.

And if you’re wondering when the best time to stargaze is, you better set your alarm clocks, as it’s between 2-3am, ideally during a new moon.

Happy stargazing!

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