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Discover Austria: 19 ways to make the most of autumn this year

The sun might still be shining but the seasons are changing and autumn is just around the corner. Here’s how to fully embrace the season this year.

Discover Austria: 19 ways to make the most of autumn this year
Autumn is more than a change of seasons in Austria - it's also a great time to explore the country. (Photo by Anastasia Lashkevich / Pexels)

It’s no secret that winter in Austria is long and cold.

This is why it’s so important to make the most of autumn before the winter really kicks in.

Here’s how to make that happen with our selection of events, activities, places to see and seasonal foods to eat.

FOR MEMBERS: From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season

Events

The Viennale – the annual international film festival – takes place from October 20th to November 1st.

A preview of this year’s programme includes feature films from France, Kazakhstan, US, Canada, Greece, Austria and the UK. As well as a monograph on Elaine May – the award-winning American comedian, actress, playwright and filmmaker. 

Screenings take place at various venues across Vienna, such as Gartenbaukino on Parkring, Stadkino im Künstlerhaus and Urania on Uraniastrasse.

The full Viennale programme will be published on October 11th at 8pm and the ticket presale starts on October 15th at 10am.

Oktoberfest is another autumn event to add to your list of seasonal fun.

The annual celebration of beer, dirndl and lederhosen might originate in Munich, Germany, but Austria is not one to be left behind. As a result, there are many Oktoberfest events that take place across the country from mid-September to early October.

READ ALSO: Discover Austria: Six off-the-beaten-track towns to visit

Unfortunately, Vienna’s Wiesn event has already been cancelled this year due to difficulties in securing a venue (according to the official website). 

But similar events are taking place, like Knödelfest in St Johann in Tyrol on September 24th, which is a one-day festivity of dumplings, beer and traditional music.

If Oktoberfest-style events are too kitschy for you, then check out Vienna’s Craft Bier Fest instead. It takes place from November 18th and 19th at the Marx Halle and visitors can sample beers from local and international brewing companies. 

Activities

Autumn can be one of the best times of the year in Austria for a hiking adventures as temperatures are cooler but there is still plenty of sunshine.

If you’re in the mood for a multi-day hike, then try the Adlerweg (Eagle’s Trail). It can either be broken down into smaller hikes or completed in one go in around four weeks.

The trail traverses classic alpine landscapes in Tyrol from St Johann to St Anton am Arlberg. However, some huts close from around mid-October before the winter sets in, so keep that in mind when planning a hiking trip.

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

Alternatively, get involved in Vienna’s Wine Hiking Day on September 24th and 25th.

Every year, Viennese wine taverns (Heurigen) open to hikers searching for a panoramic view of the city while sampling local wines. Participants can choose from four different routes for the hike – ranging from 2.4km to 9.6km.

If hiking is not your thing, you can take the Heurigen Express instead. This is a dedicated train service that departs from the U4 station at Heiligenstadt and takes you into Vienna’s wine country.

If you prefer to explore the great outdoors on two wheels, then head to Burgenland to cycle along the province’s extensive bike trails. Burgenland has a slightly warmer climate and so enjoys a longer outdoor season than other parts of Austria.

Or test your stamina with a multi-day cycle from Vienna to Linz, the capital of Lower Austria, along the Danube cycle path. 

Autumn in Vienna (Photo by Ashkan on Unsplash)

Places to visit

Autumn is a great time for a city trip in Austria, especially as the weather gets colder and wetter in many parts of the country.

Vienna is always a top destination for a weekend getaway and if you can squeeze in a visit while the Viennale is on, then even better. But there are always plenty of other attractions to enjoy in Austria’s capital city, from museums to restaurants and live music.

FOR MEMBERS: Discover Austria: Five beautiful hikes and destinations south of Vienna

Then there is Linz, which is home to Ars Electronica, a cultural institution with a focus on new media art. Highlights in the autumn programme include the Deep Space Concert with keyboardist Gerald Peter on September 21st, and a Familienwochende (family weekend) on September 24th and 25th.

On the other hand, if you want to venture off the beaten path, head to Eisenstadt, the capital of Burgenland

Eisenstadt is a little-known (and small) city but boasts lots of culture, such as the grand Esterházy Palace. There is also an historic old town with shops, cafes and restaurants, and several Heurigen in the districts of St. Georgen and Kleinhöflein.

Seasonal food and drink

A switch to cooler weather is the perfect time to sample regional, hearty food in Austria, and there is nothing more Austrian during autumn than Schwammerl.

A Schwammerl is a large mushroom (the name comes from Austrian and Bavarian dialect, so it doesn’t mean the same as Pilz, which is just mushroom) and they are found in forests across the country from late summer. 

The best way to find Schwammerl in Austria is to go foraging yourself – as long as you know what you are looking for.

But if you’re not interested in picking mushrooms, you can find Schwammerl at most supermarkets, independent grocery stores and farmers markets during autumn.

READ MORE: Which Austrian cheeses are protected foods and why?

Alternatively, if you want to sample fresh mushrooms but can’t be bothered to cook, then head down to your favourite Austrian restaurant to try a regional Schwammerl dish. 

Highlights include Semmelknödel mit Rahmschwammerl (bread dumplings with cream mushroom sauce) and Böhmisches Schwammerl-Gulasch (bohemian mushroom goulash), the latter being a Viennese speciality.

For wine lovers out there, autumn is also Sturm season in Austria.

From late September to early October, Sturm – fermenting grape juice that is on its way to becoming wine – is served at Heurigen across the country.

Sturm has the look of cloudy, unfiltered beer but has a fresh, juicy flavour. It is most popular at Viennese Heurigen where you can usually sample local food alongside your glass of fermenting wine.

Find out more about Austria’s wine scene with The Local’s guide to the best wineries in the country.

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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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