Top Things to do in Vienna during the Austrian National Day
National days are something we all look forward to. Usually a bank holiday in most countries in Europe, the national holiday sees most of us taking a break, taking off from the cities or generally spending the day in the company of loved one or working on our hobbies. All seems lovely, except when you are a tourist in said country and find most places you wanted to visit or shop in closed. But fret not, even in these cases, there are contingencies for those among us who refuse to experience a city from the confines of a hotel room.
The Austrian National Day has been celebrated on 26 October since 1955 and it honors the Austrian Parliament passing the constitutional law on permanent neutrality, following the efforts in the same year to establish a State Treaty that would put an end to the Allied forces occupation, which had been in place as of the end of the Second World War.
As the National Day will be on a Saturday, Vienna will basically operate on a bank holiday mode, so expect all shops with minor exceptions to be closed. This includes department stores, malls, supermarkets and specialty shops. What you can expect to see open are all venues of entertainment that are not inside shopping malls, restaurants, museums and wellness centers. Additionally, numerous national parks stay open on this day, in order to encourage locals and visitors alike to get moving in the crisp fall air.
So without further ado, here are our top picks for activities in and around Vienna during the Austrian National Holiday.
A lesson in culture and history
On this day, the Federal Chancellery (Ballhausplatz 1, entry through Schauflergasse) and the Austrian Parliament (the majestic neoclassical building on Dr.-Karl-Renner-Ring) open their doors to the public free of charge from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This would be a unique opportunity to be in the same building where the President of Austria will be hosting his annual televised address to the people. If you are in the Hofburg area in the morning, take a chance to see the military parade that starts off at 9 a.m. at Heldenplatz
A cultural trip to Vienna is not complete without one of its many museums, so why not benefit from a free entry while at it? In the city center, you can visit the Austrian National Library and the Papyrusmuseum. If you are up for a longer visit, you might wish to go to the Military History Museum (Arsenal 1, in the third district, a tram station away from the Hauptbahnhof). Spanning several centuries of military history, boasting an impressive tanks collection and holding the car in which Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914, it is a spectacularly well appointed and informative museum experience.
Wandering around the old city center
You might wonder ‘but can I not do this any time?’. Yes, of course you can. And it is the most free-of-charge item on this list. However, this is one weekend where the shops are closed, therefore the distracting and bustling crowds you are likely to encounter in the vicinity of stores are tamer and less purposeful than their shopping-hyped selves. Instead, camera-ready, you can take a comfortable pace around the old city center, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Palaces, wide avenues free of car traffic, imposing churches, small, winding alleys flanked by centuries-old houses, inner courtyards covered in autumnal ivy will reveal their hidden charm to the quiet explorer.
A distinct advantage of wandering is that you will inevitably come across numerous hidden culinary gems, after disappointedly passing the ridiculous queue outside the famous Figlmüller, and find yourself in a quieter atmosphere, where enjoying an authentic Schnitzel can be an authentic experience without the flash and pomp.
This section of the article is dedicated to relaxation and pampering aficionados. Although neighboring Budapest is better known for its spas, Vienna is not without its oases of relaxation and peace. You can take your pick from a wide range of services, based on your preference and proximity to your accommodation.
Far away from the bustle of the city center, however within easy reach with the U1 underground line, you can switch off from the stress of a touristy day at the beloved Oberlaa Therme. This huge complex is especially great if you are travelling with your family, as there are areas designated for swimming, fitness, relaxation, but also for the aquatic romp and adventure that children would go for.
For more unique or luxurious experiences, you need not leave the city center. The famous historical Hotel Sacher boasts luxurious spa services with La Prairie products and chocolate. Yes, chocolate. In the Park Hyatt, you can swim in an area that used to serve as the safe of a bank in olden times, then allow you senses to be spoiled with a heated shells massage. The spa of the Palais Hansen Kempinski offers spa journeys inspired by the European four seasons. A Boutique Spa in a quiet street in the first district, Aisawan is one of the best in Vienna, with hammam treatments, massages and facials with 24 Karat gold, all in a historical building two stories underground.
Austria-wide, the 26th October is also celebrated as the National Park Hiking Day (Nationalpark-Wandertag). Assuming that the weather conditions favor this activity, I would highly recommend you join in this sporty fun. One of the closest national parks to Vienna is the Donau Auen, in Lower Austria. The tour convenes in the Schloss ORTH in Orth-an-der-Donau, a quiet picturesque town by the Danube, which you can reach by car or the Postbus 391 from metro station Aspernstrasse, then register for the 3,5 hour guided tour through the park. This is a hiking trail with little to no hilly terrain, so while long, it would be less challenging than other routes.
Would you prefer to stick to Vienna? I can recommend you two grueling personal favorites, for which there is no need for a guided tour. A steep and potentially boozy hike (if you decide to stop at the one of the Heurige (wine taverns) amid the vineyards of Nussdorf, is the route from Beethovengang in the 19th district to the Kahlenberg, a hike at the end of which you can reward yourself with a breathtaking view of the capital. There are several ways you can take, so be sure to pay attention to the map at the base of the trail. Fair warning: the last leg of the train is rather steep. On the way down, you can take the bus back to Vienna, but be sure to stop in the picturesque area of Grinzing, which boast such a quaintness and rustic atmosphere, you will be charmed into thinking you are no longer in Vienna.
On the opposite side of Vienna lies the Lainzer Tiergarten, an enclosed wildlife preserve covered in woodland, with numerous trails, which nestles in the favorite residence of the Empress Sissi, the Hermes Villa. Whether you like wind-swept wide alleys or hilly terrains, open spaces or forest trails, this park has it all, so be sure to check the maps at the Gates. If you intend to visit the Hermes Villa, entering through the Lainzer Tor, which also hosts a visitors’ center, is ideal. If you are more mindful of accessibility via public transportation, then your best option is the Nikolaitor close to the rail and metro station, Hütteldorf, via the pedestrian crossing over the Wien River then down Nikolaigasse. Be mindful of the closing times and of the wild animals in the park.
Visit Public Parks and enjoy the autumn foliage
It is completely free to visit some of the many gorgeous parks, such as the Stadtpark (CLICK for more) , and Burggarten. In addition, the entrance to the Schönbrunn Palace garden is absolutely free. However, you will have to pay a few euros to get into the Gloriette terrace and the maze.
Vienna boast numerous tourist attractions and activities, this would be a small rundown of possibilities to spend the National Day, that needed not include the most famous landmarks or museum. For other location reviews and suggestions, be sure to check out our other articles here at the Vienna Blog.
Where to go in Vienna?
TheViennaBlog has thoroughly studied all the attractions but also hidden secrets to uncover in Vienna. (Click the Links below to get to the information)
Here is the Vienna Ultimate Top 50 Bucket List
Here is the Best of Vienna in 4 hours
Here is the Best of Vienna in 4 hours (Summer Edition)
Here are the Vienna Old Streets in Historic Center
Here is the Spittelberg Village in Vienna