Find out everything you need to know about Austria’s National Day (Nationalfeiertag) with our handy guide.
As an expat, there are few better ways to get under the skin of your new home country than celebrating the local festivals and holidays. Not only will this help make you feel more integrated into the local culture, but you’ll also be able to see the Austrians let their hair down. To give you an idea of what to expect, here’s our guide to Austria’s National Day (Nationalfeiertag).
An overview of Nationalfeiertag
As an expat moving to Austria, you might not be aware of the celebrations that happen every 26 October. Unlike the boisterous fireworks of the Fourth of July in the United States, or the riotous orange that swamps the Netherlands every King’s Day, Austria’s Nationalfeiertag is not so well known outside of the country. However, don’t let that put you off, because National Day is definitely one of the highlights of the Austrian calendar.
The first thing you’ll notice when wandering through any Austrian town or city on 26 October is the flags. That’s right, every Nationalfeiertag, the entire country ripples with red and white. In fact, it’s surprising just how many Austrian flags you can see; although we wouldn’t recommend counting them because you’ll miss all the fun! As well as the flags, residents dress in red and white, which includes a lot of face paint. Many local authorities also put on events to mark the occasion. These are largely cultural in nature, such as cultural performances and military displays.
The history behind Austria’s National Day
Austria celebrates its National Day every 26 October due to the country’s political developments following World War II. After the end of the war in 1945, four Allied forces occupied Austria. These were the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. These powers divided Austria into four zones. The capital, Vienna, was also divided, much like the German capital, Berlin, far to the north.
Following negotiations, the occupation of Austria by Allied forces finally ended in 1955. The Austrian State Treaty was signed on 15 May and finally came into force on 27 July. Later that year, on 26 October, the Austrian government signed its Declaration of Perpetual Neutrality. However, this date wasn’t recognized as Austria’s National Day until 1965, when it became Nationalfeiertag and was designated as a public holiday.
Where to celebrate Nationalfeiertag in Austria
As with many national days throughout Europe, the best place to catch the action is on the streets of the capital, Vienna. Here, you will find most of the large-scale festivities, including a military parade that takes place in the area around The Hofburg. Alongside vehicles and uniformed soldiers, the parade typically includes a marching band and other performances. You can also explore inside the Federal Chancellory and Austrian Parliament, where the President gives the annual address to the nation. You’ll also find the best selection of museums in the capital, many of which are typically free to visit on 26 October.
If you don’t fancy traveling to the capital for the festivities, though, there are plenty of other places you can experience the celebrations for yourself. In most cities, towns, and villages across the country, you’ll find local events to check out. Some cities open their state buildings to the public, while others host musical performances in the main square. However, don’t be surprised if your new hometown’s celebrations seem a little more subdued than what you might expect, because most locals mark the day by seeing friends and family or heading out into the countryside.
There are plenty of ways that Austrians celebrate their national day. From lapping up the stunning mountain views to indulging in copious amounts of Austrian food, find out how you could be spending the next 26 October.
Brushing up on Austrian history
History is a big deal during Nationalfeiertag, which is perhaps unsurprisingly considering the origins of Austria’s national day. And to ensure that locals remain connected to this history, many museums are free to visit on this day. If you’ve ever visited Vienna, you’ll know just how many great museums the city has to offer.
This includes the Austrian National Library, the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum), and the Military History Museum which, like many others, are open on Nationalfeiertag. If you feel like brushing up on some culture while you’re in the capital, this is a great way to do it. And, if you’re unsure which museums to explore, our handy guide to the best museums in Austria will help.
Hiking in Austria’s national parks
For many Austrians, the best part about the Nationalfeiertag public holiday is getting the chance to explore the country’s beautiful landscapes. Over the decades, hiking has become the locals’ favorite way to spend National Day. In fact, 26 October is also known as National Park Hiking Day (Nationalpark Wandertag). Providing the temperamental October weather holds, you’ll see hordes of Austrians heading to the hills and national parks to soak up all that green goodness. And with over 50,000 kilometers of mountain trails crisscrossing the country, you won’t struggle to find something that suits your hiking needs.
Should you want to try something different, many national parks offer guided tours and walks. These typically take a few hours and can be a great option for families. Generally speaking, the parks and trails nearest to big cities like Vienna and Graz are busiest on National Day. However, these can be a good choice if you want to get back to the city and catch up on the revelry. If Nationalfeiertag falls near a weekend, you might want to head to a different Austrian region for a few days. Our guide to the best places to visit in Austria might provide some inspiration.
Relaxing with loved ones
For many Austrians, the best part of Nationalfeiertag is simply kicking back and spending time with loved ones. As it’s a public holiday, it’s a great time to catch up with your friends and family. If the weather is good, many locals have picnics in the countryside, often as part of a hike. However, others will simply cook at home. If you’re passionate about cooking, you might like to try one of these great Austrian recipes as part of your celebrations. Whatever you decide to do, you’ll soon find yourself creating your own traditions for Nationalfeiertag.
Business hours on Nationalfeiertag
Austrian National Day is a public holiday throughout Austria, which means that business hours differ considerably. Typically speaking, these will be similar to an ordinary Sunday, although you can expect a few differences here and there. Many touristic places will be open, including most cafés and restaurants. However, the vast majority of shops are shut; so you might want to pick up any supplies you need for your celebrations before Nationalfeiertag. Public transport also runs as normal, meaning you’ll be able to travel throughout the country should you wish to. That said, be aware that urban services in Vienna may be busier than usual; so plan accordingly to avoid any disappointment.