Ready to get active? Or maybe just watch the action from your sofa? Then check out our guide to popular sports in Austria for some inspiration.
As a recent arrival in Austria, there are few better ways to understand your new home than by checking out which sports are popular with the locals. Whether you’re an active participant or simply watching from the comfort of your sofa, Austria has plenty of sporting entertainment for all tastes and ages. To help you understand whether you need socks, skis, or steering wheels, here’s our handy guide to the most popular sports in Austria.
Introduction to Austrian sports
With an international reputation of imperial indulgence and sweeping, mountainside meadows, you might not consider Austria as a hotbed for sporting action. However, the small central European country has a long and decorated sporting history. The alpine city of Innsbruck has hosted the Winter Olympic Games twice (1964 and 1976, respectively), while the country also co-hosted the UEFA European Championships in 2008 with neighbors Switzerland. So, if you’re a recent arrival in Austria, be sure to explore the country’s sporting identity. You never know – you might just discover something unexpected about your new home.
How to watch sport in Austria
Whether you’re an avid sports fan or simply an occasional armchair supporter, you’ll find plenty of ways to watch your favorite athletes in Austria. As well as buying tickets to the match or race, you can also catch sports from Austria, Europe, and beyond from the comfort of your own home. Many of the biggest home telecom companies in Austria offer sports channels as part of their TV and home internet packages.
These providers include:
- 3 (Drei)
The biggest provider of live sports channels is Sky Austria. Subscriptions are available directly or through telecom providers. Sky allows viewers to watch European football (including England’s Premier League and Germany’s Bundesliga), Formula 1 motorsport, and top-level tennis and golf. Other sports channels, such as Eurosport, are also available through these telecom providers. For more information, read our guide to Austrian TV and radio.
As in many other European countries, the most popular sport in Austria is undoubtedly football. The game is played by men and women of all ages and levels, from local kickarounds in the park to the gleaming stadiums of the largest clubs in the country. However, while many Austrians watch Europe’s biggest leagues on television, the local leagues remain popular. These offer expats a great opportunity to sample something uniquely Austrian, plus tickets are relatively inexpensive when compared to leagues in other countries.
In the higher echelons of the game, the Bundesliga is the top level for professional men’s football. The league consists of twelve teams from across the country, with matches typically played on weekend afternoons. The most successful teams in Austrian football are Rapid Wien, Austria Wien, and Red Bull Salzburg. The league winners go on to face Europe’s biggest clubs in the Champions League. In the women’s game, the increasingly popular OFB-Frauenliga is the highest level.
For a truly Austrian experience, try to get tickets for the Austrian men’s national team; particularly when they play their fierce local rivals, Hungary. The team plays their home matches at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion (also known as the Praterstadion), not far from central Vienna. Although the team hasn’t reached the World Cup since 1998, they have fared much better in recent European Championships, qualifying for both the 2016 and 2021 tournaments.
With its alpine landscape and many picture-perfect mountainside resorts, it’s safe to say that skiing is one of Austria’s most popular sports. It is also one of the preferred spectator sports for many locals. International downhill skiing competitions see Austria’s ski resorts welcome fans from across Europe and beyond. Here, the biggest stars from around the world do battle against the clock and the elements to the chilly cheers of the watching crowd.
But if you’re a skier and planning to head up the mountains in your new Austrian home, make sure you do your research beforehand. This can ensure that you find the right pistes and conditions for you and your family. It can also alert you to any adverse weather forecasts, including avalanche warnings. In order to stay safe on the slopes, be sure to download a local skiing app such as iSKI Austria. You can find more handy apps in our roundup of the top 10 must-have apps in Austria.
If you’re from North America, you’ll be pleased to know just how popular ice hockey is in your new home. Like many other central European countries, ice hockey is a big deal in Austria and one of the most popular winter sports around. Although not quite as widespread as football, you’ll still find the stadiums quickly fill up with local fans looking for a slice of hockey puck action.
At the higher reaches, the ICE Hockey League is the pinnacle of the men’s sport. The league currently consists of eleven teams from across Austria, including some teams in neighboring countries like Italy and Slovakia. The most successful team is EC KAC, from the southern Austrian city of Klagenfurt. The top league in the women’s game is the Dameneishockey-Bundesliga.
Alongside downhill skiing and ice hockey, there are a whole host of other winter sports to try out. If throwing yourself down a mountain sounds a little hair-raising, then cross-country skiing is a great alternative for the whole family; from challenging, long-distance courses to whimsical, floodlit trails that create an unforgettable adventure for young and old. If you would rather watch the professionals, Austria also hosts international cross-country events. These are often alongside downhill and ski-jumping events.
Heading inside, both curling and figure skating are also practiced in Austria, particularly in more alpine areas. These are great activities all year round and are often overlooked by the more well-known sports, like ice hockey and football. If you have young children who are keen to explore the wintry offerings of their new home, then search online to find out what’s nearby. You might be surprised at just how easy it is to get the little ones out on the ice, or in the snow.
Austria might not be the first country that springs to mind when you think of the full-throttle action of international motorsport. However, you might be surprised to find that it has a long and prestigious history on the track. Formula 1 legend Niki Lauda was born in Vienna, while 15 other drivers have represented the country in the sport. Each year, the otherwise sleepy hills near Speilberg, Styria host the Austrian Grand Prix. Held at the Red Bull circuit, race tickets are a must for any expat motorsports fans.
Another popular sport in Austria that’s a little easier to try is tennis. While not a famous tennis nation, the relatively small country definitely punches above its weight from the baseline. Austria hosts a number of international tournaments, including the WTA Linz Open and the ATP Vienna Open, amongst others. The top-ranking Austrian player is Dominic Thiem, who won the men’s 2020 US Open.
If you’re looking to ace your tennis game, you’ll find plenty of local clubs and courts in most towns and cities throughout Austria. Many courts are clay, however, you’ll also find hard and indoor courts too, should you prefer them. Many will offer discounted rates for families and children, alongside summer camps and training sessions for all ages.