A glass of wine? A “Krügerl” of beer? A sip of something that comes with an alarmingly ambiguous name and a pink umbrella?
Vienna has local vineyards and breweries, but also local laws and customs concerning the purchase and consumption of alcohol. Here some info¹…
NB: The below information refers to normal times and may be affected by COVID restrictions and requirements.
Vienna’s restrictions on opening hours vary according to the different kinds of establishment that might serve drinks.
As a broad summary:
- Most eating establishments (restaurants, etc.) may open as early as 6am and stay open until as late as 2am
- Most drinking establishments (bars, etc.) may open from 10am and stay open as late as 4am
- Discos and clubs may stay open until 6am
These are the official rules in normal times, but actual opening hours obviously depend on how an establishment is classified and whether the owners want to make full use of the time slot available to them.
For example, restaurants and bars in the very centre seem to close earlier. I’ve come out of the State Opera House late at night and had trouble finding anywhere that will still serve a beer. Most bars and pubs, though, do stay open late.
Many bars, coffee houses, wine taverns etc. let you sit outside, particularly in the warmer months. It’s hard to beat the continental street cafe culture in the city’s central districts or the ambience of the village-like parts of the outer districts.
However, the city has special rules governing when (and for how long) outdoor serving areas can open. This depends largely on the location.
Most establishments in town close their outdoor areas by 10pm, though you may find places allowed to keep serving outdoors for longer.
They designed these rules to help surrounding residents get a good night’s sleep. (So where there are no residential buildings nearby, the outdoor areas tend to stay open longer).
At what age can you drink in Vienna?
These laws can change. For a comprehensive and up-to-date summary from the authorities, see here (in German, so you’ll need Google Translate or similar).
Here’s my non-binding summary: essentially, anyone over the age of 16 can buy and drink alcohol in Vienna with two notable exceptions.
First, the age limit for spirits (or drinks containing spirits) is 18.
Second, alcohol consumption on school premises is forbidden.
Note also that these drinking laws are regional, not national, so may vary once you leave Vienna. However, all of Austria’s provinces have apparently committed to eventually harmonising these laws.
Drinking in public
It is broadly legal to drink in public places. Bear in mind, though, that there are exceptions.
For example, it’s forbidden in stations, on public transport, and around the Praterstern station.
In my experience, despite the legality, drinking in public outside of bars, pubs, restaurants, picnic sites etc. is frowned upon in Vienna.
During partial lockdowns and COVID restrictions, young people started to come together in parks and open spaces more often than before; some of that pattern of behavior might stick, particularly in warmer seasons. Time will tell.
Equally, it’s really not done to be drunk out in public. At least, you don’t see it nearly as often as you might in the UK, for example (or maybe I just frequent the wrong/right sort of places). The consequences of public drunkenness can be expensive, too: there are heavy fines for drink-related anti-social behaviour.
¹Since laws and their interpretation can change, don’t take my word for any of the above: check locally or consult a lawyer…