Austrian traditions and customs

What traditions and customs are there in Austria?

A glimpse into the customs and traditions of Austria, a country in Central Europe.

Food in daily life

Austrian cuisine is one of the most varied in Europe, including German, Hungarian, Czech, and Northern Italian influences.

A typical Austrian day begins with a light breakfast of coffee or milk with bread and butter or jam. Sausage served with mustard on a stale roll is a typical mid-morning snack.

Lunch is usually the main meal of the day and consists of soup and a main course of sausage, the very popular Wiener schnitzel (breaded beef), chicken, beef, pork or fish. Fresh vegetables, meatballs, noodles or potatoes usually accompany the main course. A salad can conclude the meal.

Austrian city dwellers often take a mid-afternoon coffee break at a national institution, the café. Part of the Austrian way of life, the café serves as a meeting place and source for breakfast, snack or lunch.

Most cafes, which also tend to serve alcohol, have their own distinctive atmosphere. Dinner usually consists of light dishes, such as cold cuts, cheese or smoked fish with bread and wine or beer.


Most Austrians greet each other formally, shaking hands and saying: “Gruss Gott” (greet God) or “Gruss dich” (greet you). As they leave, they shiver again and say “Auf Wiedersehen” (goodbye). Older Viennese men may kiss a lady’s hand at introduction, or say “Kuss die Han” (I kiss your hand) and click her heels together.

Women like to open doors for them. At dinner, everyone at the table joins in a toast, saying “Prost”, and “Guten Appetit” is exchanged before starting to eat. The formal titles Frau (for a woman) and Herr (for a man) are in universal use.


Religious beliefs

Freedom of religion and worship is guaranteed in Austria. About three quarters of Austrians are Roman Catholic. Many Austrians practice the “Catholic baptismal certificate,” in which they are Catholic by baptism and religious formality, but do not hold Catholic beliefs on core issues.

Another major religion in Austria is Protestantism, and many foreign workers are Muslim or Serbian Orthodox. There is also a small community of Jews, mostly WWII immigrants and their families, although Jews have a long history in Vienna, dating back to the 10th century.

religious practitioners

Catholic priests, Islamic teachers and mosque officials, Protestant ministers, and Jewish rabbis make up the majority of religious practitioners.

Rituals and Holy Places

Throughout Austria there are cathedrals and churches. One of the most magnificent cathedrals in Austria is St. Stephen’s, or Stephansdom, in Vienna, built in the 15th century. The Augustinian Abbey and the statue of Saint Florian in the city of Saint Florian are also important religious sites.

The cathedrals contain carvings depicting the life of Christ, at which worshipers stop to pray. Several monasteries of the Cistercian order of monks, founded in the 12th century, are still in operation. A popular tourist and pilgrimage destination is Melk, a Benedictine monastery on the banks of the Danube. In the countryside, crucifixes are erected at crossroads, and numerous hermitages offer a place to rest and pray.

Death and afterlife

Austrians rely on churches for funerals, and most hold to the beliefs of their religious faith about life after death. Austria has one of the highest suicide rates in Europe, especially among men.

In Vienna there is the great Zentalfriedhof (central cemetery), which contains the memorial tombs of such famous composers as Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert, as well as a monument to Mozart. Wealthy Austrians are buried in elaborate mausoleums, but almost all graves are well-cared for, with well-arranged flowers.

Secular celebrations

Major celebrations include Fasching, a carnival celebration held the week before Lent begins, and Almahtrieh, a September celebration of the return of herders from alpine pastures, in which cows decorated with ribbons and bells they are led to the city in a procession.

Austrians also celebrate National Day on October 26; Independence Day, November 12; Nicolo (Saint Nicholas) Day, December 6; New Year’s Day, January 1.

Arts and Humanities

Arts support

The arts are highly respected in Austria, and Vienna was known during the 18th and 19th centuries as a world center of culture, especially in music. It was home to some of the greatest classical composers, including Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms.

During that time, the Habsburg family and the Roman Catholic Church were the main supporters of the arts. Austria is sometimes known as “the country of music”. Annual festivals throughout the country include Austrian orchestras, choirs and other groups.

The best known is the Salzburg Summer Festival, founded in 1920. Austria is famous for its Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Vienna Boys’ Choir.

The Vienna State Opera is a state institution that supports Austria’s main cultural center, the Vienna State Opera, one of the most opulent in the world. It accommodates Austrians on a budget, providing standing space in stepped aisles with rails to support spectators during a long opera.

Austrian children have compulsory music and art classes in primary and secondary schools, and music schools and private conservatories abound. Provincial theaters and orchestras bring the arts closer to the inhabitants of rural areas and cities.

The arts are responsible for stimulating a large part of the tourist trade in Austria, which is why they are considered excellent investments for private enthusiasts.


Because it is written in German, Austrian literature is often considered part of German literature, with the first significant literature in German appearing in Austria in the form of epic poems and songs around the year 1200.

The 17th-century minister Abraham a Sancta Clara wrote prose about social class that left a permanent mark on Austrian literature. Adalbert Stifter was the best-known fiction writer of the 19th century, and Rainer Maria Rilke was a gifted philosophical poet of the 20th century.

Several Austrian writers wrote plays and operas, as well as verse and fiction. Among them was Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who, together with the innovative playwright Max Reinhardt, annually produced the mystery play Everyman at the Salzburg Festival.

The works of the early 20th century novelists Franz Werfel and Franz Kafka are world famous. Among the best-known interwar novelists are Heimito von Doderer and Robert Musil. Thomas Bernhard and Peter Handke rose to fame in the late 20th century.

Coffeehouses, especially in Vienna, have long been known as a meeting place for writers and poets. Today, many coffee shops offer literary readings as part of the culture that makes them so popular.

Graphic arts

As the capital of the illustrious Habsburg Empire, Vienna was a center for the fine arts, as well as music and theater. The realist painter Ferdinand G. Waldmuller and the painter Hans Makart were the most famous of the 19th century. Gustav Klimt painted in an unconventional and sensual “secession” style, founded in 1897.

Oskar Kokoschka painted the realities of the First World War. In the 20th century, artists such as Herbert Boeckl painted ornamentation on apartment blocks and cathedrals. Anton Kolig and Josef Mikl were abstract painters, and Ernest Fuchs and Anton Lehmden were known for their “fantastic realism.”

The Albertina museum in Vienna’s Hofburg district houses a world-famous graphic arts collection, with prints, drawings, and watercolors by artists such as Michelangelo, da Vinci, Rubens, Cézanne, Manet, Modigliani, and Schiele.

Performing arts

Religious drama flourished, especially in the Tyrol, during the Middle Ages. During the Counter Reformation, Jesuit priests wrote countless religious dramas and staged plays in Jesuit schools. Vienna became the center of the German-speaking theater during the 18th century.

Vienna’s Burgtheater was the most eminent during the 19th century, when the plays of playwright Franz Grillparzer were first staged there. Social dramas, popular farces, and satires were also released during the 19th century.

Around 1900, the Vienna School of Drama, led by the Austrian playwright Arthur Schnitzler, created a new style of drama in Europe, which included psychological drama. The Salzburg Festival showcases both drama and music.

Share the customs and traditions of Austria.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button