What will Christmas look like in Austria this year?

From a ban on Christmas markets to restrictions on shopping, Christmas in Austria in 2020 won’t look or feel the same.

What will Christmas look like in Austria this year?

On Wednesday, December 2nd, Austrian authorities announced a relaxation of the country’s tough lockdown from Monday, December 7th. 

While some stores will now be allowed to open for Christmas trade, a fresh ban on takeaway alcohol sales – in addition to the ban on Christmas markets – means anyone wanting a Glühwein will have to make one at home. 

Here’s how Christmas will look in Austria in 2020. 

NEW: Austria to ease lockdown restrictions from Monday

No Christmas markets

Despite an outside hope that Christmas markets would be allowed in some restricted form this year – including an announcement from the Vienna Chamber of Commerce in October that the markets would go ahead subject to strict hygiene and distance rules – the government dealt a death knell for the markets on December 2nd. 

Due to the announcement, hospitality venues are set to close until January 7th at the earliest. Opening may be allowed if infection rates continue to fall. 

Christmas markets were expressly forbidden as part of the announcement, Kronen Zeitung reports

There was also bad news for anyone who wants a Glühwein or two to beat back the cold. 

From December 7th, a strict ban on takeaway alcohol was also set in stone. This means that only alcohol in sealed containers for consumption at home may be sold. 

This move meant that unlike in neighbouring Germany – where some vendors have found a way to stage mini Christmas markets or those with drive through sales – there will be no Christmas markets in any shape or form this year.

Christmas shopping

Shops will be allowed to open again from Monday – albeit subject to major restrictions. 

Only one customer will be allowed per ten square metres. 

Mask and nose protection must also be worn. 

Christmas gatherings

Austria’s all-day lockdown has been wound back. Restrictions on leaving homes will now only apply from 8pm to 6am from Monday, December 7th. 

While you may now leave the house during the day regardless of the reason, leaving the house at night can only be for four reasons: work, exercise, to care for others or for the ‘necessary and basic needs of life’, i.e. to avoid emergencies, etc.

During the day, you may meet with a maximum of six adults and six children from a max of two households. 

These rules will however be wound back from the period of December 24th to 26th – and on December 31st. 

On those days, you may meet with up to ten people from any number of households. Children do not count towards the tally. 

It is important to remember that hotels will be closed over the Christmas period. 

What about quarantine? 

One final aspect to consider is the Christmas quarantine requirement, which was also announced on December 2nd. 

Under the new rules, anyone returning from a high-risk area will be required to quarantine for ten days. 

After five days in quarantine, people will be entitled to have a free coronavirus test in order to leave quarantine early. 

‘High risk’ countries will be any country which has a 14-day incidence rate of more than 100 positive cases of coronavirus per 100,000 residents. 


One bright light in the announcement is that skiing will again be possible from Christmas Eve. Hotels are set to be closed until January 7th, meaning that only day trips are possible. 

In the press conference on Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said ski lifts would again be allowed to open from December 24th. 

“From December 24th, individual sports outdoors such as skiing will be possible again so that the Austrian population has the chance to engage in sporting activity over the holidays,” Kurz said at a press conference announcing re-opening measures after the country's second coronavirus lockdown ends at the end of this week.


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Austrian doctors want to charge cancellation fees for no-show patients

Patients who miss their appointments without calling to cancel beforehand should have to pay up to a €75 fee, says the Austrian Medical Association (ÖÄK).

Austrian doctors want to charge cancellation fees for no-show patients

The ÖÄK is calling on its member doctors to begin charging a no-show fee to help prevent medicine as a “precious resource” from being “wasted” during a time when Austria is short of doctors.

ÖÄK points out that the shortage is making it increasingly harder for patients to get appointments and that doctors cannot get missed appointments reimbursed by public insurance funds.

Some ÖÄK doctors report that anywhere between ten to 15 percent of their appointments are no-shows on any given day, creating a big enough knock-on effect for other patients and for the system as a whole.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can doctors charge a cancellation fee in Austria?

The association’s proposal would see patients who don’t show up for their scheduled appointments without cancelling beforehand charged between €40 and €75.

Patients who cannot notify their doctor in good time but for a valid reason, such as an unavoidable family emergency – would have this penalty waived.

READ ALSO: Six things to know about visiting a doctor in Austria

The ÖÄK’s call is simply a guideline recommendation, meaning that each individual practice can decide whether or not they will do it. Some already do.

Each practice is also able to decide what the precise penalty fee is and how long in advance patients have to call in advance to cancel their appointments without being penalized. Some require 24 hours’ notice while others allow same-day cancellation.