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How likely is smoking in Austrian restaurants?

We are planning a trip for next September to include Vienna, Salzburg, and Hallstatt. My wife is 68 and has a medical condition that can worsen a lot with second hand smoke. Eating outside a lot is not always realistic. With close tables at outdoor cafes the smoke can become noticeable. This issue is not just an annoyance for us but is a real health concern.

Is it realistic to plan on visiting Austria with the current smoking culture? Or should we just stick with Germany which does not have smoking in restaurants?

Posted by
1492 posts

The rules for smoking in restaurants are similar in Germany and Austria. If smoking is allowed, there must be a separate, closed room for the smokers. It is not true that smoking is completely banned in Germany's restaurants. In either country most restaurants are smoke free anyway.

Additionally, in Austria the space for non-smokers in restaurants must be larger than for smokers. Only places smaller than 600 square feet in total may opt for not having a non-smoker area.

Effective May 2018 smoking in restaurants will completely be prohibited in Austria.

Given the number of restaurants available there should be no problem to find a smoke free place.

Posted by
8889 posts

Germany does not have smoking in restaurants nor in any other buildings (shops, hotels), but it does have a higher proportion of smokers than many other countries. You may find more smokers whilst walking along the street than you are used to.
While it may be banned inside the restaurant, you may be faced with a wall of smoke on your way in or out caused by smokers congregating outside the door. And it is really annoying if you are sitting outside eating, and someone sits at the next table at lights up.

Posted by
18312 posts

I've been in a half dozen restaurants in Austria in the last five years, at least half of them "alfresco", and I don't remember anyone smoking in them (and it something i would have noticed).

I was in restaurants in Germany fifteen years ago, and if you went into a restaurant then you could be guaranteed that at least three people would be smoking, and they would be dispersed so that there was nowhere to sit that wouldn't be near one of them. What a difference! If been back to some of those restaurants since and no one is smoking. It's such a relief.

Posted by
12898 posts

I know of a restaurant in Vienna exactly the way described by wmll, where the smoking room is set aside for smokers with an exit door into the open and the non-smoking area much larger. It's located next to the Fürstenhof hotel at Westbahnhof., a little pricey but always well patronized with locals and some tourists.

Posted by
2717 posts

Hey Les,

During our last trip to Germany and Austria, Dec. 2013, we had no trouble finding non smoking restaurants. I wouldn't be too concerned. Sitting outside may be tougher, as smoking is usually allowed at outside tables.

Paul

Posted by
112 posts

Thanks so much for all the great replies! My wife read through them and is now confident she can handle the situations that will come up. I'll make a note of that Vienna website for nonsmoking restaurants.

Posted by
2717 posts

Les,

If you're walking around looking for a restaurant, there is usually a sign or a sticker on the door (a circle with a cigarette and a line going through it) or look for Nicht Raucher (No Smoking) designating non smoking restaurants. Again, I can't imagine having a problem.

Posted by
4690 posts

Yes, the laws are enforced. Schuebel-Auer has separate smoking/non-smoking areas. You must have been sitting in the smoking section.

Posted by
1492 posts

Is this law poorly enforced in Vienna?

Partially yes. On the one hand it needs for every incident somebody to file a complaint in court, and the fines are ridiculously low, on the other hand some people ignore the rules, especially in such large rooms like at Schübel-Auer, and the proprietors are reluctant to reprimand their guests.

All these troubles will be over in May 2018 when the smoking ban will come into effect. (The restaurant lobby had done a good job in delaying this law.)

Posted by
2717 posts

Les,

There are plenty of No Smoking restaurants to choose from. Don't be concerned.

Posted by
31471 posts

Les,

Smoking is also a huge irritant for me, so I try to avoid it whenever possible. In Austria I've found that the outside tables are where the smokers usually congregate so that's the worst place to sit. In most small restaurants (ie: those that aren't large enough to have a separate smoking area), I've never had a problem sitting inside. If it does look like the rules are poorly enforced, I move along to a different restaurant.

Posted by
21082 posts

You'll probably be OK in September north of the Alps, but I've had issues sitting indoors in Italy and Spain to avoid the smokers on the sidewalk. The problem wasn't smoke, it was the lack of air-conditioning in the more casual places. Outdoors, under the umbrellas, it often seemed pleasant even on hot days because there was a bit of breeze. Indoors it was much warmer. I was usually the only person sitting inside, so it was a less than festive environment.

Posted by
4690 posts

The area by the buffet near the entrance IS the smoking section! I eat there all the time. You have to walk through that area and go right. That's the non-smoking area.

Posted by
14919 posts

The only place I encountered indoor smoking (June last year) was in Salzburg. It was someone obviously a friend of the bartender in the restaurant. On the other hand, it seemed like there were always some (or many) smokers at all the outdoor seating, cafes and restaurants.

Posted by
12898 posts

What Chani related reminds me of something similar in Austria in 2014. I took a day trip from Vienna to Wiener Neustadt, stopped at this small restaurant several blocks down from the train station. It was close to lunch time. I took a seat in the main dining room, soon smelled cigarette smoke. Where is this coming from? From the bar in the next room. Obviously, "they" turned a blind eye to this guy.

Posted by
1492 posts

The area by the buffet near the entrance IS the smoking section! I eat there all the time. You have to walk through that area and go right. That's the non-smoking area.

I am not happy about saying this - I like the Schübel-Auer Heurigen - but that arrangement is clearly against the law.

The law requires not only to separate the smokers in a closed room, but also that all other places like entrance area, buffet, and even the restrooms must be accessibe without having to cross or to enter the smoker's area.

No plaintiff, no judge.