Photo Credit: Peter Smets

Shopping in Austria isn’t cheap, but international visitors can make use of the VAT (sales tax) return on their purchases, which makes prices more reasonable. Popular Austrian souvenirs are mostly edible in nature, such as the famous sacher torte (chocolate cake), Mozartkugeln (chocolate marzipan balls), speck (smoked bacon), and Zotter chocolates. Cooks and salad lovers should take home a bottle of Styrian pumpkin seed oil. This fragrant and tasty oil, which is also healthy, is great dressing for salad, pasta, and soups. Austrian schnapps (distilled liquor) is also a good souvenir, and there are many popular flavors, but Himbeergeist (raspberry schnapps) is one of the most delicious.

Austria is, of course, known for its wonderful handicrafts. However, truly handmade items are not cheap, so if price seem a little too reasonable, it probably wasn’t made locally. Popular clothing choices are dirndl (traditional Austrian dresses for women), lederhosen (leather pants for men), felt hats, felt sweaters, and suede and stitched items. Although pricey, a loden coat or jacket is well worth the money. Loden is a water-resistant wool material made without removing the lanolin in sheep’s wool and a good quality loden coat can easily be handed down from generation to generation.

Other signature handicrafts include wood carvings, items made from deer antler, hand-painted porcelain, Swarovski crystals, and leather goods. Handmade Christmas ornaments are also a good choice, but are difficult to find out of season. The best place to get festive items is at a Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market). These special markets usually take place from November to December in almost every city and town.

Unlike in America, shopping in Austria is not really centered on shopping malls. Although there are some, they tend not to be located within city centers. This means that most shopping in the cities is still done on so-called shopping streets, some which are pedestrian-only. The most popular are in Vienna are: Mariahilfer Strasse, Kärtner Strasse, and Favoritenstrasse; in Linz, Linzer Landstrasse; in Innsbruck, Maria Theresien Strasse; in Graz, Hauptplatz and Herrengasse; in Salzburg, Linzergasse and Getreidegasse.

Shops in the cities are typically open from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on weekdays and from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, and closed on Sunday. Only cafés and shops in train stations and airports are open on Sunday. Shops in small town and villages may also close during lunch time on weekdays due to lack of foot traffic.

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