Inevitably, there are hundreds of events in Vienna. Local listings can overwhelm you, though, so here are the top annual events and festivals (my opinion) listed by month, plus current highlights.
Top events on now(ish)
- Dürer’s “Young Hare” watercolour only appears every few years, so I’m unusually excited about the Albertina’s Dürer exhibition, which just started (until Jan 6, 2020)
- Another major art event begins on Tuesday (October 15), at the Kunsthistorisches Museum: works by Caravaggio, Bernini and contemporaries in a first-of-its-kind exhibition
- There’s a new baby elephant at Schönbrunn Zoo (that counts as an event, right?). The latest info I have is that you can see mother and baby between the hours of 9am and 10am, then again between 1pm and 3pm
Some art exhibitions I’ve really enjoyed:
- For a real rarity, try the Jan van Eyck exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum. It’s only two rooms (on until October 20, 2019)
- The Arik Brauer exhibition at the Jewish Museum (also on until October 20, 2019). If you’re unfamiliar with the name, he’s a multi-talented artist with a rich life history and even richer artistic output
- I was strangely fascinated by the Vertigo exhibition at the MUMOK, which messes with your senses and leaves you reeling both literally and figuratively (until October 26, 2019)
- The photos in the Street. Life. Photography exhibition at Kunst Haus Wien intrigue, challenge and entertain in equal measure; the Tokyo subway photos still haunt my waking dreams (until February 16, 2020)
- Look for the totemic fumages paintings among the surrealist and abstract art in the Wolfgang Paalen exhibition at Lower Belvedere. Fascinating images (until January 19, 2020)
Notable future events
- 2020 is Beethoven year in Vienna, celebrating the 250th birthday of the composer
Annual events and festivals
These should take place each year but do check the individual articles…
January, Feburary, March
January 1st is, of course, the date of the world-famous New Year’s Concert. The middle of the month brews up the Vienna Coffee Festival. Then it’s time to slap on your skates for the Vienna Ice World, which runs through until early March.
February is very quiet, sandwiched innocently between the holiday season and spring.
March usually sees the Easter markets start up, depending on when Easter actually falls. See, for example, the one at Schönbrunn Palace. There’s also the Vinyl & Music festival at the city’s brewery, the Art Vienna contemporary art fair at the Hofburg, and the Bread Festival at the Marx Halle.
March 2019 also saw the first Foto Wien photography festival, which might well become an annual event.
April, May, June
The Easter markets may continue (or start) in April, which is when most of the Vienna Blues Spring music festival takes place. Another feast of music that month is the two-day Electric Spring event in the Museumsquartier.
If you prefer your words spoken, rather than sung, then there’s the Festival du Film Francophone (the French-language movie festival).
Oh, and if you’re feeling energetic, then the Vienna marathon is usually in April, too (or just watch, if you’re feeling less energetic).
May sees the Fest der Freude, a free concert on Heldenplatz to celebrate the anniversary of the liberation of the city in WWII. The Wiener Symphoniker performs for free, again, at the end of May at the MQ open-air concert.
May also features the Genuss Festival, a three-day food and drink festival in the Stadtpark.
And talking food and drink, May actually has a whole host of related events: try the open day at the city-owned Cobenzl winery, the craft beer festival, the Burgenland Kultinarium, the Vienna Wine Fest, and the Vienna Beer Festival.
The famous Summer Night classical concert in the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace usually takes place toward the end of the month.
June starts with the military old-timer meet at On Wheels and Tracks, the Long Night of the Churches, and the summer equivalent of a Christmas market: the Steffl Kirtag. Two international music festivals also arrive in June – the Vienna Jazz Festival and the Donauinselfest. The latter is Europe’s largest free open-air festival.
July, August, September
The Jazz Festival usually extends into July, which also sees the Rathaus Film Festival in full throttle, with daily public viewings of concerts and performances from various genres of music on the square in front of the Rathaus.
The film festival carries on through August, as does the smaller-scale Frameout open-air cinema season that begins in July. There’s international open-air cinema at Belvedere Palace, too, with their Kino im Kammergarten programme.
Enjoy more music of the live kind at the end of July with Popfest Wien. And of the DJ kind at the Lichterfest festival of light on the Old Danube. Food, music and art comes together for almost 3 weeks at the Afrika Tage African festival.
If you like a cocktail or three, then be sure to take in July’s Liquid Market cocktail festival. If mead’s more your thing, there’s the Montur & Pulverdampf medieval festival. And if beer is preferred, the Ottakringer Festival of Beer Culture is open daily all the way until the end of August, after which you can enjoy the music at the Gürtel Nightwalk.
There’s also the Vienna Old Timer Parade, when numerous classic cars parade around the Ring. And from classic to contemporary…early August has the Calle Libre street art festival. The cinematic summer continues with the dotdotdot festival.
August/September are the traditional months hosting the Waldviertelpur regional festival, when you can stuff yourself with specialities from one of Austria’s more rural regions.
The food, drink and music theme continues in September with the Vienna Harvest Festival (Erntedankfest) and Wiener Wiesn Fest, while those of a more alternative bent will enjoy the international Buskers Festival, the family-friendly Streetlife Festival, and the /slash film festival.
The last Sunday in September is European Heritage Day, when various historical buildings open their doors to the public (for free). The same concept applies at Open House Wien, but with a focus on newer constructions. And the modern flavour continues at the viennacontemporary art fair, MQ Vienna Fashion Week, and Waves Vienna music festival.
And if you’re in need of a drink after all that, try the Rum and Gin festivals.
October to December
Early October is all about Vienna Design Week and the Long Night of Museums. Gamers of all ages can then enjoy free entry to Game City on the Rathausplatz. “Design” also ends the month, with the Blickfang fair.
Mid-October is when the city celebrates a different type of music to the usual classics with Hollywood in Vienna.
The film theme continues later in the month with the prestigious international film festival, the Viennale.
The Viennale and Wien Modern carry through into November, which also features contemporary music of a different type at the Indie Label Week.
Two big festivals appear at the Wien Messe exhibition centre in November: Photo+Adventure and the Vienna Comic Con. The month also marks the start of the Christmas season, notably the wonderful markets (and the modern equivalent – Winter at the MQ). End of November or early December is the Weihnachtsquartier design exhibition and market, too.
The markets continue through until December 25th, and often beyond in the form of New Year’s markets.