Inevitably, dozens of events take place each day 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.
Selected events on now(ish)
Practically all concerts, exhibitions, festivals, museums etc. are or will be affected by current Coronavirus measures. So take the below suggestions as purely theoretical and check with official homepages for up-to-date info.
Some exhibitions I’ve thoroughly enjoyed recently:
- The Into the Night exhibition at Belvedere traces the impact of various clubs and cafés on modern art. All very diverse, with shadow theatre from Paris mixing with Nigerian murals. And the colourful reconstruction of the Kabarett Fledermaus bar can’t fail to impress (until June 1, 2020)
- The Approximation by Bilderbuch exhibition demonstrates the possibilities when a band enters meaningful collaboration with various artists. Worth seeing just for the guitar (until August 20, 2020)
- The one-room Haydn – Mozart – Beethoven exhibition at the Mozarthaus. The simple display of their last-ever pieces of written music left quite an impression (until January 31, 2021)
- I’ma sucker for Hundertwasser’s colourful oeuvre. The Hundertwasser – Schiele exhibition at the Leopold Museum shows how his painting style evolved and reveals the huge inspirational role played by Schiele’s works and life (until August 31, 2020)
- Ever fancied trying out some of those on-set special effects used in Hollywood? Then visit the interactive exhibition at the Technical Museum (until July 5, 2020)
- 2020 is Beethoven year in Vienna, celebrating the 250th birthday of the composer. Follow the link for all sorts of events
Annual events and festivals
These should take place each year but do check the individual articles…
- The 1st of January 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 until early March
(For dates, details and more activities and ideas, see the guide to January 2021.)
- Sandwiched innocently between the holiday season and spring, February has few major annual events of note.
- January’s Ice World continues through the month, though. And there’s the famous Opernball, of course.
- The end of the month has the International Orchid Show.
(For some tips on seasonal activities, try the February 2021 guide.)
- The Easter markets normally start up in March, depending on when Easter actually falls. In 2020, they should appear around the last weekend of the month. See, for example, the one at Schönbrunn Palace
- There’s also the Vinyl & Music festival at the city’s main brewery during the first full March weekend and the Argus Bike Festival later in the month. The Blues Spring Festival also starts up at the end of March.
- If you prefer your words spoken, rather than sung, then there’s the Festival du Film Francophone (the French-language movie festival)
- Other fairs and festivals include the GoModelling event, the Bread Festival at the Marx Halle, and the Foto Wien photography festival (all three are skipping 2020 and returning in 2021)
(See the full March 2020 guide for all details and more thoughts on what you might do in the month.)
- The Easter markets may continue (or start) in April, which is when most of the Vienna Blues Spring music festival actually takes place. Another feast of music this month is the two-day Electric Spring event in the Museumsquartier (skipping 2020, unfortunately).
- April also has one of the early food festivals: the Styrian Spring festival (taking a break in 2020). And if you want to work off the calories afterwards, then the Vienna marathon is in the same month (also cancelled this year).
(For more tips, exhibition suggestions and outdoor activities, try the full April 2020 guide.)
This is the month when music and food lovers come into their own.
- On the music front, you have:
- 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
- The famous (and free) Summer Night classical concert in the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace (shifted provisionally to September in 2020)
- On the food & drink front, you have:
- The Genuss Festival, a three-day food and drink festival in the Stadtpark
- The open day at the city-owned Cobenzl winery
- The craft beer festival
- The Burgenland Kultinarium
- The Vienna Wine Fest
The events of May give you a big hint as to what Vienna is really all about: food, drink & music.
(For dates, more information, and even more suggested things to do, see the complete May 2020 guide.)
Things generally quieten down a bit in this month, though the drink theme continues with the Vienna Beer Festival.
- The month usually starts with the military old-timer meet at On Wheels and Tracks and the Long Night of the Churches.
- Two international music festivals do pop up in June – the Vienna Jazz Festival and the Donauinselfest. The latter is Europe’s largest free open-air festival. Music also features at the Südwind Street Festival.
(Find out more about all these events, including dates and times, using the broader June 2020 guide.)
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 typically 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 start of September, 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.
The food, drink and music theme dominates 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, the Art Vienna contemporary art fair, 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.
(Both the Viennale and Wien Modern carry through into November.)
Two big festivals appear at the Wien Messe exhibition centre in October/November: Photo+Adventure and the Vienna Comic Con. The latter month also marks the start of the Christmas season, notably the wonderful markets (and the modern equivalent – Wintererwachen at the MQ). To pick up gifts of a more artistic nature, try the ART&ANTIQUE fair at the Hofburg or the Fesch’Markt design market. 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.