The largest (free) open-air music festival in Europe takes place on an island in Vienna, a city not exactly famous for its ocean vistas.
Ah, but Vienna does have the mighty Danube river, whose long artificial Donauinsel island hosts the Donauinselfest – a weekend of music, fun and bleary-eyed Monday mornings.
- Annual music festival with mainly local performers and the occasional international star
- Attracts well over 2.5 million visitors across its 3 days
- Loads of other festival activities
- 2020 dates: TBA (was June 21-23 in 2019), entry is free
- See also: Events in Vienna | Where is the Danube?
The music festival
Technically, the 21 km long and 250 m wide Donauinsel (Danube island) is a flood regulation measure, a description which has all the sex appeal of a broken exhaust pipe.
However, this artificial island also serves as a long recreational park, where you can hike, swim, cycle, trampoline, climb, eat, drink and generally be merry. For one weekend every June, a chunk of it turns into a huge open-air music festival: the Donauinselfest (Danube Island festival)
And it’s free.
The music typically covers various genres, including rock, pop, rap, hip hop, electronic music, swing (yep), folk, and metal, and all things in between.
Plus there are all sorts of other activities to fill each day with, not to mention a host of stands waiting to keep you fed and watered (not free).
The recent 2019 Donauinselfest had around 13 stages, 600 hours of music, and 17 themed activity areas. It pulled in some 2.7 million visitors across all three days. Curiously, a political party organises everything: the SPÖ has more or less formed the city government for decades.
It’s early for the 2020 details, which I’ll write about as soon as the information reaches me.
The 2019 focus was on (surprise!) Austrian music, with the event headlined by Austro-legends, Wolfgang Ambros, Christina Stürmer, and Seiler & Speer.
International performers included Mando Diao, Alice Merton, and Revolverheld. These joined a roll call from the past that has featured such luminaries as Lisa Stansfield, Amy Mcdonald, Michael Bolton, Sean Paul, Bob Geldof, as well as a who’s who of the wider German-speaking music worlds.
There were probably other famous names, particular ones whose first name is DJ. (Pardon my ignorance…I’m over 50. My kids go, not me.)
Get a feeling for what to expect from this video:
To properly understand the scale of the event, consider that Vienna’s largest brewery (Ottakringer) made a special beer for the 2019 occasion: the “HIGH & DRY” Brut IPA.
2020 dates and tickets
The festival usually takes place across Friday, Saturday and Sunday in late June. As soon I can confirm 2020 dates, I’ll post them here. You don’t need a ticket because entrance is free. Which also means an awful lot of people attend.
How to get to the Donauinselfest
Don’t take a car. Use the subway to the Donauinsel or Handelskai stations.
The Donauinsel subway station is on the U1 line that traverses the city centre. Take the U6 line to Handelskai. During the festival, the trains run at very short intervals into the night.
Address: Look for the long, wide watery object that passes through Vienna | Website