Balloons, candy floss and carousels turn Vienna’s cathedral square into an old-fashioned town fair at the Steffl Kirtag.
- Annual event since 2002
- Imagine a Christmas market but without the Christmassy bits
- 50 or so booths selling handicrafts, food, and drink
- Regular entertainment from brass bands
- The cathedral offers tours and other events in tandem with the Kirtag
- 2020 dates: TBA (May 30 – Jun 10 in 2019)
- See also: Events in Vienna | Stephansplatz Christmas market
A fair-like treat
A Kirtag is best described as a parish fair, typically the kind where you throw a wet sponge at the vicar for tuppence and gorge on homemade cakes and toffee apples.
Not exactly what you think of as suitable for an urban giant of a place like Vienna.
But the Kirtag is a thing here, too. Individual districts may have their own local version and the main square around Stephansdom cathedral also echoes annually to the sound of fair music and kids demanding just one more ride.
The Steffl Kirtag takes its name from the cathedral that towers over the booths: Steffl is the affectionate nickname used by the Viennese for Stephansdom. The first fair took place in 2002 at the 50th anniversary of the reopening of the cathedral after its post-WWII rebuild.
So what can you expect?
Think of the Steffl Kirtag as a little like a Christmas market, with arts and crafts, food, drink, a carousel, and all-round general merriment. But no Santas.
Stands sell jewellery, decorative art and other handicrafts, jams and honeys to take away, Lebkuchen, pastries, chocolate-covered fruit, lollipops, sausages, candied nuts, and other mainstays of fair cuisine.
And, of course, tuck into a whole host of traditional Viennese and Austrian fare, washed down with a glass or three of local wine or beer.
Brass bands add musical flair to proceedings, and each day ends with the traditional ringing of the bells to announce it’s time to stop serving beer.
The cathedral plays a special role in the Kirtag, too, with services, choral performances and special guided tours during the ten days or so of the event.
2020 dates and tickets
This year’s version finished recently, so 2020 details will come as soon as I have them. 2019 dates for the Steffl Kirtag were Thursday, May 30 to Monday, June 10. Like most open-air markets and fairs, there is no entrance fee. The stalls typically open from 10 am to 9-10 pm.
How to get to the Kirtag
Don’t take a car, as the Steffl Kirtag is in the largely-pedestrianised centre, where street parking spaces are at a premium and car parks expensive.
Rather conveniently, the Stephansplatz subway station (on the U1 and U3 lines) brings you out right in front of the cathedral. Or take the 1A, 2A or 3A buses to the stop of the same name.
Address: Stephansplatz, 1010 Vienna | Website