Apples, beer, wine and pumpkins. Perhaps the four things most associated with the Austrian province of Styria (German: Steiermark).
And once a year around early to mid-April, lorry loads of apples, beer, wine and pumpkin products travel up the southern motorway to Vienna for the 4-day Styrian Spring (Steiermark Frühling) festival on the Rathausplatz square.
- A feast of rural cuisine, music, and tradition from the Alpine province of Styria
- Enough pumpkins to keep the fairy godmother busy for decades
- And enough wine to sink a whale
- 2020 dates: April 2 – 5 (unconfirmed, though)
- See also: Waldviertelpur festival | Genuss Festival | Harvest Festival
A spring festival
The festival is a celebration of one of Austria’s mountainous provinces, its culture and (particularly) its culinary delights. At one, for example, there was
The square in front of the Rathaus turns into a little piece of Styria, with booths and wooden cabins, turf, mulch and floral displays adding rural charm to the urban landscape.
Many people are in traditional dress, from senior citizens with imperious moustaches to youngsters sporting Lederhosen and sunglasses – not just booth staff, but visitors, too. The rustic gear is not a display for the Viennese and tourists, but the continuation of an authentic tradition.
Numerous booths cover the main tourism regions in the province, from the city of Graz through to the extensive Alpine areas, and there are demonstrations of traditional crafts, like basket weaving.
As you wander around, two things strike you:
First, Styrians are a happy folk. All smiles and laughter, and full of regional pride. But not the “we’re better than you, so leave your money here and get out” type of pride. More of the “come and share in our luck” variety.
Second, Styrians do like their wine and beer.
There are usually an awful lot of booths, tents and cabins selling Styrian wine and schnapps. A very distinctive regional wine, for example, is the Schilcher rosé made from the local Blauer Wildbacher grape.
They like their food, too.
You can buy pumpkin seed snacks in a multitude of flavours, as well as pumpkin seed oil (a distinctive dark green dressing that goes well on salads). Sausages and small dumplings with melted cheese, dark bread garnished with air-dried ham, local cheeses and horse radish, fried meat and potatoes, sweet rolls (Buchtel) and funnel cakes, giant pretzels, and more. All typical fare at the Steiermark Frühling.
There are plenty of seats and benches to sit around to enjoy all the above. Or you can flop onto some straw and enjoy the spring sun: the surrounding Rathauspark is normally in fine form, too, with fresh green carpeting the trees and displays of spring flowers on the ground.
Among the chatter and laughter, you’ll also hear music, and not just on the stage. Often a booth or cabin has its own traditional folk group from the mountains, perhaps with a portly gentleman in leather trousers swinging his accordion with gusto, pausing only for another sup of Styrian beer and a satisfied smile at the assembled audience.
It’s a great atmosphere and perhaps a good place to eat as you wander the more traditional city sights.
2020 dates and tickets
There is no entrance fee. Dates for the 2020 festival are (provisionally) from Thursday, April 2nd to Sunday, April 5th. “Opening times” are also unconfirmed at the time of writing, but here are the 2019 times:
- Thursday (11 am to 10 pm)
- Friday (10 am to 10 pm)
- Saturday (10 am to 10 pm)
- Sunday (9 am to 7 pm)
How to get to the spring festival
You can reach the Rathausplatz easily enough, given the central, convenient location. Chances are you’ll run into it by accident on your sightseeing travels.
Subway: U2 line to Rathaus.
Trams: Lines 1, 2, D or 71 to Rathausplatz / Burgtheater or line 2 to Stadiongasse / Parlament.
Address: Rathausplatz, 1010 Vienna | Website