Ah, May…caught somewhere between Easter and the peak tourist season. Warmer and drier than April, but not as hot as the summer.
In other words, a decent time to visit Vienna. Particularly if you enjoy your food and drink, for May is a month full of culinary festivals.
Top May activities
So, aside from the usual museums, galleries and other sights, what does May offer the discerning visitor to Vienna?
Bring a glass
Not all the slopes in Austria are for skiing down. The country has a lot of vineyards (as does Vienna). Austrians also drink more beer per head than anybody except our thirsty Czech neighbours.
Vienna’s bars and restaurants allow you to taste the local beers and wines, or you can visit these festivals in May:
- The two-day Craft Bier Fest attracts dozens of breweries from around the country and abroad, who are all happy to provide a sample or two for you to taste (in exchange for a coin or two)
- If that’s not enough beer for you, then try the five-day open-air Vienna Beer Festival, where brewers big and small come together in the very centre of Vienna
- The city-owned Cobenzl winery has an open day in May, which is free. Though you do have to pay if you want to try some of the (excellent) wines. The winery also sits on a hill with lovely views across the city
- And if wine tasting is of interest, then there’s the Vienna Wine Fest, a trade fair that also opens its doors to the public (the entrance ticket includes tastings)
Bring a plate
A fine glass of wine or beer goes better with a fine dish of regional food. And, as luck would have it, there are plenty of food festivals in May, too.
- The Genuss Festival is an open-air gourmet paradise, with stalls lining the winding paths through the Stadtpark city gardens. The booths come from all over the country to sell local specialties (to eat, take away, or use as gifts)
- Burgenland is a small province east of Vienna, and the Burgenland Kultinarium festival encourages you to learn about the area with the help of large quantities of its wonderful food and drink
Join the celebrations
The May festivals don’t end there, either.
- The Donaukanaltreiben festival celebrates urban life with a party-like atmosphere down by the Danube Canal that runs alongside Vienna’s city centre. Think live music, bars, street food, flea markets and similar
- The Südwind Straßenfest celebrates the work of NGOs, with international music, food stands, a fair-trade market, and the chance to learn about the work done by dozens of charities
- The Fest der Freude celebrates the liberation of Vienna and the end of Nazi rule with a free concert on Heldenplatz square next to the Hofburg palace. The Vienna Symphony orchestra performs, with the event also in remembrance of those who suffered at the hands of that occupation.
The same orchestra gives a free open-air concert at the Museumsquartier at the end of May. On that topic…
- The Summer Night Concert is another free evening of classical music. Which may sound a bit meh until you realise the orchestra in question is the world-famous Wiener Philharmoniker. And the “concert hall” is the landscaped gardens in front of Schönbrunn Palace.
Go for a swim
The beginning of May sees Vienna’s 28 outdoor public swimming facilities open up for the summer. These include:
- 11 family facilities, with shallow pools and family-friendly prices
- 7 multipurpose facilities, with both indoor and outdoor pools
- 10 summer facilities with open-air pools only, including large riverside recreational areas such as the Gänsehäufel
Buy some popcorn
Two international film festivals fill Viennese screens during May:
- The Jewish Film Festival features works from around the world that address aspects of Jewish life in all its facets and contexts
- The prestigious Vienna Shorts Festival tackles the short form version of movie-making, covering numerous genres and featuring some high-quality competitions, too.
Enjoy the flowers
By early May, the spring flower displays planted by the city or national parks authorities are normally in full bloom. Try, for example:
- Schönbrunn Palace – the landscaped gardens in front of the palace are gorgeous. But also take the time to drop into the Kronprinzengarten, a privy garden with geometric shapes made of flower beds and different-coloured gravel
- The Rathauspark – the park surrounding the Rathausplatz square in the centre is usually full of tulips
- The Volksgarten – a public gardens opposite the Rathausplatz and home to hundreds of different rose varieties
- Hirschstetten – a large (and beautiful) landscaped gardens and park that actually serves as a nursery facility for the city