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 music, food and drink, for May is a month full of classical and culinary festivals.
- See also: Events by month | How to save money on your trip
- For Beethoven-related events, see the Beethoven 2020 page
Top activities in May 2020
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 (2020 dates TBA but usually in the first half of May) attracts dozens of breweries from around the country and abroad, who are all happy to provide a sample for you to taste in exchange for a coin or two
- The city-owned Cobenzl winery has an open day in May (dates TBA), 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 (May 8th), 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 (May 8th to 10th) 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 (May 25th to 27th) festival encourages you to learn about the area with the help of large quantities of its wonderful food and drink
- The 3-day Waldviertelpur festival (May 27th to 29th) features the best of the Waldviertel region (a rural area northwest of Vienna). This includes their rather hearty cuisine, notably a myriad different things you can do with poppy seeds
Join the celebrations
(Heldenplatz – home to the Fest der Freude open-air concert)
The 2020 May festivals don’t end there, either.
- The Donaukanaltreiben festival (2020 dates TBA) 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
- Think of the Steffl Kirtag (May 21st to June 1st outside the cathedral) as a cross between a village funfair and a Christmas market (but without the Christmas part).
- The Fest der Freude (May 8th) 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 on May 30th. On that topic…
- The Summer Night Concert (May 21st) 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. Wow.
Bring a sketch pad
Get your Cambell soup tins ready, as a triumvirate of Warhol-themed exhibitions begin on May 1st at the MUMOK museum. And May is your last chance to catch two major exhibitions at the Albertina: the Renaissance etchings of Dürer and colleagues (ends May 10th) and various works by the likes of Cezanne, Matisse, Van Gogh and others (ends May 24th).
Go for a swim
The beginning of May typically 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
The summer bathing season officially starts on May 2nd in 2020.
Buy some popcorn
Two international film festivals fill Viennese screens during May:
- The Jewish Film Festival (May 13th to May 28th) features works from around the world that address aspects of Jewish life in all its facets and contexts
- The prestigious Vienna Shorts Festival (May 28th to June 2nd) 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