If you drift through Vienna’s centre in August, you may wonder why you rarely hear a Viennese accent.
It’s because we’re all on holiday. The city is yours, now.
(P.S. Be sure to water the plants and feed the parrot.)
Top activities in August 2021
The cool interiors of cafés, museums, and palaces are a strong option in August, but what else might you do in the hottest month of the year?
Incidentally, if you’re worried about keeping cool, the Vienna authorities install numerous mobile drinking water fountains around the tourist hotspots, as well as water spray facilities in selected locations.
(I hope COVID is largely in the past by August 2021, but some restrictions may still be in force and affect the below, of course. Check with official sites.)
Stay on the Rathausplatz
As mentioned for July, there’s much fun to be had on the main Rathausplatz square.
The open-air film festival continues through August, with evening showings of music and dance performances on a huge screen.
I like to get there in the early evening for something intriguing to eat and drink from the food court, which features cuisine from around the world (and Austria). Then find a seat to catch a bit of Sheeran or Tchaikovsky.
A fair few open-air cinemas also fire up the popcorn machine come August. For example:
- The dotdotdot film festival for short films has its showings in the garden of the Volkskundemuseum (runs until August 24th)
- The Frameout film festival carries on in the courtyards of the city’s main contemporary art quarter, the MQ (until August 28th)
- For a bit of baroque flair, try the open-air cinema in the privy garden of Lower Belvedere Palace: Kino im Kammergarten usually has several films in English or with English subtitles (next dates TBA – Lower Belvedere is closed for refurbishment at the moment)
A taste of the world
The Afrika Tage African festival from July normally continues through until early August, with its food, fun, music, and marketplace (until August 2nd in 2021).
Several summer events that continue daily (or almost daily) through August are:
- The Ottakringer beer festival, with its changing rota of guest breweries (in normal years), Ottakringer’s own traditional and craft beers, and food that goes well with a pint (actually half a litre) on a balmy evening
- Summer in the MQ is not a formal event as such, but the expression of seasonal flair in Vienna at the MuseumsQuartier, where open-air bars and the famous summer furniture invite you to imbibe something cold, relax and watch the occasional cloud meandering through blue skies above (hopefully)
- Talking open-air bars, Summerstage on the Donaukanal has a fair few, with accompanying live music, outdoor art and other waterfront delights
Watch the old timers
Classic car enthusiasts gather in the city in August for the Vienna Classic Days old timer festival.
The highlights for visitors is the Old Timer Parade (provisionally on August 21st, 2021), when vehicles of all shapes, sizes and eras do a turn of the Ring, waving cheerily as we all remember the days of flapping scarfs and picnic hampers tied to the boot.
Enjoy the urban flair
Vienna may have a reputation for imperial elegance and genteel coffee house culture. But it’s also a modern, diverse city with quite a few areas that weren’t actually built by a Habsburg monarch.
- August’s Calle Libre festival (August 2nd – 7th), for example, celebrates street art as a true art form, with the chance to watch those at the top of their profession creating giant street murals around the city
- The Gürtel Nightwalk (2021 dates TBA) highlights the urban regeneration success story that is the Gürtel road. A stretch of the Gürtel has become a popular nightspot for clubs, bars and venues, who throw open their doors for an evening of free live performances both inside and on open-air stages
Enjoy the artistic flair
The summer normally offers many framed distractions for visitors to the city. Consider, for example:
- The MAK museum has an exhibition showcasing the work of female artists and designers active for the famous Wiener Werkstätte artisan workshop
- The last days of the Kunsthistorisches Museum’s summer exhibition, Higher Powers (until August 15th)
- Enjoy the mammoth wall of rainbows built by acclaimed artist Udo Rondinone and Austrian Kindergartens
- Discover why Nobuyoshi Araki is considered one of Japan’s most famous (and controversial) contemporary photographers at the Albertina Modern (until August 29th)
- Catch the last days of the Stadt und Land exhibition at the Albertina main site (until August 22nd), with around 450 years of landscape and cityscape masterpieces by Dürer, Rembrandt, Canaletto, Cézanne, Klee and others
- If you need a bit of escapism (and who doesn’t at the moment?), consider fleeing into the impossible worlds of the Wonderland exhibition at the Albertina Modern or the apparent past idylls of the Better Times? exhibition at Upper Belvedere
- For something a little different to all the art, try the exhibition on Artificial Intelligence at the Technical Museum or explore 100 years of the Salzburg Festival with its prominent Jewish contributors (at the Jewish Museum)
Take to the beach
Or, at least, watch others take to the beach: the beach volleyball European championships (CEV EuroBeachVolley 2021) take place in Vienna from August 11th to 15th.
Take to the water
And, finally, all of July’s advice on waterways obviously applies to August, too.
If you want to make more of a trip of it, there’s always the option of a short cruise along the Danube. Ships leave from moorings on the edge of the city centre.
Plenty of tour operators will happily show you other options. There’s a city cruise normally included in the Vienna Pass, for example, and I can recommend a trip up the Danube through the beautiful Wachau wine-growing area or one across the border into Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital.