You might better ask how you can avoid doing so. There are rather a lot of classical music concerts in Vienna.
The city has a musical heritage like no other, one that continues today. So where can you find the right date, venue and ticket?
Note that no concerts will take place until the COVID-related event ban is lifted (no end date had been specified at the time of writing; it all depends on infection and vaccination developments in April. The government has suggested Austria may begin opening up events again in May, but who knows?).
Strauss and/or Mozart concerts
Several orchestras and venues specialise in providing an evening of classical entertainment for tourists and other visitors, typically featuring the better-known works of Mozart and Johann Strauss (the son). These include:
The Kursalon hosted waltzes back when they were the new music craze sweeping the
nation empire. It revisits that history with a daily concert. Take the opportunity to grab a photo with the golden statue of Strauss just outside, too. (Visitor and concert info)
Putting on a little music at home means something quite different when you’re an Emperor. For Joseph II, for example, it meant inviting Mozart to perform a new opera in the Orangery of Schönbrunn Palace. Daily concerts continue the palace music tradition today. (Visitor and concert info)
Haus der Musik
The former Palais Erzherzog Karl is now the Haus der Musik, an interactive museum dedicated to Vienna’s musical history and the wider concept of “sound”. Definitely worth a visit in its own right. The Divertimento concert hall up in its roof hosts concerts by the Imperial Classic Orchestra*.
The Mozart Ensemble perform in the Sala Terrena of this ecclesiastical building complex belonging to the Teutonic Order. Mozart himself once lived and performed here when employed by the Archbishop of Salzburg. (Visitor and concert info)
A baroque palace and now a venue for film productions, conferences, balls, and other events, including regular concerts from the Vienna Residence Orchestra. (Visitor and concert info)
Another baroque beauty and event location, once the home of Count Batthyány and built by the same architect behind Schönbrunn Palace. The Vienna Baroque Orchestra has near-daily concerts there. (Visitor and concert info)
A secret tip is this venue beneath the Mozarthaus, a museum dedicated to Mozart in one of his former homes. It’s a serious, professional venue which also features concert performances of the very same works that were composed in the building. The summer piano recitals are a highlight. (Visitor and concert info)
This prominent Baroque church offers a few unexpected delights. One is a panorama lift that takes you up into the roof and within (almost) touching distance of the ceiling reliefs. Another is regular performances of Mozart’s Requiem and Verdi’s Four Seasons on period instruments by Orchestra 1756. (Visitor and concert info)
Vienna Mozart Orchestra
The orchestra, singers and soloists perform in period costume at different historical venues, including the Musikverein, Konzerthaus, and Staatsoper. (Visitor and concert tickets info)
Traditional concert houses
If you’re looking for a more “local” experience in one of the active concert halls with changing repertoires, then Vienna offers some of the planet’s greatest venues featuring world-class performers from around the globe.
Possibly (probably) the best classical music venue in the world and host of the New Year’s Concert. Names like Brahms, Mahler, Schoenberg, Strauss, and many more are intimately associated with this 1870 building that also provides a home for the famous Wiener Philharmoniker orchestra. (Visitor and concert tickets info)
Another internationally-recognised top venue for classical concerts, the Konzerthaus repertoire also features jazz, world music and various other genres of musical endeavour. The 1913 building has four concert halls, hosting hundreds of events from September to June. (Visitor and concert tickets info)
…and don’t forget the opera houses. Vienna has three venues covering opera and operettas, but the Staatsoper, for example, also hosts performances by the national ballet.
Other concert venues
If you’re visiting churches, look out for recitals and similar there. I mentioned Karlskirche already, but also try…
- The Minoritenkirche has the ongoing Classical Concerts Vienna series featuring the Vienna Chamber Orchestra
- Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was playing at Stephansdom cathedral, for example, when I first wrote this article
- The beautiful Peterskirche hosts regular organ recitals and other concerts, many of which are free
- The baroque Annakirche offers regular “Classic Exclusive” performances that feature works by those composers traditionally associated with Vienna, such as Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven
All the above and other central places of worship have a programme of advent concerts during the Christmas period.
The Vienna Boys’ Choir
The Take 5 association puts on a range of cultural events with international performers, including several classical concerts. Entrance is usually free (though you can – and probably should – make a donation).
Special concert events
A few annual one-off events give you the chance to catch a world-class orchestra for free. Try, for example:
- Summer Night Concert – a free concert held in the sculpted gardens of Schönbrunn Palace by none other than the Wiener Philharmoniker orchestra
- Festival of Joy – a free May concert held on Heldenplatz square with the Wiener Symphoniker orchestra
- MQ open-air concert – the Festival of Joy isn’t the only free open-air concert given by the Wiener Symphoniker. They also do a one-off outdoor performance in the main courtyard of the MuseumsQuartier complex, for example
Classical music festivals
I’ve just started compiling special festivals around classical music. For starters:
- Wien Modern – a month-long celebration of more avant-garde music, featuring some of the world’s top contemporary composers and performers. Typically held in late October through November.
- Jazzfest Wien – only borderline classic, but Vienna also hosts one of Europe’s top jazz festivals in June/July.
The last couple of times I’ve been on the Graben (the pedestrianised street at the heart of the city), I’ve encountered classical street performers, including a small string ensemble and an opera singer accompanied by the flute. Vienna in a nutshell, really.
The Rathaus film festival typically runs from the end of June to the start of September, displaying “films” on a giant screen in front of city hall. The area of the square not taken up by seating is turned over to a gastronomic journey through Austrian and international cuisine.
What’s this got to do with classical concerts?
Well, the reason I say “films” is because most of the screened entertainment is actually music and a large chunk of that is classical music.
In 2020, the programme included, for example, Beethoven piano sonatas performed by Buchbinder, Beethoven’s 9th symphony conducted by Claudio Abbado, the 2020 New Year’s concert, a Berlin concert by Lang Lang, the 2019 Summer Night Concert (see above), numerous operas, and many more of that ilk.
If all the above isn’t enough, the official city tourist site has full events listings.
Look for the “events” icon, which should bring up a search interface. Put in your dates and hit “search” (or “suchen” in German). You can also narrow the search by category. I did a search for concerts for a single, random Monday in September and got 20 different options!