The city has a musical heritage like no other and one that continues today. So where can you find the right classical music concert for your stay in Vienna?
- Mozart & Strauss concerts designed for visitors
- Traditional concert houses
- Churches & other venues
- Special annual concerts
- Classical music festivals
- Other alternatives
Mozart & Strauss concerts
Personal tip: Classic Ensemble Vienna
- 18th-century Baroque ambience
- Typical Viennese classical music
- Easily reached in the centre
- Hosted in the Peterskirche church
Several orchestras, ensembles, and venues provide an evening of concert entertainment in a historical ambience specifically for those on a short trip to Vienna.
These concerts typically feature light classical music covering the better-known works of Mozart, Strauss (II) and perhaps other composers connected to the city (we have a lot).
Actually the city’s most important classical venue (see below), but the Vienna Mozart Orchestra often moves in and uses the wonderful ambience and acoustics of this 19th-century building to deliver a “best of” Mozart while dressed in period attire. (Visitor and concert info)
The Renaissance-style Kursalon hosted waltzes back when they were the new music craze sweeping the
nation empire. It revisits that history with evening concerts. Take the opportunity to grab a photo with the golden statue of Strauss outside, too. (Visitor and concert info)
Playing a little music at home means something quite different when you’re a monarch. For Emperor Joseph II, for example, it meant inviting Mozart to perform a new opera in the Orangery of Schönbrunn Palace. Public concerts continue that tradition today. (Visitor and concert info)
The astonishing Baroque ornamentation of the Peterskirche offers a remarkable setting for a classical music concert. The Classic Ensemble Vienna performs within regularly. Best of all, the church is right in the middle of town, so easy to reach. (Visitor and concert info)
This vaulted venue lies beneath the Mozarthaus, a museum dedicated to Mozart in one of his former homes. It’s a serious, professional location which may also feature concert performances of works composed in the building. The summer piano recitals are a highlight. (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 Sala Terrena room of the Teutonic Order hosts classical concerts by the Mozart Ensemble Vienna. Mozart himself once lived in this ecclesiastical complex while employed by the Archbishop of Salzburg. (Visitor and concert info)
Another Baroque event location, once the home of Count Batthyány and built by the same architect behind Schönbrunn Palace. The Vienna Baroque Orchestra has regular concerts there. (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 Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on period instruments. (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)
And if that’s not enough, simply keep your eye open for concert flyers and posters when in town.
Traditional concert houses
(The Musikverein with the Karlskirche church in the distance)
If you’re looking for a more “local” experience in one of the concert halls with a programme that changes daily, then Vienna offers, for example, two of the planet’s greatest venues featuring world-class performers from around the globe.
Possibly (probably) the best classical music venue in the world. Names like Brahms and Mahler 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 main venues for opera and operettas:
- The Staatsoper: the most famous with a different opera each day and an orchestra drawn from the Wiener Philharmoniker. The State Opera House also hosts performances by the national ballet.
- The Volksoper: particularly good for operettas and the occasional musical, too.
- Theater an der Wien: the oldest of the three venues, established by the man who wrote the libretto to The Magic Flute, and where Beethoven premiered Fidelio and three symphonies.
Churches & other concert venues
(Stephansdom cathedral offers a suitably Gothic and resonant atmosphere for classical concerts)
- The Minoritenkirche has the ongoing series of occasional concerts featuring the Wiener KammerOrchester
- Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was playing at Stephansdom cathedral, for example, when I first wrote this article
- The Baroque Annakirche hosts regular classical concerts that also feature works by those composers traditionally associated with Vienna, such as Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven
All the above and other central places of worship usually have a special programme of advent concerts during the Christmas period.
The Vienna Boys’ Choir
The Take 5 association enables a range of cultural events with international performers, including many classical concerts. Entrance is usually free (though you can – and probably should – make a donation).
A few annual one-off events give you the chance to catch a world-class orchestra (often for free). Try, for example:
- New Year’s Concert – the Wiener Philharmoniker’s famous 3-day residency with the January 1st concert broadcast around the globe
- Summer Night Concert – a free concert held in the sculpted gardens of Schönbrunn Palace by none other than the Wiener Philharmoniker orchestra again
- 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. Check the monthly event overview for suggestions throughout the year
- 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.
- Resonanzen – January festival at the Konzerthaus celebrating early music. Think Purcell rather than Puccini.
- Jazzfest Wien – only borderline classic, but Vienna also hosts one of Europe’s top jazz festivals in June/July.
- AMADEUS Festival Vienna – summer classical music festival in the grounds of the former Semmelweis women’s hospital.
- The Gemischter Satz festival – where music and wine meet for two days at the Konzerthaus.
- Internationales Musikfest – a month-long international music festival at the Konzerthaus and now entering its 40th edition.
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” (with quotation marks) is because most of the screened entertainment is actually music and a large chunk of that is classical music.
Last year (2021), the programme included, for example, Verdi’s Requiem, the 2021 New Year’s concert, the Concert de Paris 2020 by the Orchestre National de France, the 2020 Summer Night Concert, 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!