Dance your way into a host of museums under a silvery moon, starry sky, or dark blanket of night fog (depending on the weather Vienna throws at you) in this annual evening of museum festivities.
- One ticket gets you into over 130 museums in Vienna
- Many locations offer something extra for the evening
- 2021 date: Oct 2
- See also: What to do in Vienna | Long Night of the Churches
What’s it all about?
The ORF Long Night of Museums (German: ORF Lange Nacht der Museen) is
when all the exhibits come alive and (sorry, obvious joke). No, it’s one day of the year when a huge number of museums and similar institutions open late and a single ticket gets you into any of them.
This is more than just a cheap and cheerful way to see a few museums.
First, just about every museum you’ve heard of (and many you haven’t) participates, so the choice is huge.
Second, the museums tend to put on special tours or events just for the occasion.
Third, there’s a wonderful atmosphere as around 200,000 people mill about the streets late at night, soaking up science, art, culture, history, and anything else you might find in a display cabinet.
One year, for example, the Albertina displayed Albrecht Dürer’s famous Young Hare watercolour for the evening (it otherwise only appears every few years or so). The queue was huge but nobody was impatient, and a sponsor fed us snacks while we waited. The finest art and chocolate – what more do you need?
The whole thing is a nationwide event organised by ORF, which is Austria’s state media company (similar to the UK’s BBC).
Obviously, most of the special tours and events are in German, but not all. In 2019, for example, the Kunsthistorisches Museum and National Library explicitly offered English-language tours as part of their contribution to the event.
The event has always been on the first Saturday of October. So the 2021 “night” takes place on October 2nd. Times are usually from 6pm to 1am the following day.
The 2020 event did not go ahead in its usual form (thanks, COVID-19!). Instead, we had a museum week (October 3rd to 10th), where institutions were encouraged to provide special offers and activities for visitors.
The ORF kindly posts a website which has all the details of participating museums and related activities (when available), with an English version posted too in past years. The same site normally has a free booklet you can download (or get with your ticket) to help plan your evening.
As a taster, here a few example jewels for you from the last full event I attended, when you could…
- Circle the Ring boulevard in an old-timer tram
- Let the Austrian Reenactment Society take you back to the time of Emperor Maximilian at the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum
- Listen to live (medieval) music while at the Torture Museum (there’s a joke in there, I’m sure)
- Lift a bar of gold at the National Bank (I did this and can confirm a bar of gold is, well…heavy)
- Follow in the footsteps of Mozart by listening to live chamber music at the Mozarthaus
- Take a crash course in Esperanto at the National Library. They had Klingon courses as well, but you needed to speak German for that one (or Klingon).
And, of course, all the big museums open their doors, too. My schedule, for example, included a talk on Viennese coffee culture at the coffee museum, the treasury at the Deutschordenshaus, the Hieronymus Bosch exhibition in the Theatermuseum, the National Library, and the Museum of Money at the national bank.
Ticket & visitor tips
One ticket is all you need (priced at €15 at the last Long Night of Museums), with concessions available and under 12s usually going free:
- The ticket is valid for the hours of the event
- You can use the ticket as a travel pass for Vienna during these hours and special shuttle buses also operate
- Tickets are easy to get hold of:
- Buy advance tickets online direct from the website from a few weeks before the event
- Buy a ticket from the information point on Maria-Theresien-Platz (between the natural history and art history museums)
- …or simply buy one from any participating museum on the day (or in the days leading up to the event)
It’s “only” seven hours, so use the ORF site or the booklet to plan your schedule carefully. With tens of thousands participating, there can be extensive queues for the more popular museums.
My tip: use the early evening to explore some of the less well-known museums and leave the heavyweights until late, when crowds have begun to thin.