Imagine sitting beneath a star-strewn sky on a balmy summer evening, listening to a bit of Puccini or Pink Floyd. Or perhaps Sibelius. Or Sinatra.
That’s the Film Festival on the Rathausplatz…
- Free showings of operas, concerts, and gigs on a giant screen from dusk
- Separate gastronomy section with more food and drink than you can shake a conductor’s baton at
- 2023 dates: Jul 1 – Sept 3
- See also:
The film festival
(View across the film festival area from the roof of the Burgtheater opposite; press photo © stadtwienmarketing)
Each summer, the square in front of Vienna’s Rathaus city hall turns into an open-air cinema with a difference when the film festival rolls into town.
The term film festival is a little misleading. We’re not talking Steven Spielberg retrospectives or a celebration of Estonian film noir. Instead, it’s all about the music.
A giant screen shows recordings of opera productions and concert performances from across the music spectrum. Everything from the Beatles to Bernstein.
It’s all open air and set against a backdrop of fine central European neo-gothic architecture. You can’t get more cultural bonus points than that.
Of course, people cannot live on culture alone.
This being Vienna, the area leading up to the seating around the giant screen becomes a gastronomic paradise, with numerous bars and restaurants serving food and drink from around the world.
Plates of couscous and curry jostle with sausage and suckling pig, pasta and pancakes. Grab a steak or try some teriyaki salmon. All washed down with your beverage of choice.
And if this all sounds like a marvelous way to pass a summer’s evening, it is. With one caveat. It does get incredibly busy.
Some 635,000 visitors took in the atmosphere in 2022. In normal years, finding a place to sit and eat in the gastronomy area can be especially tricky in the hour or two preceding the film.
The film festival originally focused on opera alone, but now features a distinct mix of musical styles.
Classical compositions still dominate, but jazz, blues, rock, folk, even punk (albeit unplugged) make regular appearances.
My last two trips to the event involved Ed Sheeran in concert at Wembley and the Les Misérables 25th anniversary concert. A recording of Eric Clapton’s Baloise Session might be followed the next day by an operetta by the Hungarian composer, Emmerich Kálmán.
In 2022, for example, we had concert recordings by the Stones, Katy Perry, Bowie, Sting, Queen, U2, Amy Winehouse, Coldplay, Dee Dee Bridgewater, B. B. King, and others.
On the classic front, the summer brought us Don Giovanni, Peer Gynt, Turandot, Fidelio, La Traviata, Ariadne auf Naxos, the 2022 New Year’s Concert, concerts by Lang Lang and Pavarotti, and more.
For the full 2023 programme, once available, check the official website (see below).
2023 dates, tickets & tips
The 2023 festival is scheduled to run from July 1st to September 3rd. The films usually begin at dusk, but the food stalls normally open from late morning.
So how much is entry to this cultural extravaganza going to cost you? A big fat nothing.
You buy your food and drink as you’d expect, but the film showings are free. No ticket required.
Ideally, go early enough to enjoy your food and still have time to get a decent seat before the film starts. Having said that…while the central seats fill up fast, those in the wings often have spaces until fairly late and still offer a good view.
You can come and go as you like; you have no obligation to remain until the end if the mezzosoprano takes too long to finally succumb to a tragic illness in Act III.
How to get to the film festival
Subway: Reach the Rathausplatz on the U2 subway line; get off at the Rathaus stop (surprise surprise)
Tram/bus: Alternatively, take trams 1, 71 and D to Rathausplatz / Burgtheater or tram 2 to Parlament
Address: Rathausplatz, 1010 Vienna | Website