Apples, beer, wine and pumpkins. Four things closely associated with the Austrian province of Styria (German: Steiermark).
And once a year around March or April, lorry loads of apples, beer, wine and pumpkin products travel up the southern motorway to Vienna for the 4-day Styrian Spring (Steiermark Frühling) festival on the Rathausplatz square.
- A feast of rural cuisine, music, and tradition from the Alpine province of Styria
- Enough pumpkins to keep the fairy godmother busy for decades
- And enough wine to sink a whale
- 2024 dates: April 4-7
- See also:
A spring festival
(Styrian wine has an excellent reputation)
The festival is a celebration of one of Austria’s mountainous provinces, its culture and (particularly) its culinary delights. One year, for example, featured a 30-metre apple strudel.
The square in front of the Rathaus turns into a little piece of Styria, with booths and wooden cabins, turf, mulch and floral displays adding rural charm to the urban landscape.
Many people appear in traditional dress, from senior citizens with imperious moustaches to youngsters sporting Lederhosen and sunglasses – not just booth staff, but visitors, too.
Incidentally, the rustic gear is not a display for the Viennese and tourists, but the continuation of an authentic tradition.
Numerous booths cover the main tourism regions in the province, from the city of Graz through to the extensive Alpine areas, and you can enjoy demonstrations of traditional crafts, like basket weaving.
As you wander around, two things strike you:
First, Styrians are a happy folk. All smiles and laughter, and full of regional pride. But not the “we’re better than you, so leave your money here and get out” type of pride. More of the “come and share in our luck” variety.
Second, Styrians do like their wine and beer.
An awful lot of booths, tents and cabins seem to sell Styrian wine and schnapps. A very distinctive regional wine, for example, is the Schilcher rosé made from the local Blauer Wildbacher grape.
They like their food, too.
(Rustic dark bread accompanies many a meal)
You can buy pumpkin seed snacks in a multitude of flavours, as well as pumpkin seed oil (a distinctive dark green dressing that goes well on salads).
Sausages and small dumplings with melted cheese, dark bread garnished with air-dried ham, local cheeses and horse radish, fried meat and potatoes, sweet rolls (Buchtel) and funnel cakes, giant pretzels: all typical fare at the Steiermark Frühling.
The grounds have plenty of seats and benches to sit around to enjoy all the above.
Or you can flop onto some straw and enjoy the spring sun: the surrounding Rathauspark is normally in fine form, too, with fresh green carpeting the trees and displays of spring blooms in the flower beds.
Among the chatter and laughter, you’ll also hear music, and not just on the stage.
Often a booth or cabin has its own traditional folk group from the mountains, perhaps with a portly gentleman in leather trousers swinging his accordion with gusto, pausing only for another sup of Styrian beer and a satisfied smile at the assembled audience.
The festival has a great atmosphere and perhaps makes a good place to eat as you wander the more traditional city sights. Though it can get very busy. On our last visit, we retired to the nearby Sluka café-konditorei to recharge with coffee and cake.
2024 dates & tickets
There is no entrance fee. Provisional dates for 2024 are April 4th to 7th.
How to get to the spring festival
You can reach the Rathausplatz easily enough, given the central, convenient location. Chances are you’ll run into it by accident on your sightseeing travels.
Subway: U2 line to Rathaus.
Trams: Lines 1, 2, D or 71 to Rathausplatz / Burgtheater or line 2 to Stadiongasse / Parlament.
Address: Rathausplatz, 1010 Vienna | Website