OK, fire up the leather trousers or Dirndl, throw in a sense of fun, and prepare to lift your spirits (and large glasses of beer) at the Wiener Wiesn Fest: Vienna’s answer to the Oktoberfest.
- Hundreds of hours of live music and entertainment across around 18 days of Austrian tradition
- Large amounts of traditional food and drink
- Admission is free for most areas and times; you pay to attend selected evening performances in the big festival tents
- 2021 dates: provisionally Sept 23 – Oct 10
- See also: Festival of Beer Culture | Craft Beer Festival
It’s not just the Germans that do the whole Oktoberfest thing.
Just about every Austrian province has its own tradition of Lederhosen, Dirndls, and country fayres involving traditional music, dancing and unfeasibly large amounts of food and drink.
Vienna is an exception, with its urban elegance and lack of alpine mountains. If you see traditional Austrian attire in the city, it’s probably a visitor.
However, Vienna does host various events that give you a chance to experience those honourable country traditions, one of which is perhaps the largest such event in the country: the Wiener Wiesn Fest. Consider it Vienna’s equivalent to the Oktoberfest.
The event celebrates the national traditions of dress, dance, music, feasting and singing wildly inappropriate songs after having drunk one too many beers. (Well, maybe not the last one.) The Wiener Wiesn has various open-air areas, chalets, booths, and giant festival tents, with a particular focus on two crucial aspects of Austrian culture:
- Live music (hundreds of hours of it)
- Regional gastronomy
Austria’s traditional “folk music” is far more diverse than you might expect. And it’s a major element of the popular music scene, too.
So you have everything from Alpine rock to marching brass bands, with more accordians per square metre than just about anywhere else on the planet during the festival.
Over 100 different artists typically perform at Wiener Wiesn, including a fair few in the open-air areas and throughout the day. And some of the biggest names on the Austrian music scene usually make an appearance.
Food and drink
There is beer. Of course, not just beer. But mostly beer. No, I’m kidding. (No I’m not.)
Austria also has a strong wine-growing tradition, so a glass or two of white, red or sparkling will be to hand. And Schnapps. And plenty of non-alcoholic alternatives, of course.
Expect the full gamut of Austrian regional cuisine, too. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict plenty of meat and sausages. But more on the available food once I’ve had a chance to visit.
2021 dates and tickets
Wiener Wiesn hands out the beers provisionally from September 23rd to October 10th in 2021.
Doors typically open at 11.30am and stay open until midnight (or 1am in the chalets). The festival usually closes early on Sundays, though (8-10pm).
Admission to the Wiener Wiesn Fest is free in principle, but…live concerts in the big tents (commonly Wednesday to Saturday evenings) require an entrance ticket, which you can buy online at the festival website (see below), once available.
How to get to the Wiener Wiesn Fest
The festival zone is on the Kaiserwiese meadow at the start of the great Prater park and entertainment area. Which means just a short walk from the transport hub (Praterstern) that serves the Prater.
Subway: take a U1 or U2 train out from the city centre
Tram/bus: trams 5 and O (the letter Oh) go to Praterstern, as does bus line 80A
When you reach the station, just look for the Giant Ferris Wheel or follow the leather-trousered gentleman in front of you.
Address: Kaiserwiese, 1020 Vienna | Website