Vienna in July sees the locals waving bye bye as you enter the city. The school holidays have started and the weather is warm and sunny (usually), so many Viennese disappear on holiday or out to weekend homes in the country.
- See also: Events by month | How to save money on your trip
- For Beethoven-related events, see the Beethoven 2020 page
Top activities in July 2020
Vienna’s main attractions take no summer break, though the State Opera House, for example, has no performances in July or August.
So what seasonal festivals and activities might you pursue in 2020 in July, in addition to the usual palaces, museums, and other sights?
(Note that some of the below may be impossible or not take place as a consequence – direct and/or indirect – of ongoing Coronavirus measures. Be sure to check official websites for the latest updates.)
Visit the Rathausplatz
The open-air Rathaus Film Festival provisionally starts on July 4th in 2020. Each evening, sit back and enjoy opera, ballet, classical music or a more popular musical genre on a giant screen.
But there’s much more to this event than a bit of cinematic entertainment. Over two-dozen gastro booths line the Rathausplatz square, selling food, drinks, and snacks from all over the world.
So you might watch Sheryl Crow’s performance at New York’s Capitol Theatre and then go for an American sirloin steak afterwards.
Other film festivals
There’s another open-air cinema festival on at the same time, should the Rathaus version get too busy for you: the Frameout festival (starts July 17th in 2020).
And if you like your films short, then try the dotdotdot film festival: also open-air and a very inclusive experience (begins July 20 and continues through to August 19). For example, you decide your own entrance fee.
Get your music groove on
The July music does not stop at the Rathausplatz. For example:
- Jazzfest Wien (the Vienna Jazz Festival) skips 2020: next dates are June 23 to July 11, 2021. This is no local gathering of performers but a significant event on the international jazz calendar
- Jazz gives way to pop later in the month at Popfest Wien (July 23-26) on Karlsplatz, a four-day music festival with dozens of live performances on various stages (but expect things to be different in 2020). The event showcases regional and national talents…from established musicians to relative newcomers
- The Afrika Tage African festival usually starts mid-July (there’s no event in 2020, unfortunately). Music forms the centrepiece of the occasion, with national and international performers. There’s plenty of African cuisine to enjoy, too, as well as a bazaar and various info stands from NGOs working in and with the continent
Go for beer & cocktails
All that music might make you thirsty. As it happens, Vienna rolls out extra drinking water stations in summer. But if you fancy something with a little more pep, try…
- The three-day Liquid Market Cocktail Festival (postponed to August) is the place for drinking green tea and organic coffee. OK, perhaps it’s more a place for drinking cocktails. Whatever the word is for a collection of cocktail bars (an umbrella?), this is one of them
- The Ottakringer brewery’s Festival of Beer Culture usually opens for most of July (next full event will be in 2021, though). Beer culture is 90% drinking the stuff, whether Ottakringer’s own wares or those of the guest breweries. But there’s music, too. And food. And other surprises, such as free tours of the brewery in English
Enjoy the water
If it gets hot in July (and it usually does), then there’s plenty of water in Vienna (cough…the Danube…cough).
- The city has numerous public swimming facilities, including well over a dozen which are outdoor pools or recreational water areas
- The Danube and associated waterways have riverside walks, cafés and restaurants dotted along their banks. Even beaches, watersports and swimming areas in some places.
Look particularly for the Old Danube (Alte Donau) recreation area and the Danube Island (Donauinsel). The Old Danube also hosts a Lichterfest at the end of July (provisionally slated for the 25th in 2020), where lighted boats spread across the water beneath a professional firework display.
Enjoy the woods
If it all gets a little too hot, there’s always the option of enjoying the leafy shade in Vienna’s wooded areas. For example:
- The Vienna Woods (Wienerwald) rolls across the northwest of the city, crisscrossed by hiking paths and forest roads. Consider routes 1 to 4A on the city’s walking route suggestions
- The Lainzer Tiergarten (Lainz Game Reserve) has deer, wild boar and more. But also the Hermesvilla, a 19th-century summerhouse for Empress Elisabeth.
Enjoy the streets
Don’t assume it’s only the obvious street cafés with their pavement seating. Many places have little gardens tucked around the back or in courtyards. For example, I was recently much taken by the courtyard ambience in the café at the Kunst Haus Wien (complete with Hundertwasser styling – see photo above).
July is also high season for Vienna’s many wine taverns (Heuriger). The D and 38 trams take you out to the main Heuriger territories in the low hills of Nussdorf and Grinzing, where spritzers made with homegrown wine are the order of the day.
Enjoy the art
A few exhibitions should keep you out of the sun for a few hours. For example:
- It’s not a chair, it’s a whole cultural and design revolution. Take a seat at the MAK museum’s Thonet exhibition
- Imagine you could see the rude notes Beethoven left in copies of his music. That and more at the mightily impressive National Library exhibition of Beethoven documents
- Last chance to catch some etchings at the Albertina (until July 26th). Not just any etchings, but those created some 500 years ago by the likes of Albrecht Dürer
- The Leopold Museum has a very colourful and impressive exhibition explaining the relationship between the works of Hundertwasser and Schiele
Enjoy a sword fight
Finally, for something a little different…the Montur und Pulverdampf festival (shifting to September in 2020) is a weekend of medieval reenactments. Sword fights, cannon fire, historical music, fire shows, craft markets, and more. Get in for free if you wear a bit of medieval costume.