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.
Top activities in July 2021
Most of Vienna’s main attractions stay open through the summer break, though the State Opera House, for example, has no performances in July or August.
So what seasonal festivals and activities might you enjoy in July 2021, in addition to the usual palaces, museums, and other sights?
(This all assumes we’re past public health concerns, which might make some of the below impossible – check official sites nearer the time.)
Visit the Rathausplatz
The open-air Rathaus Film Festival starts on July 3rd in 2021. 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. 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 (usually starts in mid-July).
And if you like your films short, then try the dotdotdot film festival: also open-air and a very inclusive experience (typically begins early July). For example, you choose your own entrance fee.
Get your music groove on
The July music does not stop at the Rathausplatz. For example:
- Jazzfest Wien (Vienna Jazz Festival) provisionally runs from June 23rd to July 11th in 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 (late July) on Karlsplatz, a music festival with dozens of live performances on various stages. The event normally showcases regional and national talents…from established musicians to relative newcomers
- Provisional 2021 dates for the Afrika Tage African festival are July 16 to August 2. Music forms the centrepiece of the occasion, with national and international performers. Enjoy plenty of African cuisine, too, as well as a bazaar and various info stands from NGOs working in and with the continent
Go for a beer
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…
The Ottakringer brewery’s Festival of Beer Culture provisionally opens from July 1st. “Beer culture” is mainly drinking the stuff, IMHO, 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, 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. It’s a little early to pick out highlights for 2021, but planned shows include what should be an enlightening look from the MAK museum at the women in the Wiener Werkstätte that played such a major part in the development of the Wiener Moderne.
I’m also intrigued by the Vienna Street Photography exhibition planned at the Wien Museum MUSA site. Might make a delightful complement to a visit to the city.
And the prestigious Kunsthistorisches Museum will have its first new exhibition in a while with the Higher Powers event.
Enjoy a sword fight
Finally, for something a little different…the Montur und Pulverdampf festival (2021 dates TBA) 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.