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, though the opera houses, for example, normally take a break for all of July and 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 no significant public health concerns arise. Vienna opened up to events etc. again on May 19th; further COVID rule relaxations followed in June and on July 1st. So it looks good. Nevertheless, do check official sites just in case.)
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 the 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
Various other open-air cinematic festivals run in July, as well, should the Rathaus version get too busy for you. For example:
And if you like your films short, then try the dotdotdot film festival: also open-air and a very inclusive experience (starts on July 25th). For example, you normally choose your own entrance fee.
Get your music groove on
The July music does not stop at the Rathausplatz. For example:
- The Vienna Jazz Festival, Jazzfest Wien, is no local gathering of performers but a significant event on the international jazz calendar (cancelled for 2021; the next one takes place June 23rd to July 17th in 2022)
- Jazz gives way to pop later in the month at Popfest Wien (July 22nd to 25th) on Karlsplatz and at Arena Wien, 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
- 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
- A new event for the classical music festival calendar: the open-air Amadeus Festival Vienna (July 3-10) occupies the historical grounds of the former Semmelweis Women’s Clinic
- The Vinyl & Music festival has a mini summer version on July 16th and 17th as part of the longer beer festival at Ottakringer brewery (see below)
Go for a drink
All that music might make you thirsty. As it happens, Vienna rolls out extra drinking water stations in summer, as well as misting stations for cooling off.
But if you fancy something with a little more pep…
The Ottakringer brewery’s Beer Festival opens from July 1st. “Beer culture” here mainly involves drinking the stuff, whether Ottakringer’s own fine wares or those of the guest breweries that appear most years. But there’s usually music, too. And food.
The MuseumsQuartier also becomes a summer hotspot in July, thanks to the unique courtyard furniture, open-air bars and other entertainments.
Enjoy the football
The EURO 2020 European Championships play out (despite the name) in early July 2021, with the final on July 11th. Try these suggestions for places to watch on the big and small screen.
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 (next one is in 2022, though), where lighted boats spread across the water beneath a professional firework display.
The upper part of the Donaukanal hosts the annual Summerstage event across all of summer: open-air bars, concerts and readings, outdoor art exhibitions, and much more.
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
- Schönbrunn Palace has a surrounding park and gardens which includes a decent amount of woodland and tree-lined avenues for those seeking shade
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. Current shows include, for example:
- The MAK museum should offer an enlightening look at the women in the Wiener Werkstätte that played such a major part in the development of the Wiener Moderne
- The renowned photographer Elfie Semotan has a retrospective of her more art-flavoured works at the Kunst Haus Wien. For more photos, try the Franz Hubmann exhibition at the Albertina.
- The prestigious Kunsthistorisches Museum has its first major exhibition in a while with the Higher Powers event
- For something eminently instagrammable, try the giant rainbow wall installation at Upper Belvedere
- Definitely consider the Stadt und Land exhibition at the Albertina, which features landscapes and urban views from across the centuries, as painted or pictured by some of the world’s greatest artists. For more abstract escapism, try the Wonderland exhibition at the Albertina Modern.
- Explore the Danube as cultural and geopolitical icon from the comfort of the Baroque state hall of the National Library.
- And or something completely different, try the AI exhibition at the Technical Museum (assuming it hasn’t achieved self-awareness and skipped town)
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.