You know, September’s not a bad month to visit Vienna. The summer holidays are over, so the Viennese roll back into town. Which means more events to choose from.
The end of summer also means fewer visitors to compete with at exhibitions and museums. And the weather is still deciding whether it should be warm or cold, probably settling for something somewhere in the middle.
So, yep, we’ll give September a big thumbs up. (Though you could hold off a bit and hit the Christmas markets. Just saying.)
Top ideas for September 2021
Many event organisers hold fire until the locals come back from summer retreats and beach holidays. So, compared to August, September has a wider selection of fairs and festivals to offer.
In 2021, numerous events from previous months shifted to September because of earlier lockdowns. So you have an even greater choice this year.
(All this assumes public health regulations don’t interfere with event plans and similar. Vienna reopened in May, but be sure to check with official sites and take account of event entry requirements.)
Treat your taste buds
The way to a man’s heart is, allegedly, through his stomach. And the way to the Viennese heart is no different. September has a few excellent festivals to whet your appetite.
- Enjoy traditional Viennese fare (and more) at the Steffl Kirtag on Stephansplatz, which moves from its May date to September 9-20 in 2021
- If you wish something more exotic, then try the European Street Food Festival (September 25-26) with its food trucks assembled outside the Wildstyle & Tattoo fair
- And if you’re up for something a little more spirited, try the Rum and Gin Festivals (September 24-25). Local interest in both drinks, but particularly in gin, has shot up recently. Tastings, talks, music, and more
- On a similar theme, the three-day Liquid Market Cocktail Festival (September 2-4) 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 Erntedankfest (next one is in 2022) is a weekend festival bringing Austria’s agriculture into the city, armed with truckloads of regional specialties from all over the country
- Let’s finish this section with the Wiener Wiesn Fest (sadly cancelled for 2021. Next dates TBA). You know the Oktoberfest in Munich? This is the Viennese equivalent. Enjoy a whole barrel-full of live music and traditional rural cuisine
- Oh, but talking beer, the Ottakringer Bierfest extends into September (until the 3rd)
Run off the calories
The 5km Vienna Night Run on September 21st offers another opportunity to stretch your legs.
Get a little modern (and classic)
Vienna is an elegant city, rich in history and numerous buildings whose names end in Palace. But it’s a big, thriving capital city, too, with urban and contemporary culture to share. For example:
- The huge (but certainly less huge this year) Donauinselfest music festival on a mid-Danube island joins in the fun from its usual June date (September 17-19). Expect three days of (free) entertainment across various genres
- The Buskers Festival (next dates in 2022: September 9-11) turns street entertainment into an art form, with free performances from some of the world’s best…enjoy musicians, magicians, acrobats, clowns, dancers, and more
- The Streetlife festival (2021 dates TBA) is full of…cough…street life, with Camden-style market booths, live music and a general celebration of all things urban. Great for kids, especially
- Talking street festivals, the Südwind Straßenfest (September 18-19) offers up a celebration of the work of NGOs, with the opportunity to shop, eat, learn, and even dance (to live music)
- Viennacontemporary (September 2-5) is a huge art fair that brings together galleries from all over the world. And right after is Parallel Vienna (September 7-12), which is a unique “hybrid art fair, exhibition platform and artist studio”
- MQ Vienna Fashion Week (September 13-18) does the same as the two events above, but for fashion. Enjoy daily catwalk shows and more from prestigious local and international designers
- It’s all about the music at Waves Vienna (September 9-11), which showcases new musical talent from around the world through dozens of live performances. And there’s a side programme of events for those wishing to dig deeper into the current issues facing the music industry
- Vienna Design Week (September 24 – October 3) offers a host of events and exhibitions around the city with all sorts of tracks and channels to pick from
- Hollywood in Vienna (postponed to September 23-24, 2022) celebrates the work of Disney stalwart Alan Menken, who should have received the Max Steiner award in 2020 (thanks, COVID)
- The famous Wiener Symphoniker orchestra gives its traditional free open-air concert in the courtyard of the MuseumsQuartier (September 26th, postponed from June)
Go behind the scenes
September has two special treats for those who like to go behind closed doors or enjoy special insights into some of the many wonderful buildings and institutions in the city. And they’re both free.
- Tag des Denkmals (September 26th) is Vienna’s contribution to European Heritage Day, when numerous historical buildings open their doors. Many open to the public for one day only
- And talking of opening doors, Open House Vienna (September 11th and 12th) follows a similar concept but with newer buildings and architectural initiatives. Vienna’s famous social housing projects usually get good coverage at this
- That same weekend (11th and 12th), the Mozarthaus celebrates its 15th anniversary with its own open house event with free entry on both days
Enjoy some art
September can be a bit of an ugly stepchild in the art world, since the major exhibitions tend to be in summer or over the Christmas period, which are the peak tourism times in Vienna. But the city always has numerous exhibitions on at any one time. For example, current plans include:
- A Modigliani exhibition at the Albertina (from September 17th). The sister location at the Albertina Modern has what looks to be a fascinating look at self-portraiture with a focus on Schiele’s place in the genre
- Discover the work of Lovis Corinth at the Belvedere retrospective and the work of Rebecca Horn (starts on September 28th) at the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien retrospective
- I enjoyed the Women Artists of the Wiener Werkstätte exhibition (on all month) at the MAK, which helps redress the gender imbalance of our view of Vienna Modernism
- Fans of photography have plenty to feast on with the American Photography and Franz Hubmann exhibitions at the Albertina, Yevgeny Khaldei at the Jewish Museum, and the incomparable Susan Meiselas at the Kunst Haus Wien, for example
And some final suggestions
And if that escape route involves human-powered flight, then pick up some tips from the fun shenanigans at the Red Bull Flugtag (September 26th).