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.
All this assumes public health regulations don’t interfere with event plans and similar. So be sure to check with official sites nearer the time.
Bring in the harvest
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.
- The Erntedankfest (September 4-5) is a weekend festival bringing Austria’s agriculture into the city, armed with truckloads of regional specialties from all over the country
- 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
- 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)
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
- Sticking with the Danube (or at least one arm of it that passes through the city centre), the Donaukanaltreiben urban festival hit September in 2020 from its usual May date. We’ll see when it pops up this year (2021 dates TBA)
- The Buskers Festival (September 10-12) 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
- 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
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 – Picasso exhibition at the Albertina (provisionally from September 17th)
- Discover the work of Lovis Corinth at the Belvedere retrospective
- I’m personally looking forward to the Women Artists of the Wiener Werkstätte exhibition (on all month) at the MAK, which should help 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 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).