Summer in Vienna is simply fantastic.
Whether it’s relaxing and swimming in the river, escaping the heat and the city’s bustle with some time in the Vienna woods or cooling down at one of the many open-air public pools. I love the summer months here. The weather is (nearly always) gorgeous and warm, and the city seems vibrantly alive and buzzing with energy.
Part of this energy, which any resident can feel as the weather warms up, comes from the large number of open-air events and festivals.
Already recognized as an international cultural capital, Vienna does not disappoint with the amount on offer during the summer season.
I have gathered a few of the most popular events (along with a few of my favourites!) to serve as a guide to getting the most out of Vienna’s festival fever!
30 June – 13 August
One of the most expansive, diverse and interesting festivals in the summer (and one of my favourites) is Kultursommer Wien.
Hosting many, many, many types of cultural events, the city itself organizes this massive event spread over the course of seven weeks in the summer holidays. Completely free, these events take place all over the city, both inside and open-air.
The type of events ranges from literary readings, cabaret, circus, art performances to dance recitals and of course concerts. These also cater to families and kids, especially for those parents trying to fill the summer school holidays.
Attracting performers from around the world, one of the nicest things about Vienna in the summer is walking through a park or along the river and accidentally passing a stage with something interesting and inspiring taking place, without even knowing that it was exactly what you needed! The full program is announced in the middle of June.
23 thru 25 June
Stretching 21 kilometers down the centre of the Danube River, Donauinsel is the popular sporting/swimming/chilling/drinking location where everyone enjoys time during hot summer days.
To kick off the summer spirit, the city hosts Europe’s largest FREE festival in June, a massive event boasting 600 hours of music and events on 11 stages between Nordbrücke and Reichsbrücke.
Most of the music has a distinctly Austrian feel (you won’t see your favourite American rock band playing here), but the quality is always great. The concerts can be anything from hip-hop to Schlager, electronic rave to alternative, and of course good old Austropop.
The evenings turn into a pretty wild party of young and inebriated revellers, but as the events go throughout the day, it can also be great for families or those looking for a quiet acoustic concert on a sunny afternoon. The full line-up is usually announced at the end of May.
26 thru 28 May
A new addition to Vienna’s summer festival scene is also taking place on the Donauinsel, a month before the larger festival this year, with three separate events hosted by Donauinsel OpenAir. Starting at 2pm every day, each day will follow a different theme. There is 90’s music on Friday, Mallorca beach party on Saturday and electronic music on Sunday. As it is new this year, I have no idea what the atmosphere will be, but it’s sure to be full of energy!
11 thru 28 of August
Another classic festival taking place on the Donauinsel in the summertime is the Afrika. Tage. This is an African cultural festival, hosting clothing and art vendors, food trucks and of course music over the duration of two weeks in the second half of August.
The festival area is not huge, and the vibe is usually very family-friendly and relaxed. As many of the food trucks and vendors return year after year, there is a really easy-going community feeling anytime I have attended.
The festival offers many music, craft and wellness workshops during the day and a great selection of reggae, Afropop and traditional African music in the evenings.
Definitely a personal recommendation!
6 July thru 6 August
One of the most internationally-renowned festivals taking place in Vienna is ImpulsTanz. For a month in the middle of the summer, the festival attracts dancers and movers from all over the world for an incredible amount of workshops, events and performances.
Running since 1984, the festival has grown steadily over the years and is now a staple of summertime in Vienna. The workshops and courses span everything from traditional ballet to contemporary movement, and can be either classes in theaters and dance spaces with a participation fee, or smaller, simpler free classes offered outside across the city to anybody who passes by.
On top of the workshops and performances, there are also many music performances as well as some fairly legendary after-parties with up-and-coming DJs taking place at clubs and venues around the city. Although I am not a dancer, the energy of the free workshops and the afterparties is definitely worth a visit.
As a bonus, going to concerts and parties full of professional dancers is always a treat.
27 July thru 5 August
Although a little different from the festivals mentioned above, Calle Libre Festival for Urban Aesthetics celebrates all forms of public art and murals. Vienna has a growing scene in mural and public art, much of which is thanks to the efforts of the Calle Libre team.
Hosting artists from all around the world and providing them with public spaces on which to create, the festival is making the city more colourful and inspiring year-by-year. On top of this, the festival holds workshops for painting, art and graffiti (and of course the obligatory after-parties hosted in some of the coolest venues in the city!)
Nova Rock (7 thru 10 June) and Frequency festival (17 thru 19August)
Although not in Vienna, no summer festival list would be complete without Austria’s largest summer camping festivals. Hosting up to 150,000 people, these festivals have been going for years and attract ever bigger names each summer.
Frequency festival has a little bit of every style of music, although mostly focuses on pop, rock and electronic.
Nova Rock is explicitly rock, ranging from metal to skate-punk.
It’s not uncommon that large international bands often do not make it to Austria, but these two festivals are the exception … firmly planted in the European festival circuit, they continue to attract some of the biggest global names in their genres.
Vienna has a lot to offer, in any season. But summer is a wonderful time to explore the musical and artistic side of Vienna, and one of the benefits of living here is how many of these events and concerts are free!
So when you’re tired of swimming in the river or drinking beer in a restaurant garden, head out to any of these festivals and events and satisfy all your cultural cravings.
See more about Vienna here in Dispatches’ archives.
Thom Harding was born and raised in the UK and USA, sharing his time between Bath and Boston. Upon completing his studies in Art History and Painting in Florence, Thom travelled around Mexico and India before moving to New Mexico to start his career as a Primary school teacher.
After completing his MA in Education, he now lives and works in Vienna, Austria and enjoys spending his free time hiking, reading, travelling and exploring around Europe.
See more of Thom’s work here in the Dispatches archive.
You can read more about Vienna here in the Dispatches archives.