Vienna is famous for its cultural history, high standard of living and its beautiful buildings, palaces and parks. But one of the other highlights of living in the city is the weather. Snowy and crisp in the winter, windy and fresh in the spring and autumn, and warm and dry in the summer. Vienna has gorgeous and sun-filled summers, pleasantly situated in between the cooler mountainous air coming from Bavaria and the heat of Italy to the south.
Through July and August the temperature usually hovers around 26 degrees to 32 degrees Celsius, although of course this can sometimes feel a lot hotter in the city.
Fortunately the city is extremely green and the large amount of tree-cover around the city makes it much more bearable than other concrete jungles. Because of the large amount of public outside space and comfortable temperatures, the city also comes alive in the summer with parties, cultural events and just nice places to enjoy a summer drink with friends.
Life moves outside in the summer, and it is common to see the city squares and streets filled with bars spilling out onto the street, or people sitting around in the shaded refuge of the city parks. Later in the evening there are many outside events and parties, with Vienna hosting many cultural and music festivals. As these parties continue into the heat of the night, the city also boasts many beautiful places to swim and to cool down the following morning.
One of the most popular places to meet and party in the summer is the Vienna Donaukanal. The canal snakes through the centre of the city, and plays host to all different kinds of bars and venues. From international-cuisine beach bars to small pop-up park bars, the area has a lot to offer. It is also just a relaxed place where people will come to sit on the side of the canal, and buy cold drinks from bicycle vendors as they pass by.
On the northern end of the canal you can find DasWERK and Grelle Forelle, two of the best clubs in the city that host cool beer garden areas and a wide range of music and DJs inside the club itself. At the other end of the canal you can find the Badeschiff (a highly popular boat-turned-venue moored in the canal that has multiple bars, and a diverse restaurant that also hosts a regular swing dancing night on Sunday!), and the Strandbar Herrmann (a Caribbean-style music beach bar complete with palm tree umbrellas, cocktails and sand underfoot).
Although it is not possible to swim in the canal, there are many shaded parks and areas to just lie back and relax. And if you really want to live in luxury, there is a swimming pool below one of the bars on the Badeschiff.
For me, one of the most impressive parts of Vienna is the 21 kilometer-long man-made island constructed in the 1970’s and 1980’s that divides the Danube river in two. The island plays host to extensive paths for biking, sports fields, family water parks, relaxing meadows and of course, swimming. In the summer in Vienna, it sometimes seems like the whole population of the city can be found there, although it is so long that there is always space to find away from the crowds.
It also plays host to the Donauinselfest each summer, Europe’s largest free open-air music festival. Closer to the centre of the city is the venue USUS am Wasser, a restaurant/venue/bar directly on the water that is always a go-to for summer evening DJ parties and cocktails on the river. Farther down the island (located at an old Rowing pavilion built for a Rowing Championship in the 90’s) is Himmel&Wasser, a hip alternative restaurant/bar that is constantly hosting open-air dance parties throughout the summer.
Although it is a little farther away (you need a bicycle to get there as the nearest transport station is 40 minutes walk away), one really feels that you have left the city and entered a summer paradise.
As mentioned above, the Donauinsel is designed for sports, swimming and relaxing. At every venue, bar or hang-out spot the water is never more than 30 metres away (the island is very, very thin!) and so if you’ve got too hot dancing or just need to feel refreshed, just run down to the edge and jump in!
Hung over the next morning? Head back to the island, hang your hammock and spend the day relaxing under the trees!
In the city
In the centre of the city, one of the most popular places to party in the summer is Volksgarten. Catering to a younger, richer and hipper crowd, the venue has fancy cocktails upstairs and party DJ’s spinning music downstairs.
Not far away in the large Prater park, you can also find the renovated summer bathing area Pratersauna hosting parties many nights a week. Once a legendary part of Viennese alternative nightlife, the venue still draws a large crowd for all-night parties, but has followed Volksgarten in its turn towards the wealthier and fancier young clientele.
On the other side of the fancy vs. down-to-earth divide is the Ottakringer Brewery in the 16th District, the largest and most iconic of Vienna’s breweries. Hosting musical performances and live events every week, the brewery is also turned into an open-air Craft beer garden and food-truck festival from 30 June to 2 September.
Aside from the pleasure of swimming in the Danube (which must be one of the last capital cities with water clean enough to do so), the city also has 22 open-air summer swimming pools collected under the Vienna Public Baths. Each blessed with a different design, view and atmosphere they are all a delightful way to pass the summer days.
Costing only 5 euros per day and providing a fun, safe and easy place for families to avoid the heat of July and August, the Wiener Freibäder are an amazing thing to remain in the city when so many other cities and countries have closed them down in recent years.
The ease of lying in your hammock under the trees, stopping at the kiosk for an ice-cream or Radler and then jumping into the pool is just another benefit of summer life in Vienna.
Summer Cultural Festivals!
Although not necessarily an opportunity to either heat up or cool down, two more things about summer in Vienna have to be mentioned. Apart from the plethora of concerts, DJ-events, parties and pop-up live shows throughout the city, the municipality of Vienna also does a great job of arranging and hosting cultural events throughout the season.
One of these events is under the banner of Wiener Kultursommer, the city hosts and organizes free cultural events all around the city throughout July and August. Exhibiting everything from literary readings, dance and music performances, theatre pieces and circus/cabaret shows, Vienna opens its arms wide and dares to show everything it has to offer.
The other important cultural event in the summer is ImpulsTanz, an internationally-renowned dance festivals hosting performers, teachers and workshops all over the world. Ranging from official performances in the theatres and opera houses to small, free pop-up classes in the parks or by the rivers, the festival offers a huge amount for anyone interested in the contemporary trends in dance and music.
The after-parties throughout the festival are also well-known throughout the city to be some of the most fun and impressive parties throughout the season.
Vienna has a lot to offer, always. But in the summer, with its combination of culture and party life combined with so many opportunities to relax and swim, make it a perfect place to pass the hot days and balmy nights.
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.