Events in Austria
Austrians love to throw a festival, a parade, anything to have a ball—there’s even a season for balls! Every month of the year is rich with wonderful cultural events. Extraordinary concerts and arts festivals take world-class to a new stage, whether floating on a picturesque lake or ringing out from the mountaintop. From Christmas magic to flower-adorned cow parades, mouth-watering culinary arts to cutting-edge technology, Austria celebrates year-round. Come, join the fun! This is only a taste of all there is to see and do.
Advent (Austria), the four weeks leading up to Christmas Eve. Austria shines during this season of anticipation, when Advent calendars count the days ‘til Christmas Eve and Advent wreaths are lit each Sunday. This festive time of year is filled with caroling and Christmas cookies and joyful celebrations.
Christkindlmarkt (Vienna/all of Austria), starts late November. For centuries, these charming markets have rung in the spirit of Christmas all over Austria. Festive outdoor stands gathered before town halls and imperial palaces are strung with lights and evergreens to showcase handmade decorations, seasonal delicacies and unique crafts. Many come to socialize and shop for special gifts, while warming up with punch or Glühwein. The most impressive Christkindlmarkts are at Vienna’s City Hall, Schönbrunn, and Spittelberg. www.austria.info
Krampus (Tirol and Salzburg Land), December 5. Throughout western Austria, this pre-Christian festival celebrates a horned, demonic companion of St. Nicholas. Krampus is said to scare children into being nice instead of naughty.
Christmas (Austria). This much beloved holiday is celebrated on December 24 in Austria. Once the presents are wrapped and the cookies are baked, families gather for an evening of feasting and exchanging gifts. The "Christkind" (a sort of Christmas angel) carries out the duties of Santa Claus, not only bringing the gifts but decorating the entire Christmas tree.
New Year's Eve/Silvester (Vienna), December 31 - In Vienna, the famous "Silversterpfad" is a long wintry path filled with revelers that winds through the city streets to St. Stephen's Cathedral. Along the way, crowds enjoy free waltz lessons in front of City Hall—and continue the celebration long into the night with even more waltzing in the streets. Throughout Austria, many people set off fireworks just after midnight. www.vienna.info
New Year’s Concert(Vienna), January 1. The Vienna Philharmonic performs a selection of lively yet profound masterworks from the Strausses and their contemporaries. Broadcast from the Musikverein’s magnificent Golden Hall, this musical New Year’s greeting goes out to more than 90 countries and an estimated 50-million television viewers around the world. http://www.wienerphilharmoniker.at/new-years-concert/new-years-concert-main
Perchtenlauf, St. Johann and other places (Salzburg), January 6. A month after Krampus, these lively processions celebrate the scary companions of St. Nicholas—this time with spectacular large wooden masks that villagers have spent the year creating. www.perchtenlauf.at
Hahnenkamm World Cup Ski Race, Kitzbühel (Tirol), mid-January. It’s no secret that Austria is legendary for skiing, and this is one of the top races on the World Cup ski circuit. www.hahnenkammnews.com
Ice Dream/Eistraum, City Hall (Vienna), starts late January. For several weeks from late January to late March, the plaza in front of Vienna's colorfully illuminated City Hall is transformed into a huge ice rink for everyone to enjoy. www.vienna.info
Mozart Week (Salzburg), late January. Salzburg's most famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, gets a full week of stellar classical music events, timed to coincide with his birthday, January 27. www.salzburg.info
Mardi Gras/Fasching (Austria), Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Famous for its Fasching celebration, Villach puts on a major parade of "fools" and other amusing characters who play various parts in the procession. On Fasching Tuesday itself, many people throughout Austria wear colorful costumes as they go about their daily business.
Easter/Ostern, late March or April. Easter is a major holiday in Austria, second only to Christmas. Celebrations begin the night before with impressive bonfires, followed by colorful egg hunts on Easter Sunday. Many Austrians take Easter week off to travel or spend time with family.
Salzburg Easter Festival/Salzburger Osterfestspiele (Salzburg), late April. Founded in 1967 by the great conductor (and Salzburg native) Herbert von Karajan, this festival was initially intended as a showcase for opera and now presents classical and contemporary works as well. Christian Thielemann is the current director. www.osterfestspiele-salzburg.at/en
Donaufestival, Krems (Upper Austria), late April. Austria's premier rock festival, set in the beautiful Wachau, spotlights Indie rock, electronica and experimental music along with performance and visual artists from all over the world. www.donaufestival.at
Vienna City Marathon (Vienna), late April. Starting at the impressive United Nations complex, runners go the distance past the best of Vienna, including Schönbrunn Palace, the Prater, and all the majestic landmarks along the Ring Boulevard. www.vienna-marathon.com
May Day/Erster Mai. Austria's equivalent to America's Labor Day, May 1 is also a traditional holiday celebrating spring. Many villages erect festive maypoles, commonly about 50-feet tall, and set up a little “guard” tent to ensure that no other village steals their maypole in the nights leading up to May Day!
Vienna Culinary Festival/Genussfestival (Vienna), early May. This al fresco showcase of culinary specialties celebrates the bounty of Austria with tastings, chef’s tables and organic producers in Vienna’s beautiful Stadtpark. https://www.wien.info/en/shopping-wining-dining/vienna-genussfestival-delights
Summerstage (Vienna), starts early May. All summer long, Viennese and visitors alike converge on the Danube Island (Donau Insel) for day-into-night fun—from inline skating to sandy beaches, picnics to performances, nature strolls to nightlife.
Schubertiade, Hohenems/Schwarzenberg (Vorarlberg), starts mid-May. During Franz Schubert's lifetime, small groups of musicians would gather informally in private salons—in what eventually became known as "Schubertiades." Larger and more formal, this world-renowned festival honors the Austrian composer’s works. http://www.schubertiade.at/Schubertiade/f_news.2.html
Vienna Festival/Wiener Festwochen (Vienna), starts mid-May. The most important cultural festival in Vienna presents the finest in international music, opera, theater and dance. http://www.festwochen.at
Summer Night Concert/Sommernachtskonzert (Vienna), late May. The Schönbrunn Palace Gardens are the magnificent setting for this free, open-air performance by the Vienna Philharmonic. http://www.sommernachtskonzert.at/index_en.html
Life Ball (Vienna), late May. Promoting AIDS awareness since 1993, the Life Ball has become one of the top such events in the world. The joyous celebration and charity event features a major fashion show attended by many top designers and major celebrities. http://www.lifeball.org/index.php?lang=en
Salzburg Whitsun Festival/Salzburger Pfingstfestspiele (Salzburg), late May. This extension of the famous Salzburg Festival is dedicated primarily to Baroque composers. http://www.salzburgerfestspiele.at/pfingsten2011/
Pioneers Festival (Vienna), early June. Tech innovators from around the globe descend on the Hofburg Imperial Palace for two days of networking, brainstorming and inspiring speakers. Startups get to show off the next big thing to top executives and investors. https://pioneers.io/festival2017/
Vienna Jazz Festival/Jazz Fest Wien (Vienna), starts early June. Jazz is a major passion in Austria, and Vienna's annual festival is a magnet for the finest jazz musicians in the world. http://www.viennajazz.org/en
Danube Island Festival/Donauinselfest (Vienna), late June. The largest open-air rock festival in Europe spans three days and spotlights hundreds of rock, techno, and hip-hop acts on twenty different stages.
Fête Impériale (Vienna), late June. Reviving an 18-century court tradition, this opulent summer ball takes a modern turn at the magnificent Spanish Ridiing School. http://www.fete-imperiale.at/en/
Styriarte Graz (Styria), starts late June. Founded by the great conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt, who was raised in Graz, this festival is dedicated each year to a single composer. http://styriarte.com/en/
Music Film Festival (Vienna), starts early July. Vienna's cool summer nights (in July and August) are the backdrop for films featuring an opera or a classical performance projected onto City Hall. http://www.worldtravelguide.net/vienna/vienna-music-film-festival
Tyrol Festival Erl (Tirol), July and late December. This intimate music and opera festival, presented twice a year in an alpine hamlet, has become an insider’s secret among classical music lovers from around the world. http://www.austria.info/us/austria-a-singular-journey-a-lifetime-of/tirol-innsbruck/tyrol-festival-erl
Rainbow Parade/Regenbogenparade (Vienna), early to mid-July. Gay pride on a grand scale, this popular procession celebrates life with humor and nonconformity by circling the Ring Boulevard against the normal flow of traffic. http://www.whatsonwhen.com/sisp/index.htm?fx=event&event_id=31693
ImPulsTanz Festival (Vienna), starts mid-July. Top dancers and choreographers from around the world take center stage at Europe’s largest contemporary dance festival.
Festival of Early Music (Tirol), late July. Celebrating Renaissance, Baroque and early Classical music, this important festival has rekindled Innsbruck as a center of early music.
Bregenz Festival (Vorarlberg), starts late July. This top musical event is known worldwide for its dazzling operas set on the famous floating stage at the edge of Lake Constance. www.bregenzerfestspiele.com
Salzburg Festival/Salzburger Festspiele (Salzburg), starts late July. Always the talk of the summer, Austria’s grandest musical festival highlights the best in classic and contemporary performance. The medieval drama "Jedermann" (Everyman) is staged on the steps of Cathedral Square—with supporting actors reciting their lines from nearby mountaintops! www.salzburgerfestspiele.at
Salzburg World Fine Art Fair (Salzburg), mid-August. Collectors, connoisseurs and art lovers flock to the stunning Baroque Salzburg Residenz, where 30 or so of Europe's best-known art dealers feature a curated selection ranging from furniture to porcelain, contemporary art to modern design. http://www.salzburg-faf.com/
Long Table of Graz/Lange Tafel der Genusshauptstadt(Styria), mid-August. In the heart of historic Graz, award-winning chefs pamper 700 guests with an extraordinary open-air, five-course dinner paired with wine and music. https://www.graztourismus.at/en/eat-and-drink/events/long-table
Ars Electronica, Linz (Upper Austria), early September. In a sleek, sculptural building on the banks of the Danube, the world's most important technological festival explores innovations and intersections between technology and art. http://www.aec.at/index_en.php
International Haydn Days/Internationale Haydntage (Burgenland), mid-September. A native of Burgenland, Haydn spent much of his life at the Esterházy Palace in Eisenstadt, which today hosts this music-lovers’ festival dedicated to the composer’s vast repertoire of symphonies, chamber music, operas, piano sonatas, masses and concertos. http://www.haydnfestival.at/haydn_en/
Styrian Autumn/Steirischer Herbst, Graz (Styria), starts late September. Each year, this major cultural event takes over Graz’s picturesque Stadtpark to promote links among artists and present avant-garde literature, art and music to a wide audience. http://www.planetware.com/graz-and-surroundings/graz-styrian-autumn-festival-a-st-sta.htm
Festlicher Almabtrieb, late September. In Austria, cows get to spend their summers grazing high up in beautiful alpine pastures. When farmers bring them back to their stables in early autumn, many towns and villages celebrate with festivals and parades honoring the elaborately decorated herds.
Viennacontemporary(Vienna), late September. This vibrant international art fair showcases emerging and established contemporary artists from Austria, Eastern Europe and galleries around the world. Cutting-edge exhibitions pop up around Vienna at the same time. http://www.viennacontemporary.at/en/
Salzburg Jazz Autumn/Salzburger Jazz Herbst (Salzburg), starts late October. This wide-ranging festival focuses mainly on top jazz ensembles, with a smattering of opera singers. http://www.salzburg.info/en/art_culture/highlights/salzburg_jazz_festival.htm
Ball Season (Vienna), starts mid-November. The legendary ball season kicks off in mid-November with the Vienna Red Cross Ball, then shifts into high gear with the Hofburg’s Imperial Ball on New Year’s Eve. Until the start of Lent, thousands of elegantly clad guests attend hundreds of formal galas—including the Coffeehouse Owners’, Confectioners’, and Florists’ Balls. The belle of them all is the Opera Ball in the Vienna Opera House. [ED. NOTE: Needs updated link] www.wiener-staatsoper.at/Content.Node/home/opernball/Allgemein.en.php