Winter brings jubilant Christmas markets, and summer offers up delightful warm weather that entices locals to spend afternoons lounging in the city’s green spaces. An impressive array of annual events adds even more variety. Additionally, some city must-dos, like whiling away an afternoon in one of the town’s famed coffee houses, where everyone from Freud to Marx got their caffeine fill, can be enjoyed whatever the season.
Whether you want to see live music, sip a lager in a summer Biergarten (beer garden) or just avoid the crowds, here’s our guide to the best time to visit Vienna.
December is all about Christmas in Vienna
Christmastime in Vienna gets the tourists coming back year after year. Yes, it’s the Christmas market season, and Vienna has lots and lots of them. Mainstream markets, like the one that takes over Rathausplatz in front of the Town Hall, resemble villages, with stalls lined with festive staples, including wooden toys, bratwursts, Glühwein (mulled wine), and marzipan. But there are more unique markets, too, including the Spittelberg iteration, where stalls tend to focus on more artisan items, like jewelry.
The city’s annual calendar finishes with a bang as firework displays mark the coming of a new year.
See Vienna's museums without the crowds from January to May
If you want a Vienna experience that’s less chaotic, try the first part of the year. Many travelers retreat in the face of chilly temperatures, but the weather isn’t a problem in the city’s cozy coffee shops and fascinating museums, palaces and galleries. Tour the Schloss Belvedere without getting elbowed and get into any of the MuseumsQuartier’s museums without the lines. Getting a table at a restaurant of your choice is easier, too (outside of Valentine's Day week, that is).
A top tip is to remember that the always-popular Christmas markets (rebranded as “New Year’s Markets” and offering the same intriguing trinket stands and enticing food stalls, but without the over-the-top Christmas decorations) and ice-skating rinks continue through January, though with far fewer crowds than in December.
In March, winter transforms into spring in the Austrian capital, and people begin to leave their heavy coats at home. April sees a flurry of activity on the streets of Vienna as two key sporting events take over the city. In the Rathausplatz and surrounding areas, cyclists show off their bikes as part of the Argus Bike Festival, with stalls and demos, as well as displays from BMXers and dirt bikers.
Later in the month, it’s the turn of the runners to take center stage as the city’s annual marathon takes place – taking part is like a sightseeing tour of the city, as runners pass all the key historic Habsburg sights on their extended circuit.
In late May, look out for the Vienna short film festival, Vienna Shorts, which has been going for two decades and provides a great platform for up-and-coming filmmakers. Vienna Festwochen also takes place in May, with shows covering theatre, art, dance, and everything in between happening across the city.
From June to August, enjoy the good life – outdoors
At times, it can feel like the world has descended upon Vienna en masse on those warm summer days in high season. But if you can put up with the crowds, this really is a lovely time to be in Vienna, with the city's parks, vineyards, lakes and outdoor pools all perfect for a sunny afternoon. In the evening, a packed calendar of events, from film festivals to outdoor concerts, stirs into life, and it feels like the whole city is out and about.
Austrians love a beer, and Vienna’s Bier Festival in June is a mainstay of the city’s events calendar. There are Biergärten set up all over the city, and with the sun shining and temperatures rising, you’ll find much merriment taking place. Also in June, the Vienna Jazz Festival provides a smooth soundtrack to the long summer nights, while street-fashion lovers should check out Fesch’Markt, which gives space to new young designers in a large industrial space.
Cinema is huge in Vienna, and July’s warm evenings mean serious alfresco film festival action, with the Town Hall Square Film Festival in Rathausplatz kicking off in July and running into September. Cinephiles should also make time for a visit to the Austrian Film Museum, which is home to a collection of approximately 31,000 films and hosts a handful of showings every day. Away from film, Popfest, a cool music festival, comes to town.
In August, the hottest month in Vienna, the city can become excessively warm, and citizens cool off at the seasonal Strandbäder and lidos (beaches and pools) that open up from May until September.
September to November is the best time for culture
Fall is a great time to be in the city, with fewer crowds, cheaper hotel prices and lingering good weather (especially in September and early October).
By September, the students have started back at university, and locals go back to work following the summer vacation. Not everyone’s hard at work though: the Wiesn, Vienna’s answer to Oktoberfest, sees big-time beer drinking and oompah music round off the summer season.
History and design fans get their chance to experience the best that Vienna has to offer in October with the annual Long Night of the Museums at the start of the month, with museums and galleries across the city open after dark and beckoning people in with music and other special treats.
Alongside this, Vienna’s noteworthy Design Week is Europe’s largest and has been taking place in late September and early October since 2007. Expect talks, launches, displays and other surprises from across the worlds of graphic design, fashion, architecture and product design.
In November, music fans will want to check out the Wien Modern Festival, where avant-garde musicians and new composers are given the space to play their newest and boldest arrangements.