When to go to Vienna

Vienna-Ball season©WienTourismus / Peter Rigaud

By Diane Naar-Elphee, your Vienna expert

I write for Fodor's Guide Vienna to .... Read more

The best time to visit Vienna

Vienna is a city to be enjoyed all year round. Regardless of the season: in Vienna you can always have a ball!

The climate is continental, which means cold snowy winters - during the day the temperature doesn't rise much above freezing (December through February). By mid-March milder weather gets people out on the streets again. Summers are warm, sometimes hot (July and August), but there's usually plenty of fresh air in the city, thanks to prevalent westerly winds, the proximity of the Vienna Woods and the Danube River. In summer heatwaves are seldom and will usually last no more than a week, ending with thunderstorms. Weather changes can occur abruptly though, so have an umbrella handy just in case. From May until October Vienna's gardens and parks are dressed to the nines, street cafés come back to life and evening temperatures allow outdoor seating. This is also the time when main attractions start to get busy.

Spring - a busy time for classical music lovers

The Easter Festival starts with concerts held in different churches and at the Theatre an der Wien (www.theater-wien.at). Then comes Vienna Spring Festival at the Musikverein (www.musikverein.at), which lasts from the end of March to mid-May and brings the world’s music elite to the golden hall.

During May and June for six weeks the Wiener Festwochen (Vienna Festival) takes place (www.festwochen.at ), presenting international stars both in concert and theatre performances. And one of the most popular destinations, just before the summer break, is the Danube Island Festival, held on the last weekend of June. Huge crowds enjoy this three-day, open-air pop event when international stars and local heroes perform, live, and it's all for free!

Summer - warm, sometimes hot - and culture takes a break

This doesn't mean there's nothing going on – on the contrary: every evening at dusk, from July to September, the open air Film Festival on Rathausplatz offers celluloid classics from ballet to opera; entrance is free. There's a wealth of other outdoor locations too, like the many trendy beach bars on the Danube Canal. Sip cocktails under palm trees at the hip-location of SandintheCity or relax on an Enzo at the MuseumsQuartier (www.mq.at), all great for chilling out on warm summer nights – or days, come to that. At MQ and in a number of other venues, ImPulsTanz – Vienna's International Dance Festival, takes place. From mid-July to mid-August more than 150 workshops, performances and shows, from some of the world's leading choreographers, take place (see www.impulstanz.com).

Autumn - mild days and cool nights see the return of the classics

Opera, concerts, choristers and horses come back to the city – and the Viennese who, traditionally, head for the Alpine countryside in summer – as schools and universities get back to work. In late October Vienna's International Film Festival runs for two weeks (www.viennale.at), and for three weeks in November contemporary music can be heard at a number of venues (Wien Modernwww.wienmodern.at). 

Winter - can be very cold but Christmas starts early

The city centre is transformed into an open-air ballroom from mid November - illuminations and christmas trees, stalls selling roast chestnuts and mulled wine are in abundance across the city. Just make sure you've warm shoes or boots on and the fun can start. The markets vary in size and style, certainly the most popular are Rathausplatz (a bit kitschy, but great for kids), Schönbrunn, Spittelberg, Freyung and Karlsplatz. When Christmas is over the ball season really gets underway, see more on my Vienna nightlife page. First though, discover Vienna's Silvesterpfad (New Year's Eve Path). The walk begins at Rathausplatz then meanders through narrow lanes, and squares, brimming with food stalls offering all kinds of goodies. Street theatre performances and even waltzing classes are given; so that, on Stephansplatz, where the Pummerin bell strikes midnight, the whole crowd can waltz in the New Year!

Vienna's most famous single event is the New Year's Concert at the Musikverein, televised and viewed by more than 100 million people worldwide. If you have tickets you belong to the lucky few. If you don't, not to worry, watch it on screen at the Rathausplatz for free (find out how here: Vienna insider tips).

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