As I’ve said several times these last few weeks, I’m visiting home number 1 of 2. Will and I (and baby Kooi) leave in 4 days which seems almost unreal after having been away from the U.S. for 1 year and 3 months. Our journey back will take us to New York, Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, and finally, Colorado (to which I’ve never been) to visit friends and family. I’m stoked about every aspect of this upcoming trip (except for these) but at the same time sad to leave Vienna, especially during this time of the year. The weather is hot, but the scenery is breathtaking. There are tourists everywhere, but it wouldn’t be the same without them. We adore Vienna in the summer time which is why I’m giving you my personal list of places you should see or things to do in my place.
10 things To Do In Vienna This Summer
1. Lange Nacht der Kirchen (6pm – 1am, June 10th) Free
“Long Night of the Churches” is an incredible church-hopping event that takes place only once a year. Hundreds of Vienna’s churches will, beginning at 6:00pm, open their magnificent doors and will not close until 1:00am so as to give you plenty of time to experience as much as possible. You can go from one church to the next for the entire evening and hear a gorgeous variety of music from organ solos to orchestras and choirs. The entire event is free though donations are welcome. You can stay in one church as long as you like before heading off to the next one, though do your best to quietly exit each time and DO turn off your phones. Dress is casual, but since people in the 1st district tend to dress up a bit, especially in the evening, I usually wear a sundress and Will wears a button-up shirt with a nicer pair of jeans.
2. Vienna Philharmonic Summer Night Concert (Entry at 6pm, starts at 8:30pm, May 26th) Free
Held in the gorgeous gardens of Schloss Schönbrunn, this concert draws in tourists and locals for an evening of music from Vienna’s Philharmonic as well as guest musicians. Check out the website to read about guest performances, seating, and facts about the Philharmonic. **ALSO – there is work being done on the U4 U-Bahn line which may affect how you get to the palace so do some double-checking when you’re planning your route.
3. Donauinselfest (June 24th-26th) Free
The Donauinselfest (Danube Island Festival) is Europe’s largest open-air music event. It is AWESOME. Will and I have been three times. The concert stages stretch almost the length of the island and no one stage is the same. We’ve heard rock, techno, Austrian and Irish folk, punk – you name it. We’ve even seen comedians who we enjoyed but had a difficult time understanding (They speak German super, super fast.). Here you can enjoy all kinds of typical festival foods such as the ever-delicious Käsekrainer (a hot dog with cheese inside) or a Langos (fried flat bread with a garlic-butter sauce). Though we’re pretty big music buffs, we rarely recognize any of the bands who come through, though you’re welcome to see if you know any by reading through the website.
There are also sections of fair rides for kids (and adults)!
4. Vienna Film Festival (July 14th – September 4th) Free
The Film Festival is my FAVORITE event of the summer which is especially convenient that it lasts so long. I love it and so does Will. Sometime in June, a bunch of people will start setting up an enormous movie screen right in front of Vienna’s City Hall, the Rathaus. Stadium seating is set up around the screen as well as rows and rows of chairs. When opening day arrives, the entire Rathaus area transforms into a crowded yet blissful atmosphere of tourists, locals, and incredible smelling food. The films are shown every evening at twilight and are of a wide musical variety – operas, ballets, concerts, documentaries, etc. For a more exact example, Will and I have seen a Paul McCartney concert film, a Rolling Stones concert documentary, and the Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s concert. We’ve seen more but I can’t remember them.
Before the film begins, stop by one of the many, many food stands selling gourmet cuisine from a different part of the world. Over the last 4 years, I’ve eaten food from Japan, China, France, South Africa, Australia, India, Mexico, and of course, the United States. So far, Australia is my absolute favorite. I didn’t think I’d be okay with eating kangaroo, but it turns out I’m totally, very okay with eating kangaroo and have done so on several occasions. These speciality foods will of course cost you something and usually range between 7-12 euros per person, but you don’t have to eat something in order to see the free film. You’re welcome to go as many times as you like! (Food stands open at 11am and close at midnight.)
5. Lichterfest an der Donau (July 23rd) $$
Rent a paddle boat or an electric boat and enjoy Vienna’s Festival of Lights on the Danube River. You can even rent a boat that has a slide attached to it! Your romantic boat ride will be accompanied by good music and spectacular fireworks. This is a very popular event meaning you’ll need to get your boat ahead of time. Check here for more information.
If boats aren’t for you or you didn’t rent one in time, you can of course be part of the event for free and picnic alongside the river or find a park bench with a view.
**The following aren’t actual events but you should still do them**
6. Smell the Roses at Volksgarten
Volksgarten, or People’s Garden, is one of my top favorite public park in all of Vienna during the spring and summer months. It’s known for its flawless gardening and breathtaking display of roses which you can even catch a scent of from across the street. The sidewalks are lined with green chairs and wooden benches for your sitting, rose-smelling and viewing pleasure. There’s not a bad seat in the place, either. Depending on where you choose to sit, you can see the majesty of Vienna’s many famous nearby structures, such as the Rathaus, the Hofburg Palace, the Kunsthistoriches Museum and Naturhistorisches Museum, and Parliament.
You can also get a decent tan here, too. (Or bad sunburn.)
7. Drink Coffee at an Outdoor Cafe
There are tons and tons of outdoor cafes all over the city. Pick whichever one suits your fancy for a Kaffeepause (coffee break) and relax a while before you head off to your next Viennese adventure. If you’re not sure what to drink, the Wiener Melange is the traditional Viennese way of having coffee – a shot of espresso topped with steamed milk. It’s very similar to a cappuccino.
A few posts back, I wrote about my favorite cafes in Vienna and included my favorite outdoor cafe which sits in a lovely spot in Vienna’s 1st district. At the time, I didn’t know the name of the cafe but now I know what it is! The name of the cafe is YOHM. Yes, YOHM, and the menus are bright orange. Go to there!
8. Play in Prater
Prater Park is the largest public park in Vienna. The park itself is beautiful in the summer months and has plenty of room for any and everything. There are awesome playgrounds for kids, wide open spaces for picnics or sports, running trails, restaurants, cafes, dog parks, and much more. The Prater is known for its 4.5km long stretch of road called the Hauptallee. People flock to this special part of the park for bike rides or other fun forms of exercise. Just be sure to watch where you’re going so you don’t get run over by a speedy rollerblader.
If you’re into amusement parks and roller coasters, the Wurstelprater amusement park is right next door. There’s no entry fee as here you pay by the ride.
9. Lounge in MuseumsQuartier
The MuseumsQuartier is a very popular place during the hot summer months, especially in the evening. The MQ staff set out colorful, puzzle piece-looking benches for a unique and summer-like atmosphere among Vienna’s traditional architecture. Music is always playing and food and drinks are always being served.
10. Get Lost in the City
Just toss out your map and see what you discover. Can’t go wrong there, and you’ll probably find some really great gelato, which would be #11 on this list. (I recommend the Biscotto and Kaffee flavors.)
If you’re headed to Vienna in May, June, July, or August, have an amazing time and I hope you’re able to take part in at least one of the events or activities listed above.
What other events or activities would you add to the list for those who haven’t yet experienced Vienna?
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