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Vienna’s Seasonal Occasions and Traditions

Enjoy the best Festivals and Events in Vienna

Jan 8, 2018 | Travel guide

vienna new year eve wiener filhalmoniker

Considering Vienna’s cultural history and many traditions, the city is rarely without an event or a tradition festival going on somewhere. From concerts to balls, film festivals and Christmas markets, Vienna has it all. Regardless in which season you are visiting, you’re guaranteed to find something fun to attend. So book your airport shuttle on time and enjoy the visit.

Traditional New Year's Concert

The year in Vienna starts with a prestigious event that is televised all over the world every 1st of January. Today, more than 70 countries with over 50 million spectators watch the concert performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra live on TV. The concert is a selection of songs concentrated on the music (mainly waltzes) composed by the Strauss family. Depending on the choice of the annual conductor, other Austrian composers may have their works included. The concert almost always finishes with the same two works as encores - The Blue Danube and the Radetzky March. With the last one, the audience is encouraged to clap along under the direction of the conductor, even though this is a newer tradition.

The Vienna Opera Ball

This is part of the Vienna Carnival (Fasching) celebrations, always held on the last Thursday of the Carnival season at the State Opera House. The celebrations date back to the Congress of Vienna after the overthrow of Napoleon. The ball is considered to be one of the pinnacles of Viennese elite, although sometimes the attention is given to business magnates and reality TV stars, questioning the event’s class. Despite such minor mishaps, the Vienna Opera Ball is a huge part of the Austrian tradition.

The May Festival

There is a traditional Mayday Festival happening on the 1st of May in the Prater Park. The "Workers' Day" is a public holiday in Vienna, and was formally celebrated in this left-leaning city with parades from unions and political groups. If you find yourself in Vienna, make sure not to miss this gathering.

The Vienna Festival

The original Vienna Festival (or Wiener Festwochen), was fist held in the 1920s running from mid-May to mid-June. Today, it is one of the most famous cultural events in Europe, combining all sorts of disciplines in events which take place over the five weeks. Traditionally, it opens with a free concert in the open space in front of the City Hall, with over 200,000 visitors. Talking about music festivals, Vienna has many happening in the summer, ranging from early opera to the Jazz Festival to the Danube Island Festival.

Life Ball

The Life Ball is one of the biggest events during the Viennese summer and one of the biggest AIDS charity events in the world. The Life Ball events start with a red carpet reception in front of the Vienna City Hall, followed by the actual Ball happening inside the hall, followed by a night-long party in the Volksgarten. A magnificent fashion show is also part of the ball, which is normally organized by a famous designer with popular models and personalities on the catwalk. The Life Ball raises money for non-profit organizations, who help individuals with AIDS or who are HIV-positive.

The ImPulsTanz

This is a massive summer dance festival, with around 100 performances and 250 workshops in the months of July and August, together with a lively night-time agenda of festival parties, DJs and gigs. If you happen to travel to Vienna during these summer months, be sure to find out some of the locations that host the festival and join the euphoria.

Vienna Christmas Markets

The popular Christmas markets in Vienna usually take place in the weeks before Christmas. The main Christmas Market (or Christkindlmarkt) in Vienna is held in front of the City Hall. There’s a magnificent Christmas tree in front of the wooden stalls selling traditional goods along with mulled wine and local food, composing the most famous winter view of Vienna. The City Hall Christmas Market is normally open every day from mid-November through to Christmas Eve.

However, there are similar markets in the center and the suburbs: the Alt-Wiener Christkindlmarkt at Freyung, the Advent Market at Karlsplatz, the Christmas Market at Spittelberg, the Christmas Villages at the two palaces Schönbrunn and the Belvedere and the Christkindlmarkt on the Cobenzl. They are all worth the visit, especially if you wish to avoid the main touristy one and enjoy the Christmas spirit properly. These are less crowded and even more intimate than the one in front of the City Hall.

The Imperial Ball

As the year starts in Vienna, it finishes in the same spirit - with a flash of society grandeur, combined with the luxurious culture. Hence, Vienna prepares itself for the Imperial Ball which is held in the Hofburg Palace (or the Imperial Palace) on the New Year's Eve and is considered to be the start of the ball season. Although the idea of holding an imperial ball dates back to the days of the Empire, the Imperial Ball (or Kaiserball) itself in its present form, exists since 1970. It was as such promoted by the Vienna Tourist Office to help fill the traditionally quiet post-Christmas period. Today, the event is an elegant gathering with strict gala dress code, where the guests are welcomed by an "Emperor and Empress" for those looking for a different New Year celebration.

Vienna is lovely in any month of the year, mesmerizing with many cultural and traditional events and occasions in all seasons. We recommend you to book your Vienna airport to city transportation on time and pair some of these spectacular events with an excellent dining experience at some of the best restaurants in Vienna city center.

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