Wiener Wiesn Fest has all the fun elements of Oktoberfest but without its crowds. Plus it has a very strong Austrian flavor. Set against the dreamy backdrop of the Prater and the iconic Ferris wheel this is a festival that encourages you to have fun. You can expect sweaty men dancing in lederhosen. Beautiful women in dirndls. (Is this not the best national costume ever?) Lots of (bad) dancing on benches in the beer tents. Drink some of Austrian’s finest beer like Gösser from huge litre jugs. Wine lovers do not need to despair. There is plenty of wine available to sample in the festival, Wiesn Vienna style like the unique chemical free Uhudler or you could be sipping on Sturm, a young sweet Austrian wine that is a lightly fermented, freshly pressed grape juice.
Plus if those giants’ pretzels don’t do the job, there is plenty of good old fashioned Austrian cuisine, ranging from the quintessential Wiener Schnitzel to the Brettljause to soak about the copious amounts of alcohol. Other fun aspects of the festival include the annual Miss Wiener Wiesn contest, in which female contestants will be judged on their beer mug lifting ability and also singing karaoke to the Heidi song (Heidi – Deine Welt sind die Berge) Plus there is the unique Schlager style music and lots of Austrian drinking songs to dance away into the early hours of the morning. Then there is folk music. 250 hours of folk music which makes Wiener Wiesn Fest, Austria’s biggest folk festival.
This is a beautiful time of the year to visit Vienna. The weather is still fantastic, in the afternoon the sun was still warm on my skin but there is crispness and hint of winter in the air, especially in the evenings. There is such a wide variety of things to do in Vienna, whether your passion is for food, culture or history. Beauty of Vienna’s lies in its wealth of rich architecture that was accumulated during the prosperous reign of the Habsburg dynasty. Here’s a lowdown of my top 6 things to do in Vienna.
1. Ringstrasse: A walk around the ‘ring’
To drink in the beauty of Vienna’s architecture I definitely recommend a walk along the 5.3 km Ringstrasse. Encircling the city’s inner stadt, this grand boulevard will next year be celebrating 150 years in existence. You’ll be following in the footsteps of some famous people like Sigmund Freud who used to take a daily recreational walk around the ring.
2. People watching and enjoying world class art in the Museumsquartier
Unmissable sights of Vienna include the Museumsquartier which is a wonderful labyrinth of world class art, coffee, food and beautiful architecture. There are many worlds that you can enter into here. If you are a culture vulture, then you have a bunch of world class art museums to tuck into like the Leopold Museum, MUMOK and the Kunsthalle. The quarter also has a clutch of cool bars and restaurants where you can sample everything from delicious cupcakes ( Cupcakes Wien, Hof 1) homemade cakes + crepes (Cafe Bar DW, Courtyard 2) to the best of Viennese and Austrian cuisine at Glacis Beisl ( Courtyard 5 ) plus enjoy great coffee at the stylish contemporary Cafe Leopold. More than often you’ll find some sort of event going on like a live fashion show or during Xmas, the MQ alternative Xmas markets (you can bring your own drink) which is refreshing antidote to the typical Xmas markets. The wide open courtyards are perfect place for contemplation and that age old human ritual: people watching.
3. The coffeehouses of Vienna
Vienna is synonymous with cafe culture and there is a bunch of great coffeehouses to choose from. Here are my top 3 picks.
- If you are a feline fan, pop into Cafe Neko (Blumenstockgasse 5) which is the first cat cafe in Europe.
- Across the road you have the intimate and romantic Kleines Cafe (Franziskanerplatz 3) whose peppermint facade maybe familiar to those who have seen the movie, ‘Before Sunrise.’ Julie Delpy’s character Celine gets her palm read here and Ethan Hawke aka Jesse reveals his innate scepticism of palm readers. If you’re lucky you’ll meet the owner, Hanno Pöschlo, who gives a cameo at the beginning of the film as the disgruntled husband on the train. I sadly didn’t meet Hanno. I was instead greeted by a very grumpy waiter which I understand is a typical characteristic of Vienna. He got even grumpier when I didn’t tip him so don’t forget to tip 5-10% of the bill.
- Continuing the Before Sunrise connection, pop into Cafe Sperl (Gumpendorfer Straße 11) which is probably my favourite coffeehouse in the city. Walking into Sperl is like a walk back in time. Expect parquet floors, bentwood Thonet chairs, marble tables, crystal chandeliers and carambole billiards The service is slow so don’t come here if you are in a rush. Savour the atmosphere. Have a make believe phone call in one of the cafe’s booths like the film’s characters, Jesse and Celine and create your own love story.
4. Hungry at night?
Make a point of visiting one of the ‘Würstelstand’ or ‘Kebabstand’ at the end of the evening. The ‘Kasekrainer’ (sausage with cheese) is the snack of choice for locals. My top tip for this delectable treat is to visit Hot Dog Kebab (Webgasse 1)
5. Go for a ride on Wiener Riesenrad
Any trip to Vienna is incomplete without a visit to the Prater just to go for a spin on the Wiener Riesenrad, one of the earliest Ferris wheels of the world. Built in 1897 to mark the Golden Jubilee of Emperor Josef, the wheel was close to being dismantled after being badly damaged in the WWII. Luckily the wheel was repaired and now is key feature of the city’s skyline. The wheel has achieved iconic status thanks to appearance in a number of classic movies that include ‘The Third Man’, ‘Living Daylights’ and ‘Before Sunrise.’
6. Top tip: Seeing Gustav Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’
Last but not least ’don’t leave Vienna without a kiss.’ Do set aside a few hours to see Klimt’s collection at the Belvedere Palace and Gardens. The gardens are an attraction in its own right with decorative tiered fountains and cascades, baroque garden sculptures and majestic wrought iron gates. Inside the palace, there are 24 of Klimt’s famous oil paintings, the most memorable being ‘The Kiss.’
Planning your trip to the Wiener Wiesn Festival
This is a child friendly event, but it is recommended not to bringing them to events after dark when things starts getting a little out of control. During the day, from 11.30 am to 6pm, admission to the Wiener Wiesn-Fest is free. On Mondays and Tuesdays it is free all day.
The Wiesn-Fest Party, with three hours of live music, starts at 6.30 pm. This year the party tickets cost €39 per person when booking a table and €44 per person for a single ticket. The tickets can be purchased in advance or on the gate. In addition to the three festival tents, everyone can enjoy free entertainment in the Wiesn Village: at the open-air festival stage, in the ORF Alpine Hut, in the Winzer-Stadl for wine-lovers, in the hayloft, and in another Alpine hut.
For a more detailed music program from this year’s celebrations check www.wienerwiesnfest.at
For the Wiener Wiesn festival I stayed at the Meininger Hotel Downtown Franz in Vienna. It combines the comfort factor of hotel with a private room and the relaxed, easygoing vibe like a hostel, great facilities like a self-catering kitchen and comfortable, nice design and affordable compared to city centre hotels. Staff there were friendly and helpful. Wifi works throughout the building and is great. The all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet is for an extra €5.90 and is a great way to start the day. Doubles start from €60 mark while a bed in a 6 bed room starts at just €14.