Top Festivals in Austria
Music is a tradtition that Austrians uphold and continue with great enthusiasm. No other country can claim such an impressive history of major composers who either come from or made their mark in Austria. The following is a list of world-class festivals that celebrate this musical heritage.
For outstanding music experiences, immerse yourself in the magical atmosphere of Austria’s great festivals featuring world class performances in spectacular settings.
Castle Grafenegg Music Festival
Every year in August, audiences flock to hear performances by the London Symphony Orchestra and the likes amid the beautiful setting of a centuries-old castle and adjacent park.
Seven centuries of history can be seen in the architecture of Grafenegg Castle. Extended in the 19th century, it has become Austria’s most important example of historicism and in Grafenegg it is possible to find stylistic traces from Gothic through Baroque and Biedermeier to elegant Neo-gothic.
Continue with a stroll through the gardens and find a shady spot beneath centuries-old trees, equipped with a picnic basket full of mouth-watering fare from the picnic pavilion. A few hours later, music begins to fill Europe’s largest open-air arena. The Grafenegg Music Festival, directed by star pianist Rudolf Buchbinder, is a rare celebration of star-studded music performances, pristine nature, award-winning architecture, and celebrated local food and wine.
Two music venues - the Cloud Tower and the Auditorium concert hall - were constructed in recent years, jutting into the sky and crowning the castle grounds, creating an open-air sound that is unheard of in Europe. Top it all off with a dinner in the castle, where fine Austrian cuisine is prepared right on the terrace and served with wines home-grown in the nearby Wachau region. This, we believe, is living well.
Innsbruck Festival of Early Music
Outstanding opera productions and stunning concerts in historical venues. One of the most important festivals for historically informed performances.
In the Renaissance and Baroque, Innsbruck was one of the European music centres. The Innsbruck Festival, the oldest surviving festival for early music, will follow this tradition in July and August.
As one of the most prestigious festivals of its kind, the Innsbruck Festival attracts the most famous artists of early music. Alongside many original ensembles, opera stars such as Jennifer Larmore and countertenor Derek Lee Ragin performed.
A varied program accompanies the festival. Backstage events provide a glimpse behind the scenes, at the lunchtime concerts in the Hofgarten you can eat, drink and listen to the sounds at free admission. Festive lift music meets the squares of the city, as in the days of the Tyrolean archdukes. And the heyday of the Renaissance is resurrected during the castle feast at the Ambras castle.
Featuring opera, concerts and drama, the Salzburg Festival enjoys worldwide recognition as one of the most outstanding classical music events today. First held in 1920, the Salzburg Festival is one of the cultural highlights of the year. Alongside the regular residency of the Vienna Philharmonic, musicians and ensembles of the highest calibre fill the alpine city with music and drama.
Every summer the Salzburger Festspiele dominate the Baroque city of Salzburg. Some of the greatest artists of classical music appear on the stage of the Festspielhaus, and international stars like Anna Netrebko, Ricardo Muti and Edita Gruberova have become regulars here.
In the splendid ambience of Salzburg and its Domplatz, thousands of performers demonstrate the harrowing story of the life and death of the rich man in Hugo von Hofmannsthal's "Jedermann", staged here annually since the festival began in 1920. Visitors can also experience contemporary theatre on Hallein's Perner Island, in the middle of River Salzach.
Known as the “Bregenzer Festspiele”, this event draws crowds with opera and concert performances by the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra and the largest floating stage in the world. It must have been the wonderful location of the city by the lake and the beautiful environment that made a couple of clever minds set up a stage on two barges in 1946, calling the Bregenzer Festspiele to life. The lake and the surrounding countryside were thus to be a central part of all productions from the start. 60 years later the Bregenzer Festspiele is an integrated part of Austrian culture, and the lakeside stage is the largest of its kind.
For four weeks in summer, audiences can experience monumental open-air opera productions in an unknown intensity. No wonder the producers of the 2008 James Bond film "Quantum of Solace" were excited by this spectacular setting when looking for locations. Filming took place for two weeks in the old town of Feldkirch and at the Bregenz lakeside stage, with its huge Tosca eye watching the excitement. The Tosca venue formed the background for the key scene of the film, and Puccini's music was used for the dramatic soundtrack.
Theatre and opera performances, orchestra concerts, and numerous other events contribute to the festival's bold artistic profile. This successful approach will be continued in future years.
Tiyrol Festival Erl
With the Tirolean mountains as an impressive backdrop, the performances of Wagner’s oeuvre are truly awe-inspiring and receive outstanding reviews. In 1998, conductor Maestro Gustav Kuhn fulfilled his dream of creating his own music festival in Erl. In the beginning he used the well-known Erler Passion Playhouse with its sensational acoustics. Since December 2012, the curtain has been raised in the 36 million-strong, new Festspielhaus. Since then, guests stroll in their robes in summer as in winter past idyllic pastures or snow fields to enjoy the arts.
The Tyrolean Festival Erl has developed into an artistically renowned fixture in Tyrolean as well as international cultural life. The emphasis of the work lies in the summer with Wagner, Strauss as well as the classical and romantic concert repertoire. In winter, the unique acoustics of the newly-built Festspielhaus benefit the works of Mozart, Bach, Italian composers and the Belcantos.
Coupled with a real nature experience, the varied active programs and the mountain scenery, days in Kufsteinerland become a revitalizing nature-cultural holiday. During the day you can enjoy either relaxing or action-packed hours in the middle of the Tyrolean mountains and in the evening you can sit back and let yourself be enchanted by the cultural attractions of the region.
The annual meeting place for an international audience that seeks an exceptional cultural experience: hearing music performed by outstanding artists in idyllic surroundings. A festival for Franz Schubert, which would accord him his due place alongside Mozart and Beethoven - this was the idea behind the first Schubertiade, which was founded by Hermann Prey in 1976 in the small town of Hohenems, situated in the most western part of Austria, in Vorarlberg.
This quickly developed into one of the most renowned of all festival locations, becoming an annual meeting place for an international audience that seeks an exceptional cultural experience: hearing music performed by outstanding artists in idyllic surroundings. The concerts, furthermore, are not presented in some anonymous or interchangeable international festival, but are part of a structured festival programme with a distinctive identity formed by an uncompromising dedication to the art of Franz Schubert.
Today, with about 70 events and over 30,000 visitors per year, the Schubertiade is the most significant and most distinguished Schubert festival in the world. Nowhere else are so many lieder recitals presented in such a short frame of time by such world-class singers. Chamber concerts and piano recitals of the highest calibre represent another branch of the annual Schubertiade programme, which additionally features some orchestral concerts, readings and masterclasses. In contrast to the hustle and bustle prevailing at other festivals, the Schubertiade takes care to preserve the more intimate character of a music festival where energies can be concentrated on what really matters: music-making of exemplary quality.
Vienna Festival Weeks
Encompassing everything from symphonic concerts and opera to theatre performances and exhibitions, this significant festival spices up Vienna’s cultural life during the summer. The Wiener Festwochen were established in 1951. Emerging as a "demonstration of Austria's will to survive", the festival was to prove to the world that a city marked by the ravages of war and its aftermath was able to engage in cultural activities.
Undoubtedly, the Wiener Festwochen today serve a different function and fulfill other tasks. Vienna has become an undisputed cultural metropolis, and the Festwochen have evolved into an innovative, international event. Yet this is precisely why the Wiener Festwochen cannot tolerate stagnation. Proven approaches may lose their significance in the face of a changing co-ordinate system of international relationships and traditions. Thus, it is an objective of the festival to search for new aspects, to inspire discussions of current artistic production, and to provide an answer to - not only artistic - developments.
Since 1979, the Ars Electronica Festival has flourished throughout Linz, taking its avant-garde programming from one exciting location to the next. Instead of restricting itself to traditional art spaces or dreary conference rooms, the festival engages directly with the the city it calls home. The diverse venues have included "Linz Harbor, a network of subterranean tunnels, a monastery, a tobacco processing plant and a former Austrian Postal Service logistics facility". It's clear to see that every visit to the Ars Electronica Festival promises something new and unexpected.
Nonetheless, the festival's core principal remains the same: to "scrutinize potential futures" through the lenses of "art, technology, and society". "Over 1,000 artists and scientists from over 40 countries" engage with these ideas annually at the festival. Come join the thousands of visitors who will join them.
Find more information about programming and tickets, as well as the mission of the Ars Electronica Center, on their website.
The Jazz Festival in Saalfelden offers music that is honest, unaffected, and a bit rough. It strives to be a place for experimentation, where the most innovative playing can be heard. What began in 1979 in a horse barn has long since established its main stage at the Congress Saalfelden. Concerts are also held in the Kunsthaus Nexus and free performances take place in front of the Town Hall. All in all, the festival features four days of top-flight jazz in the middle of SalzburgLand’s spectacular Alpine scenery.
So what could be more logical at this “jazz summit” than to take the music up to the mountain pastures as well? The delectable culinary offerings at the Steinalm, the old Leogang smithy, the Vorderkühbühelhof Alpine farm, and the Huggenberg mountain inn eliminate the need to haul heavy picnic baskets. The mountain concerts are also free of charge.
It was considered quite unsavoury when couples began turning in three quarter time on the dance floors of Vienna's suburbs at the end of the 18th century. This, however, could not stop the Viennese waltz from triumphing across the world. But the fact that now, in the 21st century, Vienna remains a global dance capital is thanks to the ImPuls Tanz Festival.
International stars such as Mathilde Monnier, Wim Vandekeybus, Marie Chouinard, and Akram Khan have already staged their work here, and they remain linked to what has since become Europe's largest dance festival. The festival is also committed to supporting contemporary dance. Every year the Newcomer-Schiene [8:tension] Young Choreographers’ Series presents a selection of trendsetting productions. The highlight is the bestowal of the European young talent award, the Prix Jardin d'Europe.
Throughout the course of a month, this Viennese festival hosts around 50 productions at venues including the Burgtheater, the Volkstheater, the MuseumsQuartier, the Odeon, and the Schauspielhaus. Around 150 teachers hold about 200 dance workshops.
The Carinthian Summer music festival is ranked among the most important summer festivals in Austria today.
It started in 1969 on the shores of Ossiachersee lake and is renowned for the classical and new musical talent that it showcases. Many musicians come to Carinthia every year and perform in atmospheric venues such as Ossiach Abbey, the mountain church in Tiffen, the "Stone House" of architect Günther Domenig in Steindorf, the Gothic church St. Martin / Feldkirchen and Glanegg Castle, to name a few.
Passengers waiting for the train at the rail station could hardly believe their eyes when a professional “station farewell agency” arrived to put on a splendid ceremony - tailored to their wishes: romantic or stoic, complete with tears and handkerchiefs. This is only one of the “happenings” of a festival that consciously turns unusual locations in Graz and other Styrian communities into performance venues.
La Strada is the only festival in Austria that collaborates with international renowned artists who explore new forms of expression outside established theatres. The festival supports innovative productions and helps Austrian artists to establish themselves in the pan-European festival circuit.
Every year for one and a half weeks, street theatre, acrobatics, mime, puppet theater, children’s theater, dance, and clown acts create space for encounters between audiences and artists from all across Europe, but also among locals. La Strada helps visitors learn more about the Styrian capital and its residents and seeks encounters across all borders. This has made the festival a long-time fixture in Graz’s cultural life.
Krems an der Donau is a beautiful riverside town in the historic Wachau valley, a famous wine-producing region in Lower Austria. However, every April, Krems host a celebration of music and performance that might take you by surprise. Over two weekends in Spring, the Donaufestival presents a curated collection of avant-garde acts that range from electronica to noiserock, from psychedelic rock to performance art. Pasts acts have included Rufus Wainwright, Jon Cale, and Sonic Youth.
This forward-thinking festival is the perfect way to experience the Wachau valley from a whole new perspective; see groundbreaking, edgy performances during the day, and then discuss them over world-class wines at night. What could be better?
Get your tickets on their website, where you can choose from many flexible options to find what best fits your trip. The festival even provides low-cost transportation from Krems to Vienna and to St. Pölten.
Born in 1811 in a small village called Raiding in Burgenland, Franz Liszt is the creator of a completely new type of piano music and a trend-setting style of composition, whereby he uses the poetic idea as a form for a modern musical language.
Guided by the vision to carry his thoughts out into the world, he soon became cosmopolitan thanks to his extensive concert tours throughout Europe and impressed in major cities through his unique presentation manner and his virtuosity. His shingled birthplace, which is now a museum, still stands in Raiding today. On the occasion of the founding of the Liszt Festival in 2006, the Franz Liszt Concert Hall built in the direct vicinity of the state of Burgenland was decorated with an architectural award. In the concert hall comprising around 600 seats, the piano, vocal and orchestral works by Franz Liszt are played in particular.
The late conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt was the father of this festival, which features performances of the Concentus Musicus Wien, an ensemble performing Early Music on period instruments and the extraordinarily dynamic Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
Operafestival St. Margarethen
An old Roman quarry is the setting for this exciting summer festival in Burgenland. International stars and popular operas guarantee a spectacular experience.
Mörbisch Festival on the Lake
The picturesque town of Mörbisch is the location of the world’s greatest operetta Festival. Once you have seen the impressive open air stage you will be captivated.
The works of Joseph Haydn is at the heart of the festival in Eisenstadt, where Hayden was head of the court ensemble at the Esterhazy castle.
The Linz Klangwolke (Cloud of Sound)
The opening event for the Bruckner Festival in Linz is a spectacle of pioneering classical music performances and electronic visualization.