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An annual festival in Vienna’s Prater Park, designed to rival Oktoberfest, the Wiener Wiesn’ brings its own unique flavour to celebrate all things Austrian in the heart of Vienna!
The small alpine hut is jammed with people, stomping, dancing, swaying to the recognisable oompah-oompah tunes, the windows are steaming up and the tables we are dancing on are sticky from spilled beer and schnapps. It feels like the bleariest of apres ski bars has landed in Vienna – and everyone in the room is loving it!
Wiener Wiesn’ is a traditional festival in the heart of the city, beneath the iconic Riesenrad ferris wheel. Every year in late September the Kaiserweise festival grounds are setup to host Vienna’s very own Oktoberfest.
The best thing about it? There are way way less tourists attending than in Munich, way less drunken Aussies in the streets (trust me, the Australian embassy has so many issues at Oktoberfest in Munich, they setup a temporary embassy tent to handle the amount of lost passports!) and a lot more opportunity to enjoy the cultural elements in the comfort of cosy Vienna.
In fact, having been to both the Munich and Vienna festivals, I can say that the Viennese Oktoberfest is just as much fun as Munich – with the added advantage of way more affordable entrance and accommodation during the festival period.
So to get you prepped and ready to make the most of the festival, here’s a handy guide to the Wiener Wiesn’ festival, Vienna’s very own Oktoberfest!
What Is the Wiener Wiesn’?
The Wiener Wiesn’ is a ‘cultural and folk music festival’ that gives each region of Austria a chance to show off its local cultural traditions, arts, food and live music in the capital of Austria. Running for just over two weeks from the end of September until mid October, it’s Vienna’s answer to the popular Oktoberfest in Munich.
The word ‘Wiesn’ literally translates to meadow or field, so in the strictest sense of the word, the Wiener Wiesn’ is the Vienna meadow festival. In reality, its held in the Kaiserwiese, a large field beneath the Riesenrad ferris wheel in the heart of the sprawling Prater Park.
The festival is host to live music, cultural and traditional performances, many many delicious food stalls and of course in the evening there are beer tents filled with entertainment, dance floors, live pop bands and more beer and hearty food than you can poke a stick at.
That said, you don’t need to be a beer festival fan to enjoy the Wiesn’ fest as there are two sides to this fun festival. During the day there are wooden alpen huts to sit in and taste-test local cheese, meats and organic wines, open air live stages and plenty of market stalls run by the regional hosts.
The festival grounds themselves are lovely to stroll around and you never know what entertainment you may come across on any given day – a live whip cracking display from Tirolian farmers, a yodelling performance from Burgenland or a live brass band competition!
From 11am – 6pm it is free entrance to stroll the festival grounds and enjoy the atmosphere of a farmers festival. The cultural entertainment from each region can change every year, and often the local hunters club or brass band will make the journey from their villages in the countryside to perform at the Wiesn’ fest. So its a fun and exciting day for them too!
In the centre of the outdoor festival area is an open-air stage where most performances will happen, and it is surrounded by food stalls and two alpen huts, so you can pull up a chair or benchspace and enjoy the festive flow of people around you.
From 6:30pm onwards, to get into the beer tents you will need a ticket. There is a few cheeky insider tricks to get around this if you know the game, so peep my insider tips below to find out.
What to Wear
This is your big opportunity to bust out the traditional Trachten lederhosen and dirndl outfits to really embrace the festival spirit! Plenty of locals and visiting performers will be in the traditional outfits of the countryside, so long skirts and lederhosen are perfectly acceptable and add to the fun.
Don’t worry if you don’t have any of these outfits or accessories yet, its still perfectly fine to rock up in jeans and a top. Or, if you are not willing to go all out on an expensive Trachten outfit, you can normally find some halfway decent knockoffs in C&A or H&M on the high street.
Just be careful you don’t go too slutty – some of those cheap Dirndls are more like halloween costumes than real countryside dresses! The rule of thumb with Dirndls is the longer the better, but it should at least reach your knees (not show your bum accidently).
A small note about the Viennese attitude to the Wiesn’ fest – as we know the lovely native Viennese can be a bit, well, judgey or resistant at times to anything that isn’t 100+ years old.
Some Viennese see the Wiener Wiesn’ fest as a tacky, countryside Dorf-festival and not worth going to – all this dressing up and festive fun drinking steins and dancing on tables isn’t pure Viennese style. That should absolutely not hold anyone back from going! Some say the Wiesn’ fest is a countryside style tradition and doesn’t belong in Vienna – but with more than 700+ live music acts and more and more people attending every year, I think its safe to say you will have an excellent time at this particular ‘countryside’ festival.
When to Go
Days of the week: The large beer tents are free to enter on Monday and Tuesday evening, and from Wednesday – Saturday evening it is ticketed to get into the bigger, branded beer tents where the live music is.
HOWEVER as an insider tip that we’ve tested a fair few times – if you happen to be inside the alpen huts, like the ORF hutte, after 6:30pm and into the evening, you generally won’t get kicked out.
More importantly, at 11pm the beer tents all empty out as the live acts finish, and guess where the after party and real festivities are? Yup, right there in that alpen hut you just happened to stick around in for a few hours, enjoying the apres ski atmosphere!
If you want to dance on tables to schlager music and sway along with the crowd to ‘I am from Austria’ and DJ Otzi’s greatest hits, those two Alpen huts are the best place to do so – and they’re free to get into if you are early enough 😉
If you want the full experience though, including the beer halls, you can book your tickets here and reserve a table for your party posse.
During the day, the cultural performances and hosts change throughout the week, and share between the different provinces of Austria. So for example, in week 1 of the festival, Bürgenland, Niederösterreich and Oberösterreich each get a day dedicated to hosting and displaying their cultural traditions and famous food and drink. In week two Kärnten, Steiermark and Salzburg have a day each and in the final week Vorarlberg and Tirol get to host.
Obviously I’m super biased and always think the Tiroler tag is best, but you should definitely check for yourselves which regions celebration style you prefer.
There are also days dedicated to Seniors and the LGBQT community, so the festival is as inclusive as possible for people from all communities.
The festival opens at 11am daily, so you can go at any time to enjoy the lowkey cultural elements in the daytime, or drop by in the evening to get a taste for the Oktoberfest excitement!
Do’s and Don’ts
DO: Get into the spirit buy getting a stein of bier or radler and a brezeln. The food options are many and delicious!
DO: Try dancing on the wooden tabletops with a bunch of friends to ridiculous and hilarious Austrian schlager music
DO: Visit in the daytime if you want to experience firsthand some Austrian cultural traditions
DON’T: Be that person who is ‘too cool’ to dress up, or dance, or try the schnapps shot that comes with the slice of ham and horseradish on top (ok maybe that you can skip) but don’t hold back at Wiesn’ fest!
DON’T: Be offensive to the community groups and performers who put a lot of time and effort into coming to Vienna, putting on a show and sharing their skills and entertainment with a crowd.
DON’T: Overdo the steins and end up in a messy puddle of your own making by the end of the night – keep it classy enough that you can get home on the Ubahn and maybe have a wurstl on the way home with all the new friends you made at the festival.
Is it worth it?
Absolutely! With free entrance, fun activities for young, old, families, couples, locals and travellers, Wiener Wiesn’ fest is so worth it.
We visit every year and have had some ridiculous nights and perfectly civilised daytime shenanigans, and any time friends are visiting we’ll drag them along to enjoy the festivities.
I’d absolutely reccommend visiting Vienna’s Oktoberfest at the Wiener Wiesn’ Fest in September and hope you have heaps of fun there. Let me know in the comments if you’re planning to visit!
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