Festivals in Austria consist not only of the elegant and prestigious musical events in Salzburg and Vienna that are known throughout the world – significant though they are. In Austria you will also find modern music festivals to rival any other country in Europe, as befits one of its wealthiest countries. Long known as one of Europe’s most beautiful countries, with a selection of architecturally stunning cities, Austria is also regarded as one of the cultural centres of the continent; and this is reflected in the number of wonderful Austrian festivals to be found in the calendar.
For many years now, more than a billion people have shared, on their television screens, their New Year celebrations with the people of Vienna at the Vienna New Year’s Concert from the majestic Musikverein on the morning of January 1st. New Year is a spectacular occasion in Austria’s calendar, and celebrations take place throughout the country. Vienna, of course, is very much at the centre of these celebrations with attractions as diverse as waltzing in the city’s streets and extravagant firework displays. The famous Vienna Kaiserball, a sumptuous and ornate ball in the State Rooms of the Imperial Hofburg Palace would be, perhaps, one of the most elegant ways greet the coming year.
Austria, throughout the entire year, has many captivating balls, with Carnival (Fasching) and Corpus Christi having their own masked processions and dances. The famous Vienna Ball Season, with more than 150 public balls in total, including the prestigious Opera Ball, Imperial Ball and Philharmoniker Ball, offers visitors to the world’s musical capital city, a truly stylish and unforgettable experience.
Vienna prides itself on its own special Festival during May and June, which has drama, opera and concert recitals for all ages, and there is also the highly regarded Vienna Jazz Festival at the end of July.
Salzburg is known throughout the world as both the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and also as home of the highly regarded Salzburg Festival of Music and Drama, established as long ago as 1877. For five glorious summer weeks, the very best musicians perform in front of about a quarter of a million spectators in this wonderful celebration of classical music. During recent years, the Salzburg Whitsun Festival has emerged on to the scene, offering a weekend of high class opera and orchestral performances.
Although nowhere near as well-known as the two previous Austrian festivals, the Tirol Easter Festival and the Innsbruck Festival of Early Music, held every July and August, both have won great acclaim for the quality of their respective programmes.
Not all Austrian festivals of music are quite so ‘highbrow’, however. Indeed, probably the largest free festival in Europe, Donauinselfest, takes place on islands in the middle of the River Danube in Vienna every June. With everything from pop to rock, and jazz to hip hop, and more than 2,000 musicians on the 19 different stages, it’s little wonder that this is such a popular gathering.
And finally, for something completely different, why not consider the European Body Painting Festival, in Seeboden, where people from at least 40 countries gather to participate in this colourful and fun-filled event.
Austria is a spectacular country to visit – with stunning natural scenery (half the country is dominated by the Alps, after all) and some architecturally enchanting cities. Add to this, the variety of fascinating festivals in Austria and it’s certainly a place worthy of the greatest consideration.