The Donauinselfest, or the Danube Island Festival as it is more commonly known in English, is perhaps Europe’s biggest outdoor music event – it’s certainly Europe’s largest annual free festival. Taking place in Vienna over three days at the end of June, more than 2,000 musicians perform on no less than 19 stages on these islands in the River Danube – or Donau, to the local Viennese. No wonder as many as 3 million people flock to Vienna for this annual celebration, which held its 25th anniversary in 2008.
Like all the best festivals, Donauinselfest is an enticing melange of live music and dancing, varied food and drink outlets and totally off the wall entertainment. Many of the venues are open air, although there are numerous tented areas dotted around the island. And, at 20 kilometres in length and between 70 and 210 metres wide, the Danube Island can’t be beaten as a festival site, attracting visitors from around the world and then providing them with both well-known artists as well as those looking to break through.
The music on offer ranges ranges from pop to rock and jazz and hip hop and there are many local bands playing alongside world-famous international acts. Groups such as The Backstreet Boys and Simple Minds have been amongst past headline acts here.The food kiosks located all around the festival site include Austrian, Greek, Italian, Indian, Thai and Turkish foods – as well as the ubiquitous burger bars – but vegetarians are also always well catered for.
There are a number of useful Information Kiosks, in addition to stalls selling souvenirs and craft objects.The Donauinsel islands were actually man-made between 1972 and 1988 with the main purpose of improving Vienna’s anti-flooding measures. The whole area, though, has evolved into a recreational paradise. Throughout the year, the Donauinsel is a green haven for the people of Vienna, with its bars, restaurants, skating tracks and there is even a water ski lift.
There is a fabulous beach that the locals regard so highly they know it as CopaKagrana – Kagrana being the district of Vienna in which it is to be found. And for lovers of naturism, there is a section where nude sunbathing is permissible.However, at the end of every third week in June, it is taken over by the festival, which becomes just one gigantic three day party.
Bearing mind the huge numbers of people who flock to Vienna for the festival, visitors need to reserve any accommodation well in advance, as hotels around the city become completely full at festival time. If you’re interested in camping near the festival site, then please note that only official camping is permitted but there are three camp-sites at Vienna West, South and Neue Donau.
It is then easy to travel to the site of the festival on the underground system, heading for the Donauinsel station.The full programme of events is usually available on the official Danube Island Festival website from around the middle of May.