The city’s monster festival offers a little something for everyone

Drawing a staggering 3.3 million over three days last year, Donauinselfest, the largest free festival in Europe has come a long way from its origins as an  unexpectedly successful “cultural spring festival” thrown by a SPÖ (Social Democratic Party of Austria) district branch on the nearly-completed island in 1983.

Still organized by the SPÖ-led municipal government, it now hosts 12 stages and 19 themed areas over a length of 4.5 kilometers, taking great pains to maintain its mass appeal: While several Inseln (islands) are sponsored by organizations cozy with the administration, most are more corporate than political, capitalizing on the large crowds to get their messages across.

While the festival itself is inclusive, individual areas cater to more singular crowds: Culture vultures, for instance, will feel right at home at the Ö1 Kulturinsel (see map below, #13), where the highbrow radio station offers Austrian alternative folk and world music by bands like Skolka or Federspiel, alongside performances by some of the nation’s most revered comedians like Alfred Dorfer (in German).

The young and young-at-heart can get their kicks at the FM4/ stage (2), offering ­local bands and large headliners, such as German rapper Samy Deluxe, Drum & Bass artists Camo & Krooked and Dinosaur Jr., the legendary grunge pioneers.

Up-and-coming local bands can be seen at some of the smaller stages such as Wien Energie/Insel der Menschenrechte (18) or the SJ stage (15). Electronica aficionados can dance away at the Eutopia DJ/VJ (3) area, hosting Warrior Sound International, Patrick Pulsinger & Sam Irl, the a capella Bauchklang sound system and a set by Machinedrum.

One of the largest venues, the Wien Energie/Radio Wien/Hitradio Ö3 stage (6) has more widespread appeal, presenting Turbopolkaholics Russkaja, the reformed new wave icons Bob Geldorf & The Boomtown Rats, and Dancehall superstar Sean Paul.  For a full overview of the 600 or so hours of entertainment, see website.


June 24-26, Donauinsel between Reichsbrücke and Nordbrücke