Rupertikirtag: A Guide to the Most Traditional Festival in Austria
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As a local tour guide of over a decade and an old town resident, I have to admit that Rupertikirtag is not my favorite event for reasons I will disclose later. However, as a visitor to our beautiful city, it’s practically impossible to escape the festivities of this annual fair. So why fight it?
Embrace the tradition and join in on the fun at Rupertikirtag – a celebration of Salzburg’s rich history and culture that has been around for over 500 years. Rupertikirtag is regarded as the most traditional festival in all of Austria.
Despite my reservations, I assure you that as a traveler, you will want to attend this one-of-a-kind event. Please keep reading to learn more about the history of Rupertikirtag and why it’s a must-see for any visitor to Salzburg in late September.
Where to Find the Fun: Rupertikirtag Takes Place Annually at the Cathedral in Salzburg
There is no escaping Rupertikirtag because it takes place in the squares around the Salzburg Cathedral in the heart of the old town, only a one-minute walk from the fortress. Even if the festival is not your thing, you will not want to miss out on these must-see spots. You will most likely visit the festival more than once while visiting Salzburg, even if you are not planning to.
Every event in Salzburg happens around the Cathedral. In 2019 I read in the newspaper that the city is not allowing any more events in the squares around the Cathedral because there is something happening 200 days out of every year. That’s not because there are many events in Salzburg but because every event in Salzburg, like, for example, the Salzburg marathon and parts of the Classical Music Festival, happens around the Cathedral.
When to Go: Mark Your Calendars for Late September for Rupertikirtag in Salzburg
Held annually at the end of September, Rupertikirtag is a five-day festival in honor of St. Rupert, the patron saint of Salzburg. The day of St. Rupert is September 24; therefore, the festival is held around September 24. Each year, the date of Saint’s Day changes, but the feast is usually held from Wednesday to Sunday. Rupertikirtag, therefore, takes place at the same time as the Oktoberfest in Munich and could even be called a Mini-Oktoberfest, even if the origins are completely different.
Rupertikirtag is also the last big bang before Salzburg hibernates for the first time in half a year. From the spring months around Easter until the last day of Rupertikirtag, Salzburg is a buzzing hot mess. In October and November, when Rupertikirtag is over, things quieten before the Christkindlmarkt takes place in the same area around the Cathedral.
Honoring Saint Rupert: A Look into the History of Rupertikirtag
Salzburg had two yearly markets in the Middle Ages: one before Easter and another in the fall. The fall market was called the Herbst-Dult and started as a celebration in honor of Saint Rupert, the founder of Salzburg and the first head of the St. Peter monastery.
Salzburg and the monastery were founded in 696.
Legend has it that Rupert died in his homeland of Worms, far from Salzburg, but his remains were transferred to the Salzburg Cathedral when it was first consecrated. That transfer is what the market honors.
Rupertikirtag is a religious festival, even if it does not seem so.
Salzburg received the right to hold daily markets 996. The fall market Herbst-Dult was first mentioned in a document from 1331. The festival was initially held at the Cathedral but changed locations countless times over the centuries and lost importance at times. It was only brought back to life in 1977 in its current form and original location around the Cathedral. The festival has changed a lot over the years, and now it is more about rides and entertainment than the market. The festival is not essential for getting supplies in the current economy, but it still offers many special treats.
If you are looking for the actual farmers market of Salzburg and you visit Salzburg on a Thursday, look no further than the Schranne market. Learn more about the Schranne by reading our article on the Schranne market in Salzburg.
Get Your Adrenaline Pumping with Rupertikirtag’s Traditional Rides and Games
I enjoy two things about Rupertikirtag. As a food lover, I appreciate the opportunity to try various foods. As a kid at heart, I love going on fun rides. Rupertikirtag is considered the most traditional festival in Austria for several reasons. One is its long history. Another reason is that it has maintained a strong focus on local and cultural traditions.
Unlike Oktoberfest, which has become more commercialized with advertisements and corporate sponsors, Rupertikirtag has rules against branding and commercialization. These rules help preserve the festival’s traditional atmosphere and focus on local culture.
The theme park rides are no exception; the chain carousel is the absolute highlight.
The chain carousel at Rupertikirtag is over 200 years old, making it an authentic piece of living history and one of the oldest merry-go-rounds in the world. This adds to the festival’s traditional atmosphere and helps to keep the event rooted in the past.
TIP: If you ride the carousel with a friend or partner, consider holding their seat before the ride begins. You can then whirl together through the air. You will not be able to reach the other person again once you let go.
Another ride I love is the wash drum that simulates the experience of being caught in a fast-moving, tumbling wash cycle in a washing machine. Riders sit or stand in the large cylindrical structure. As the ride begins to spin, it tilts and rotates at various angles, creating the sensation of being tumbled and tossed around. It’s great fun and a must when visiting Rupertikirtag. Autodrom would be another of my favorites. On the other hand, some of the rides are so old that we could call them outdated. If you don’t mind wasting a few euros, visit the haunted house.
Savor the Flavors of Rupertikirtag: Traditional Food and Drink in Salzburg
Of course, no festival in Austria would be complete without plenty of delicious food and drink. Rupertikirtag is no exception, with a wide range of traditional Austrian dishes available for visitors to try. Some local favorites include Schnitzel, Sausages, and Pretzels, but also lesser-known specialties.
I love the food at Rupertikirtag for the same reason I love the food at the Christmas Markets. These events allow one to try various dishes without committing to a full meal at a restaurant. It’s like a mini food festival, where you can sample different flavors and cuisines all in one place. Plus, the prices are reasonable.
In addition to the food and drink, visitors to Rupertikirtag can also enjoy a variety of traditional craft demonstrations at Alter Markt, such as woodcarving, pottery, and ironwork. These demonstrations are a great way to learn about local traditions and culture. Visitors can even purchase handmade items as souvenirs.
From Craft Beer to Crazy Drunks: A Guide to the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly at Rupertikirtag
I mentioned at the beginning of this article that Rupertikirtag is not my favorite event. I have been navigating the streets of Salzburg as a Rischa (bike taxi) driver and a tour guide for over a decade. I have had my fair share of experiences at Rupertikirtag. Here are some things to be aware of when visiting Rupertikirtag:
- The crowds at Rupertikirtag can get pretty intense, so keep an eye on your belongings. The last thing you want is to lose your phone, wallet, or your children amid all the commotion. As travel began to bounce back in 2022, Rupertikirtag saw a surge in crowds. On one particular Saturday afternoon, the crowds were so intense that we could not stay and enjoy the festival. The lines for even the most mundane rides stretched for half an hour, and we ultimately decided to retreat from the crowds of people.
- If you’re not into crowded, rowdy environments, avoid the festival on Friday and Saturday nights. But, if you’re looking for a wild time filled with beer and fun, these are the prime times to go. When I started working as a Rischa driver, I loved the energy of Rupertikirtag on Friday and Saturday nights. People were always in high spirits and ready to hop on the bike to make their way to the nearest bar. However, after a couple of years, I found myself burnt out and ready for a break. As a result, I began taking the days of Rupertikirtag off to recharge and avoid the chaos. That being said, I still love the event’s festive atmosphere, food, and rides, and I look forward to the fireworks each year.
- If you’re planning on spending time in the beer tent at Rupertikirtag, be sure to arrive early to secure a table. These tables are highly sought after and tend to fill up quickly. Suppose you’re interested in reserving a large table for your group. In that case, you’ll need to deposit €500 and commit to spending a minimum of €500 in the tent. However, during the day, it’s generally easier to find a table where you can enjoy a meal and a few drinks.
- Remember to bring cash! The rides, games, and food stalls at the fairground only accept physical money, so come prepared.
- One of the highlights of Rupertikirtag is the opening ceremony, which takes place on the festival’s first day. This ceremony features a procession of local dignitaries and traditional bands, as well as a speech given by the mayor of Salzburg. The parade makes its way through the streets of Salzburg, culminating in a performance at the main square. Another highlight is the fireworks that mark the end of Rupertikirtag on Sunday evening. For the full program, visit the official website of Rupertikirtag.
As a local tour guide, I recommend that independent travelers visiting Salzburg during this time attend Rupertikirtag at least once. It’s a must. Salzburg is extremely touristy, but Rupertikirtag is an authentic experience that locals from the countryside, as well as residents of the city, flock to. The festival is filled with a variety of traditional music, dancing, food, and drink, making it the perfect opportunity to fully immerse oneself in the local culture.
You will pass by Rupertikirtag during your sightseeing exploration, but take your time to taste local food, drink a cold beer, sway with the locals to traditional tunes, or take yourself back to your childhood at the auto-drome or at the chain carousel.