The Villacher Kirchtag is Austria’s largest traditional festival and one of its most beautiful. In 2018, Villach will be celebrating its 75th Annual Villacher Kirchtag. With more than 450,000 visitors coming to the Villacher Kirchtag each year, this week-long celebration has become a can’t miss event for the region.
On August 1, 1936, the first Villacher Kirchtag was organized to commemorate the rights given by Emperor Friedrich in 1225 for Villach to have a celebration 14 days before or after St. Jacob’s Day on July 25th. Little did the first organizers know that their celebration would one day become the regional attraction that is known across Austria. After the success of the first Kirchtag, it was decided it would become an annual tradition in the city. It was only during the war years of 1940-1947 that the Villacher Kirchtag did not occur.
After the war, Kirchtag was held again on August 7, 1948, with a lively celebration that once again brought joy to the city. Since 1966, the Villacher Kirchtag has taken place during the first Saturday of August. In order to strengthen the historical connection between Kirchtag and St. Jacob’s Day, the Kirchtag week was introduced. Throughout the years, Kirchtag has grown into Austria’s largest traditional festival and a regional attraction for residents in neighboring countries.
In seven days there are more than 130 events to choose from. No matter when you decide to go to Villacher Kirchtag, prepare to have a fun time. Our tip? Don’t miss these top events for a memorable Kirchtag experience.
The Opening of Kirchtag Week on Sunday: Kirchtag translates to “church day” in German, so the celebrations open with a mass at the Parish Church of St. Joseph on Sunday. Following the high mass, there is an opening ceremony with the tapping of the first beer keg by Villach’s mayor.
Jakobimarkt on Monday: Local craftsmen from all over the Alpe-Adria region will be selling their handmade goods in the upper and lower squares of the Parish Church of St. Joseph on Monday. Pick out an original gift as a special Kirchtag souvenir.
Kirchtag Soup Competition on Tuesday: Villach’s restaurants and inns compete for the title of Best Kirchtag Soup on Tuesday. This special holiday dish is a combination of savory meats, vegetables, cream, spices, and saffron. Try a bowl of Kirchtag soup paired with a slice of Carinthian Reindling cake - it’s a must!
Amusement Park Opens on Tuesday: During Kirchtag week, the banks of the river Drau transform into Villach’s very own amusement park. The young and young at heart will surely enjoy a ride on one of the many attractions. Take a ride on the Ferris wheel for the best view of the festivities.
Kirchtag Saturday: *Saturday is the only day with an entrance fee, all of the other days have free entry.
Folk Costume Parade: On Saturday at 17:00, the Folk Costume Parade (Trachtenfestzug) makes it way through the Villach city center. See traditional clothing from around the world at this awesome cultural display of more than 3,000 participants.
Live music and DJ sets: Dance the night away at one of the many music stages at Kirchtag. Traditional bands take the main stage in front of the Villach Rathaus, while hip musicians and DJs keep the party going at Kaiser Josef Platz.
Tracht Encouraged: While it isn’t official, the dress code for Kirchtag is Tracht - lederhosen and dirndls are strongly encouraged. Be a part of Austria’s largest traditional folk festival by dressing the part in Austrian folk clothing.
Once, twice, three times!: Results from a study by HAK Villach found that of those interviewed, the average Villacher visits Kirchtag week three times!
Festa della Birra: Villacher Kirchtag is known as “Festa della Birra” (Festival of Beer) in Italy which explains why almost 20% of the visitors on Kirchtag Saturday come from Italy to celebrate.
Kirchtag is one of the best things about summertime in Villach - the music, the culture, the fun, and the, ahem, beer. We hope to see you there - Prost!
Chelsea Navarro is an American expat from California, USA.
She has lived in Villach with her partner and dog since February, 2016. She enjoys exploring the Austrian wilderness, drinking Villacher beer and traveling around Europe.