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The importance of renewable energy sources for the electrical power supply has grown rapidly in the past decades. Their often unpredictable nature however poses a threat to the stability of the existing electric grid. Hydroelectric powerplants play an important role in regulating the integration of renewable energy sources into the network by supplying on-demand load balancing as well as primary and secondary power network control. Therefore, the operating ranges of hydraulic machines has to be continuously extended, which potentially produces undesirable flow phenomena involving cavitation. An example is the formation of a gaseous volume in the swirling flow leaving a Francis turbine runner at off-design operating conditions. At high load, this so called vortex rope is shaped axisymmetrically and may enter a self-excited oscillation, measurable through significant fluctuations of the pressure throughout the system and the mechanical torque transferred to the generator. The main objective of the present work is the identification of the physical mechanisms governing this self-sustained, unstable behavior by measurement. Furthermore, the key parameters of numerical approaches using one-dimensional hydroacoustic flowmodels or CFD require experimental validation. For this purpose, the measurements provide a comprehensive data base of various flow and system parameters at varying operating conditions. Two test cases are studied, a small scale hydraulic circuit with a micro-turbine as well as a reduced scale physical model of an existing Francis turbine. On the first test case, the study of the flow rate fluctuations up- and downstream of the oscillating vortex rope in the draft tube, together with the volume of the cavity, revealed the destabilizing effect of the flow swirl in the draft tube inlet. The second test case accurately simulates the behavior of an actual hydraulic power plant. Investigations range from a local study of the flow field in the draft tube cone bymeans of LDV, PIV, high speed visualization and wall pressure measurements to a global analysis, considering the response of the hydraulic and mechanical system to the excitation by the vortex rope oscillation. Among the main observations is a periodical variation of the flow swirl in the draft tube, synchronized with the pressure oscillations. This is likely to be caused by a cyclically appearing volume of cavitation on the runner blades, modifying the relative flow angle at the outlet. The interaction of the blade cavitation and the vortex rope oscillation via the flow swirl is found to play a crucial role in the occurrence of self-excited pressure oscillations in Francis turbines.