To kick start your plans of attending a ball in Wien, this Vienna Balls guide will get you going in less than 10 minutes: from tickets and dress code to etiquette and must-know traditions.
Clearly, attending a Viennese ball is a must if you love glamorous dresses, are at least somewhat interested in dancing and won’t run a mile when hearing classical music.
However, quite a few Vienna travellers find it daunting: choosing from hundreds of Viennese balls each season, scrambling for tickets and scarce hotel rooms. Followed by getting the dress codes right, brushing up on their dancing, and breaking into a formal event guided by an opaque local etiquette.
Since I turned 16, I have visited a few balls in my hometown. Therefore, do use my knowledge and experience with the best local balls and etiquette.
Vienna Balls Guide: What Is A Ball?
Vienna Balls Guide. In general, a Viennese ball is a society dance event with live classical and contemporary music that requires elegant evening attire. Many of the best balls are organised by professional guilds and associations. For example, the balls of the medical doctors, engineers and lawyers, coffeehouse owners, hunters and firemen are particularly popular. Like the other balls, they are open to the general public.
Vienna Balls Guide. Given the vast amount of different balls it is easy to drop into a mediocre event – unless you know exactly where to go. To help you do that, access my up-to-date shortlist with ticket links and dress code information of the 12 best Vienna balls, among them the internationally renown Vienna Opera Ball.
Basically, the most glamorous balls take place in fantastic historic locations such as the Imperial Palace (Hofburg), and Wiener Konzerthaus. Besides various classical orchestras and a discotheque, many event organisers stage fun and artistic shows.
While each ball has its own rules of what to wear – especially for the gentlemen – it’s important to make sure your choices match the dress code. That said, you can keep it practical when on your way to a ball: Since winters in Wien are chilly, many locals wear boots and exchange them for shiny ball pumps upon arrival.
What is the best time to visit balls in Vienna? With a few exceptions, Vienna balls usually take place during the carnival season, between January and March.
Before you attend your first ball take a sneak peek into what it is really like with my complete report from the Vienna Ball of the Coffee Brewers. What makes this ball special is that everything revolves around coffee, and whatever else you find at a traditional coffeehouse. For example, each major coffeehouse would donate a staggering cake creation for the raffles, which you can admire and hopefully win!
Getting Tickets To A Ball
Vienna Balls Guide. With most balls, ticket categories usually range from student tickets to adult flaneur tickets (admission to venue) and tickets for tables or sometimes gala dinners. To set your expectations, the average price for a flaneur ticket is approximately EUR 100 to EUR 120. In fact, a table for 4 to 8 people can cost a couple of hundred Euros.
Even if you decide to buy flaneur tickets, you will likely rest on some of the chairs at the venue. Alternatively, you may sit down for gulash at a bar. For details on ticket prices for each recommended ball visit best Vienna balls
Vienna Balls Guide. Each Viennese ball usually adheres to a strict dress code. If you get the evening attire (totally) wrong, you may not be allowed to enter, even with a valid ticket. The dress code for elegant balls is usually long ball gowns for the ladies and tuxedos, tailcoats or black suits (depending on the respective dress code of each organiser) for the gentlemen.
A few balls (Jaegerball, Wiener Kathreintanz, Trachtenpaerchenball) accept elegant Austrian folkwear, such as dirndl dresses and Steirer suits.
There are ball gowns for hire and ball gowns for sale at a few good shops in Vienna. Let me share my shortlist of the best evening dress shops in Vienna and some local Austrian jewelry stores with you for inspiration.
You can review the dress code for each individual ball in my selection of the best Vienna balls.
Need help arranging your night at a Viennese ball? Find out how I can help in Vienna Travel Planning.
Vienna Waltz And Dancing Lessons
Vienna Balls Guide. For more than 200 years, the Vienna waltz has the most popular dance at our traditional balls. Like most good things, the basics are easy to learn.
If you want to learn the waltz or brush up on your dancing skills before stepping on the dance floor, you can book a private lesson or two in English or other languages at a local dancing school.
Hire A Taxi Dancer
Vienna Balls Guide. If you are a single lady or have a dance-averse partner, you are not supposed to go cherry picking your perfect match among ball guests. That is, unless it is ‘Damenwahl’ (see further below). Instead, why not hire a taxi dancer?
Quite frankly, these dance-partnering escorts are super well-mannered and groomed gentlemen who will be happy to swirl you around the dance floor without putting on a face. They come at various dance degree levels, and dance at most major local balls. While most of them are under 40, you can apply for a ‘Grandseigneur’.
Email email@example.com for further information.
Travel With Other Dancers To Vienna
Vienna Balls Guide. Like many other social pastimes, dancers love to cultivate their special interest en groupe. Just imagine spending a whole blissful week with other dance lovers in Vienna: attending dance classes, visiting up to four different balls, socialising and discovering Vienna together. In fact, Ari Levitt, passionate dance teacher, physician and entrepreneur, takes a small group of travellers for a travel, play and workshop experience during Waltz Week In Vienna.
Next camp: winter 2021
At Vienna Balls: Main Traditions You Should Know
Damenspende (Ladies Ball Gift)
Most traditional Viennese balls provide ball gifts to the ladies, either when entering or leaving the event. While in the 19th century these were beautifully decorated cards to register dances promised to different admirers, they come in various shapes today: from silver spoons and fashion jewellery to confectionery.
Mostly, balls start between 9.00 pm and 10.00 pm with an opening ceremony performed by young first-time ball attendees, the ‘debutants’. Actually a little similar to brides, girls dress in white gowns (only debutantes should wear white dresses). Wait until the start to waltz, and until you hear the master of ceremony say ‘the ball is officially opened’, then you can join in on the dance floor.
Simply put, ‘Damenwahl’ defines a period during the ball where the ladies are allowed to approach gentlemen for a dance. Single ladies: the Rudolfina Redoute is the only Vienna ball where ladies can choose their partners throughout the evening. The Concordia Ball runs a ‘Herreninsel’ (‘gentlemen’s island’) equipped with experienced male dancers who are ready to dance. This makes approaching a stranger for a dance less daunting.
At midnight, the master of ceremony announces the quadrille, an old French dance which is performed by hundreds of dancers together. The orchestras usually play Johann Strauss‘ famous ‘Fledermaus Quadrille’ from his operetta ‘Die Fledermaus’ (The Bat). Definitely, this is the most fun part of the ball and allows you to mingle with the crowd. Don’t worry if you have never danced it. The master of ceremony announces each step. If your German is not up to speed, just imitate your neighbour.
Food And Drink
At Viennese balls you will find various buffets, serving cold and warm meals, and drinks. As much a tradition as the ball itself is having gulash soup, preferably at midnight.
In this photo you can see me handling gulash soup in my ball gown and lace gloves, which was particularly weird! Although I had it, against tradition, even before midnight but it served me perfectly well to get a few more drinks and dance.
If you want to sit at a table you need to buy an additional table ticket at pre sales. Unless you are a larger group, you will usually share a table with other guests.
Almost every ball runs a raffle. Tickets can be bought at the ball, and proceeds mostly go to charity organisations. Prizes range from cruises and cars to shopping vouchers. Most raffle drawings take place after midnight.
While you do not stay until the very end, most Vienna Balls usually finish as late as 5.00 am with Johann Strauss ”Radetzkymarsch’.