Navigation Content Activities in Austria

Dance! Ball season in Vienna

Nowhere are balls so romantically formal as in Vienna. This tradition is intoxicating to locals and visitors for far more than a single night.

 © WienTourismus / MAXUM

In Vienna, over 400 balls are staged each winter, frequented by 300,000 dance-loving visitors from all around the world. A unique flair is invested in proceedings by the ceremonial program. The reason for the carnival-like addiction to balls amongst the Viennese can be dated back to the 18th century, when the wearing of masks and costumes was reserved for the nobility and on private occasions only. To compensate for this, Emperor Joseph II opened up the dances in the Redoute Rooms in the Hofburg palace to everyone. This allowed the Viennese to copy the courtly customs of these celebrations, something which they retain to this day: strict dress codes, an opening fanfare, the entrance of the debutants and debutantes and the call “Alles Walzer”, dance cards and changes of music, together with the ‘midnight interlude’, generally a quadrille, and the formal ending are all evidence of this. Another unique feature is the “Damenspende”, a selected gift for each lady as she enters the room.

The waltz, being a partner dance, was initially perceived as a provocation, and it caused moral outrage. The Vienna Congress (1814/15), meeting in the city to establish the new order in Europe following Napoleon's campaigns, made it socially acceptable in the salons. The political work was so lavishly accompanied by balls that it gave rise to the legendary saying “Der Kongress tanzt!” (“The congress is dancing!”). What the Congress was dancing to ultimately moved the world more than any of its decisions: the Viennese waltz was honoured as the king of dances.

The intoxicating turning movements at waltzing speed brought an intimate pleasure into ecclesiastically-solemn ballrooms. And Johann Strauss the Elder (1804 - 1849), who established the supremacy of the waltz with 152 successful compositions, struck up the invitation to this dreamy dance from Vienna to London with his orchestra. “Darf ich bitten?” (“May I have this dance?”) is the most wonderful invitation at a ball, which makes the heart beat quite a bit faster. And when it is ladies' choice (meaning the woman invites the man to dance), men too get to experience that feeling of being the chosen one.

Many of the Viennese balls are now organised by groups of professional persons. The “Kaffeesieder-Ball” (organised by the Coffee Brewers) transforms the Hofburg in Vienna into the most formal dance café in the city, with an elegant and charming programme; the Confectioners delight by serving a great variety of delicious pastries at their ball. For many people, the ball staged by the Vienna Philharmonic is considered the unofficial highlight of the ball season; it is held in the rooms of the Vienna Musikverein, from where the New Year's Day concert is also broadcasted around the world every year. The Opera Ball, held in the Vienna Opera House, “in the most beautiful ballroom in the world”, is the State Ball of the Federal Republic of Austria and at the same time also the artists' ball of the Vienna State Opera.


Vienna Opera Ball
The artists’ ball in the Vienna Opera House. The event of the year.
Date: 7.2.2013

Famous ball in the Hofburg and the Redoute Rooms.
Date: 8.2.2013

The Confectioners’ Ball is staged annually in the Hofburg.
Date: 17.1.2013

Ball calendar
Here you will find all the key information and dates on all of Austria’s balls.

Vienna dance schools

House of Johann Strauss the Younger
Johann Strauss (1825 – 1899) was the most successful descendant of the dynasty of waltz composers, and as such that makes him the fiercest rival to his father. The composer’s house can be visited throughout the year. Please note! Special opening times.

‘Dance in Vienna’ city tour

Etiquette course
The famous dance teacher Thomas Schäfer-Elmayer also coaches ‘dance etiquette’.


Evening fashion for ladies
Joppich is the no. 1 address in Vienna for ball dresses.

Dance shoes for women

Kleiderverleih clothes hire
Dinner jackets and evening dresses for one night? Everything you need can be found at Kleiderverleih.