Vienna is a City of Palaces, particularly the old town, where the mighty Danube becomes the main attraction. Around these parts, the scenery resembles an enchanted forest dotted by stately homes and imperial palaces from the time of the Habsburg.
A stroll trough the city is the best way to discover the unending treasures of what was once the seat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The architecture is grand, dazzling and captivating; a stylistic collection of buildings that host theaters, opera houses, dance halls, cafes, public buildings and more. The locals, smartly dressed no their bicycles are blessed with the city’s musical legacy. You will hear classical music on Sunday at the parks; opera and ballet are offered on a daily basis. Such is the popularity of opera and classical music in this city that the theater performances are usually simulcast on giant outdoor screens.
Vienna could also be dubbed the capital of music, better yet, the Capital of Waltz. The Viennese waltz is woven into the country’s DNA. Austrians take pride in this traditional dance, which is part of the school curricula for boys and girls ready to make their debut in society.
There is an abundant selection of dance schools throughout the country. These academies are devoted to teaching the proper art of dancing the waltz alongside other international rhythms. The Willy Elmayer-Vestenbrugg, in the historic Palais Pallavicini, dates back to the early 1990s and remains the most prestigious dance school in all Vienna.
The Viennese youth learn to perfect the dance steps as well as te impeccable etiquette to join one of the most glamorous traditions, Vienna’s Ball Season, undoubtedly the most anticipated time of the year by all single Austrians.
During January and February, the Austrian capital hosts a festive and romantic season featuring more than 450 balls ranging from the most elegant attended by the European society to the fun and carefree parties and carnival balls. Whatever the type, the waltz is at the core of every event for the delight of the attendees.
The tradition began in 1814 when, after the Napoleonic wars and along the eight months of peace negotiations of the Vienna Congress, the aristocrats organized waltzing evenings. There is no real negotiation without dancing was the premise of the celebration. Of course, the Viennese waltz was considered the dance par excellence.
A garden in Vienna.
It ‘s hard to resist the city’s unique allure with an impressive artistic and historical heritage. During this time of year, we can enjoy 2,000 hours of dancing in palaces and theaters where tradition and modernity live together.
Every weekend, we have the opportunity to attend a grand gala or a ball. However, following the tradition strictly is mandatory: ladies should wear their most elegant gowns or the typical Austrian dress, and gentlemen must be in a tuxedo or tailcoat. Sometimes a dark suit is allowed and always adorned with a bow tie, never with a modern tie. The young Austrians seem jubilant to embrace this tradition.
The Vienna Red Cross Ball opens the season on November 11, followed by the New Year’s Eve Ball at the Hofburg, the old imperial palace.
Without any doubt, the event that attracts the most attention from the media, and the most expensive of the season, is the legendary Opera Ball held on February 23 at the Wiener Staatsoper, the Vienna State Opera. If you are a man, you must wear a tailcoat, displaying all your medals and decorations, and is compulsory that you swap your wrist watch for a golden chain watch.
The Vienna State Opera.
The Opera Ball brings together national and international personalities from the fields of politics, finance, and culture. The guests have the rare opportunity to get to know the opera house located on the beautiful street of Ringstrasse, not only from the perspective of the spectator but to also experience the “backstage” in the company of other celebrities.
Although some think that the Opera Ball is the peak of the social season, others opt for the graceful Vienna Philharmonic Dance held on January 19, which took place in the Musikverein. Organized by and for artists, its guest list is reputed to be the most exclusive. The musicians of the world-famous orchestra play only during the opening of the event, and after the performance they take over the dance floor, mixing with the audience in a nonstop night of dancing.
The Doctors’ Ball (January 18) and the Hunters’ Ball (January 30) are also held in the halls of the Hofburg palace, in addition to the Vienna Coffeehouse Owners’ Ball (February 2) attended by 6,000 people.
This year, Brazil is the host country of the Ball of the Vienna Boys’ Choir (January 27) at the Kursalon Hübner, a late 19th-century mansion turned into a Music Hall. Perhaps the waltz will come perfumed with to the rhythms of samba and bossa nova.
For those who are looking for something less formal, there is the Bonbon Ball (February 24) at the Wiener Konzerthaus, or the colorful Flower Ball (January 13) at City Hall, where the Viennese Ball of the Sciences (January 28) is also held to please large groups of university students.
If you travel to Vienna
If you are planning to visit Vienna, take some time to learn the authentic Viennese waltz in one of its notorious academies and to attend one of its lavish balls, as well as the opera. Carve some time out of your busy schedule to ramble along the Danube, visit the historical and famous Spanish Horse Riding School, the theaters and the many palaces of the Habsburgs to discover the home of Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife, the famous Empress Sissi.
Top: During and after a gala.
Bottom: The historical and famous Spanish Horse Riding School.
Considering the world-class cuisine of Vienna, with several Michelin restaurants, you shouldn’t miss the Dstrikt at the Ritz-Carlton, regarded the best in the city. And when it comes to accommodation, there’s nothing better than this hotel built on four Habsburg palaces with a mix of warm and modern decoration. In classic Ritz-Carlton style, this majestic structure features impressive marble staircases, grand frescoes on its vaulted ceilings, and dramatic chandeliers.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel has impressive suites and palatial rooms, a VIP club for those who want a concierge service 24 hours a day with books, computers, sweets, snacks, food and liquor. The panoramic terrace on the top floor offers everything from yoga classes to an exclusive lounge to relax and have a drink. You’ll also find an amazing spa with a giant heated pool and organic produce from the Austrian Alps prepared by Susanne Kaufman.
Vienna in the evening.
Austrian, the flagship airline, is an excellent choice to get you there. With flights departing from countless cities around the world, it offers one of the most helpful, friendly and professional crews of all air fleets and a first class “boutique”, featuring a menu prepared and served by the airline’s own chef, a splendid list of wines and spirits, a Viennese cafeteria with 32 varieties of coffee in addition to ample seats which convert into comfortable beds. ■