- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
- German Phrases
Stepping Out in Three-Quarter Time
Ever since the 19th-century Congress of Vienna—when pundits laughed "Elle danse, mais elle ne marche pas" (the city "dances, but it never gets anything done")—Viennese extravagance and gaiety have been world-famous. Fasching, the season of Carnival, was given over to court balls, opera balls, masked balls, chambermaids' and bakers' balls, and a hundred other gatherings, many held within the glittering interiors of Baroque theaters and palaces. Presiding over the dazzling evening gowns and gilt-encrusted uniforms, towering headdresses, flirtatious fans, chambres séparées, "Wine, Women, and Song," Die Fledermaus, "Blue Danube," hand kissing, and gay abandon was the baton of the waltz emperor, Johann Strauss. White-gloved women and men in white tie would glide over marble floors to his heavenly melodies. They still do. Now, as in the days of Franz Josef, Vienna's old three-quarter-time rhythm strikes up anew each year during Carnival, from New Year's Eve until Mardi Gras.
During January and February as many as 40 balls may be held in a single evening. Many events are organized by a professional group, including the Kaiserball (Imperial Ball), Philharmonikerball (Ball of the Philharmonic Orchestra), Kaffeesiederball (Coffee Brewers' Ball), the Zuckerbaeckerball (Confectioners' Ball), or the Opernball (Opera Ball). The latter is the most famous—some say too famous. This event transforms the Vienna Opera House into the world's most beautiful ballroom (and transfixes all of Austria when shown live on national television). The invitation reads "Frack mit Dekorationen," which means that ball gowns and tails are usually required for most events (you can always get your tux from a rental agency) and women mustn't wear white (reserved for debutantes). But there's something for everyone these days, including the "Ball of Bad Taste" or "Wallflower Ball." Other noted venues are the imperial Hofburg palace and the Musikverein concert hall. Prices usually run from about EUR 75 to EUR 450 and up per person. If you go, remember that you must dance the Linkswalzer—the counterclockwise, left-turning waltz that is the only correct way to dance in Vienna. After your gala evening, finish off the morning with a Kater Frühstuck—hangover breakfast—of goulash soup.
Free Fodor's Newsletter
Subscribe today for weekly travel inspiration, tips, and special offers.
Fodor's Trip Planning Ideas
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Go List: Fodor's Top 25 Places to Go in 2013
- Hotel Awards 2012: Fodor's 100 Top Hotels
- Best of Europe: Fodor's Picks the Best Places to Visit in Europe
- Austrian Vacation! Flights to Vienna From 505 R/T ASAPTickets.com
- Small budget: Stay in Vienna this May Fr $149+/Nt Expedia
- Save in Vienna: Book 3 Nts in May Fr $209+/Nt Save with Expedia, $14/night less
- Hot Deal on a 15 Nt Cruise! Avalon Waterways Fr $4,668 Expedia
- Save Big This May! Book 3 Nts in Vienna at KUNSThof Fr $82+/Nt — $82 Save with Expedia, $25/night less