*This is a two-part series about spending New Years Eve in Vienna, Austria. I’ve split it up because I have a ton of photos from the two days we were in town. This part covers just the ball at the Hofburg Palace. Travel and hotel details I’ll put in the next post.
The ’80s and ’90s were a magical time to be a child. I’ve heard my generation called the “last generation to play outside” and I believe this to be true, to a degree. We were also the first generation to have access to multiple, somewhat advanced, video game platforms, which pulled many of us out of the real world and in to fictional ones (which I was totally cool with).
Aside from video games, one other thing made my childhood magical – Disney!
The Disney magic was strong in the ’80s/’90s.
The first movie I ever saw in theater was The Little Mermaid, and to say I was enamored with Disney would be an understatement. I devoured every soundtrack available and would put on performances for friends and family. Disneyland was only a short distance from my home, but it was kept for very special occasions (hey, it’s expensive).
I’m not entirely sure if it was Disney’s fault, but I’m fine blaming Cinderella for my obsession with castles.
My partner and I have made it a bit of a tradition to travel somewhere over New Years, and this year happened to coincide perfectly with a business trip to Europe so when I found out there was a fancy, old school ball happening in Vienna – BOOM! Plans set.
I had visions of Disney princesses dancing in my head instantly.
Buying tickets for the Hofburg Silvesterball is easily done on their website. There are varying levels of tickets, some offering a coursed dinner, others reserved seats at a table (categorized by different ballrooms), and others are just entrance and nothing else. After going back and forth trying to decide if I would absolutely need a seat after hours in heels, I decided to tough it out and we went with the basic tickets. With your ticket purchase you can also add on Waltz lessons, which I highly recommend. At least to me, it’s required to know how to do the Viennese Waltz at a Viennese ball (plus I didn’t want to look like an idiot if someone asked me to dance – which didn’t happen *sob*).
The waltz lesson was the during the day before the ball on the 31st and took place in one of the ballrooms at Hofburg Palace.
Vienna is amazingly gorgeous, thanks in part to the Habsburg dynasty.
After the waltz lesson we decided to take a break before getting ready for the ball.
Vienna is incredibly busy for New Years. So much so, that even 2 months ahead of the date I was having trouble finding a restaurant to book for our New Year’s Eve dinner. After a bit of a mixup resulting in the first restaurant we did manage to book in to insisting we had only booked for cocktails, we headed back to our hotel and had dinner there (hotel details in the next post).
Viennese balls are formal affairs. Black or white tie for men, and ball gowns for women (though I saw a gown or two that were a bit questionable in their formality). As a bit of a fashion freak, this was a huge part of the fun for me. I love dressing up, and was super thrilled to shop for a gown. After trying on at least a dozen dresses, I settled on a glistening gown found in a Saks Fifth Avenue in Vegas. Then clutch was a bit of a struggle (how am I supposed to fit my phone in these things?!), but I managed to find one at BCBG at the last moment.
Doors opened at 9pm for regular ticket holders and we arrived at 9:30ish. We mingled and took photos in the antechamber and managed to snag one of the last glasses of free champagne as we waited for the grand staircase and ballrooms to open. At 10pm the red velvet ropes were removed and people began flooding up the staircase.
The ball is spread throughout the palace in different ballrooms. Each had a different band or area to sit and nibble on something. If you’re trying to do this on a bit of a budget and enjoy the effects of alcohol – I’d say get some drinks in before hand as the drink prices were pretty steep (around $20 usd per). I didn’t want to screw up any waltzes so one glass of Gruner Veltliner was perfect for me.
Just after 10pm, in the main ballroom, the debutantes made their debut. I know on the East Coast of the US they still have this tradition, but I’d never really heard of it outside of Jane Austen novels on the West Coast.
Along with the debutantes debut were amazing performances by Vienna Opera singers and ballet dancers.
After the performances were done we wandered the ballrooms, enjoyed performances by a myriad of bands and orchestras, and waited for midnight to strike.
My feet were starting to kill me after a few hours in heels, and I slightly dismayed at not purchasing a ticket with a table. Much to my relief, however, the cafe area of one of the ballrooms had open seating available.
10 minutes before the countdown, we filed back in to the main ballroom to watch the clock tick down.
…I just have to stop for a moment to reflect on my dress. OH MAN! I need more reasons to wear this one.
Ok, back to it! Count down time! This was a test – I can count forwards to 10 in German, but could I count backwards? The answer was no, no I can not.
And with that, we rang in 2017. A bit more wandering the ballrooms and I was just about done for the evening. Jet lag and high heels were kicking my butt. I turned to my partner and said “Change in to comfy clothes and find a street food vendor?” and off we went!
A wonderfully fancy, unforgettable New Year’s Eve topped off with delicious 1am bratwursts. All in all, this wannabe Princess couldn’t imagine a better night.