Editor’s Note: this post was originally posted in 2015. I have updated some of the practical information about the Vienna Hofburg Silvester Ball. Happy travels… Jessica!

In 2010, I experienced Vienna for the first time and I was instantly enamored with the city. I went to the city by myself and took in the lovely buildings, silently shed a tear watching Don Giovanni, and ate the famous Sacher Torte. I returned in 2011 with a good friend, but always felt I wanted to return with someone I was in love with as the city is so romantic. Fast forward to December 31st, 2014. My now husband and I were in our gala attire ready to embark on a fairytale journey: the Hofburg Silvesterball.  The Silvesterball marks the start of the ball season in Vienna. If you travel to Vienna during the month of January, I highly suggest you pack a ball gown or tuxedo since you will be tempted to waltz away in the lovely settings of the city. 

The Dance floor at the Hofburg Silvesterball
The Ballroom at the Hofburg Palace

Getting to the Hofburg Silvesterball


We arrived at the ball at 9:15 pm to witness the opening of the grand staircase to begin the festivities. The opening of the Grand Staircase was quite the event. At 10 pm sharp, classical music began to play and gorgeous ballerinas descended upon the staircase. The costumes were beautifully whimsical, it transported me to what it would have been like to experience such an event two hundred years ago.
 
We then headed to the main ballroom where the Viennese debutantes, all dressed in beautiful white gowns danced with their partners a classic waltz.  A classical concert followed, performed by the Vienna State Opera. During the concert, we were enticed by the gorgeous opera voice of Barbara Payha, who swayed around the ballroom in a beautiful ball gown as she sang.  
Ballerinas at the Grand Staircase

Getting Tickets

As a guest, you can purchase tickets to a gala dinner, but they are quite expensive (beginning at 480 Euros for dinner and ball). If you can afford it, I recommend it as you will have the best seats in the house once the ball commences.  It was difficult to take photos as the venue was quite crowded.  Those are the moments where you are forced to be present, live in that moment, and take in the magical atmosphere.  Our seats were in the adjacent room to the main ballroom. 
Although our sitting area was not in the main ballroom, as a general guest you had access to the main ballroom to see the performances and dance the night away.  There were several cash bars available to purchase drinks and even bottles of wine or champagne.  Additionally, there was even a gourmet snack bar where you can purchase your “new year snack”.  The new year snacks range from snack plates of charcuterie and cheese to the traditional wurst.

The Dance floor at the Hofburg Silvesterball
The Dance Floor at the Hofburg Silvesterball
We walked around the ball areas to take in the atmosphere.  You have a mix of locals and international tourists who want to experience a traditional Viennese ball. I heard many languages from Mandarin to Spanish. These differences in cultures were also seen by the dresses seen on the dancefloor: fluffy ball gowns, eccentric evening gowns, traditional evening gowns, and even a traditional Japanese Kimono. 
As for me, I wore a lovely Aidan Mattox gown I purchased at Neiman Marcus. My intent was to wear it to a friend’s wedding but my father passed away the day before the wedding. I kept the dress knowing there will be another occasion to wear it.  Wearing the gown with my wedding jewelry and shoes made me think of the special moments and how my father was probably in Vienna, in spirit seeing me do what I love: dance and chronicle.
At the Ball

Dance we did as the clock was approaching midnight. We are no expert waltz dancers but we soon found out the level on the dance floor was quite diverse as well. We let our insecurities go and swayed around the grand ballroom. It soon became midnight and we kissed to welcome 2015. 2014 was a year filled with ups and downs and this New Year began in a very beautiful way.

We danced some more and had our New Year snack. It was pretty surreal to eat a wurst (sausage) with a roll wearing a ball gown but apparently, it is very traditional to do so at the Hofburg Silvesterball. The music continued way after midnight with a series of Soloists from the Vienna State Opera performing. It was an epic way to conclude the evening.

Hofburg Silvesterball
Dancing at Hofburg Silvesterball
By 2am, my feet were sore and we were both tired. Needless to say, I’m not the rockstar I used to be. The challenging part was leaving the Hofburg Palace as taxis were far in between. It was pretty cold out and we stood in line for almost thirty minutes waiting for a taxi.  It occurred to me to check Uber and see if they had service in Vienna. Thankfully they did! In a few minutes we were on our way to the hotel.
Debutantes at the Ball

A Viennese ball has been on my bucket-list since my first trip to Austria.  I love the formality of the Hofburg Silvesterball. Every year, I am always excited to get dressed up in my evening dress uniform to celebrate the Marine Corps Ball. Love the old world glamour and elegance of these events. I’m thankful we had the opportunity to experience this event.  The music, décor, and atmosphere were truly magical.

The verdict: if you’re in Vienna during the ball season, the Hofburg Silvesterball is a must do. 
Tickets for 2017 Ball: 
Grand Ticket with gala dinner from € 480.–
Star Ticket with table reservation from € 215.–
Circle Ticket € 165.–
Student Ticket € 70.–
How to book: Head to the Hofburg Silvesterball website:www.hofburgsilvesterball.com or email: silvesterball@hofburg.com 

Spending more time in Vienna? Here’s our ideal itinerary

Hofburg Silvesterball
Opera Singers at Hofburg Silvesterball

 

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  • Michael

    Thank you for reviewing this. My wife and I are going next year. I am going to start watching for tickets to open right after New Years passes.

  • Benjamin

    Hello, Jessica. I enjoyed your review, as I hope to attend this year. I wanted to see if you might have the answer to a question I have, based on your experience there. Did you see any same-sex couples dancing among the crowd? I would like to waltz with my partner (we know how to waltz well) but I don’t know how open Austrian/Viennese/Silvesterball culture will be to it. Thanks for your input!

    • Hi Benjamin, sorry it took me a few days to reply. I wanted to do more research. I don’t recall seeing any same sex couples on the dance floor but I checked with some locals (to include a gay man) for input. They say that the Viennese ball scene can still be a bit conservative but no one is going to drag you out of the dancefloor. A few friends suggested going to the Lifeball, that is popular in the Austrian LGBT community. Hope this helps! http://lifeplus.org/en/life-ball

      • Benjamin

        Thank you so much for the information. I especially appreciate your
        additional effort to reach out to your contacts for more input. I did
        go ahead and buy tickets for this year’s ball. I really like your
        comment in the blog about the formality of the event and I’m looking forward to it, regardless of how much or little we dance. (Of course, knowing how to waltz might make us good catches if there are any single ladies present!) Cheers!

      • Benjamin

        Hello again, Jessica. I wanted to follow up to share our experience at the ball in case any of your readers have the same question I did.

        At our table were middle aged (straight) couples from Vienna, Scotland, Colorado, and Japan. When asked, we introduced ourselves as partners. The Japanese lady asked, in limited English, if we were going to dance.

        And indeed we did! Although I was caught up in the moment, I didn’t notice any odd looks or discomfort from anyone.

        On top of that, I told our tablemates that I was going to propose to my partner a bit before I did it. They and others nearby were watching, applauding, toasting, and taking photos, and several people stopped to congratulate us.

        It was heartwarming to be accepted so graciously. A truly unforgettable experience. Thanks again for your blog post. I echo everything you say about the event!

        • Hi Benjamin,
          First of all, congrats on your engagement! What a beautiful place to have it! So happy that you and your fiance had a great time! Happy 2018 ♥️

  • William Preston

    Thanks for the taxi note, we are scheduled to leave at 3am, but want to make sure we get the goodie bags… are they available earlier than 4am?

    • Sorry, I don’t have the answer to that! Hope you have a lovely time at the ball…