I moved to Vienna from warm, sunny Italy for many different reasons, but the most charming by far is ball season.

There are few things as magical as wearing a long taffeta dress and floating across the ball room in three quarter time in the arms of a sharp-dressed beau.

The energy and mirth is infectious, especially during the traditional midnight quadrille: trying to follow the complex steps along with the other dancers – often with very mixed results – always gets me giddy and laughing with joy. Time seems to stop for the night, as dancers curtsy and bow while snow falls silently outside.

Incomparable to anything else, it’s no wonder Vienna hosts around 450 balls featuring over 200,000 hours of dancing every year; here are five you shouldn’t miss:

Hofburg Silvesterball (Dec 31)

Ever since I was twelve years old, wrapped up in a wool scarf and walking through the Hofburg’s inner courtyards to celebrate the New Year on the Silvesterpfad with my father, I’ve admired the beautiful ladies walking to the Silvesterball, their long, gold dresses rustling around their legs under their coats.

And indeed, you’d be hard pressed to find a more elegant location for the countdown to 2018 than under the sparkling chandeliers of the Hofburg’s Festsaal. Enjoy the fireworks  from the imperial balcony overlooking Heldenplatz and listen to the traditional tolling of the Pummerin at midnight before dancing the crazy polka.

Hofburg

Regular tickets €165, Student tickets €65

Entry 21:15, Opening 22:00

hofburgsilvesterball.com

Zuckerbäckerball (Jan 11)

A city famous for its sweet tooth, no visit to Vienna is complete without pastries; whether it’s Sachertorte, Apfelstrudel mit Vanillesauce or Kaiserschmarrn, locals love them all.

Fortunately, Vienna’s Zuckerbäcker (pastry chefs) go all out for their annual

Zuckerbäckerball, preparing around 3000 cakes for the occasion! If you’re lucky, you could win one of them at the tombola – or reserve a Tortengarantie for €15 (limited to 500), which guarantees you’ll receive a cake at the end of your long night of waltzing and wining.

Hofburg

Regular tickets €105, Youth tickets €50

Entry 20:00, Opening 21:00

zuckerbaeckerball.com

ball season vienna
© ballguide Fotoservice

Steirerball (Jan 12)

Charming and rustic, the Steirerball caters to homesick Styrians but welcomes all friends of the green march with country cheer, ruddy cheeks and Kernöl aplenty. Wearing Tracht (traditional dress) is a must; as it’s a formal ball, the dress code is strict: no short skirts or lederhosen, and waistcoats are mandatory for gentlemen!

Hofburg

Regular tickets €85, Student tickets 45€

Entry 20:00, Opening 21:00

steirerball.com

Blumenball (Jan 19)

Lighting up the dreary Viennese winter, the Blumenball (Flower Ball) is easily the most beautiful ball of the season, with 100,000 flowers decorating the gothic arches of the Rathaus. Organized by the city’s municipal gardeners, potted plants are provided as party favours; the dress code dictates a tailcoat or tuxedo for gents and a floor-length evening dress for ladies.

Rathaus

Regular tickets €60, Student tickets €40

Entry 20:00, Opening 21:00

wiens-gartenverein.com

Opernball (Feb 8)

The pinnacle of ball season, the Opernball is seen by around 1.46 million people every year thanks to a live broadcast by the ORF, but only 5,150 revellers actually attend the exclusive event. Tickets begin at €290 (and can go much higher), but you get the royal treatment: For one thing, you’ll be able to experience the storied opening, featuring debutantes – wearing golden tiaras designed for the occasion by Dolce & Gabbana – who had to pass a highly competitive selection process, proving impeccable mastery of the left waltz. More importantly, the opera’s stage and orchestral pit is disassembled for one night only, creating space to dance and prance alongside Austrian and international stars.

Staatsoper

Regular tickets €290

program tba

wiener-staatsoper.at