Wiener Ball

The history of the Vienna Ball

Emperor Joseph II, (1741-1790), was an unusual leader in that he believed that all citizens should be treated as equals, and in 1773 took the decision to allow every one of his subjects to attend the balls held at the Hofburg Palace.  Thus, the general public was introduced to the waltz, a dance that up until then had been exclusive to the upper echelons of society.

By and by the ball season became a period of celebration that coincided with ‘Fasching’, or carnival, which lasted between mid-November and the Christian ‘Shrove Tuesday’.  The demand for ballroom dancing quickly exceeded the capacity of the Hofburg Palace, and in 1808, the ‘Apollosaal’ was built.  This ‘purpose built’ construction was comprised of several, very large ballrooms, and a great quantity of surrounding rooms available for people to enjoy food and drink prepared in a significant number of kitchens.  Stunning chandeliers were hung from the high ceilings and pictures of the Empress and Emperor were displayed on huge pillars throughout the building. 

Although the Kaiser of Austria had given his permission for a “Soirée”, or social occasion, to be held at the Vienna Opera House in 1877, dancing was not allowed, and it was not until 1935 that perhaps the most famous of balls, the ‘Vienna Opera House Ball’, was celebrated.  During this time in history many smaller establishments sprung up along the banks of the Danube, and the people of Austria embraced their love affair with the traditional waltz, set to the music of one of their most-famous home grown composers, Johann Strauss. 

On the eve of the Second World War in 1939, the order was given to prohibit the Vienna Opera House Ball, and it was to remain absent from the Viennese social scene for almost 20 years.  On 9 February 1956, the Opera House was once again able to welcome the Vienna Opera Ball to its graceful and impressive surroundings.

Regrettably, many of the smaller halls where balls were held, as well as the magnificent ‘Apollosaal’ no longer exist, but the tradition of holding balls in the Hofburg Palace continues, and many professional organizations organize their annual ball within its sumptuous, brightly lit rooms.  The Vienna Opera House Ball remains the highlight of the ball calendar and attracts visitors from all over the globe.



Ball of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra