Austria’s elegant capital city of Vienna comes alive in winter, with high-society balls and classical concerts. Its great art galleries and castle museums are almost empty and prices drop radically after New Year. Wrap up as temperatures fall below freezing, although skies are often sunny.
1. Music and Dance
Happily for the birthplace of waltz, classical and operatic concerts take place throughout Vienna during the winter months at the fabled State Opera, the Musikverein, and the Konzerthaus. Ballet performances at the State Opera for 2013 include A Midsummer Night’s Dream by George Balanchine.
There are six ski areas within two hours of Vienna, the closest of which is Stuhleck-Semmering, an hour away south-west in Styria. This chalet-strewn resort is the highest in the eastern Alps at 5,850 feet (1,783 meters) and has decent powder and a mix of blue and red runs, ideal for intermediate skiers.
3. Castles and Museums
Take advantage of the quieter winter months in Vienna to enjoy the romantic castles of Schönbrunn, Belvedere, and Hofburg without the crowds. Even Viennese museums, from the fabulous collections in the Art History Museum to the old radiators in the Brennpunkt, are quiet, accessible, and enjoyable.
4. Spanish Riding School
The 2013 winter evening performances of balletic dressage in the grand Baroque manège are scheduled for every weekend from February to April. A cheaper option, to see the grey Lipizzaner stallions being schooled in the morning, runs daily throughout the winter.
5. Ballroom Blitz
The Viennese adore to waltz and a season of over 200 glamorous balls runs through Vienna’s winter months; expensive at up to €100 per ticket but worth the experience for the bling factor. Social highlights include the Hunters Ball at the Hofburg Imperial Palace (January 28); the Opera Ball at the State Opera (February 7); and the Rudolfina Masked Ball at the Imperial Palace (February 11).
6. Café Culture
The streets and squares inside Vienna’s Biedermeier-style Ringstrasse are crammed with charming cafés, perfect for warming up over steaming coffee; glamorous Café Central has vaulted ceilings and great cake, Café Prückel is as renowned for its early-evening card games as its coffee, and Café Hawelka is gloriously old fashioned.
Contributed by Sasha Heseltine