Europe Elegant, irreverent: Vienna's LGBT scene By Mark A. Thompson / April 20, 2017 Share 1 The Regenbogenball (Rainbow Ball) is an all-night party that mixes irreverent wit with the pomp of an imperial ball. Photo Credit: Courtesy of MRNY -- You might call it "the slap at the bathhouse heard throughout the Austro-Hungarian empire." That's what happened to the Austrian emperor's brother upon making untoward advances to an officer while visiting the men's sauna known today as the Kaiserbrundl.Those who wander Vienna at the height of ball season amid a sea of white ties and tails, opera gloves and gowns might imagine a city of straitlaced ritual and protocol; but behind the confectionery architecture lies a labyrinth of LGBT history. A walking tour hosted by Qwien, the LGBT cultural center of Vienna, showcases some of Vienna's more flamboyant historical figures: princes and emperors, composers and architects — men and women whose aesthetics (and military acumen) shaped the imperial city of palaces.For more than 600 years, the Habsburg dynasty ruled its vast empire from the Hofburg, the sprawling complex in the center of Vienna that was extended by each emperor and now encompasses 18 wings, 19 courtyards and 2,600 rooms where 5,000 people live and work, including the president of Austria. In the gossamer glow of midwinter, when horse-drawn carriages bear women in evening gowns and men in black ties alight from limousines, you can be forgiven for imagining that you've slipped into a celluloid fantasy. Those who are not yet as graceful as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on the dance floor hoof it to a tanz schule such as Elmayer Dance School for a Vienna waltz lesson, while those in need of a tuxedo or a ball gown head to Flossmann to be outfitted from top hat to toe. Vienna’s annual Life Ball raises millions to help the fight against AIDS. Given Vienna's rich LGBT history, it's no surprise that more than a few of Vienna's 450 annual balls are as colorful as a rainbow. Notable for its extravagant opening ceremony and fashion show, Vienna's annual Life Ball has become the world's most flamboyant charity bacchanal, raising millions to fight AIDS globally. For those seeking a twist on tradition, the Regenbogenball (aka Rainbow Ball) mixes the pomp of imperial balls with a dollop of irreverent wit for an all-night party marked by a cast of colorful characters such as Conchita Wurst, winner of the Eurovision Song Contest in 2014, and Tamara Mascara, the doyenne of Viennese nightlife. Held at the Parkhotel Schonbrunn, the Regenbogenball is a primary fundraiser for Austria's largest LGBT organization, Hosi Wien, which also hosts Vienna's annual Rainbow Parade for Pride. As for Vienna's truly alternative LGBT ball, the Kreativball takes place over two consecutive nights in the ballroom of Hans-Mandl-Berufsschule, once the largest vocational school building of the Second Republic. Apart from ball season, Vienna offers a dynamic LGBT scene centered around cafes, bars, lounges and all-night dens of iniquity. Each June, Vienna Pride and the Rainbow Parade transform the city's neo-Gothic City Hall Square into Pride Village.There's also the Vienna Queer Film Festival followed by the Vienna Fetish Spring, which includes the anointment of Mr. Leather Austria. In October, the Wien in Schwarz (Vienna in Black) festival is as dark as night, while Rosa Wiener Wiesn-Fest is Vienna's rainbow version of Oktoberfest. And for the first time since 2001, Vienna will host EuroPride in 2019. The Cafe Savoy is a popular starting point for exploring Vienna’s LGBT scene and was renovated in 2008-09. Photo Credit: Peter Rigaud/WienTourismus For many LGBT locals, the Cafe Savoy serves as a starting point for nocturnal temptations, which might ultimately lead to the Kaiserbrundl, the fabled Moorish-influenced bathhouse that opened in 1889 and has been frequented by archdukes (who got slapped). When in search of sanctuary and sustenance, check out Vienna's coffeehouses. Both Cafe Sperl and Cafe Central evoke fin de siecle Vienna, complete with newspapers and homemade pastries. For dinner, stake your claim on a table at Motto, one of Vienna's most popular restaurants ever since the days when designer Helmut Lang worked the floor. With waiters as delicious as the cuisine, an evening at Motto is the start of an all-night party.And when you find your feet dragging, head back to your base camp, the sexy, circus-themed 25hours Hotel Vienna in MuseumsQuartier where the motto is "We are all mad here." If you've been out all night, either waltzing at a ball or visiting a bathhouse, the buffet breakfast at the hotel's restaurant 1500 Foodmakers offers a Viennese take on la dolce vita amid a laid-back bohemian atmosphere that attracts hipster locals and global nomads. Sink into it; it's Vienna fab.