Renowned for its sweet treats and a whole lot of chocolate, Vienna is an excellent place for foodies to delight their senses. Traditional Austrian cooking is inspired by the cuisines of its neighbouring countries, including Hungary, Germany, the Czech Republic and Italy, and its most popular dishes are rich, hearty and often full of meat.
Where & when?
Practicalities first! Vienna is a large city and you'll be able to find cafes and restaurants offering different cuisines in every district.
Breakfast is usually served between 7 am and 10 am, and lunch between 12 pm and 2 pm. Many restaurants close between lunch and dinner service, which normally starts from 6 pm and finishes around 11 pm. In the area surrounding the cathedral, most cafes and tea shops will remain open throughout the day for tourists.
For a truly authentic Austrian experience, make time in your trip to enjoy a meal in a beisl. These down-to-earth Viennese bistros serve simple food in a traditional setting, and are found all over the city, usually open from 11 am through until 11 pm.
Heurigen, which means "new wine" are also fun ways to eat and drink like a local. Originally extensions of Austrian vineyards where winemakers would allow guests to sample the year's wine harvest, these are now usually taverns serving local wine alongside delicious food. Located on this city's outskirts near the vineyards, most open from 4 pm until around midnight.
What to eat
- Wiener Schnitzel, a thin, breaded, pan-fried veal cutlet, is a Viennese speciality and one of Austria's national dishes. Traditionally served with potato salad, these days different variations on the schnitzel are available. In most eateries, a Schnitzel will cost from €12.00 for a pork cut and €20.00 upwards for veal. Try a reasonably priced pork cut while rubbing shoulders with the locals in the fancy-feeling Café Dommayer; visit Figlmüller, which calls itself the 'Home of the Schnitzel'; or go upmarket for a contemporary twist on the classic at Skopik & Lohn.
- Soup with dumplings, boiled beef and goulash are also important dishes in Austrian cuisine, and are especially delicious options to warm up if you visit Vienna in the winter months. Sample these at one of the city's beisls: Steman, Rebhuhn and Gasthaus Wild each have a cosy, traditional feel and serve typical meals that won't break the bank.
Sweet treats & coffee
- Chocolate fans assemble! Sachertorte, a glossy chocolate cake filled with apricot jam and served with whipped cream, is an icon of Austrian cuisine. Franz Sacher originally made it for Prince Wenzel von Metternich in Vienna in 1832, and since then there has been some controversy as to who makes the most authentic torte. Cafe Sacher, Cafe Demel and Cafe Diglas all sell the classic cake, although expect it to be over 5€ (US$5.4) for a slice!
- Another of Vienna's world-famous desserts is the delicious Strudel. Multiple layers of flaky thin pastry are wrapped around spiced apples and baked, then served with cream. Most cafes in the Austrian capital sell this delicacy, costing anywhere from 2,50€ (US$2.7) up to 7,50€ (US$8.2) and more for a slice. Cafe Eiles, Cafe Mozart and the UNESCO-recognised Cafe Pruckel are amongst the many city centre spots that serve the patisserie in beautifully decorated surroundings.
- Coffee is taken very seriously in Vienna, and the city has a huge tradition of coffee houses, which served as meeting places for prominent writers, artists, musicians and philosophers in the 19th century. With the growing trend of Third Wave coffee in recent years, Viennese cafes have remained as symbolic as ever. Travel back in time at Café Schwarzenberg, the oldest coffee house on the Ringstrasse, or embrace the contemporary at the chic Süssmund Kaffeebar or Balthasar. Learn your coffee terms so you can order like a local:
- Kleiner Brauner: black coffee with a dash of milk.
- Melange: milky coffee similar to a cappuccino.
- Schwarzer or mokka: espresso.
- Kapuziner: black coffee topped with whipped cream, a Viennese speciality.
- Wine: Austria produces some excellent wines, and Vienna is surrounded by vineyards. The young wines made each year are served to the public in Huerigen, the city's traditional taverns. One of the area's most famous wines is Gruner Veltliner, a fresh and fruity white.
- Beer: While the tipple of choice in Vienna may be wine, beer is also incredibly popular. A number of microbreweries have cropped up around the city in recent years, and bars will serve a variety of beers from crisp lagers like Helles, to dark beers such as Dunkel and pilsners.