Austria is a fascinating country. The region is rich in history and architecture. Along with it, Austrian food culture thrives.
How much do you know about Austrian cuisine? We will take you through the sophisticated Vienna food culture, with some of the culinary highlights of restaurants in Vienna that we think are worth trying.
We’ll also give you some suggestions on restaurants you can visit if you want to set up your own Vienna do it yourself food tour.
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Introduction to Traditional Austrian Dishes
If you trace the geography and history of Austria, it makes sense that traditional Austrian food shares similarities with many other nations. Starting from the rich coffee tradition of Turkey, sausages and bratwurst from Germany, goulash from Hungary, and the signature Viennese schnitzel dish with Italian roots.
All merge together to form what’s now considered to be traditional Austrian dishes.
Going to Vienna? Check out these amazing tours!
While each region of Austria has significant cuisine highlights and differences, Austrian food in popular culture often gets associated with what’s served in Vienna. That’s what we are focusing here on this post.
Although we disagree, for many, Austrian food = “Vienna cuisine.”
Traditional Austrian food
There is lots of must-try Austrian food and you don’t want to miss them. You’ll find most of these are popular dishes in Vienna.
The national dish of Austria
Let’s start with the obvious one – the Austrian national dish. This is something you can find just about anywhere in Vienna. It’s called Vienna Schnitzel – or, as you probably know it, Wienerschnitzel.
Wiener Schnitzel is the most famous dish in Austria. “Wien” – Vienna – is even part of the dish’s name. That said, you can find Wiener Schnitzel in every part of the country.
Each region, and even different restaurants in Vienna, have their own Schnitzel varieties. It’s basically the same thing – a fillet of thinned meat (pounded with a neat tenderizer), coated with flour, eggs and bread crumbs, and then fried in some kind of oil or fat.
(And it has nothing whatsoever to do with the tiny cans of wieners you see on your grocery shelves.)
Viennese Schnitzel – Wienerschnitzel
Contributed by Karolina & Patryk
Wiener Schnitzel is a must-try when you are in Austria. It is a thin piece of veal served with slice of lemon and potato salad. You can either squeeze a lemon on the cutlet or not.
It’s not surprising why this Austrian food is famous all over the world – it is absolutely delicious!
We tried it for the first time at The Bank Brasserie & Bar by Hyatt Hotel in Vienna. It was fresh, crispy, and simply perfect. Usually, schnitzel is really big, so if you are not very hungry, you probably won’t be able to eat everything.
The Bank Brasserie & Bar, Park Hyatt, Bognergasse 4, 1010 Wien
Non-veal Austrian Schnitzel
Traditional Wiener Schnitzel is made from veal – Austrian law even protects its originality. However, if you’re a non-veal type, you can find varieties of chicken, turkey, or pork (appropriately named “Wiener Schnitzel vom Schwein” – or Vienna Schnitzel from pork).
While Viennese Schnitzel is the main dish, you can order the local favorite side dish or potato salad and red currant jelly.
A slice of lemon on the side will add a depth and freshness flavor to Austrian Schnitzel dishes.
Vienna Sausages – Wiener Würstels
While most Austrian food comes from the kitchens of its thousands of restaurants, you can find street food, too. The famous street food of Austria is Viennese sausages.
You can find Vienna Sausages – also known as Würstels – in many designated stands, locally known as Würstelstand.
Viennese sausages usually come with mustard and you wash them down with beer. Different varieties include cheese stuffing, or the hotdog-style bun käsekrainer.
A variety of spicy bratwurst sausage is called Bosna or Bosner. It originated in either Salzburg or Linz. Bosna is popular in Southern Bavaria and Western Austrian cuisine.
Just like a typical hotdog, Bosna usually comes on a grilled bun, with onion, mustard, and ketchup.
Contributed by Vienna 101 Facets
Viennese cuisine’s most used meat is veal. Take the wiener schnitzel (veal coated in breadcrumbs and fried), Tafelspitz (boiled veal or beef), Beuschel (a ragout containing veal lungs and heart) as some of the main dishes of Vienna’s gastronomic scene.
Tafelspitz literally means tip (of meat). It’s also the name of the meat cut. It’s boiled veal or beef in a broth of spices and root vegetables, served with a mix of minced apples and horseradish or with potatoes and sour cream with chives, according to your preference.
It is not only popular in the entire Austrian region, it is also a well-known dish in the neighboring German state of Bavaria.
This dish doesn’t require a lot of preparation, and legend has it that it was one of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph’s favourites.
The best Tafelspitz in Vienna is in Plachutta, in the middle of the city, a few steps away from the train station Stubentor. Their meats come exclusively from local farmers, tasty, tender, and worth every euro. Just book in advance, since the restaurant is so popular with both locals and tourists.
Plachutta opens at 11.30 AM and closes at 12 midnight. Expect an atmosphere of Viennese culture and a taste of home-cooking when you visit.
Plachutta, Wollzeile 38, 1010 Wien
Goulash – Gulasch
When you think of Goulash, you probably think of Hungary. And you’d be right! But while goulash is a famous Hungarian dish, it’s also popular in Austrian food scene. There was once a thing called the Austro-Hungarian empire, after all, and they share many things!
Goulash is one of those things that made it to the the tables of both countries after the empire collapsed.
Goulash is a type of meat stew with vegetables, paprika, and other spices. Sometimes you can find goulash with more broth to make it a soup dish.
Unlike its Hungarian counterpart, a side of rolls, bread or dumplings (Semmelknödel) is usually a part of the Austrian goulash dish.
Saftgulasch (Austrian or Wienese Goulash) is a twist on traditional Hungarian goulash. It is a slow-cooked hotpot dish – at least three hours of preparation – consisting only of lean beef and huge quantity of onions.
The end result is a flavorful tender beef dish with a thin dark brown sauce.
Contributed by Travellers Archive
High on your list should be a visit to the classy-stylish snack bar of the Brötchenmanufaktur (bread maker), Franciszek Trześniewski, in the city center of Vienna. They’ve been selling bread rolls since 1905, long before “take-away” or “food to go” became popular terms.
Franciszek Trzesniewski wondered how to “eat” a bread with “accident-free” toppings: by chopping up the toppings. This special way of production always remained a secret.
Classics such as cucumber with egg, young herring with onion, or chicken liver have been around forever.
There are 11 branches in Vienna.
Austrian food: Desserts
Contributed by Temples and Treehouses
Sachertorte is one of Vienna’s most famous specialties. It’s a dense, rich, dark chocolate cake with a layer of apricot jam in the middle, covered in dark chocolate icing with a mirror shine. It usually arrives with thick whipped cream.
Sachertorte was invented in Vienna in the 1800s and has since become one of Austria’s most famous exports. I can vouch for its deliciousness, and for the fact that you need to try it in a beautiful Viennese dining room or coffee house for maximum impact.
Exactly where you should try it though is surprisingly controversial! Both the Demel Bakery and the Hotel Sacher in Vienna claimed to sell the original and best Sachertorte, so it’s probably your duty to sample both. But if you can only pick one, go for Cafe Sacher.
Their elegantly-sliced Sachertorte is almost too beautiful to eat.
Cafe Demel, Kohlmarkt 14, 1010 Wien
Café Sacher Wien, Hotel Sacher Wien, Philharmoniker Str. 4, 1010 Wien
Austrians love sweet desserts, and one of the local favorites is the Palatschinken. It is an adopted dessert from Hungary. A scoop of apricot jam or vanilla ice-cream is applied to a thin pancakes or crepes, and folded or rolled into an easier shape to hold by hand and enjoy.
Another Austrian dessert is the Kaiserschmarrn – the emperor’s pancake. It is named after the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph’s favorite dessert – chopped up fried but fluffy pancakes, apples and raisins or nuts, mixed together and topped with icing sugar.
Apple Strudel – Apfelstrudel
Contributed by History Fangirl
When in Vienna, you absolutely must try apple strudel. Available from almost any cafe or restaurant in the city, it’s an important throwback to Austrian history wrapped in a delicious phyllo dough.
It’s name originally means “whirlpool” and is named after the beautiful swirl designs you see when it’s made. Besides being insanely delicious, it would be absolutely wrong to visit and not try a strudel, since it is one of the national dishes of Austria.
I ate many apple strudels during my two weeks in the city.
While they were great from cafes and restaurants, I found great apple strudel even at the highway cafes, like the one I visited in Hallstatt between Vienna and Salzburg.
My advice is to get one on your first day there, and then just keep eating them daily until you leave. You really can’t go wrong!
Notable Austrian Drinks
Surprisingly, Vienna has a huge coffee addiction. The invading Ottoman Turks also brought coffee culture to Austria, and long after the occupation ended, the coffee addiction remains in Austria.
Vienna has a sophisticated coffee culture throughout the city. You can always find many amazing cafes, some dating back more than a hundred years, throughout the capital city.
Viennese Coffee & Kaffeehaus Kultur
Contributed by Awara Diaries
Even after all these years, the Viennese truly know the art of blending their coffee well. Vienna is one of those few European cities that keeps its imperial roots intact even while blending in modernism.
One of those imperial habits include Vienna’s Kaffeehaus Kultur. The Kaffeehaus Kultur typically refers to the tradition of spending hours at cafés, sipping on coffee and engaging oneself in intellectual activities such as discussions, debates, exchange of ideas.
Many great historical men from all walks of life are said to have walked into these many cafés for enriching conversations, which happen to go very well with coffee.
Even today, you can find many such coffee houses in Vienna which boast of imperial interiors, reflective of the past. You can find some delicious and freshly-made pastries and cakes in these cafés with a wide range of coffees.
These coffees are all of different recipes, the premium ones mainly served with alcohol.
Remember, coffee in Vienna comes with a glass of water to cleanse your palate and enjoy the taste.
These are a few of must-visit Cafe Houses around Vienna:
Café Museum, Operngasse 7, 1010 Wien
Café Sperl, Gumpendorfer Str. 11, 1060 Wien
Café Central, Herrengasse 14, 1010 Wien
Café Hawelka, Dorotheergasse 6, 1010 Wien
Have a chocolate with your coffee
A coffee in Vienna, and Austria, is not complete without one of its famous desserts, or even a piece of Salzburger Mozarttaler (the Salzburg Mozart Medallion), a piece of Austrian chocolate candy.
Soft drinks of Austria
Although not really associated with Vienna food or drink, Red Bull is one of Austria’s most famous brands. If you’re a big fan of this energy drink, you can visit Redbull’s Headquarter in the small town of Fuschi.
There’s a well-known phrase in Austria: “Wenn de kan Oimdudla haum, geh’ i wieda ham!” (If they don’t have Almdudler, I’ll go back home!). Ask any local Austrian, and they will nod in agreement.
Almdudler is a traditional sweetened carbonated soft drink with elderberry herbal extracts. It’s the unofficial drink of Austria. You can find Almdudler everywhere in Austria in several different types: original, light (sugar-free), uncarbonated, and g’spritzt (mixed with carbonated mineral water).
A variety of this Austrian drink is Almradler. It is an equal mix of Almdudler with Austrian beer. In wine producing region of Austria, they sometimes mix the Almradler with red or white wine.
It tastes very refreshing and surprisingly addictive.
Beer in Austria
What would Austrian food be without great beer?
Wieselburger Bier has been a popular Austrian beer since 1770. In the Vienna region, try the Wieselburger Stammbräu that comes in the traditional cliplock bottles.
Traditional Austrian wine: Sturm and Most
Both Sturm and Most drinks are seasonal grape drinks, and its alcohol fermentation ranges somewhere between grape juice and a full-bodied wine.
While most of the wineries in Austria harvest their grapes for wine, they traditionally set aside a section of grapes to produce Sturm and Most.
It is a seasonal drink, typically available in early fall season around September. They taste very sweet, and Most has a more sour taste than Sturm.
While you can’t taste the alcohol, it’s usually between 4-8%.
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If you happen to be in Vienna in early May, you don’t want to miss the Genuss Festival Food Fair, Austria’s largest food festival.
Genussfestival Vienna is an annual event to highlight Austrian cuisine, and it is held at the Stadtpark, Vienna’s City Park. Around 200 vendors from all over the country come together to celebrate Austria’s Culinary Heritage.
You can taste some rare Austrian dishes, including cheese products, jam, and an Austrian pasta called mohnnudeln.
The date for the Vienna Genuss Festival is May 10-12, 2019. Check out their official webpage (in German) here.
Buy a Vienna Pass
If you are visiting Vienna and looking for some of the top things to do in Vienna, consider purchasing the official Vienna Pass. We wrote an extensive review on the Vienna City Pass, which can be a very useful tool to save money.
But you have to know how to use the Vienna Pass properly for it to be worth it. After all, it’s a bit pricey!
Buy a Guidebook: When we travel, we use Lonely Planet. By buying a book at one of the Amazon.com links below, we get a small referral fee at no additional cost to you.
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