[UPDATED March 2021]
Austrian supermarkets are a great source of souvenirs for travellers or just a budget-friendly way to stay well-fed and hydrated during your trip. However, if you’ve never set foot in a supermarket in Austria and don’t know Austrian German, you’ll need this crash course to come prepared.
- Reasons to Visit a Supermarket in Austria
- List of Austrian Supermarkets
- Average Grocery Prices in Austria
- Austrian Supermarket Meal Suggestions
- What You Won’t Find in Austrian Supermarkets
- Souvenirs to Buy in Austrian Supermarkets
- Tips for a Stress-Free Austrian Supermarket Visit
Reasons to Visit a Supermarket in Austria
- Buying groceries to cook your own food – If you are one of the increasing numbers of tourists who prefer to stay in a self-catering apartment and cook your own meals, you will want to be near a supermarket.
- Austrian supermarkets sell cheap meals – Buying lunch or even breakfast from an Austrian supermarket is much cheaper than sitting down in a restaurant. Not all hotels include breakfast in the room price. Fresh bread with cheeses and spreads plus coffee or cappuccino can be bought for under €5 in the bakery department of a supermarket.
- Buying Austrian souvenirs for less – Some of the best Austrian souvenirs are sold in supermarkets. Have you noticed the Mozart Kugel in almost every souvenir shop? Chances are the supermarket around the corner has a bigger variety for half the price.
List of Austrian Supermarkets
The big international supermarket chain that was founded in the Netherlands in the 1930s is well represented in Austria. Spar Österreich is made up of 5 different kinds of Spar supermarkets in Austria, totalling around 1,600 stores.
Interspar – The biggest Spar, often with its own restaurant. Mostly found in shopping centres and retail areas.
Eurospar – The second biggest Spar supermarket in Austria, often scattered throughout cities.
Spar – Your ordinary neighbourhood Spar.
Spar Express – Small supermarkets attached to gas filling stations. They can be a lifesaver when other supermarkets are closed on Sundays.
Spar Gourmet – Specialist Spar supermarkets selling exclusive, quality products. They are often found in the historic centres of Austrian cities and therefore cater for takeaway meals like gourmet sandwiches for tourists.
Why I Like Spar
The Interspar is probably the Austrian supermarket with the biggest product variety – from groceries and toiletries to clothes, toys, and electronics. It’s almost a one-stop-shop.
Spar’s store brands are good quality and include a Budget as well as a Premium series.
Merkur is a more upmarket supermarket chain in Austria. However, there aren’t that many of them. In Innsbruck, for example, I know of only four Merkur supermarkets.
Merkur caters quite well for non-conventional diets such as LCHF and veganism. They also cater to budget shoppers with their no-name brand called clever.
Why I Like Merkur
They sell fresh oxtail! A big plus for a meat-loving South African. They also sell sweetened condensed milk and caramel condensed milk in cans – another big plus for someone from South-Africa where this is an ingredient in many dessert and tart recipes.
MPreis is a Tyrolean supermarket chain that has expanded to South Tyrol, Carinthia, Salzburg, and Vorarlberg.
The MPreis fits into the “upmarket” supermarket category with Spar and Merkur and also has a Mini MPreis version. Their no-name brand is Jeden Tag (every day). A Baguette bakery is often attached to an MPreis supermarket.
Why I Like MPreis
Their weekly buy-one-get-one-free specials are great. They also have the best unseasoned, vacuum-packed spare ribs in Tyrol. And I like their focus on regional products and support of local organic products.
Lidl is one of two big discount supermarket chains in Austria. Their weekly specials are focused on specific countries, and their in-house Deluxe brand is pretty good, especially for Easter and Christmas. For a discount supermarket, they stock quite a variety of popular brands too.
Why I Like Lidl
It’s the only supermarket that stocks proper breakfast bacon on a permanent basis. They also regularly have cheddar cheese in stock (especially during British week). Their pre-packaged soft sandwich loaves compare the best with what we are used to in South-Africa.
Hofer (Aldi in Austria)
Known as Aldi in the rest of Europe, Hofer falls in the same class as Lidl. There is a marked difference between the interior of Hofer and Lidl and that of Spar, Merkur, and MPreis. The most obvious is that there are no fancy shop fittings or other frills and trimmings, and very few popular brand names.
Why I Like Hofer
It’s the only supermarket in Austria where I could find butter that tastes almost exactly like South African butter. (In South Africa, unsalted butter is the exception rather than the rule while it’s the other way around in Austria.)
For a discount supermarket, Hofer has a large variety of good quality organic products.
I never buy from Billa simply because there isn’t one near us. However, they are worth a mention because there are more than 1,000 Billa supermarkets in Austria. They are not discount supermarkets in the sense of Lidl and Hofer, and have the same no-name brand, called clever, as Merkur.
Average Grocery Prices in Austria
|1 l organic milk||€ 1,35||Bio Milch|
|1 kg sugar||€ 0,99||Zucker|
|Fresh bread roll||€ 0,35||Semmel|
|250 g butter||€ 2,35||Teebutter|
|Sandwich ham||€ 2,99||Toast Schinken|
|250 g organic Gouda cheese||€ 2,79||Gouda Käse|
|500 g organic minced meat||€ 6,00||Faschiertes|
|500 g spaghetti||€ 1,70||Spaghetti|
|1 l orange juice in carton||€ 1,50||Orangensaft|
|250 ml cream||€ 1,50||Schlagobers|
|200 g cherry tomatoes||€ 1,99||Cherrytomaten|
|Organic cucumber||€ 1,20||Bio Gurken|
|1 kg organic potatoes||€ 1,49||Kartoffeln|
|Bottled pasta sauce||€ 2,50||Pasta Sauce|
|6 free-range eggs||€ 2,80||Freilandeier|
|Small flavoured yoghurt||€ 0,50||Yoghurt|
|2 l brand name soft drink||€ 2,15||Limonade|
|6 x 500 ml beer||€ 6,00||Beer|
|1,5 l mineral water||€ 0,49||Mineralwasser|
Austrian Supermarket Meal Suggestions
From the bakery – Semmel, Croissants, Frühstuckskipferl or Krapfen.
Bread spreads – Nutella, Liptauer cheese spread.
Cakes – Yes, many Austrian’s eat cake for breakfast. The popular ones are Gugelhupf and Marmorkuchen, sold pre-baked and packaged in the cake department inside the supermarket.
Fleischkäse Semmel with mustard – Fleischkäse resembles a thick slice of polony. You can have a Fleischkäse Semmel made up for you at many supermarkets or buy the ingredients to make your own.
Schnitzel Semmel – Schnitzel in bread rolls with a little bit of garnish are popular over-the-counter lunchtime snacks from supermarkets and/or bakeries.
Butterbreze – A butter pretzel with fresh chives. Simply slice a fresh pretzel in half, spread lavish amounts of butter on, sprinkle with chopped-up chives, close, and eat.
Schnitzel and potatoe salad – An all-time Austrian favourite. You can buy frozen Schnitzel and ready-made potatoe salad at your nearest supermarket. Follow the instructions on the Schnitzel packaging (normally you can either fry the frozen schnitzel in oil or bake them for around 20 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 200°C).
Sauerkraut and sausages – Sauerkraut is sold in heat-and-eat vacuum-sealed packets. They are a good accompaniment to sausages such as Nürnberger Würstel or Berner Würstel.
Knödel – A variety of bread dumplings, from cheese (Kaspressknödel) and bacon (Speckknödel), to spinach (Spinat) and liver (Leber). You will find them vacuum packed in refrigerators. Brown some butter to pour over and enjoy with Parmesan cheese and a mixed salad on the side. Or buy beef broth or stock and heat with the dumpling for a Knödelsuppe.
Snacks for Your Backpack
Supermarkets are great places to buy snacks to keep the hunger at bay during a busy day of travelling and sightseeing. Things to look out for in Austrian supermarkets include traditional smoked sausages (Boxerl, Kaminwürstchen, Knabernossi), Studentenfutter (nuts and raisins), little cheeses, smoked bacon bits (Speckwürfel), and pretzels (Breze).
Austrian Supermarket Drinks
Austrian supermarkets are licensed to sell all kinds of alcohol, from beer and wine to liqueurs and spirits. Most of them stock international beer brands such as Heineken and Corona, but when in Austria… try one of the excellent Austrian beers. Our favourite is Zillertal, while other well-known brands include Zipfer, Stiegl, Fohrenburger, and Ottakringer.
The well-known Austrian white wine that goes with pretty much anything is called Grüner Veltliner. They also make a good Welchsriesling. On the red side, you can look out for Blauburgunder and Zweigelt.
Aaah, and let’s not forget the bubbly. Sparkling wine from Austria and Germany is called Sekt, while that from Italy is called Prosecco.
On the soft drink side, Almdudler is an Austrian drink said to be made from Alpine herbs. It tastes refreshingly different.
What You Won’t Find in Austrian Supermarkets
- Over-the-counter medication such as painkillers, antacids, or ointments for common ailments. These are only available from pharmacies.
- Milk in containers bigger than 1 liter.
Souvenirs to Buy in Austrian Supermarkets
- Locally brewed Schnapps
- Manner Schnitten (wafer biscuits)
- Mozartkugel (chocolate balls with a marzipan filling)
- Styrian pumpkin seed oil
Tips for a Stress-Free Austrian Supermarket Visit
Now that you know what to buy and where to buy it, you need a survival guide for your Austrian supermarket trip.
Why a survival guide? Firstly, you must be warned about the stubborn trolleys in Austria. If you want it to go left, it goes right or carries on straight. The fuller it gets, the harder it gets not to crash into the shelves. And it’s impossible to stay behind it when going around a corner.
(I googled this phenomenon and was surprised by the number of countries where people have a problem with trolleys with a mind of their own. Here is a good explanation for it.)
Here are your tips:
- Have a €1 or €2 coin ready to free a trolley. Some also take 50 cents, but not all.
- Practice steering your trolley while it’s still empty. Getting through the doors and around the first corner is already a big accomplishment.
- At the Spar, you must weigh your own fruit and vegetables. There is a number on the product description for you to enter on the scale.
- Don’t be offended when the cashier leans over the counter to check if your trolley is empty.s He or she may even ask to take a peek in your rucksack to make sure you didn’t accidentally leave or drop something in there with no intention of paying.
- “Ja, Danke.” Unless you forgot something, this should be your answer when the cashier asks “Alles?” after ringing your stuff up. She is asking whether that is everything you have.
- In the discount supermarkets like Hofer and Lidl, there is no room on the counter for your groceries to pile up after they have been rung up. Pack quickly!
- There is no time to pack everything in bags at the checkout counter (unless you can cope with the impatient looks of the customers behind you). Just drop them in your trolley and pack properly at the counters provided after checkout.
- “Sehr geehrte Kunden, wir öffnen Kasse 2 für Sie.“ If you hear this announcement over the PA system when you are standing in a long checkout queue in Hofer or Lidl, make a dash for counter number 2 because it will be opening shortly.
- “Ich zahle mit Karte,” is what you say if you want to pay with a credit or debit card. Sometimes they ask you to specify which. A debit card is called a Bankomatkarte and a credit card a Kreditkarte.
- Almost all supermarkets are closed on Sundays and public holidays. If you really need to buy something on one of these days, the supermarkets at the train stations are always open (normal business hours, not 24/7). So are the ones attached to filling stations or for example the small Spars in historic centres.
Sadly, service with a smile is no guarantee in Austrian supermarkets. I’ve learned to be nice back to the friendly cashiers and ignore the sour ones. You should too. Don’t let a grumpy supermarket employee spoil your holiday.
Having fun in Austria, and then writing about it is hard work 😆 . That’s why some links in this article are affiliate links. I may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you use any of them to make a purchase. It’s totally cool if you don’t. I love to help anyway. If you do, it will help us discover another part of Austria to write about.