Knowing what to eat in Vienna is simple and hard at the same time. Wienerschnitzel and Sachertorte are world famous Viennese culinary highlights. But what else is worth eating in Vienna? This guide of the most popular Viennese food will have your mouth watering even before setting foot in the city.
Most Viennese food has their origin in the culinary highlights of the former nations of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. You’ll find a hint of Bavaria and the Alps mixed in with a healthy portion of Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, and Italy. Further inspiration was found in Croatia, Galicia, Styria, and Slovenia.
Whether it’s braised, boiled, stewed, or fried – Viennese food is almost always comfort food. Vegetables and salads are but an afterthought to meat, potatoes, bread, and other carbohydrates.
Various surveys have confirmed that the Wiener Schnitzel, the breaded veal escalope (or the less expensive Wiener Schnitzel from pork), is Austria’s favourite dish by far.
After living in Austria for eight years and regularly visiting the capital, this list will give you a good idea of what to eat in Vienna. It also comes with recommendations of where to go looking for the best Austrian food in Vienna.
If you’re not having breakfast where you stay, getting a Viennese breakfast from one of the many local cafes or bakeries is a good and budget-friendly way to start your day.
Breakfast in Vienna typically consists of a Kaisersemmel (most common Austrian bread roll resembling an emperor’s crown) and one other kind of bread roll. Cheese, ham, a boiled egg, jam, and butter accompany the bread. A coffee, most likely a Wiener Melange, and orange juice round the breakfast off.
It’s also not uncommon for the Viennese, especially kids, to have cakes and pastries for breakfast. The Schokocroissant (a croissant with chocolate inside) and Krapfen (a doughnutlike pastry typically filled with apricot jam or vanilla custard) are big favourites. It’s also perfectly acceptable to have a piece of Gugelhupf, the sponge cake “with a hole in the middle”, for breakfast in Vienna. Don’t act surprised if you see it again on the afternoon coffee table!
Where to find good breakfast in Vienna
We loved the Viennese breakfast served by the Café-Konditorei Aida in the Mariahilferstraße. The food is prepared by chefs in long white hats and served by waiters in pink and white outfits. The Viennese breakfast (big enough for M and I to share one) cost €5,50, a Vanillekrapfen €1,50 and an Aida Melange €3,90.
There are at least 30 Aidas scattered around the city, so you’ll be sure to find one near you. You can also look out for any other café-konditorei which will have freshly baked breakfast goodies and coffee for those who want their breakfast in Vienna on the go.
Fancier (and ultimately more expensive) Viennese breakfasts can be found in one of the city’s renowned coffee houses. If you have the time to sit and savour your surroundings, it may be worth paying a little extra. Good examples are Café Museum and Café Florianihof.
Breakfast from around the world can be enjoyed at the Haas & Haas tea house behind St. Stephen’s Cathedral. More than 30 types of breakfast are on the menu here.
The Joma specializes in egg dishes of every conceivable variety, while you’ll even find “beuschel” (offal) at Meierei in Stadtpark.
For more inspiration, why not check out the Viennese breakfast guide on Good Morning Vienna.
Viennese food for lunch or dinner
The world-famous Wiener Schnitzel is a tender flat veal cutlet, coated in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs, and pan-fried in butter and oil to a perfect golden brown. It typically comes with potato salad but is also served with boiled parsley potatoes or a side salad.
The term Wiener schnitzel is protected by geographical indication under EU law. That means, if it’s not made with veal, it’s not a real Wiener schnitzel. However, the less pricey but equally delicious pork schnitzel may be called Wiener schnitzel from pork or “schnitzel nach Wiener Art” (Wiener-style schnitzel).
While there are endless debates among the city’s residents as to which restaurant or pub makes the best schnitzel in Vienna, one thing is clear – there are plenty of candidates to choose from! Figlmüller is well-known, but you can also try Plachutta, Schnitzelwirt, or Pürstner. We can personally recommend Glacis Beisl, Müllerbeisl, and Kantine m101.
Price: A Wiener Schnitzel generally costs between €16 and €22, while a pork schnitzel will set you back between €8 and €13.
Tafelspitz is slow-boiled beef which is more of an acquired taste than schnitzel. But hey, if it was Emperor Franz Joseph’s favourite dish, who are we to argue? It is said that Tafelspitz was invented by chefs who didn’t know when the guests would arrive. They left the beef to boil in a flavoursome broth until such time. The longer it boils, the more tender it becomes.
Tafelspitz is served with an array of side dishes such as apple and horseradish, chive sauce, green beans with dill, creamed spinach, or boiled potato pieces fried in butter or lard.
So, if you’re wondering what to eat in Vienna after trying the schnitzel, Tafelspitz is a good second option. Plachutta Wollzeile is certainly a good place to find decent Tafelspitz in Vienna. Or the Wiener Rathauskeller, Restaurant Ofenloch, and Gasthaus Pöschl.
Viennese cakes & desserts
The Sachertorte is the most eaten cake in Vienna and Austria in general. While the original recipe remains the secret of the Hotel Sacher and its Café Sacher, it doesn’t mean the Sachertorte in other Viennese cafés aren’t good.
So, what is this Sachertorte that you must eat in Vienna? Basically, it’s two layers of chocolate cake with apricot jam in the middle and a chocolate glaze on top. You can find a recipe and read more about the history of the Sachertorte here.
My honest opinion of the original Sachertorte? A bit dry and dense, even with a generous helping of whipped cream. In fact, I’ve yet to find a Sachertorte in Vienna and Austria that will make me go back for more. This is entirely due to my South African background. (We love our cakes moist and light 😆 )
If Sachertorte is on your list of food to eat in Vienna, by all means, try the original at Café Sacher. The old-world charm of the grand Viennese café with the mirrors and portraits against the walls and waiters in black and white uniforms is an experience in itself.
However, it’s an experience that doesn’t come cheap. A piece of the world-famous cake crowned with a Sacher chocolate medallion will set you back €7,10. Budget another €5,70 for a Sacher melange to wash it down with.
Gugelhupf to Kardinalschnitten
Fortunately, the reputation of Austrian cakes and desserts don’t rest solely on the shoulders of the (perhaps a little bit overrated) Sachertorte and/or the Café Sacher.
The fantastic creations to come out of Vienna’s bakeries and patisseries are in a league of their own. All over town, display windows are laden with fineries such as Gugelhupf (bundt cake with raisins or chocolate) and specialties like Nussstrudel (nut strudel), and Mohnkipferl (poppy seed cookies).
Topfenkolatschen are quark-filled pastries, while Kardinalschnitten are a sponge and coffee cream. More cakes to try besides the Sachertorte are Esterházy torte, Klimttorte, Schokotorte, Dobostorte, and Topfentorte. The Klimttorte is baked by Conditorei Sluka and served in many cafés including Café Klimt.
If you’re in Vienna for the Christmas markets, look out for cookies in all shapes and sizes. Vanillekipferl and Lebkuchen are big favourites.
Viennese cafés with imperial grandeur we can personally recommend include Demel, Gerstner K. u. K. Hofzuckerbäcker, and Conditorei Sluka. A little less fancy (and cheaper) but excellently located on St Michael’s Square is Café Klimt.
Cheap places to eat in Vienna
Wiener Wurstelstand or sausage stand
There’s no need to resort to American fast food restaurants if you’re in search of a cheap meal or snack on-the-go in Vienna. Not if there’s a traditional sausage stand nearby. They are an institution and the best places to eat in Vienna for:
- Käsekrainer – pork sausage stuffed with cheese. This is our absolute favourite Austrian sausage.
- Burenwurst – coarse boiled sausage which tastes and looks a little bit like what we call a Russian in South Africa.
- Leberkäse – like a giant slice of fried/baked polony.
- Frankfurters – oddly, the name the Viennese use for what the rest of the world call Wiener sausages.
- Debriziner – smoked sausages with paprika.
- Bosna – the Austrian of a hot dog. It can be any of the above sausages stuffed in a hot dog bun with onions and a curry powder sauce. This is a favourite among the party crowd in the midnight hours.
- Currywurst – fried sausage cut up in pieces and drowned in curry ketchup, with more curry powder sprinkled over.
The Vienna city center boasts the greatest concentration of sausage stands. In recent years, a large number of kebab stands have also sprung up.
Tip: If you’re visiting Vienna with kids, the Bitzinger Würstelstand at the entrance to the Prater amusement park is the ideal place to tame your hunger after hours of fun in the park.
Belegte Brötchen or open sandwiches is another classic traditional Viennese take-away. Maybe it’s because we don’t get them in Tyrol, but they’ve been my best Viennese food find so far. I can go back for more every day!
A fellow South African whose son lives in Vienna put us on the trail of Trzesniewski. It’s hard to believe, but they’ve been around for over 100 years. The original branch in the Dorotheergasse, opened by Polish-born Franciszek Trzesniewski in 1904, sells more than 5,000 sandwiches per day. They are all prepared by hand, using a fork to create their characteristic appearance.
Of the 22 different toppings, bacon and egg is the most popular. I can vouch that it’s a great choice. Surprisingly, M loved the mashed pea and carrot topping best.
Trzesniewski sandwiches are traditionally washed down with a “Pfiff” of beer. This is an unusually small (around 200 ml) measure of beer. After trying one with our sandwiches, we must agree it’s the perfect accompaniment to Trzesniewski’s bread and toppings.
There are 11 Trzesniewski sandwich shops in Vienna, with the ones in the Mariahilferstraße and the Westbahnhof also very popular.
All Trzesniewski sandwiches cost €1,30 each. Our selection with different toppings, two Pfiffs and one cooldrink for M cost less than €15 and was enough to keep us going for the day.
Tip: Trzesniewski is a Vienna City Card partner, which means you get a 10% discount if you show your card when paying.
Compared to Trzesniewski, whose delicious toppings are served on schwarzbrot (black bread), Duran seduces you with delicate creations on soft slices of white bread. (Don’t worry, there are wholewheat options too if that’s what you prefer.)
We first saw Duran’s sandwiches in the display window of their branch in the Mariahilferstraße. As it’s near the Arthotel ANA Boutique Six where we stayed, we passed a few times until we could resist no longer. With dinner plans already made, M and I dropped in for a mid-afternoon snack.
We chose ham, smoked salmon, tuna, roast beef… all made into little paintings with the prettiest garnish.
Duran’s sandwiches are slightly pricier than those of Trzesniewski, ranging in price between €1,70 and €2,40 depending on the topping. Like Trzesniewski, they have branches all over Vienna. And if you’re unable to travel to Vienna, you’ll even find them in New York where they opened a branch some years ago.
Tip: If you’re staying in self-catering accommodation, you can order a box filled with Duran or Trzesniewski sandwiches to enjoy in your apartment.
- Sadly, we didn’t get around to trying the open sandwiches at Schwarzen Kameel. The line of people waiting for one of the 20 different varieties in their display cabinet can apparently get very long around midday.
Vegan in Vienna
After reading about schnitzel, tafelspitz, and sausages, you may rightfully wonder if there are places to eat in Vienna caters for vegans. The good news is that Viennese restaurants, markets, and other food outlets are increasingly catering for people with a plant-based diet.
Vegan food on-the-go can be found at the Loving Hut fast-food chain. The popular Naschmarkt also has various stalls with vegan offerings. Look out for Voodies.fresh.urban.food for a great variety.
Vegetarian and/or vegan restaurants in Vienna to look out for include Veggiezz, yamm!, Landia, Vegetasia Experimental Soya, Vlaire Uisine, Cuchina, Deli Bleum, and Venuss Bistro.
If you have the money to treat yourself to fine vegetarian or vegan dining in Vienna, Tian is the obvious choice. It’s the first restaurant in Austria to have been awarded a Michelin-star (2014) and three Gault-Millau toques (17 of 20 points since 2014).
Tips for eating out in Vienna
- It’s always safer to make a reservation if you have a specific restaurant in mind. Most restaurants have some kind of online booking system on their websites. This could be an email address or a link to an online reservation service such as Bookatable. The other option is to make a telephonic reservation and keep your fingers crossed that the person who picks up understands English.
- Austrian restaurants are notoriously understaffed. It’s not uncommon to find one waiter responsible for an entire restaurant. It won’t help to get impatient.
- If there’s no-one to greet you upon entering a restaurant, you can linger in the reception area until you catch someone’s eye. You’ll get a good idea if there’s a table available while waiting. Those which have been reserved will have a sign saying “reserviert” on them.
- Once you’ve been seated and handed a menu, the waiter will take your drinks order within minutes. Generally, they like to take your food order when they return with the drinks.
- Once your food arrives, it’s generally hard to catch your waiter’s attention again. This is typically if you want to order more drinks, desserts or ask for the bill. If you’re in a hurry, don’t wait until you’re done before asking for the bill.
- It’s not uncommon for people to pay separately for their part of the bill when eating out in Vienna. So, if the waiter asks “zusammen?” when he comes to collect payment, he wants to know if you’re paying everything together. Otherwise, it’s “getrennt” or split.
- Tipping in Vienna is somewhat of a grey area. In most instances, people tip between 5 and 10%. Generally, you round off to a convenient amount. For example, if the bill comes to €27,50, you’ll pay €30. Or if your coffee and cake come to €5,50, it’s acceptable to pay €6.The tip should be included in the amount you hand over to the waiter. Don’t wait for change and then give him something back. For example, if you pay your €5,50 bill with a €10 note, say €6 when you hand it over. You’ll then get €4 back. If you pay your €27,50 restaurant bill with €30 and don’t expect change, say “passt schon” (meaning it’s okay, you don’t want anything back) when you hand over the money. The same rules apply when you’re paying with a card, giving the waiter the total amount he may deduct. However, it’s also acceptable to give him the tip in cash.
- The legal drinking age in Austria is 16.
- If you are required to order your own food or drinks, for example at the bar or cashier, a sign reading “selbstbedienung” will be displayed prominently.
- Drinking tap water is perfectly safe in Vienna and you may ask for a glass of “leitungswasser” to drink alongside your wine in a Viennese restaurant. This is also what you get with your coffee, by the way.
- Wondering what the list of capital letters in brackets behind every dish on the menu is? They’re abbreviations for the different kinds of allergens contained in the dish. This is required by EU law.
- Unfortunately, the EU can’t enforce smoking laws on Austria. While Vienna has come a long way, there are still some small bars/cafés where smoking is allowed in the entire place. However, bigger restaurants have dedicated smoking areas, and some have banned smoking entirely. Just check for the smoking signs on the front door.
Helpful terms and phrases for eating in Vienna
|Haben Sie einen Tisch für (2,3,4) Personen?||Do you have a table for (2,3,4) people?|
|Ein großes Bier, bitte.||A big beer, please (guess what’s the first thing we order 😊).|
|Ich nehme den…||I’ll take the… and whatever you’re having.|
|Zahlen bitte.||We’d like to pay, please.|
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