Well, there’s always a postcard, t-shirt or a plastic replica of Vienna’s giant ferris wheel. After all, what home is truly complete without a miniature giant ferris wheel on the mantelpiece? Exactly.
But if you want something a little more edible or more artistic, here are ten top ideas for souvenirs and gifts.
The cheapest costs no more than a Euro or two, the most expensive a four-figure sum.
This is the big one. The famous Sachertorte chocolate cake was “invented” in Vienna in 1832 by (who else?) Mr. Sacher, whose family later founded the equally-famous hotel opposite the state opera house.
Apart from being a true Viennese speciality, the “original” cakes come in various sizes and are packed beautifully (see photo), so make ideal gifts.
Vienna’s not short of good-looking cakes. Another gift option, for example, is the Imperial Torte.
Where to find one: the Sacher Hotel’s cake store (Kärntner Straße 38) or online.
America has its eagle, Britain its bulldog, Austria its Mozartkugel.
The “Mozart ball” is a mix of pistachio, marzipan, nougat and chocolate, and traces its origins back to the 1890 recipe of a confectioner in Salzburg.
Various companies now produce Mozartkugel products, but the one you’ll see most often in Vienna is from Mirabell. The variety of pack sizes, shaped boxes and alternatives (balls, bars or coins) lets you choose just the right amount to spend as a gift for the folk back home.
Where to find them: most supermarkets and souvenir shops.
3. Manner Schnitten
These tasty Neapolitan hazelnut wafers make tiny little thank-you gifts when you’re back home: they’re inexpensive, yet typically Viennese. Manner Schnitten first appeared in 1898 and their distinctive pink packaging pokes out of lunch packs and snack boxes across the city.
The Stephansdom logo emphasises the local origins – Manner’s founder opened his first shop in the shadow of that cathedral, and the Manner company still has its headquarters and a factory here in Vienna.
Where to find them: any decent supermarket or the Manner flagship stores in the centre (Stephansplatz 7), the Hauptbahnhof station, THE MALL in Wien Mitte station, and Vienna airport.
4. Mini pralines
If you eat with your eyes, then a feast awaits. Altmann & Kühne is a small, traditional confectioner making its own chocolate and pralines. Nothing unusual so far for a city like Vienna, but what makes their products particularly great for souvenirs and gifts is the gorgeous packaging.
Miniature chests, books, draws, hat boxes and similar actually turn out to be chocolate boxes. I’ve seen the look of delighted surprise on someone’s face when they pull open a dresser draw to reveal the mini pralines within.
Where to find them: the confectioner’s own premises in the centre (Am Graben 30) or online.
5. Viennese wine
Yeah, right. Wine. From a city.
Around 630 ha of slopes produce a surprising amount of (quality) wine, and the city’s wine-growing history dates back to around 750 BC.
The municipal authorities even own one of the biggest and best vineyards – Weingut Cobenzl. In the 2014 Austrian White Wine Guide, for example, the Cobenzl’s Riesling Senator 2013 was rated one of the best white wines in the country.
Where to find a bottle: specialist wine stores and some supermarkets. Look, for example, for the WienWein brand, which features wines from six leading Viennese vineyards.
6. Staud’s preserves
Staud’s is another traditional Viennese company, with its roots in the main market of Vienna’s working-class 16th district. It’s known for its jams, pickles and compotes (and classic-looking jars).
If chocolate’s not your thing, the miniature Staud’s jam jars with art motifs on the lids (they come in packs of three) make lovely little souvenirs or gifts.
Where to find them: the main Staud’s shop is in the 16th district at the corner of Brunnengasse and Schellhammergasse. There’s also a Staud’s pavilion on the Naschmarkt.
7. Augarten porcelain
1718. That’s when the Viennese Porcelain Manufactory began a long history of production that included “nationalisation” (by Empress Maria Theresia in 1744), closure (1864), and reopening with a name change (1923).
Famous for its vases and tableware, Augarten also produce figurines and other porcelain items, all stamped with the blue-striped shield as a sign of authenticity.
Where to find it: the flagship store in the centre (Spiegelgasse 3) or at the Porcelain Museum store (Obere Augartenstraße 1 in the 2nd district).
8. A snow globe
Not, you might think, the most original of souvenirs. But did you know the snow globe was actually invented in Vienna?
You can still buy them direct from the original manufacturers, featuring a variety of Viennese landmarks and personalities – including Stephansdom, the Ferris wheel and Empress Elisabeth – as well as more general motifs.
Where to find them: the factory shop is in the 17th district (Schumanngasse 87). The company also had stands at the major Christmas markets in December 2018.
9. Lobmeyr glassware
A glass is more than just a drinking vessel. At least when you look at the history of J. & L. Lobmeyr, suppliers to the Emperor and Viennese glassmakers since 1823.
Still family-run, the company is particularly famous for its drinkware, chandeliers and lamps, but also for its historical influence on design and even engineering (in 1883, they produced the first electric chandelier). Clients have ranged from Mao Tse-tung to the Maharajah of Baroda.
Where to find it: the flagship Lobmeyr store is also in the centre (Kärntnerstrasse 26).
10. FREYWILLE jewellery
Freywille is a relatively new addition to the Viennese landscape, since it was founded as recently as 1951 (shock!). The success of their handmade jewellery – particularly the bracelets – stems from the colourful, artistic designs and special enameling technique.
Where to find it: the two main stores in the centre are at Stephansplatz 5 (behind the cathedral) and at Albertinaplatz 1 / Lobkowitzplatz 1. You can also buy online.
Check the Wien Products website for a group of businesses whose products have a “unique flair and very special Viennese aesthetic” – plenty of good ideas there, too. And if you’re here during the Christmas or Easter markets, you’ll find more artistic, original and handmade gifts than you can shake a Santa at.