As the capital city of a vast empire, Vienna adopted a range of culinary delights from the imperial regions, and mixed them with local flavours to produce what we now know as traditional Viennese cooking and baking.
You’ve probably heard of Wiener Schnitzel pork cutlets, but traditional Viennese fare covers many other delights, including:
- Tafelspitz – a boiled beef dish and a favourite of Emperor Franz Joseph
- The ubiquitous sausages – sold at booths around the town and at any sporting event. The Queen of the Sausages is the Käsekrainer
The Viennese have invented a whole new vocabulary to go with sausage eating, involving rather graphic metaphors for these staples of the local diet.
- Kaiserschmarrn – shredded pancake with plum jam. Another favourite of Franz Joseph
- The Sachertorte – the legendary chocolate cake invented at the house of Prince Metternich
- The Imperial Torte – another chocolate cake and another connection to Franz Joseph, whose visit to the opening of a hotel prompted the cake’s creation
- Manner Schnitten – a popular wafer
snack with hazelnut cream, and the erstwhile star of a Terminator film
- Langos – a huge fried disc of potato dough, consumed in vast quantities at just about any organised outdoor event, along with sausages and…
- Leberkäse – a meatloaf-like substance usually eaten hot in a roll. Like many Viennese delicacies, it tastes better than it sounds.
Vienna is full of excellent coffee houses serving a variety of coffee specialties. And an hour or two spent in one of these hallowed establishments is perhaps the most iconic and authentic Viennese experience.
If you find yourself staring at the menu and wondering what a “Kleiner Brauner” could possibly be, then you need a Vienna coffee glossary.
Your coffee traditionally comes with a glass of water. This is usually simple tap water rather than mineral water (because the stuff that comes out of the taps is quite likely to actually be mineral water).
Oh, yes. Wine.
Vienna has a significant wine industry, with local vineyards and a centuries-old tradition of wine making.
The city even has its own state-owned winery, which you can visit on its open day.
And when not drinking coffee or water, your average Austrian is consuming large quantities of beer (only the Germans and Czechs drink more). The local brewery is Ottakring.
BTW, this is how you say cheers.
Christmas food and drink
You can learn all about traditional Christmas meals and food on the main Christmas in Vienna page. But as a little sampler:
And visit any Viennese home during advent and expect to get served an array of Lebkuchen (a little like gingerbread), Stollen (a kind of dried fruit bread loaf), home-baked Christmas biscuits or Spekulatius biscuits.
Finally, if you’d like to take a deeper dive into specialist Austrian cuisine, try these festivals that usually return each year to Vienna:
- Gourmet festival (all of Austria’s provinces gather in the Stadtpark to celebrate their food and drink)
- Styrian Spring (promoting the food, drink, and culture of the province of Steiermark)
- Bread Festival (the clue is in the title)
- Burgenland Kultinarium (another province drops into Vienna to showcase its wines, beers, and regional produce, all accompanied by live music)
- Vienna Cheese Festival (another one with a rather large clue in the title)
- Waldviertelpur (food and drink from the lowland Waldviertel region, known particularly for its poppy seed breads and pastries)
- Harvest festival (when the farming community visits Vienna to celebrate its wares)
- European Street Food festival (dozens of food trucks serve both Austrian and international cuisine)