Vienna offers so much more than chocolate cake and fine coffee. Dig down beneath the smooth, classical veneer and you reach the hardworking roots of the city. Forget your fancy restaurants and opera glasses: it’s time for a sausage at a Würstelstand.
- A late-night sausage with bread and mustard remains a Viennese tradition
- Dozens of sausage stands (Würstelstand) dot the city
- The two most popular sausages are the Frankfurter and Käsekrainer
- See also:
What is a Würstelstand?
(A sausage stand on the main Ring boulevard)
The Austrian term, Würstelstand, translates literally as “sausage booth”, which is a remarkably accurate description. These are standalone snack bars selling a variety of ready-to-eat sausages, plus drinks.
The Würstelstand forms part of the traditional fabric of the city…so much so that sausage culture even has its own local language.
And the Würstelstand experience cuts across all social barriers. Bankers and shift workers alike prop themselves up against the counter, shovel down a bit of Bratwurst, and moan about the state of the roads.
Even rock stars have been known to drop in.
In the late evening before the 2022 Rolling Stones concert in Vienna, for example, Mick Jagger bought cold drinks from a Würstelstand on the Albertinaplatz…to the surprise (and delight) of the occupant.
(A Käsekrainer and dark bread)
You find the booths all over town, but particularly outside subway stations or at busy tram stops.
The winner of a late-2023 survey of favourite sausage stands, for example, is outside the Spittelau subway station on the U6 and U4 lines. If you do try the Wiener Würstelstand Spittelau outlet, then check out the neighbouring municipal incinerator (trust me).
The sausages themselves usually come on a paper plate with bread (a basic white roll or slices of dark bread), mustard, and ketchup. These days, you can often ask for a hot dog alternative, too, with the sausage inserted into a long roll.
Vienna’s connections to the southeast of Europe also mean the Würstelstand menu may include alternatives like döner kebab and similar. And you find ever-growing numbers of modern and vegan sausage alternatives.
The main Vienna sausages
There are four main sausage types, likely available just about everywhere and broadly made from pork and/or beef and/or something else:
(The reliable and ubiquitous Frankfurter)
This is the workhorse of the Würstelstand. Cooked in water or broth, then served with a roll, mustard, and ketchup.
You may know it by its name or as a “wiener sausage”, “hot dog” or “Vienna sausage”. The Viennese mostly call it a Frankfurter, though. Occasionally available in a variety made from turkey meat (German: Pute).
Despite the Frankfurter’s apparently lowborn nature, you often find it among the “quick meal” or “snack” options on the menus of coffee houses. And even upmarket restaurants may offer the dish.
(Read more about the Frankfurter.)
(Also eaten at home in smaller versions)
A fried sausage, lightly spiced. This is the classic German sausage variety eaten on barbecues around the world.
Here I should point out that Würstelstand sausages are not finger-size delicacies. They can be about the length of your forearm (and sometimes nearly as thick).
(A personal favourite from my pre-vegetarian days)
A coarser sausage with bits of cheese in it. They fry it, whereupon the cheese melts, often oozing out to form a crust across the sausage’s surface.
The result is absolutely delicious, but also exactly what your doctor warned you not to eat.
The Käsekrainer is usually delivered pre-sliced, because if you try and slice it yourself, the sausage has a nasty habit of letting loose a volley of melted cheese that contravenes many countries’ hand weapon regulations.
(Read more about the Käsekrainer.)
(A spicier alternative)
This one comes in a variety of spellings, including Depreziner and Debrecziner. A lightly-smoked, reddish sausage, spiced with paprika to give it a little more pep than your usual Bratwurst or Frankfurter.
The sausage originated in Hungary and is one of the many legacies of Vienna’s long history as the de facto capital of the former Habsburg dominions.
(Read more about the Debreziner.)
The minor Vienna sausages
…and then we have a bunch of other varieties you may find on the menu, none of which I’ve tried so I’m guessing a bit here. For example:
- Sacherwürstel: a darker, higher-quality (and longer) version of the Frankfurter.
- Grillwurst: like Bratwurst but more heavily spiced. Possibly.
- Currywurst: a recent import from Germany, this is a Bratwurst with, um, curry. Not nearly as popular here as among our northern neighbours.
The form taken by the curry part of the name is not always the same, though. It may be curry powder in the sausage itself, curry powder sprinkled over the sausage, or simply a tomato-curry sauce.
- Waldviertler: the Waldviertel lowland region of Austria lies somewhat to the northwest of Vienna and enjoys a reputation for good beer and a harsh climate. A Waldviertler is someone from that area, but also a darker, thick-skinned, smoked sausage.
- Klobasse or Burenwurst: a parboiled sausage with less finely-diced contents than, for example, your Frankfurter. Much like a Käsekrainer, but without the cheese.
Condiments and more
No man is an island, and nor is any sausage. So here are some quick translations of what comes with them:
- Senf – mustard
- Ketchup – I’m going to let you guess what this translates to in English
- Kren – horseradish
- Gurkerl / Essiggurke – gherkin
- Pfefferoni – a chilli pepper (but not usually that spicy)
- Brot – slice of dark bread
- Semmel – white bread roll
- Pommes – chips/fries