Vienna’s supermarkets are a treasure trove for tourists. All the chains offer decent quality at surprisingly reasonable prices for the capital city of a wealthy country.
- Commonest chains are Billa & Spar
- Promotions often involve significant discounts
- Strong selection of organic food
- Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free products now frequent
- Outlets at the airport, too
- Watch opening times, though
- See also:
The Viennese supermarkets
(The Billa Plus stores are among the largest supermarkets in Vienna, along with Interspar)
You have plenty of reasons to pop into a Viennese supermarket on your visit.
As you might expect, prices are cheaper than those you’ll pay in souvenir shops, tourist outlets etc..
So if you want to buy drinks and snacks, the supermarkets offer considerably better value. Every outlet also runs regular special offers where you might get as much as 25-50% off selected items.
Supermarkets also sell many of the typical souvenirs of a visit to Austria, in particular sweets/candy and chocolate.
The main chains all stock, for example, two popular options for taking home for friends (or for yourself): Milka chocolate and the Mozartkugel marzipan chocolate balls. All in the same packaging but at a fraction of airport or museum shop prices.
In fact, if you leave your shopping until the airport, look out for the supermarkets there. You can buy drinks, snacks and chocolate for much less than in typical airport stores.
Organic, vegetarian & dietary options
(Spar and Billa remain the dominant supermarket brands)
You may be astonished at just how many supermarket products carry an organic label; organic enterprises make up almost a quarter of all farms in Austria, and the supermarkets reflect that trend.
Look for the word Bio, which is German for organic. So Biobrot is organic bread.
Organic meat can be expensive, but other products often cost little more than the conventional equivalent.
All the major supermarkets have an in-house organic brand and typically stock third-party options, such as Alnatura products. And Denn’s is a chain of organic outlets with various locations in the city.
The last year or three also saw a massive increase in the range of vegetarian and vegan products available (Austria took its sweet time about accepting vegetarianism).
The Spar supermarket chain, for example, has its own Veggie vegetarian and vegan line.
And gluten-free and diabetic-friendly products usually have their own section.
(Independent grocery stores exist, too, like Bobby’s foodstore with its Anglo-US selection)
As for picking the right chain, well, there are no “bad” supermarket chains in Vienna. But here’s an overview of the common ones…
- Billa Plus (formerly Merkur): the one I go to most often, being among the largest in size, so remind me of grocery stores back in the UK. There aren’t too many around though
- Billa: probably the most common one you’ll spot. Good value. The same company (Rewe) owns both Billa Plus and Billa
The organic food brands for both the above are Ja Natürlich and Billa Bio. And, if you really want to save, look for the in-house discount brand, Clever
Also look out for the Billa & Billa Plus flyers. As well as listing current promotions, they often contain stickers you can use to get 25% off individual items (subject to the usual small print).
- Spar – this comes in several flavours. Interspar is the large version, Eurospar the next size down, and Spar is the smallest
Spar also has its own organic food brand: Natur Pur.
All the above supermarkets commonly stock pre-packed salads, sandwiches and other items that make creating a packed lunch easy.
Both Spar and Billa also have some outlets pitched as more upmarket in their selection and presentation: Gourmet Spar and Billa Corso.
Between them, Spar and the Rewe brands have over two-thirds of the total market in Austria. But you have plenty of alternatives. For example:
- Discount chains: Hofer (essentially Austria’s Aldi) is probably the most prominent. It’s cheap and even offers its own organic line. Other popular discount chains are Lidl and Penny Markt (the latter also owned by Rewe!)
- Given Vienna’s cosmopolitan nature, the city has a decent sprinkling of international food stores, too, particularly small Turkish outlets. Try an Asiatic supermarket or a British/US grocery store (a lifesaver for those of us addicted to Branston pickle and prawn cocktail-flavoured crisps)
- For grocery shopping with more than a hint of luxury, try Julius Meinl am Graben in the pedestrianised centre (they also have a strong international selection)
So what’s the catch?
All the above sounds pretty good, so there has to be a catch. And that’s the opening times. Late-night or Sunday shopping? Largely impossible in Vienna. See here for details.