It’s beginning to feel very festive. It’s actually snowing in London as I write this post. But I can definitively say there’s nowhere more festive this time of year than Vienna.
If you’re a fan of a Christmas market, you’re in for a real treat here. It’s not often that you can’t walk 100m without stumbling across another Christmas market, day or night heaving with merry gluhwein or punsch drinkers. And it’s bloody cold, so there’s good reason (festive season aside) to tuck in.
Viennese fare is exactly what you’d expect, warm hearty, uncomplicated, fattening and delicious. And there’s nothing really wrong with that.
But Vienna also has a proud past, packed with waltzs, large ornate buildings, culture, amazing architecture and a salon and cafe culture to boast of. Kitsch though it may be, it’s great fun for a weekend.
But now, without further ado – join us for a whistle stop festive Vienna food tour, for the city’s best eats:
1. First stop tafelspitz. The dish you must try if you have nothing else is this, and it must be at Plachutta. Ok yes it’s busy, stuffy and for some reason you have to wait for the waiter to serve you rather than helping yourself (I object to this) BUT, it’s one of the best things you’ll eat when you’re freezing and need something hearty. Tafelspitz was apparently Emperor Frantz Joseph I’s favourite dish, hard to believe since it’s literally boiled beef in some broth. But he had good taste, it’s fantastic, meaty warming and packed full of flavour. Come hungry it’s essentially 3 courses.
2. Stop 2 weinerschnitzel. Much to our hilarity (yes we’re children) Vienna is Wien in German so anything Viennese is weiner. The weinerschnitzel is a famously simple veal escalope, it’s huge, it’s crispy, it’s calorie laden but oh so good. Plonk some buttery potatoes on the side and it’s a winner. I ordered a salad on the side as I was daunted by the unfaltering beige of it but it didn’t need it, embrace the fatness.
3. Next stop strudel. Now we’re talking. Soak up Vienna’s amazing cafe culture at Cafe Central or Cafe Demel, be aware you’ll need to queue to get a table here on weekends but it’s worth it. Demel is particularly lovely, they have a windowed kitchen in the cafe at the back where you can watch the chefs make their intricate cakes. The other Viennese sweet classic is sacher torte but being totally honest this wasn’t up our street, dare I say it a bit of a dry poor chocolate cake…get the strudel with vanilla sauce instead!
4. Next stop Christmas market food and interestingly enough the best thing we had we’d never heard of before langos are basically deep fried flat breads slathered with garlic and whatever else you fancy. Tastes like a heavenly thin garlicky doughnut, sounds weird but it was amazing.
5. Other Christmas market foods you must try in Vienna include spaetzle (basically hand rolled doughy pasta with cheese kaese). And of course sausages of all kinds.
6. Vienna proper continental breakfast. This classic breakfast can usually be found across Europe in various levels of quality. But in Vienna it really is excellent, we were staying near the student area and our favourite breakfast find was Edison cafe. One thing that really jarred me about Vienna was they’ve not yet banned indoor smoking, which we take so much for granted now in London that it’s downright shocking to walk into a smoky restaurant, and you instantly worry about you clothes and hair smelling as well as not being able to taste your food properly. Edison has a whole walled off non smoking back section- head straight there.
7. Whilst Viennese traditional food isn’t the most refined, there is plenty of excellent very refined fine dining to be found in the city. We had a very special meal indeed in Das Schick a fab hotel restaurant specialising in fine Spanish Austrian fusion food, with a stunning view of the city.
8. Aaaand final stop gluhwein punsch and all the festive drinks. The Christmas markets of Vienna offer a dizzying array of hot alcoholic drinks. Try them all, they are all great. Our particular favourites were classic gluhwein (obvs), zirbenpunsch basically pine cone punch, and chocolate chestnut flavoured punch (creamy spiked hot choc).
Our Vienna travel tips:
1. The Christmas season is a fabulous time to come, you’ll never see so many Christmas markets. But do bring very warm clothes, prepare for almost ski temperatures and bring warm and practical boots, scarf, hat, gloves etc. And lots of layers so you can get comfy in the lovely cafes.
3. Try to book as many restaurants you want to try (especially any I’ve listed above) in advance, especially if wanting to visit on a weekend.
4. Viennese culture is amazing definitely visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum, and the Belvedere to see Klimt’s wonderful paintings.