Foodie guide to Vienna: where locals eat and drink
Austria’s capital caters to both traditionalists and modernists with sparkling natural wines, chocolate bundt cakes and wild boar burgers there for the taking alongside the city’s famously elegant – and gloriously old-fashioned – cafes and schnitzel restaurants
Looking for restaurants in Vienna? Want to know where to eat in the Austrian capital? We share insider tips for the best restaurants in Vienna, along with where to find the best old-world cafés, hot dogs and secret bars in the cobbled backstreets and grand avenues.
olive’s top 10 must-visits for foodies in Vienna
Kleines Café – for traditional Viennese vibes
Leave your smartphone at the pale green door here and chat with the artsy regulars inside. Living up to its name this tiny mirror-lined space, with its worn leather banquettes and wooden chairs, has long been a bohemian haunt.
A charming waiter weaves his way around, taking orders for traditional Viennese coffees (try an Einspänner – espresso with cream top, a mélange – espresso with hot water and frothy milk, or a Kleiner Brauner – espresso with milk on the side) and Austrian house wine.
O Boufés – for dinner and natural wines
The minimal interiors of concrete-walled O Boufés allows Konstanin Filippou’s Mediterranean-Austrian fusion dishes to shine – veal tartare comes with crisp capers, bratwurst is spruced up with mustard greens, and smoked salmon bathes in pea vichyssoise.
Ask the staff for natural wine recommendations. Sparkling wines include dry and citrusy Xtravaganza and an unusual grafnat given a pinky-orange colour from grape-to-grape? skin contact. The latter comes from one of Austria’s wine making heroes who specialises in Sauvignon Blanc but made this batch of sparkling wine as a happy accident (O Boufés bought the whole lot). Bessi shines in the whites section, with a pleasant acidity and caramel notes. Our final favourite was Gutogau rosé; it’s fresh and seriously fruity.
Café Ansari – for brunch
A duck egg-blue counter, jade green walls and lace lampshades create a warm and welcoming vibe at Café Ansari. The owners’ Georgian/Lebanese heritage is reflected in brunch options such as khachapuri bread oozing with cheese and platters of hummus, labneh, cheese and sumac-sprinkled cherry tomatoes. Traditionalists are catered for, too, with homemade apricot jam to spread over fresh rolls and croissants.
To go with your choice, order homemade lemon balm and lavender lemonade (served in vintage carafes) or pick from the café’s list of unusual Georgian wines.
Karmelitermarkt – for farmers market shopping
Seek out up-and-coming Karmelitermarkt, where Fridays and Saturdays see the cobbled square transformed into a farmer’s market and colourful kiosks contrast with the ancient buildings that surround them.
Grab breakfast at one of the neighbouring cafés then shop for flowers, organic veg and Burgenland honey.
Mochi – for Japanese food
Start your meal at this Austro-Japanese izakaya, with a refreshing spritz (yuzu sake, frizzante and mint) or a hot sake. Then, perch at the wooden bar to watch bandana-clad chefs preparing sushi and small plates – “special rolls” include My Best Friend, a parcel of tempura leek, salmon sashimi and miso teriyaki sauce.
Skewers from the grill include pork belly and chicken skin while Mochi’s small plates line-up features crispy karaage chicken and minced pork tan tan salad in chilli teriyaki.
And don’t miss the tempura prawns on crunchy lettuce with chilli mayo and yuzu truffle dressing.
Felzl – for bread and pastries
Whether you’re after a rustic loaf, a sandwich or a pastry, Felzl puts an Austrian stamp on its menu of Mediterranean bakes – crustily precise French baguettes, apple tarts made with North Austrian apples, and richly chocolated bundt cakes.
There are even two bread-vending machines so, if you get a carb craving late at night, you can pick up a loaf after-hours.
Bitzinger – for hot dogs
The city’s Bitzinger hot dog stand is equally popular among selfie-snapping tourists and tux-clad opera-goers. It’s a slick but friendly operation. Order snacks such as käsekreiner (cheese-studded hot dogs) and you’ll be served speedily, and with a smile.
Krypt – for cocktails
In-the-know locals cram into this subterranean speakeasy for killer cocktails. Prop up the walnut-topped, black marble bar and choose between a Mexican Massage (with plenty of tequila, lime and jalapeño) or rum-based Pineapple Express.
Then, take your drink into a brick-lined alcove and challenge your companion to a game of shuffleboard, or peruse the surrounding art Krypt also sells itself as Vienna’s smallest gallery.
Weinschenke – for burgers
This burger joint has several locations across the city. Once you’ve finished shopping at the farmer’s market (see above) head to the Karmelitermarkt outpost and sip a glass of Austrian wine or a citrussy Austrian Amber Ale while you plough through a Wild Guy (beef patty, cheddar, bacon, egg, japapenos, red onions and smoky BBQ sauce) or a Vito (wild boar burger with sherry pepper sauce, herbs and red cabbage).
The beef comes from a local butcher while the wild boar is hunted from the Waldviertel woods in northern Austria.
Phil – for lazy afternoons
This cool and quirky cafe, with its funky retro furniture, is the place to head to if you want to combine coffee culture and book culture.
There’s no time pressure at this café-cum-bookstore, so order a mélange (espresso, hot water, frothy milk) and a slice of vegan carrot cake and take your time browsing the well-stocked bookshelves.
Jonas Reindl – for a hip coffee hangout
This speciality brewspot is one of the city’s most popular third-wave coffee shops. Coffee aficionados come to the pared-back space to gather over flat whites and cortados; the drinks are made using espresso from Barn in Berlin and a chocolate-y Nicaraguan house blend with nougat and almond notes.
Apple cake, streusel and decadent chocolate cake sit temptingly under glass domes for those who fancy a sweet treat to accompany their coffee.
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Best hotels for foodies in Vienna
Grand Ferdinand Hotel
Enter this plush hotel via its statement lobby (go easy past the life-size horse statue) and check into one of its moodily minimal bedrooms. Then, follow your stomach and either swing up to the Grand Etage restaurant, with its panoramic views over the city, or swerve into the hotel’s dedicated schnitzel joint, Meissel & Schadn.
The top-floor Grand Etage sits beside a large terrace and lap pool but we recommend heading up at breakfast and loading your plate with Austrian sausages, pickled fish and typical bakes and eating them from the comfort of a floral-patterned armchair looking out across gilded rooftops, intricate domes and palaces.
At Meissel & Schadn, on the other hand, peer past the ‘Schnitzel Love’ sign in the window and watch, mesmerized, white apron-clad chefs prepare traditional Viennese schnitzel beneath an extravagant chandelier. Veal is bashed, dipped in breadcrumbs and fried in your choice of lard, pork dripping or vegetable oil to create a frilly, golden crumb. For the full experience, book-end your main course with a shrimp cocktail to start and an apple strudel to finish.
With the help of Terence Conran this former youth hostel, on the same square as the Vienna Opera House, is now a sleek, design hotel. One of its best features is an award-winning wood-stove bakery so expect the very best Viennese pastries for breakfast. Glittering palaces, classical music and exceptional art (from Klimt’s Kiss at the Belvedere to Wes Anderson’s curatorial debut at the Kunsthistorisches Museum) make Vienna ideal for a grown-up weekend away.
Foodies can sign up to a cooking class with Bianca, a locally-run workshop that takes you straight into the world of Austrian cuisine; shop at the market before returning to the kitchen to learn how to prepare paprika chicken stew, spaetzli (dumplings) with salad and proper apple strudel before sitting down to enjoy the feast.
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More places to eat and drink in Vienna
Pick up a bag of freshly roasted Alt Wiener Gold coffee, at Alt Wien. An unassuming-looking coffee shop near the Naschmarkt, it does an expert line in fair-trade and organic blends.
Dip into shelves of cookbooks and own-brand spices before sitting down to the daily lunch special (when we visited, Mediterranean lentil salad with aubergine and sheep’s cheese) at Babette's. If you’ve got time, book in for one of the shop’s regular cookery classes for tips on everything from pastry-making to preparing the perfect curry.
Doing a brisk trade in fruit and veg since 1793, the Naschmarkt’s stalls brim with everything from glossy olives and Asian spices to Alpine cheeses and Austrian wines. Go for a morning stroll before a bumper breakfast of omelette-topped bagels and fresh-pressed juice at Naschmarkt Deli.
Stop by Henzls Ernte for deli goods made with fruit, herbs and spices grown or foraged by the owners. Their pepped-up sugars and salts and nettle and wild garlic pesto are especially worth seeking out.
Stroll through the Stadtpark to Meierei, an all-white, new-age milk bar that elevates brunch to gourmet heights. Try show-stoppers such as beef tartare with toasted rye bread; sautéed porcini with poached egg and wild cress cream; or apricot dumplings with butter crumbs. Or go for lunch to dig into creamy goulash with leek roulade, followed by an outstanding Austrian cheese board.
Freud and Trotsky famously enjoyed the marble splendour of Café Central. Black-vested waiters have been serving a slice of old-world Viennese decadence to visitors in this palatial coffee house since 1876. Try the linger over apple strudel, which flakes just so, and speciality coffees such as Maria Theresia, an orange liqueur-laced double espresso topped with whipped cream.
Venture deep below the Innere Stadt to 500-year-old Villon, Vienna’s oldest wine cellar. Raise a toast with citrussy grüner veltliner and ruby-red pinot noirs at the vaulted bar.
Trzesniewski has the open sandwich down to a fine art. Try toppings such as crab and egg, pickled herring and onions and wild paprika, all on a choice of different breads. A couple of bites and they're gone, so order a few.
Das LOFT Bar & Lounge
Vienna seems toytown-tiny from glass-walled bar Le Bar & Lounge, on the 18th floor of the Sofitel. Pick out landmarks from the Hofburg Palace to the Wiener Riesenrad ferris wheel over a pomegranate martini.
Wholesomely hip deli and record store Tongues should be on your radar for a quick organic lunch and electro on vinyl. There’s usually a winter-warmer soup on the simmer and daily specials, such as courgette and feta pasta.
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Updated by Alex Crossley in February 2019
First written by Kerry Christiani in December 2013
Photographs: Meierei, Sandra Raccanello /SIME/4Corners, Reinhard Schmid/4Corners, Helen Cathcart/Lonely Planet Traveller Magazine