Two days/nights in Vienna - suggestions for what to eat?
We are taking a very last minute whirlwind trip through Vienna from 2 – 4 December, which gives us two full days in the city. There are three objectives for the trip: museums, christmasmarkets and glorious, solid, Austrian/Viennese fare.
I’m worried that because we’ve planned this trip so late (the tickets were bought just the other day) that it may be difficult to find availability at good restaurants for the two lunches and two dinners on the Friday and Saturday we’re in Vienna, so I’m moving fast in making reservations while keeping backup list of potential alternatives.
We’re mostly interested in solid beisl fare rather than anything significantly more upmarket (we have our fair share of upmarket restaurants in Dubai) and we’ve loved the traditional Austrian/German/Czech fares on our previous trips through central Europe. For this trip I’ve identified the following possibilities that are in and around the Inner Stadt (with the help of the recent posts, especially from Sturmi) on Chowhound:
To order: Zwiebelrostbraten and spinach dumplings with gorgonzola sauce. But what Spatzle dish?
Any other recommendations?
Is it possible to order a zwiebelrostbraten and a side order of a spatzle or dumpling dish?
I found this place from one of Sturmi’s posts and its right around the corner from our hotel. He recommended tafelspitz as one of its highlights and I love a good tafelspitz, but what are the other possibilities from this place?
The following are places in the Inner Stadt which may be handy for lunches or dinners. Assuming we get a table at one of the below, what should we order?
Is this similar to Der Pschorr in Munich? The reviews online are mixed. If we go there what's worth ordering?
My husband is a dedicated coffee drinker and we’re eagerly anticipating the cafes of Vienna. We will probably try to go to Café Landtmann and Schwartzman at least once, and we’ve heard of Café Sperl. We went to Café Griensteidl on our last trip and while the coffee was excellent, the apple strudel was mediocre. Which cafes offer the best balance between good coffee and good cakes/pastries, especially apfelstrudel? A highly subjective opinion, I’m sure!
Last but not least – is coffee to go possible in Vienna at all? My husband often likes to get a second coffee to go with him and sip it slowly as we explore the city? Finding coffee to go is generally very tricky in most continental European cities.
All suggestions are appreciated. We're very excited about this impromptu trip and I can already feel the sting of the cold winter air against my face as we walk away from the restaurant under the twinkling Christmas lights strung across streets.
Viktualienmarkt 15, Munich, BY 80331, DE
We just returned from our Vienna trip. Vienna was cold, dark and absolutely wonderful. A summary of the places we went is outlined below:
Day 1: we arrived at the airport at the ungodly hour of 5:40 and was at our hotel by 6:30. We dropped off the bags and set out to explore the city. But future travellers should note that almost nothing is open in Vienna before 8:00, other than a handful of bakeries/coffeeshops. We ended up at Aida by the cathedral for our first coffee and pastry of the day. I had the cappuccino and my husband had the melange, and we both shared the apfelstrudel and topfenstrudel. Both pastries were perfectly fine to eat but I’d say that the atmosphere of the 1950s pink interiors of the shop is really Aida’s selling point more than the food, given how easily available good pastries and coffee is in Vienna.
My husband then hunted for a coffee to go. The coffee at Aidai is available for takeaway but he found the coffee less than stellar so we went to the Coffeeshop. Their coffee was ok and expensive for the small quantity. He would later discover the McCafe and pronounced it to be a much better value than Coffeeshop.
After visiting the Leichenstein Museum we went to Wickerl. As expected, Wickerl was a classic neighbourhood beisl serving well-prepared traditional Austrian/Viennese fare. Despite that my husband speaks reasonably fluent German we were automatically handed the English menu, so the place must get tourists even though all the other diners at lunch were Austrian.
We both had the liver dumpling soup, which came in a wonderfully flavoured broth, if a bit on the salty side. This hot soup was ideal on the very cold day. My husband ordered a veal wiener schnitzel, which was well-executed: crisp and tender and served with fries. He had no complaints. I had a beef goulasch that was served with a slice of fried egg and several pieces of fried sausage. The goulasch was pleasant and enjoyable. We both had glasses of good draught beer with the lunch. All in all, Wickerl was a good place for a pleasant lunch of traditional Austrian fare, but don’t go there expecting anything more sophisticated.
That afternoon we went to Café Sperl, which is easily our favourite café in Vienna. We both had the eispanner and I had a slice of the fabulous sperlschnitte, which is a thin baked layer of chocolate/hazelnut meringue/cream on a hazelnut sponge. It did remind me of the flavour of nutella, and I’m still trying to figure out how it was made. My husband ordered the sachertorte, but forgot to order it with whipped cream. Since the café was bustling full and the waitresses obviously very busy, he forwent the cream and decided that while the cake itself was good, it was a bit dry without the cream, and despite his reputation for sticking to a lean and mean approach to food, ordered a second slice with the cream and confirmed that it’s really the whipped cream that properly finishes off a sachertorte.
Dinner that night was at Gastwirtschaft Schilling. We both ordered the frittatten soup as the starter and had the tapfelspitz. The beef was excellently prepared and well flavoured (I’ve had too many bland tapfelspitz and theirs is one of the best). Good selection of Austrian wine. Like Wickerl, this is a neighbourhood favourite in a classic, unpretentious setting and the food is very much traditional Austrian fare excellently prepared, but compared to Wickerl we found Schilling to be a notch above. We would return.
We began our second day with another round of coffee and pastries at Aida and then set out for the Belvedere. We had planned to go to Restaurant Sperl afterwards but discovered that after having two heavy meals the previous day, and with reservations at Phoenixhof that night, we simply were not hungry. I made do with a perfectly fine cheese-spaetzle dish from one of the food stalls in the Belvedere Christkindlmarkt, and back in the inner statdt we both had grillwurst from the sausage stand by the Opera House. Fabulous sausage of a quality we simply cannot get in Dubai.
That afternoon we returned to Café Sperl for more wonderful coffee and pastries. I had the sperlschnitte again and DH tried a linzertorte and followed it with another slice of the sachertorte.
For our final dinner we went to the Café Phoenixhof. I ordered the garlic and egg soup for a starter while my husband had the liver dumpling soup. Both soups were hot and tasty. For the mains I had the zwiebelrostbraten, which was topped with crispy onions and served with thickly cut crispy fried potatoes, which were like a thicker version of potato chips. My husband ordered the Beefsteak in Pfeffersauce mit Gemüse und Bratkartoffeln, which is a steak in a spicy pepper sauce with roasted vegetables and potatoes. We shared a side dish of the spinach dumplings in a gorgonzola sauce, which was rich and very enjoyable to eat. For desserts, we both had the germknödel served with crushed poppyseeds and melted butter, which was absolutely wonderful.
We visited Oberlaa for pastries on our last morning, which were wonderful, and I’m sorry that our too brief visit to Vienna prevented us from trying out more places.
While I enjoyed all our meals and thought they represented good value for what we received and loved the neighbourhood feel of each restaurant, I will have to say that when we were last in Vienna two years ago, we had two fabulous meals at Immervoll which easily exceeded the restaurants we tried on this trip. The quality at Immervoll wasn’t better, but the menu was a bit more sophisticated, more “modern Austrian”, and all the dishes had the extra depth of flavours that was missing from these solidly meat+potatoes places. People looking for more adventuresome cooking will probably prefer the Porchetta chain of restaurants, while those very happy with well-prepared, traditional Austrian fare won't go wrong with any of the places we visited.
re: Roland Parker
Thank you so much for your detailed story !!
Your verdict is definitely true: some of the beisl are just basic and convenient spots when you are in the vicinity, and some of them, such as Immervoll (or Zum Finsteren Stern, Zur Schwarzen Katze and Rudi´s Beisl) are definitely worth a detour.
I loved your comment on McCafe by McDonalds!!
It really is a good source of coffee-to-go AND even has a decent lounge to drink your coffee right on the spot...
re: Roland Parker
Hello Roland Parker,
You have made your homework, so right away I can tell you that your visit will be a success !!
Let me try to give the final touches to your great schedule:
Altwiener Gastwirtschaft Schilling and Phönixhof both are close to you hotel, so these places might be best for dinner. At Schilling and Phönixhof you get good, traditional Viennese fare, and you will find a lot to like beyond Tafelspitz, Spätzle and Zwiebelrostbraten. And yes, of course, you can ask for spätzle as a side order to Zwiebelrostbraten, but the fried potatoe wedges served with the Zwiebelrostbraten are really yummy !!
Schilling provides a nice image gallery of their specialties, although many are seasonal dishes:
Now lets go to the city: As you are visiting museums, it is convenient to provide lunch places close to a museum. Therefore I will list the museums and give the name and address of a beisl nearby. It is hard to recommend what to order, since most of these restaurants will have the standards Wiener Schnitzel from veal, pork or chicken, Zwiebelrostbraten made from beef, Beuschl made from veal or pork, and beef Gulasch. Special dishes are available every day and depend on the market. Currently the Martinigansl season is finished, and you will find game dishes in many places.
Albertina: They show now a wonderful Margritte show, not to be missed. The beisl close by is Gasthaus Reinthaler in Gluckgasse.
A must is aways the Kunsthistorische Museum and the Leopold Museum, and there is a lovely Christmas market in the park in front of the Kunsthistorische Museum !! Nearby is the Glacisbeisl, which is just one of many restaurants in this area, and the most hard to find. But the food is worth the search, and it is really not that difficult.
There is an upper and a lower part of this museum. The Salmbräu is located near the entrance of the lower Belvedere, but we have not yet been there, we prefer the Gasthaus Sperl in Karolinengasse, close to the upper Belvedere.
Schönbrunn palace is a must, and there is a Christmas market right in front ! If you can withstand the street food offered on the market, I can give you an address for a wonderful authentic beisl nearby, which is not yet listed in ANY of the gourmet guides and foody blogs:
Heidingers Gasthaus in Selzergasse:
They open Monday to Saturday at 10 a.m., and keep open until 10 p.m., so you can have a late lunch at 3 or 4 p.m. They have three different kinds of beer from the tap, a light lager type, a light-brown bohemian type beer form the Waldviertel, and a dark beer as well. They have wonderful Wienerschnitzel made from pork or chicken, and always some lunch of the day for unbeatable Euro 5.80 (soup and main course). It is a few blocks from Schönbrunn, so you have to get a taxi, but it is worth the trip. And a U3 subway station and a tram 49 station are nearby, and it is not far from your hotel at all...
You must not miss the the private collection of Fürst Liechtenstein, but please do not drop in the museum cafeteria. Rather cross the Porzellangasse and try Gasthaus Wickerl:
Now, if you are disappointed that I have not mentioned Beim Czaak, Rudis Beisl, Gmoakeller and Gasthaus Pöschl: All of these are great beisl, and we are regulars there, but why take a detour if you can find similar right around the corner of your point of interest ?
Wait, you had a few more questions:
Regarding strudel, pastries, cake and coffee there is a great pastry shop chain which has excellent food and coffee for reasonable prices, and everything is always fresh: the Aida chain.
And Cafe Landtmann is now also a chain and a first address for strudel and coffee Viennese style: they have also Cafe Mozart behind the Opera, Cafe Hofburg right in the Hofburg, Cafe Residenz in Schönbrunn and Cafe Museum on Karlsplatz, etc., etc.
Also coffee to go is available in several of the cafes, you do not have to rely on Starbucks, which is also present in many streets in Vienna. A great alternative to Starbucks actually is McDonalds !! The have a McCafe in each McDonalds restaurant in Austria, and will serve you a real Italian Lavazza capuccino to go !!
The Austrian version of Starbucks is Coffeeshop Company, with a lot of branches and very good coffee to go !
And finally: reservations are not a must in all of these places. Maybe at Schilling for the first evening, but that is all you need.
Thank you for all of your wonderful suggestions. I do like to do some research beforehand as I'm well aware that while a restaurant may be praised overall, each place has its specialities and each place will have certain dishes that probably aren't worth ordering.
Gasthaus Wickerl is firmly on our list now as we'll be heading up to Liechtensteinmuseum and it should make a good post-museum visit (and the walk back to the Inner Stadt should help burn off some of the calories.
I've added Restaurant Sperl for our Belvedere visit, and Glacisbeisl and Heidingers Gasthaus to the list as well, although I doubt we'll make it to Schonbrunn this time around (we've been there twice before, however its Christmasmarket is one of the most atmospheric in Vienna, so I think, and that may warrant a repeat visit).
Two more questions for our knowledgeable expert, if he doesn't mind!
1. Are there any traditional dishes that only feature on the menus in beisls across the city in early December that we should be aware of (such as the goose for St. Martin's day?).
2. Any opinions on the Christmasmarkets? Which ones have the best gluhwein? There are different types of gluhwein, correct? We rarely buy anything at the markets but love drinking the hot wine and walking around and soaking up the atmospheres. We'll probably avoid the one in front of the Rathaus but the one in the Spittelberg is one the list as well as one or two of the smaller ones in the Inner Stadt itself.
re: Roland Parker
Re 1: there are no traditional Pre-Chrismas dishes besides of the game dishes you might get in a few beisl.
Re 2: You are right to avoid the big market in front of the Rathaus. All the other markets are more romantic and have better merchandise. Regarding Glühwein: there are hundreds of kiosks selling punch and glühwein, and it is hard to give a favorite. We like the Christmas markets in the "Alte AKH" courtyard, on Spittelberg, between the museums and also maybe the Altwiener Christkindlmarkt on Freyung. But there are just a few differences between these markets, and it does not pay to visit them all. Maybe the Spittelberg market has less kitsch and more tasty punch and glühwein...
Most important is to know their opening hours, which might vary by day and by location:
re: Roland Parker
This could be simple: Grimm is an excellent bakery. He offers mainly bread, and also varieties of pastries. It is basically a take away shop, not a Kaffeehaus.
Aida and Oberlaa are Konditoreien. There you get any kind of cake, strudel or pastry, but no bread. Contrary to a bakery they offer tables to sit and eat their sweet things and drink coffee. Their business is about 50% take away and 50% table service.
Nowadays many Kaffeehäuser will also offer cakes and pastries, but the difference to a Konditorei is that the area for tables is larger, and most of them will not sell cakes or pastries to take away (with the exception of the Landtmann chain).
To make things more blurred some bakeries have now put up tables and sell coffee to go with their pastries. And Kaffeehäuser will offer lunch menues.
And there are now a few "boutique bakeries" in town, which offer high-end varieties of bread and pastries, such as the Joseph in Naglergasse and Gragger on Spiegelgasse.
re: Roland Parker
After a glorious, exhausting week exploring Vienna (and two days in Graz), I wanted to give an outsiders report on Weihnachtsmärkte and Gluehwein for future travelers.
Our favorite Christmasmarkets were Am Hof and Freyungs. Although both are smaller than the main markets, they were less busy, touristy, and had much more crafts and unique items than the larger markets. We also discovered a nice market on Spittlberggasse while looking for the Amerling Beisl to meet up with friends. If you are visiting on a weekend, you might finds these easier to navigate after the mandatory visit to the insanely crowded vibrant Rathausplatz and Maria Theresien-Platz markets.
On Gluehwein, we each tried a different glass most days and found slight differences from place to place (this may have just been how fresh the batch was). Although delicious and warming, most were a little too sweet and clove spiced. As a result we liked the subtler gluehwein from a small booth outside of the St Micheal's church near cafe Griensteidl.
Interestingly, the gluehwein in Graz was much more "winey" and less sweet - more to our liking. They also had something called Feuerbowle which is reported to be gluewein with a touch of spiced Stroh Inlander Rum. Very good.
As a side note, we passed late through a market in the Resselpark near Karlsplatz. Most shops were closed, but there was a large crowd gathered around the Hermax booth. They were making heisse Fladen that were to die for. Each bread was rolled out fresh, dressed with your choice of topping, cooked in a blast furnace of an oven and served immediately. Think amazing garlic nann bread - absolutely outstanding, way better than the fried versions available most places, and definitely worth a detour to try.
Just wanted to share some of our experiences with anyone having less time to explore.
Sturmi's knowledge of Viennese restaurants is amazingly encylopaedic!
I just wanted to point out one little thing (that Sturmi has mentioned elsewhere, if I remember rightly): a Wiener Schnitzel must be made from veal to earn its name without qualifications (e.g. pork Wiener Schnitzel, turkey Wiener Schnitzel).
So if you want to say you ate a Wiener Schnitzel in Vienna, it really should be veal.
Thank you for the flowers !!
My knowledge is far from complete, but we like to eat out and like to try new spots. But sometimes I also recommend a place I have never been before, simply because of its reputation. The restaurant scene in Vienna is well documented by several guides and food blogs, and what I do is sometimes just to transfer all this knowledge to non-german speaking chowhounds !!
The comment about the Wiener Schnitzel is more than true. There is even a legal requirement for restaurants to call a Wiener Schnitzel only Wiener Schnitzel if it is made from a certain cut of veal. All other Schnitzels should be called differently, such as Schweinswiener or Hühnerschnitzel etc.. The only problem: nobody cares, and so it is better to ask whether there is really veal under the breading.
And a good point is just to look at the price: a real Wiener Schnitzel cannot be less than 14 Euros !