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Austria: 12 Foods to Try During Your Trip to Austria

Consider me the luckiest lady in the world -- I had the opportunity in college to study and work in the first district of Vienna for half of my Junior year. During those 6 months, I blew my savings account trying a new Viennese cafe every day and exploring the city (and country) for all that it has to offer. I can honestly say I got my fill of the food. Trust me, I came home with 15 pounds and a full heart to prove it. Below is a short list of everything to feast on during your trip to Austria...

1. Wiener Schnitzel with Erdäpfelsalat and Cranberry

What is it? Veal cutlets, pounded flat and then breaded and pan-fried for a nice crispy outside. Typically paired with erdäpfelsalat, or Austrian potato-salad, and cranberry sauce.

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My favorite. Wiener translates to Vienna, so you can believe that no one does Wiener Schnitzel better than the Viennese. I had to reel it in a little bit when I was living there, realizing I was spending most of my living wages on battered veal and potatoes. Even if you are someone who lives to keep the foods on their plate separate, I highly suggest making an exception here. Nothing is better than a cut of schnitzel, a slice of potato, and a dip of fresh cranberry sauce in one bite to really bring this dish to light. Wash it down with some Almdudler (a popular juice drink in Austria) and you’ll be in heaven.

2. Sachertorte

What is it? Famous Viennese chocolate cake, layered with a glossy coat of rich chocolate frosting

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Thought to have been invented by the Austrian Franz Sacher for the Prince in the 1800’s, this cake (or torte) has been a Austrian favorite ever since. Make sure to try it at least once during your visit, preferably at Cafe Sacher located in Hotel Sacher across the street from the opera house, where it is thought to have originated.

Fun Fact: there is a major dispute as to where the first sachertorte was served, causing many arguments among some of the most popular cafes around Vienna. An agreement was made that cafes could continue to serve their version, as long as Cafe Sacher got to claim “originator” as its own.

3. Austrian Sweets

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I once had a friend tell me that winter is the best time to visit Austria, not because of the beautiful mountains and skiing, not because of the holiday markets, but because it gave you an excuse to warm up in every chocolate shop lining the streets. It’s true, the chocolate shops are endless and indescribable. If you are in Vienna, definitely stop at Cafe Demel to watch the chocolatiers at work. If you are elsewhere around the country, don't worry -- a chocolate shop will always be close by.

4. Viennese Coffee

What is it? Rich coffee, traditionally accompanied by a small glass of water to sip while drinking (for digestion) and maybe some small sweets

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And just as there are chocolate shops around every corner, “Viennese Cafes” didn’t become popular around the world for nothing. You have a new cafe choice on every block. I took advantage of that while living there, trying to visit a new cafe any chance I got. That being said, the hidden, older ones became my favorite. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to take my school reading to a cafe, sit down next to an old gentleman sitting and reading the newspaper as his dog lay down at his feet below the table, and happily drink coffee sans tourists or distractions. I swear, cafes are the reason I truly learned the German language. The number of times I interacted with locals and felt like I was getting an authentic glimpse of Austrian culture by simply sitting at a cafe is countless.

Fun fact: You will notice when you are in Austria that every coffee brought to you is accompanied by a small glass of water. Nowadays, it is known to be for digestion and easy drinking. But, many say that the tradition began because scholars and the wealthy would typically mingle at the cafe, and the average citizen didn’t necessarily have the money to pay for the rich, expensive coffee. It became common for people to come and order glasses of water, simply for the opportunity to hear the thoughts of the insightful scholars and philosophers of the time.

5. Kaiserschmarrn

What is it? A shredded, fluffy, and typically rum-soaked raisin pancake, often topped with powdered sugar and preserves

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Yes, it is basically only in America that we consider pancakes breakfast food. That’s always a tough reality for me when I am spending time abroad. Luckily, pancakes still find their way onto international menus as dessert. Kaiserschmarrn is a delicious and traditional Austrian dessert named after Franz Joseph I because of his deep love for it. Definitely order this dessert to accompany your coffee break.

6. Austrian Beer

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Just like you would imagine in Germany, Austria has its fair share of beautiful beer gardens, so grab some lederhosen and make your way to the pints.

P.S. If you aren’t a beer person, Austria is also home of Red Bull. Because of this, Red Bull/Vodka might be one of the most popular liquor drinks you can find around the downtown bars. If you go this route, expect a fun night.

7. Käsespätzle

What is it? Spätzle (egg noodle) baked with cheese

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If you are a picky eater, look no further. Käsespätzle is essentially mac & cheese. How many times have I been out at a bar and craved a helping of mac (and eventually wandered home to make a full box)? I try not to keep track. Well, welcome to Austria where they put this dish directly on most beer garden menus. You will be so happy you tried it.

8. Käsekrainer/Wiener Würstel

What is it? A baguette with a Viennese sausage/hot dog placed inside

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Käserkraner is classic street food, found on most corners in the main districts of Vienna. Essentially, the cart attendant takes a baguette, uses a tube to create a central hole, asks if you want any condiments for them to squirt directly into it, and then adds your choice of sausage or hot dog right inside. It is an amazing street food and a perfect, delicious choice if you want to grab a quick lunch before visiting the next beautiful palace.

9. Apple Strudel

What is it? Crispy pastry with apple and cinnamon sugar filling

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Call me crazy (I deserve it) but I have never been a big apple pastry person. My American heritage never swayed me to pick apple pie growing up; the flavor was just never my preference. But, when I moved to Austria, there was continual persuasion to eat this dessert. So traditional and classic, this is definitely a must-try dessert when you are exploring Austria. Served warm and crispy, even I was in love with its tart taste.

P.S. In the center of the city, you will find the Hofburg Palace, a beautiful palace that houses the crown jewels, the famous Austrian National Library (that the Beauty & the Beast library was modeled after), and the Spanish Riding School. Make your way to the garden and greenhouse, and you will find it has been remodeled to be one of the most beautiful cafes in the city. With hanging plants and sunlight, this is a great place to grab some strudel before heading into the connecting butterfly sanctuary.

10. Brettljause

What is it? A platter of meats, cheeses, jams, bread, and more

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Basically, picture the Austrian version of a charcuterie board. This is often served in the beautiful Austrian vineyards throughout the country on a nice spring day. When visiting a friend in Graz, the family insisted that we drive to a vineyard to enjoy the sunset with brettljause and wine. I, obviously, did not object.

11. Freshly Baked Pretzel

What is it? Large, soft, traditional pretzel bread

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None of your dry Snyder snacks here! Austria is the spot to grab a fresh dough pretzel while you drink down your beer and enjoy the outdoors. I am a sucker for a good beer garden pretzel -- make sure to order at least one for the table to snack on. And grab some of the dips as well!

12. Market Foods

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If you have learned anything from the Meat on Her Bones site, it is that I always fully endorse visiting the local markets. Austria is full of delicious marketplaces that vary depending on the season. Find yourself there in the winter, and you are in the number one ranked Christmas Market spot in the world. Stalls will be full of warm mulled wine (gluehwein), traditionally decorated gingerbread cookies, sausages, potato pancakes, and more. Visit during Easter, another market season Vienna is known for, and you will find chocolate eggs, sweets, and beautiful decorations. Spring and Summer also bring beer festivals and snacks. But, even without the holidays, year-round markets are packed with fresh meats, vegetables, cheeses, and more. Locals will go to the market every week to visit their favorite stalls. The Vienna Naschmarkt is definitely not something to miss!

Any more suggestions? Let us know!

Written by Emi Lungmus

Photos by Emi Lungmus & Anna McCarthy

Edited by Anna McCarthy


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