It’s easy to see why Vienna, a city of music, cafes, waltzes, parks, pastries, and wine is a popular port-of-call on a Danube River cruise. But only a true foodie will know that Viennese Cuisine is the only fare in the world to be named after a city. Viennese chefs draw on influences from various countries to create awesome dishes that never fail to grab hold of the imagination.
During your free time in Vienna, explore the legendary markets. Since the Middle Ages, Viennese merchants have prospered by hauling produce, dairy products, and meats from the rich farms of Lower Austria and Burgenland into the city center. The tradition of buying the day’s provisions directly from street stalls is so strong, even today, that it discourages the creation of modern supermarkets in the city center.
The largest of the city’s outdoor food markets is the Naschmarkt, Wienzeile, in the 6th District (U-Bahn: Karlsplatz), just south of the Ring. It’s located on what was originally the riverbed of a branch of the Danube, which was diverted and paved over during the enormous public works projects of the 19th century. It’s the most time-honored and vibrant of the markets, as well as the most all-encompassing.
Volumes have been written about the subcultures and linguistic dialects that thrive among the Naschmarkt’s denizens. Observe the following implicit rules if you want to avoid the fury of the infamously irascible women selling their wares: Never touch merchandise unless you intend to buy something. Don’t try to buy less than a half-kilo (about a pound) of potatoes. And — even if you speak German well — don’t even try to understand the bawdy Viennese patois.
Arrive early in the morning and mosey through the warren of outdoor food stalls, and at the end of your excursion, head for the nearby Coffeehouse Drechsler for breakfast or a cup of coffee.
Picnickers will find that Vienna is among the best-stocked cities in Europe for food supplies. The best — and least expensive — place is the Naschmarkt, an open-air market that’s only a 5-minute stroll from Karlsplatz (the nearest U-Bahn stop). Here you’ll find hundreds of stalls selling fresh produce, breads, meats, cheeses, flowers, tea, and more. Fast-food counters and other stands peddle ready-made foods such as grilled chicken, Austrian and German sausages, sandwiches, and even beer. The market is open Monday to Friday from 6am to 6:30pm, Saturday from 6am to 1pm. You can also buy your picnic at one of Vienna’s many delis, such as Konditorei Oberlaa, Neuer Markt 16 (tel. 01/513-2936), or Gerstner, Kärntnerstrasse 15 (tel. 01/5124-9630).
With your picnic basket in hand, head for Stadtpark or the Volksgarten, both on the famous Ring. Even better, if the weather is right, plan an excursion into the Vienna Woods.
Need more Viennese cuisine? The windows of the venerated Café Demel, Kohlmarkt 14 (tel. 01/5351717; U-Bahn: Herrengasse; Bus: 1A or 2A), are filled with fanciful spun-sugar creations of characters from folk legends. Inside you’ll find a splendidly baroque landmark where dozens of pastries are available daily, including the Pralinen, Senegal, truffle, Sand, and Maximilian tortes, as well as Gugelhupfs (cream-filled horns). Demel also serves a mammoth variety of tea sandwiches made with smoked salmon, egg salad, caviar, or shrimp. If you want to be traditional, ask for a Demel-Coffee, which is filtered coffee served with milk, cream, or whipped cream. It’s open daily from 10am to 7pm.
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