“Do you eat horse?”
Now we are adventurous eaters, but when Lukas, the owner and guide for Food Tours Vienna asked this question, I had a quick moment of panic that maybe this food tour wasn’t going to be quite what I expected. You see, ever since our fantastic food tour in Rome, I’ve been in love with the idea of exploring new cities through food tours — after all, we love exploring through our stomachs anyway. But when we signed up for a Vienna food tour, I expected schnitzel and strudel –not horse? But I didn’t need to worry long. One look at the horror on Hannah’s face and Lukas got the message that anything made with horse was a little out of our comfort zone.
Our Vienna Food Tour
We started our tour in one of Vienna’s class coffee houses, Cafe Sperl. Built in 1880, Cafe Sperl has long been a favorite haunt for composers, singers, writers and artists. Today, it maintains its historic feel and local charm and is one of the only cafe that still bakes its own pastries in-house daily. You can certainly taste the difference and if you visit, be sure to try the unassuming Sperl cake. It doesn’t look like much but this chocolate cake is delicious. Of all the cafes and coffee houses we visited in Vienna, Cafe Sperl was in our top two.
After getting to know our guide and fellow tour mates (a couple from Germany who didn’t mind too much that Lukas gave the tour primarily in English) over coffee and pastry, we took a short stroll over to Naschmarkt. Naschmarkt is Vienna’s largest outdoor market, stretching nearly a mile long. The market is full of fresh fruit, vegetable, and flower stands, along with butchers and other specialty shops and restaurants. To find the best deals, head away from the First District and the Ring Road for the more authentic and local vendors.
Our first stop was a specialty import shop with a selection of fine cheeses. Lukas set up a beautiful cheese board for us to sample some local varieties.
After eating more than we should have, we headed over to Gegenbauer to taste test some infused vinegars. If I had more room in my luggage, I would have brought back some of the sage vinegar at the least as it was so robust with the flavor of fresh sage.
From Naschmarkt, it was a quick walk over to Bitzringer’s Sausage Stand — one of the most famous sausage stands in Vienna. We had already stopped by here the day before, but we were happy to sample another style. Between the smoked and the cheese sausages, the cheese stuffed was my favorite — not overly cheesy but lots of delicious flavor. Unless you order a “hot dog”, the sausage is sliced and served on a plate with mustard, ketchup and fresh shredded horseradish. Be sure to watch through the window as they prepare it if someone orders a hot dog. It is cool to see how they poke a hole in the bun, squirt in some ketchup, and then stuff in the sausage. Definitely make this a stop if you visit Vienna!
Our next stop was just down the road from the Hofburg at Zuckerl Werkstatt, a candy shop specializing in hand-rolled candies. It was interesting to watch them at work creating specialty designs for Easter. Each style takes about two to three hours to design, roll, stretch and cut to turn into these tiny candies. They don’t have a ton of flavor but they sure are cute!
After a while on our feet, it was time to head to Melker Stiftskeller, a cute underground wine bar featuring wines from up near Melks Abbey. They aren’t typically open at this time so we had the place to ourselves and we were able to sample three or four of their specialties. Hannah even had her choice of grape juice or soda (she declared the vintage of her juice sublime, very fruit forward.)
It was fun to sit down for a while and relax, while learning more about the Vienna food scene. Since Lukas is also a chef, he had insider knowledge and plenty of recommendations. This is why I always recommend taking a food tour early in your stay if you can, so you have a chance to then go and sample some of your guide’s recommendations on your own.
After all that wine, we were ready for a nap but there was still more to come. Our next stop was Xocolat, a premiere chocolate shop handmade truffles and chocolate bars from around the world. The samples were so delicious that this is where Hannah decided to spend her souvenir money (and surprisingly, some of it even made it home!)
From here, we headed over to Judenplatz and stopped in at the Bakerei Arthur Grimm, which still bakes fresh breads and pastries daily. We were able to sample a number of traditional styles, before picking our favorite to bring along to our next stop.
The last and final stop on our Vienna food tour was at Fleischerei, a local butcher shop. Lukas went inside while we waited and looked on from the window while he ordered up a surprise sampler. We headed to a nearby plaza to sample the meats with the bread from the bakery. There were some sausages, porchetta, and the most challenging dish of the day, beef tongue. By this point I had too much rolling around in my belly to be adventurous, but Glenn gave it a try and he was pleasantly surprised by how much he enjoyed it.
Food Tours Vienna Review
We really enjoyed our four hours with Lukas and Food Tours Vienna. It may have been nice to have one more “main course” type of dish, but we certainly didn’t go away hungry. We also would have liked to sit down to sample the goods from the butcher, instead of being off a busy street at the end of the walking tour. As with every tour, so much of the experience depends on your guide. Lukas was funny, casual and easy-going. It may not be best for young kids, but tweens and teens that enjoy sampling food and don’t mind hanging with adults will do just fine. If you are looking for food tours in Vienna, I suggest you give Food Tours Vienna a try!
The Classic Tour is offered Monday through Saturdays at 10am. Prices were 85 euro per adult and 45 euro per child for a small group tour of up to 12 people, and 120 per person for a private tour of two to six people.
By the way, if you do want to try something made with horse, just look for Leberkas, a cased meat eaten on bread like a sandwich, you can find it throughout the city and yes, it is made with horse meat. Apparently it is delicious but I’ll have to take Lukas’ word for it.
Have you taken a food tour in Vienna or another city?
- Bring along some water because not every stop includes a beverage
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Tours operate rain or shine so be prepared for walking outside
- If you are planing to use public transportation, pick up the Vienna Card, which offers options for 24, 48, or 72 hours of unlimited travel on the public transportation lines; as well as discounts at museums, shops and restaurants. Starting April 1, 2017, it will also include a hop on, hop off bus tour. Just validate your card on your first trip on public transportation to activate it.
- The Vienna Pass is the way to go if you are planning on visiting a few attractions. They are available for purchase for 1, 2, 3 and 6 days and can be ordered online in advance. The Vienna Pass gives you free admission to 60 of the city’s top attractions, like the Schönbrunn, Hofburg, Belvedere and other museums. You will also get fast track entry and many attractions, as well as a Hop On/Hop Off Bus tour and even a boat cruise.
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Note: We were offered a media rate in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.