Christmas in Vienna is magical. Glittering lights are strung throughout the streets and Christmas Markets are scattered throughout the city. During our visit we wanted a unique experience in the Imperial capital. After researching Vienna tours, we determined a Vienna Christmas Market Food Tour with Context Travel would be perfect for our family. I expected a Vienna food tour to be fun and educational for the kids, but eating our way through the Christmas Market turned out to be unforgettable.
Our tour took place on our last evening in Vienna. After warming up at the hotel following our morning explorations, we donned another layer of socks before venturing out in the snow to try Viennese cuisine. Some of these regional dishes are only available during the holiday season.
The Christmas Village in the Weihnachtsdorf Altes AKH ended up being one of our favorites. The market is held in the green space of the former general hospital, now the campus for the social sciences & humanities of the University of Vienna. It’s a smaller market than some of the others in Vienna, giving it a cozy feeling and creating a perfect venue for families. I’m told this is also a great area to visit during the warmer months, with outdoor cafes dotting the grounds.
Our guide Katerina was knowledge able and friendly. She is also the guide for the Indulgent Vienna food tour available all year long, if you’re visiting outside of the Christmas season. Katerina provided us with the history of Vienna’s Christmas Markets and cuisine all while ensuring our bellies were filled with Viennese delights. She didn’t forget about the children in the tour and was conscientious of their needs and tastes.
The first Christmas Market dates back to 1764. December markets are recorded in Vienna from the late 1200’s, but were not necessarily Christmas related. From the middle of November until Christmas, visitors can revel in the aromas and spirits of the holiday season in Vienna’s many unique Christmas Markets, Christkindlmarkt.
We dined on a Viennese street food, Langos, which is a fried flatbread. This was one of the kids favorites. I picked plain and K insisted on the garlic Langos. Both were delicious, but as Katerina warned, we smelled like garlic for the rest of the night 🙂
A surprisingly good Viennese food was Leberkässemmel, which means ‘liver cheese’ in Austrian but (thankfully) is made from pork and beef. Leberkässemmel is shaped in a loaf with a texture similar to bologna. It’s cut and served on a kaiser roll, making it the perfect on the go food. We tried the typical pumpkin seed variety and the cheese. At first glance, I had planned to take one bite and didn’t think there was any way I would like it. We were all pleasantly surprised, even the kids enjoyed it. Looks can be deceiving!
We also had the opportunity to try Goulash. Originally a dish of Hungarian shepard’s, the Austrian variety has been adapted and serves as a hearty meal similar to beef stew. We learned the secret of a good goulash is that the amount of onions should be at least 2-3 parts onions to 1 part meat. Served in a bread bowl, it was perfect to help ward off the snowy chill. Derrick, K and I all liked the goulash but Lucy found it a bit too peppery for her tastes.
We paired our savory dishes with Weihnachtspunsch or Christmas punch. Dating from 1631, the punch is made from 5 ingredients and is a popular winter drink to warm your bones during the holiday season. Intriguingly, Christmas punch is said to have been introduced to Austria by Mozart. A traditional variety is made with rum, but there are now several punch flavors for those looking to experiment. This sweet alcoholic drink comes in a Christmas mug. The price includes a 3€ mug deposit. You can return the mug or keep it as a souvenir. The kids enjoyed the nonalcoholic version, Kinder punsch.
Our tour provided us with 2 keepsake mugs. Lucy has been using her’s for tea since our return 🙂
Perfect for warming our hands while walking the market were roast potatoes and roast chestnuts. K also had to try the potato garlic hash-brown pattie – YUM! Potatoes are a staple side in Viennese cuisine while chestnuts roasting on an open fire is quintessential Christmas fare.
After our savory dishes, it was time to move on to sweet treats. Lebkuchen or Gingerbread is popular in Vienna and was originally made by German monks. Unlike the name suggests, Viennese gingerbread isn’t necessarily made with ginger. Many of the varieties we tried had more of a honey flavor. The gingerbread is usually soft with the exception of the decorated hanging hearts which are crunchier. They are meant to be worn around the neck and have affectionate messages.
Chimney cake or Baumkuchen is made from sweet, raised dough that is wrapped around a cut cone–shaped baking spit. The warm roll is then coated in granulated sugar, ground walnut, cinnamon or coconut. My kiddos have had this treat at several markets and it’s always a huge hit. Lucy prefers the cinnamon and K prefers the coconut.
It was absolutely freezing out during our tour, so it was fitting to pair our goodies with Glühwein (mulled wine) for the adults and hot chocolate with whipped cream for the kids. Derrick’s preference is the Glühwein over the punsch, but both are perfect for adding warmth on that cold winter evening.
Since it was a bit messy, we took the schaumrolle home. This confectionary delight is a tube puff pastry filled with whipped cream or meringue. The kids tried a regular and chocolate covered schaumrolle. I think it’s best with a cup of coffee.
To finish our tour, we were presented with bags of more Viennese goodies including Blaschke Kokoskuppel mini, Bobby candy bars, hanging gingerbread treats as well as Knabber Nossi, a sausage snack stick.
The special Vienna Food Tour was informative and delicious. We not only tasted our way though the Vienna Christmas Market, we were educated on the flavors of Viennese and Austrian cuisine all in a postcard perfect winter setting. You know a food tour is good when you’re so full you can’t finish all the food!
See more about the Vienna tours with Context Travel and start preparing for your Christmas Market Food Tour next year. The entire family will enjoy tasting regional specialties in an authentic European Christmas market.
Disclosure: We were guests of Context Travel. All opinions are 100% my own and may differ from others.