In Vienna, home of the Habsburg monarchy and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, old-world traditions still reign. So when visiting this glamorous European capital, skip the trinket-flooded tourist sites and stick to classic souvenirs that reflect the grandeur of old Vienna. Here are my favorites:
Love them or hate them, Mozart balls are available everywhere in Vienna. These ball-shaped chocolate confections, filled with a colorful core of nougat-covered green pistachio marzipan, don’t have much to do with Mozart, save the image on the wrapper, but it’s this distinctive wrapper that makes the balls such a coveted, only-in-Austria souvenir. If you visit any gift shop in Vienna you’ll find Mozart balls available in a wide range of brands, sizes, and prices. Buy a big bag of these individually wrapped balls for easy (and inexpensive) gifts for those back home.
Vienna is a city built on cafe culture — intellectuals and artists of the last century, like Trotsky, Freud and Klimt, all once lingered under the vaulted ceilings of coffee houses like cafes Central and Sacher. It’s easy to experience cafe culture as a visitor — just hit one of the city’s grand cafes and order a specialty coffee drink like a Wiener melange (an espresso topped with steamed milk), along with a slice of traditional Viennese cake.
Photo by Wendy
Be sure to try Vienna’s most celebrated cake, the Sacher Torte — a dense chocolate cake cut with with a hint of apricot jam. Then recreate the Viennese cafe experience at home by bringing home a Sacher Torte from Cafe Sacher. Cafe Sacher sells the tortes by the full cake or in pack-friendly, single serving cubes, perfect for gifting.
The rise (and fall) of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire brought much wealth into Vienna, making it a treasure trove for today’s antique hunters. Make your first stop the Dorotheum Art Auction House. Even if you can’t attend an actual auction, there are plenty of antiques available to buy on the spot. Then take your time and wander the back streets around Dorotheer. Even if you’re only in the market to window shop, it’s still fun to browse the neighborhood for unique antiques you won’t find anywhere else in Europe. Perfectly preserved, antique jewelry is also in abundance here — but be warned, prices are steep.
Vienna is not just about preserving imperial traditions — there is also a lighter side to this elegant city. If your visions of Austria include edelweiss-covered hills, dirndls and lederhosen, then you won’t be disappointed at Vienna’s Kettner, located right in the city’s center. Along with traditional hunting gear (including a rack of rifles upstairs) you’ll find tongue-in-cheek souvenirs based on classic “Austrian” motifs, like stag-covered ties and flasks, tee shirts emblazoned with clever German phrases and wood carvings featuring contemplative Austrian huntsmen.
It’s a fun shop to explore no matter what your budget. You’ll find items ranging from an inexpensive, kitschy folkloric belt-buckle to a pricey, but expertly-made hunting jacket.
Where to Stay
Dreaming of the perfect Vienna experience? Stay at the Lindner Am Belvedere, a short jaunt from the historic Belvedere Palace or the Grand Hotel Vienna, which was the first luxury hotel to open in Vienna in 1870.
Feature photo courtesy of Jacek Dylag, Unsplash