Donna Wheeler is one of Lonely Planet’s European experts and a Holiday Goddess editor. If you are going to eat your way around Europe, then she suggests you may want to start in Vienna.

Nice mess, with sugar on top

Sachertorte might be the popular face of the Austrian pastry pantheon but it’s Kaiserschmarr’n, meaning ‘the Emperor’s mess’, that really is Vienna on a plate. The name may or may not be metaphorical (given the state of the Hapsburg Empire under Franz Joseph), but it is literally a mess: take pancake batter then scramble. The traditional accompaniments of flaked almonds, plumped raisins and Zwetschkenröster– stewed plums – cut the stodgy sweetness. It can often be found on desert menus but works well for  brunch or lunch (the Austrians knowing a thing or two about second breakfast). With eco-eating currently a very big thing in Vienna, expect said plums to be ‘bio’ and from plucked from a nearby hillside.

Taste: Café Prückel, where your schmarr’n will be absolutely traditional and somewhat overshadowed by the gorgeous Mittle-midcentury décor (oh those the ‘late work’ Oswald Haerdtl for Thonet chairs). Or hope there’s a reimagined version on the menu at the always fascinating Skopik & Lohn in the Karmeliter Quarter; if not opt for their toe-curling tonka bohnen crème brûlée – those tonka beans impart a distinctly darker, smokier and spicier edge than the vanilla they are often used to replicate, plus the extra thrill knowing that tonka is contraband in the US.

Stay: 25Hours Hotel Wien, part of a clued up German chain, is Vienna’s hip newcomer, with joyful, theatrical rooms, convivial common spaces and interesting location, or there’s the Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom, for the stunning Jean Nouvel design, including exquisite video skin installations by Pipilotti Rist and some more vertical garden wizardry by Patrick Blanc.




About Donna Wheeler

Donna Wheeler is the author of several Lonely Planet guidebooks, is a reporter for My Art Guides and the author of the upcoming Paris Precincts title for Hardie Grant. She has published on contemporary art, architecture and design, food, wine and history in a variety of publications. Travel writing follows various careers, including commissioning editor, art director, digital producer and content strategist.