A Backpacker’s Guide to Navigating Austrian Cuisine: Affordable Must-Try Dishes

A Backpacker’s Guide to Navigating Austrian Cuisine: Affordable Must-Try Dishes

Austria, a country synonymous with stunning alpine scenery, rich history, and of course, its vibrant culinary scene, offers backpackers an exciting gastronomical journey that mirrors its cultural diversity and historical depth. Austrian cuisine, influenced by various regions of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, presents an array of flavors that cater to every palate. From hearty meats to delectable pastries, there’s something for everyone. However, navigating this culinary landscape on a backpacker’s budget might seem daunting. Fear not, as this guide will introduce you to affordable, must-try Austrian dishes that promise an unforgettable gustatory experience without breaking the bank.

Wiener Schnitzel

Starting with the quintessential Austrian dish, Wiener Schnitzel is a simple yet delightful meal you cannot miss. This breaded and fried veal cutlet, often served with a slice of lemon, potato salad, or lingonberry jam, epitomizes Austrian comfort food. For a budget-friendly option, seek out local eateries or street vendors rather than high-end restaurants. You’ll find that the portion sizes are generous, ensuring you get great value for your money.


For those on the go, Käsekrainer—an Austrian take on the hot dog—offers a quick, delicious, and inexpensive meal option. This cheese-filled sausage, often served with mustard and a side of bread, is a staple at street food stalls across Austria. Its savory flavor and satisfying texture make it a favorite among backpackers looking for a hearty snack.


Knödel, or dumplings, come in various forms in Austria, from savory to sweet. Potato or bread dumplings are commonly paired with meat dishes or served in a rich, flavorful broth. Sweet versions, like Marillenknödel (apricot dumplings), are a treat not to be missed. Many local restaurants and inns serve these dumplings at reasonable prices, allowing you to taste different varieties without stretching your budget.


Considered one of the national dishes of Austria, Tafelspitz is a boiled beef dish that is both refined and satisfying. Served with a mix of root vegetables, a dollop of apple and horseradish sauce, and sometimes with a side of fried potatoes, it offers a taste of Austrian tradition. Look for this dish in traditional Viennese restaurants known as “Beisln,” where prices are more accommodating for budget-conscious travelers.


No visit to Austria would be complete without indulging in the famous Sachertorte, a dense chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam, coated in dark chocolate icing. While the original Sachertorte from the Sacher Hotel in Vienna might come with a higher price tag, numerous cafés and pastry shops across the country offer their take on this classic dessert at a fraction of the cost.

How to Enjoy Austrian Cuisine on a Budget

Eat like a Local: Venture into neighborhoods where locals dine. These places often offer the best deals and authentic experiences.

Lunch Specials: Many restaurants offer “Mittagsmenü” or lunch specials, which are significantly cheaper than dining in the evening.

Street Food and Markets: Explore local markets and street food stalls for affordable and authentic eats.

Self-Catering: Consider preparing some meals yourself. Grocery stores in Austria sell a variety of local products, allowing you to try your hand at simple Austrian dishes.

Recreating the Austrian Culinary Experience at Home

Bringing a slice of Austria into your kitchen is a delightful way to relive your travels. Start with simple recipes like Wiener Schnitzel or potato Knödel to get a feel for Austrian cooking techniques and flavors. Many Austrian recipes are straightforward and require ingredients that are easily found in local supermarkets worldwide.


Q: Are vegetarian options widely available in Austrian cuisine?

A: Yes, while traditional Austrian cuisine is meat-heavy, many restaurants and eateries now offer vegetarian and even vegan versions of classic dishes.

Q: Is Austrian food similar to German cuisine?

A: While there are similarities due to geographical proximity and shared history, Austrian cuisine has its unique dishes and flavors, influenced by the diverse regions of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Q: What is a traditional Austrian breakfast?

A: A typical Austrian breakfast includes freshly baked rolls, a variety of cheeses and cold meats, jam, honey, and often, a soft-boiled egg. Coffee or tea is a must.

Q: How can I find affordable dining options in tourist-heavy areas?

A: Walking a few blocks away from major tourist attractions can lead you to more affordable dining venues. Also, asking locals for recommendations can uncover hidden gems.

Navigating Austrian cuisine as a backpacker not only introduces you to a world of flavors but also offers insights into the country’s culture and traditions. By exploring affordable must-try dishes, you can enjoy a rich culinary experience that complements your adventure through Austria’s breathtaking landscapes and historic cities. Whether dining out or recreating dishes at home, the flavors of Austria are sure to leave a lasting impression on your palate and heart.

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