Shopping in Vienna: lively street markets
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- Food and Drink, Shopping, Free, Budget, Mid-range, Expensive
Taste costly vinegars, deer ham, Alpine cheeses and good wine. And hunt for bargains on Saturdays at the flea market.
Stretching along Wienzeile between Karlsplatz and Kettenbrückengasse, Vienna's most popular street market, with its hundreds of market stalls piled high with beautifully presented foods, attracts visitors from around the world. Some Viennese say that going to the Naschmarkt is like going on holiday for a couple of hours. With its multicultural mix of sellers and customers and rich diversity of produce you could just as well think you're in Istanbul, Athens or Teheran.
But don't be misled, some of the very best products sold here are very much Viennese in essence. The Gegenbauer shop sells some of the world's best vinegars and vinegar derivatives you certainly might want to try.
Vinegar and pickles
Erwin Gegenbauer is the name of the entrepreneurial genius who, after inheriting a pickling factory from his dad and one of the oldest stalls on the Naschmarkt, began concocting a selection of finest sours with a passion. In his Viennese vinegar brewery he produces 60 different types made from all kinds of fruit and vegetable: apricot, melon, raspberry, asparagus, tomato, cucumber, quince and many more. And using a sweet Spanish wine from Pedro Ximenez grapes he produces alcohol free digestives which, because they contain less than 6 per cent acidity, are no longer really vinegars. Hence the name Noble-Sour PX. Another speciality is the Noble-Sour T, made from a sweet Austrian Traminer dried berry harvest (trockenbeerenauslese). These dark, smooth elixirs are delicious alternatives to alcoholic digestives. At 26 euros for a small bottle they are not cheap, but it makes for a healthy and very unusual gift. Visit the Wiener Essig Brauerei at stand (stall) number 111-115 (www.gegenbauer.at).
A few stalls further on you'll see wooden barrels brimming with sauerkraut (pickled cabbage) and pickled gherkins. These are some of the healthiest foods available and a staple part of everyone's diet here.
The best way to see all the market has to offer is just to stroll along and let the senses experience all the flavours lingering in the air.
Cheese and ham
There are a number of cheese stalls, one of the best is Käseland at number 172, I suggest you try a well-matured Vorarlberger Bergkäse – but there are cheeses from over 14 European countries so see what catches your eye, or your nose.
Try the finest deer ham from Austria's lake district at Urbanek stand 46 – the smallest locality and full of epicureans – and ask for a glass of wine to go with it, the owners will gladly assist.
Vienna's biggest flea market, held every Saturday from 6.30am till 6pm, is between Kettenbrückengasse and Naschmarkt. On a fine day up to 20,000 people will fill up the lanes between the tressle tables teeming with miscellaneous objects, furniture, curios, ornaments, medals, watches and probably something for everyone. I have never yet managed to return home from the flea market empty-handed. Oh, and don't forget to haggle, the later it gets the easier it is to do so.
The best of the rest
There's an interesting blend of shops, galleries and eateries just across from the Naschmarkt on Schleifmühlgasse. As part of the neighbourhood known as Freihausviertel, this is the trendiest urban lane in district 4.
Browse through art galleries, designer and vintage clothes stores, shop for cookery books and recycled gadgets and stop at one of the many cafés for a break or try a select coffee roast at Altwien Kaffee at no 23 (www.altwien.at).
Some of the best contemporary art is on show at galleries located on Schleifmühlgasse: number 1A Engholm-Engelhorn (www.engholmengelhorn.com), at no 3 Christine König (www.christinekoeniggalerie.com) and Georg Kargl (www.georgkargl.com) at no 5.
Designer fashion for men and women, accessories, shoes and gadgets by Jutta Pregenzer, Moncler, American Vintage, Girbaud and others can be found at Pregenzer fashion store Schleifmühlgasse 4 ( www.pregenzer.com).
Old skis are transformed to coat stands, skittles become vases and wheelie bins are turned into chairs at Gabarage Schleifmühlgasse 6. A new definition of upcycling – recycling design in all shapes and forms (www.gabarage.at).
Rauminhalt (www.rauminhalt.at) at no. 13 specialises in European design furniture, lamps and art objects from 1945 to 1985 and some of the African artefacts - particularly the sandy colored Berber rugs - are quite eye-catching.
For pre-loved fashion with a difference enter the world of Vintage. You'll find the finest lingerie, sheer silk stockings, jewellery, dainty shoes and hats and handbags, even pearl-embroidered Charleston dresses and original vintage kimonos (FLO Vintage
Schleifmühlgasse 15a; www.vintageflo.com).
Babette's is book, spice and food shop all in one. Shelves are crammed with cookery books from around the world and in the tiny open kitchen a weekly menu is served at the counter. Pepper expert Bernadette Wörndl prefers using local ingredients whenever possible to create her delicious dishes. Enjoy a meal, buy books, spices or just stop by to browse (Schleifmühlgasse 17; www.babettes.at).
Visit my overview on Shopping in Vienna or read my other guide: Shopping in Vienna: luxury items and tasty goodies.
Where to stay
For a full list of my recommendations on where to stay in Vienna, see Vienna hotels.