Austria's cuisine is a rich stew of historic, international influences. Many local chefs combine traditional Viennese dishes with the principles of nouvelle cuisine, creating Neue Wiener Küche (New Viennese cuisine).
Vienna is well known for its pastries, with other famous dishes including Wiener Schnitzel, Gulasch, and (boiled beef with apple and horseradish sauce). The best desserts to try are Sachertorte cake and (apple strudel). Don't be surprised if you are offered a shot of Schnapps after a meal! Lunch is traditionally the biggest meal of the day for Austrians, but this has changed over the years and most working people now eat their most important meal in the evening.
Vienna's bar and restaurant scene is currently booming, and great eateries for all budgets can be found. The best districts for eating out in Vienna include the Museum Quarter, which is full of outdoor cafes and some of the city's most renowned restaurants; the Spittelberg district, which boasts many bars and restaurants, as well as some interesting shops; the Naschmarkt and trendy Freihaus district, which are wonderful after dark; and the area around Gumpendorter Strasse, which is a new hotspot for popular restaurants.
Vienna's most trendy shopping strip is the Mariahilfer Strasse, where hundreds of stores offer fashion, jewellery and accessories. In the city centre, there are a variety of jewellery stores and boutiques. Local specialities include Augarten porcelain, ceramics, handmade dolls, wrought-iron work and leather goods.
Agent Provocateur is located at 14 Tuchlauben, the first outlet of the cult London underwear label in central Europe. Kiehl's started out 150 years ago in a small apothecary and is now a chic cosmetics brand, with its flagship store in Tuchlauben in Vienna. For upmarket threads by leading designers, travellers should visit Firis on Bauernmarkt.
On Freisingergasse, Schokoladekonig makes handmade chocolate treats, while Boehle stocks superior wines and traditional specialities (deli snacks) in Wollzeile. For spices and cookery books, shoppers should try Babette's on Schleifmuhlgasse. Karlsplatz holds the Naschmarkt food market during the week and a flea market on Saturdays. Travellers should go to City Hall Square in December for the Christmas market.
The Kaufhaus Schiepek department store at Teinfaltstrase is definitely worth visiting for its variety of outlets. For the more eccentric, Carnaby sells vintage fashion and accessories on Neubaugasse, while magicians' accessories and gimmicks can be found at Zauberklingl on Führichgasse.
Austria's VAT is refundable with a valid receipt. Tourists can also take advantage of tax-free shopping where advertised. With something for everyone in store, Vienna is the place to break in those shopping shoes.
Laidback Vienna does have a nightlife, it's just not as frantic as that found in many other European capitals. The city's best bars tend to be in the (inner city), with a range of venues spanning Irish pubs to designer bars, as well as time-capsule spots from before World War I, with Adolf Loos' American Bar is a prime example. The Copa Cagrana's beach-styled bars serve glorious fruit cocktails.
As far as nightclubs go, the Gurtel area is home to the Rhiz, which attracts electronica fans and there are a couple of clubs near Nussdorfer Strasse that offer house music. For the more culturally inclined, many Viennese museums stay open late, with the Albertina and the House of Music being classic choices. Of course, Vienna is a musical city, and operas, ballets, and classical concerts are probably the best options for after dark entertainment.