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This isn't sausage- in-a-can Vienna

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Photographs by Gourmet

A traditional Viennese breakfast of coffee, roll, croissant, jam and butter awaits guests at Cafe Schwarzenberg, one of Vienna’s oldest cafes.

Vienna is a sugar rush kind of city -- so well known for its sweets that there never seems to be enough time to sample all of its tortes and pastries, including the ones named for Mozart, the ones created by Sacher and the ones honoring various eminences of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The good news is that it's possible to steep yourself in Austria's grand food traditions -- Wiener schnitzel, coffee, wine gardens -- and sample more creative offerings on the same visit.

The city is like an elegant film actress of the Golden Age -- regal, a bit reserved, but always beautiful. With so much neoclassical architecture side-by-side with art nouveau and gleaming modern buildings -- the newly renovated Wien Hauptbahnhof train station, for example -- it's as if this grand dame has been getting fashion advice from her edgy granddaughter. Over apfelstrudel, of course.

Start strong with Cafe Schwarzenberg (cafe-schwarzenberg.at/en), one of Vienna's oldest cafes, dating from 1861, on the Ringstrasse, the road that circles the inner city. Sitting in the brass and marble cafe, choose a traditional Viennese breakfast of coffee, roll, croissant, jam and butter, or add protein with eggs, ham and cheese for about $14.50. Try Einspanner coffee, which is espresso in a glass, topped with whipped cream, with powered sugar on the side. If you think that's not heavy enough, you could also begin the day with a bigger buzz and order another of Vienna's signature coffees, the Kaffee Maria Theresa (about $8.50), a concoction of espresso with orange liqueur and whipped cream. A point of pride is that Vienna's coffee houses allow guests to sit for hours, for writing, conversation and reading the newspaper, so waiters bring a glass of water with any order as an extra welcome.

Keep the buzz going with lunch in the Kunst-Cafe (caffee.hundertwasserhaus.org), part of the Hundertwasser House. Architect, artist and visionary Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000) believed that the straight line was an abomination and so created fanciful buildings with curvy floors and windows, trees growing out of the roof, and playful tiled walls. The cafe, with uneven floors and an array of Hundertwasser-inspired posters and art for sale, is next to a private apartment building designed by him and not far from Museum Hundertwasser. Watch a film about the man's life while enjoying a light lunch of salad or pizza. Get creative when you sign the guest book with the markers provided -- the opportunity brings out some visitors' inner artist. But don't skip the apfelstrudel, Vienna's classic dessert. Pair it with the cafe's excellent coffee.

Gaumenspiel (gaumenspiel.at), in the Neubau neighborhood not far from the museum quarter, takes diners past traditional fare with an innovative menu that changes seasonally but could include warm potato truffle salad, oxtail tacos, and a gin-and-tonic dessert made of lime mousse and cucumber ice cream. In warm weather, guests can sit in the garden, although the red-walled interior is also welcoming. The set menu for carnivores is about $52, with a wine pairing for about $28, and for vegetarians, there's a $44 option that includes melon-pepper gazpacho and polenta.

Travel on 12/03/2017

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