Stroll through Vienna's top food market to understand Austria's love affair with food – and the world's love affair with Vienna.
It all started with milkmaids, selling their wares from ash-wood buckets some 500 years ago. Now the Naschmarkt stretches for almost two kilometres – a throng of people and food, smells and sights, and one the most popular places for tourists to head, hoping to catch a whiff of that elusive Viennese street charm. And there's certainly plenty of charm crammed into the stalls and eateries that have set up shop here.
The Naschmarkt is now a truly global village, where you're as likely to come across Japanese sushi and Lebanese taboulleh as you are a Wiener schnitzel. And the wares on offer have stretched beyond foods and drinks. Many of the stalls have set up WiFi connections, and there are even DJ booths to entertain the crowds in the evening. That means the vibe of Naschmarkt remains as relevant to Vienna today, as it has since farmers first brought their produce here in the 1700s.
That market-fresh Austrian produce is still to hand, of course. Many of the stalls are little fruit-and-veg empires, bursting with tempting colours and scents. You'll also find fishmongers, specialists in local cheeses, and vendors of Austrian meats like Selchfleisch and Leberkäs. Not forgetting, of course, bakers selling those light Vienna rolls, the Kaiser-semmel.
Turks have long had a strong presence on the Naschmarkt, and they offer much more than kebabs. Some of the stalls are now seated restaurants, with a full menu of Turkish delights. They compete with Japanese and Persian restaurants, snack bars and a horde of small cafés. No wonder they call this place “Vienna's stomach”.
On Saturdays the Naschmarkt takes on a different vibe, as a flea market merges with the long-term stalls, and bringing in those curious for curios. It has been held here since 1977, and is bursting with stalls whose byword is diversity. Everything under the Viennese sun – and more – is for sale. Whether it's to wander, to eat, to drink – or just to watch – the many faces of the Naschmarkt definitely deserve a few hours of your attention, while in Vienna.