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Finding the right place for Christmas dinner in Vienna can be tricky – with so many places shutting down across the holiday season, erratic opening hours and the expat craving for a proper meal with all the trimmings, hunting out the best restaurant can be difficult.
Of course – there is always a way, and with my family visits over the last few years we’ve managed to have some memorable meals in stunning local restaurants in Vienna for Christmas. So, while I can’t share with you guys the cringey Christmas crackers and terrible puns that were made during those dinners, I can share my top 3 restaurant recommendations to help you in your last minute Christmas planning!
Where to go for Christmas Dinner in Vienna
This restaurant is a must-do anytime of year to be honest, but especially at Christmas. The atmosphere is the right mix of historic, cosy and special for family dinners. Plus, the food is to-die-for good, filling, high quality and served with friendly Viennese flair.
I mean, the restaurant’s been open since the early 16th Century (!!!) in some form or another so they’ve had a while to get things right. The building itself dates back to the 13th Century, so Greichenbeisl rightfully holds the title of oldest restaurant in Vienna.
There are multiple, beautiful rooms that you can book a table at in advance, from the elegant Beidermayer room to the more cosy candle room and round table. The entire place has a very homey, welcoming feel to it, but the traditional ale house style decorations make it something truly special.
The best room in the restaurant, and most famous is the Mark Twain room – a literal historic graffiti walled room of signatures. With celebrities from centuries ago – Mozart, Egon Schiele, Mr Twain himself – up to modern day heroes and David Hasselhof. If you catch the wait staff on a good day they will take 10 minutes to point out to you the biggest ‘name’ autographs on the wall and explain some of the famous stories from artists, politicians and musicians who’ve eaten in the Greichenbeisl.
The atmosphere and history are one thing, but what you really want to be sure of for Christmas dinner is the food. And My God, you will not be disappointed.
Our family had Christmas dinner here in 2016, and it was the best meal we had the entire holiday. Hearty Austrian specialties like Tafelspitz (fancy boiled beef – not my jam but loved by many) and schnitzel, and even delicious veggie options for my sister.
The crowning glory, of course, is dessert – the Kaiserschmarrn was perfectly fluffy, light pancake pieces with the right amount of sweet crust on the outside and flavourful plum sauce dripping over it. It honestly is the best Kaiserschmarrn I’ve had in Vienna (obviously the very best Kaiserschmarrn is served on mountaintops while skiing, but you can’t have it all….)
This deliciousness was capped off with background Christmassy live piano performances – we had a guy with us in the comfortable ‘Music Room’ who played unobtrusively festive songs on and off for the 4 hours we were there. Even with the wine flowing and us rowdy Australians probably getting louder by the minute, it was the perfect backdrop in an unforgettable setting.
A table at The Grechenbeisl is able to be booked online in advance here. I would recommend you book as it’s an extremely popular place, definitely a top pick for traditional Christmas dinner in Vienna.
Is it even Christmas if you don’t post a picture of Vienna’s iconic bow? Thought I’d share a wider view including crowd and traffic because it can get kuh-razy busy in the 1st district around this time of year! The fairytale atmosphere is worth it though 🎄💕 Pro tip to survive the Christmas crazy? Wander the city on Sunday when you won’t be crushed by shoppers and tourists. TELL ME: How do you survive the silly season?
2. 1070 Restaurant
This is a more unique Christmas dinner option, if you have a group of friends & family who want to try some local dishes and enjoy surprises. The philosophy of 1070 restaurant is to ‘enjoy life’ and it really is an experience to eat here, the place feels like visiting a friends living room – if you had a friend who can really, really cook.
The first thing to know about 1070 is that there is no menu – the hostess will simply ask what you don’t like, any allergies, and then you will be served a minimum of 3 ‘culinary delicacies’, like small tapas-sized plates, with food made from all local, market fresh ingredients and served in creative style. It sounds weird, but trust me, when you meet Dagmar the host, and see the setup of the restaurant with a live piano, comfortable seating and the jazz music tinkling in the background, while people relax with a glass of wine, you’ll get into the swing of things.
The fun part of eating here is that you never know what’s going to come out – but it is always reliably delicious and very high quality. 1070 restaurant earned a Gault Milleau toque for their dishes and I’m yet to have a bad meal experience here after many visits. After the initial 3 dishes, you are welcome to keep eating up to 8 little dishes, and with food so good you probably will, just because it’s so intriguing to find out what’s coming up next!
We had a very memorable family Christmas meal here in 2014, with about 12 of us cosied in around one big table, being absolute dorks making silly jokes, trying multiple wine combinations with the meals and really loved the different meals that came out. Overall it was way easier having no control whatsoever over your meal because you were pleasantly surprised each time – and they catered for vegetarians too so no one was disappointed.
If your family is up for a fun Christmas dinner option, I’d definitely recommend 1070 restaurant. You can reserve a table here. You can even squeeze in a wander at the Spitelberg Christmas markets beforehand to get in the festive spirit!
3. Wratschko Gastwirtschaft
For a truly Austrian meal and Beisl experience, Wratschko’s is your best bet. They are closed on public holidays, so you won’t be able to go here between the 24th December -7th January, but if you have family in town visiting for Christmas you definitely have to make time for a meal here before then.
Anthony Bourdain has anointed it as the best restaurant in Vienna, and if you need more than his word for it, well, Stefan reckons the Tafelspitz here is the best in the city. And believe me, Stefan is a very judgey food critic (one day, I’ll video his hilarious restaurant judgments in real life for you guys, I’ve never seen someone get so worked up over deconstructed dishes before).
Wratschko’s is fantastic because not only is the food delicious, but the atmosphere feels like it hasn’t changed in this pub since about 1830. The wood oak bar and traditional beer pulls, the slightly foggy smoked windows and the open creaky floorboards and hunters wall decorations feel like you have stepped back in time. It really couldn’t be more authentically Viennese – unless Freud came strolling through the front door.
The menu is, however, completely impossible to read. Not only because it’s all in German, but the cursive handwriting style was for me completely impenetrable – so just ask the waiter about the specials and what they’d recommend. Everything is excellent but the hearty dumplings and soups paired with local beers fresh from the tap are filling perfection.
Go here for a low-key pub style Christmas dinner in Vienna. Reservations can be made in advance by clicking here.
There’s a handful of other typically Austrian, excellent restaurants for Christmas. You could try Plachutta‘s, Zwölf Apostkeller (fantastic fun and live performances!) or the always delicious and entirely Chinese On restaurant in the 4th district. Of course, I’ll always recommend my local favourite Zum Blauer Esel too – a great option after Schonbrunn Christmas markets! (Check my full list of best Vienna Christmas markets here)
It’s really up to you what kind of Christmas you have – but wherever you are, I hope it’s a happy one!
Where will you be spending Christmas dinner? Let us know in the comments any other gems you prefer for Christmas dinner.