What It’s Like Travelling to Vienna with Food Allergies

We recently took our family on a wonderful trip to Europe from Australia. I had been to Austria before, but never to the beautiful city of Vienna. Knowing Vienna’s reputation for clear food allergy labelling on menus, we were looking forward to being able to find allergy-friendly food options when dining out. Find out more about how we managed travel and eating out in Vienna with food allergies. Practical tips for navigating local cuisine, food shopping and more.

Traditional Austrian sausage, bread and horseradish meal, menu and salad with text "Travelling to Veinna with food allergies"

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Planning for Vienna with food allergies

Every time we visit a new destination, I put my research hat on and find out as much as I can about food allergies. Before visiting Vienna we checked the local European food allergy labelling laws, which include 14 allergens, rather than the 10 we have here in Australia. While some of us speak German, none of us our fluent enough to be confident about managing allergies in another language. So we downloaded the Google translate app and organised food allergy translation cards from Equal Eats in advance (more about these later).

We manage multiple food allergies, including milk, egg, tree nuts, peanuts and sesame. I was excited to read about Vienna’s excellent reputation for labelling allergens on menus and felt reasonably confident that we would be able to find some safe places to eat.

As we always do when travelling, we booked to stay in an apartment in Vienna with its own kitchen facilities, rather than a hotel. We were lucky to find a fabulous apartment near the Opera House with a full sized, fully equipped kitchen. The apartment was close to several supermarkets. This meant we could shop easily and cook our own meals in our apartment if needed.

We also carried multiple EpiPens and our travel and anaphylaxis action plan in case of a reaction. I had also found out the location of the local hospital and the number for emergency ambulance in advance just in case.

Food allergy labelling laws in Austria

European food labelling laws require food providers in retail and catering to provide allergen information and follow labelling requirements. Food allergy information must be provided for both pre-packaged and non-pre-packaged foods.

Top 14 allergens

Austria follows the European Union food labelling laws, which means the following 14 allergens must be included in allergen information for food ingredients:

  • celery;
  • cereals containing gluten (such as wheat, barley and oats);
  • crustaceans (such as prawns, crabs and lobsters);
  • eggs;
  • fish;
  • lupin;
  • milk;
  • molluscs (such as mussels and oysters);
  • mustard;
  • peanuts;
  • sesame;
  • soybeans;
  • sulphur dioxide and sulphites (if the sulphur dioxide and sulphites are at a concentration of more than ten parts per million); and
  •  tree nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts).

This labelling is also required for food additives or processing aids that are present in the final product.

Labels need to emphasize the allergens present. Like Australia, precautionary labels like “may contain” are voluntary in Austria.

Food allergy awareness in Vienna

Eating out in Vienna was very different to say London, where staff would often ask about any food allergies without prompting and signs were often displayed to ask for the allergen menu. However, we found restaurants and cafes in Vienna to be very accommodating when we disclosed our allergies. And there was usually no need to ask for an allergen menu, as every menu provided had the information we needed already.

Allergen menus

Eating out with multiple food allergies in Vienna was actually easier than at home in Australia. Here it’s uncommon for restaurants to list allergens on menu items, other than sometimes noting vegetarian, vegan or gluten free options (often listed as “available on request”). We rarely find a restaurant with an allergen menu as standard. Usually we have to study the menu then speak to staff about what may or may not be suitable.

Vienna is far ahead of Australia with allergen menus. Nearly all of the menus had clear allergen labelling, with each dish having letters next to them corresponding to the allergen index at the back of the menu. This meant we could see at first glance if a menu item contained our allergens. The allergen index codes are:

  • A (Cereals containing gluten)
  • B (Crustaceans)
  • C (Eggs)
  • D (Fish)
  • E (Peanuts)
  • F (Soja)
  • G (Milk and/or lactose)
  • H (Nuts)
  • L (Celery)
  • M (Mustard)
  • N (Sesame seed)
  • O (Sulphur dioxide and sulphites)
  • P (Lupins)
  • R (Molluscs)
Food allergy ingredient information on a menu in Vienna (in German)
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Helpful or unhelpful?

While the allergen menus were largely a wonderful experience, we did come across one Italian restaurant near the river where every single item on the menu was marked as containing allergens. Even dishes that clearly didn’t have those ingredients. My only thought was that they were marking meu items for “may contain” due to cross contact in the kitchen. However, on questioning the staff we were assured that several menu items did not contain the allergens listed and would be safe. Needless to say our family member with food allergies chose a large bowl of plain fries to be on the safe side.

Allergy translation cards

It’s always a good idea to try and learn a few simple phrases in the local language when visiting another country. Polite greetings and please and thank you really helps. I actually do speak quite a bit of German, having studied it when I was younger, so I could have basic conversations when ordering our food. Despite this, I still found that it was essential to have food allergy travel cards. Most of the places we went to spoke very good English, but there were still some that did not (including at the restaurant we visited on our day trip to the Lower Alps). Having clear and correct German words for our allergies and an explanation of their seriousness was very important so nothing got lost in translation.

When we booked our trip to Austria, I ordered customised digital cards from Equal Eats with our multiple allergens translated accurately into German. The cards have English on one side and German on the other. They also have a request to ensure that our dish was free from the allergens and some notes on avoiding cross contact in preparing the meal. I also printed some hard copies so that I had something to give serving staff to take back to the kitchen and show the chef.

Allergy translation cards helped us communicate clearly with staff. We found that servers took the time to read it carefully and understand and would take the card back to check with kitchen staff.

Traditional Austrian foods

Not all of us were able to try authentic Vienna Schnitzel (Weiner Schnitzel). The traditional breaded schnitzel recipe is made from pork cutlet dipped in flour, egg and bread crumbs and fried until golden brown. You can also commonly find chicken schnitzel as well, especially in tourist spots. However with an egg allergy we decided not to take chances. If you don’t mind plant-based, there are also vegan schnitzels that may suit those with allergies too.

Many types of traditional Austrian wurst (sausages) were safe for our allergies. These were usually served with a bread roll, mustard and a side of grated fresh horseradish (delicious but spicy). We just had to be sure to disclose food allergies when ordering to make sure that we weren’t ordering wurst with cheese. Kaeserkrainer for example is a type of Bratwurst with cubes of cheese in it, which we needed to avoid with a milk allergy. This is where our Equal Eats cards were essential for ordering safely.

Traditional Austrian sausage, bread roll, mustard and horseradish on a plate

Freshly baked pretzels were a big hit. These are the large, bread knot variety with a sprinkling of salt on the top. They can be made with milk, butter and sometimes eggs, or glazed with butter or egg wash, but were able to find vegan pretzels that were safe for us.

Austrian desserts and sweets

Desserts were also more difficult to eat out, as we need to avoid milk, egg and nuts. So unfortunately we couldn’t order everyone traditional Viennese apple strudel or famous Linzer Torte or Sacher-Torte. (I am sure we could have found a vegan version if we searched).

To make up for the desserts, we paid a visit to Baerenland, an entire store full of Gummi Bears and Haribo sweets. The range was overwhelming compared to what we can buy in Australia. There was a great selection of vegan sweets to chose from too. I think we ended up buying well over a kilogram of gummi sweets!

Where we ate in Vienna and Austria with food allergies

We were only in Vienna for a few days, as we decided to take a few train trips out of the city to the lower Alps and to Budapest. So the few days we had in Vienna were spent site-seeing around the old city centre, along the Danube River and a visit to the beautiful Schönbrunn Palace. We also found ourselves at one of Vienna’s famous markets, the Naschmarkt, which had a huge number of eateries to chose from.

Where we weren’t able to order much from the menu, many places were happy to check that that a deep fryer was safe to cook some fries or we were able to order a tasty fresh salad adapted to suit.

While I’m sure that the locals would consider many of these ‘tourist’ venues, some of the restaurants and cafes that were able to cater to our multiple allergies included:

  • Ströck bakeries, with stores around Vienna. There was one near our train station which was a great place to grab some breakfast on our way to the train, with dairy and egg free vegan options available (and take away coffee);
  • Burg.ring.1, a cafe with a wide selection of family friendly options including burgers, sausages, schnitzel and vegan options, located near the Opera House;
  • Schnitzel & Ribs, at Nachtsmarkt, for tasty Austrian food and delicious homemade lemonade with red currants;
  • Casteletto Am Schwechat, Italian food near the river where we ate traditional Austrian wurst and fresh salad, pizza and more;
  • Retro, an Italian restaurant with outdoor seating close to the Danube, but we struggled to find much on the menu without milk or egg here.

Outside of the Vienna city centre

Travelling outside of Vienna, we took a day trip by train to the Lower Alps. After our trip up the Schneeberg summit on the cog train, we had a lovely traditional meal and drinks at the lakeside cafe in Puchberg am Schneeberg.

Row boat on the lake at Puchberg Am Schneeberg, Lower Alps, Austria
Rowing on the lake at Puchberg Am Schneeberg, Austria

What about fine dining?

We didn’t eat out at any fine dining restaurants in Vienna. As we were travelling as a family, we ate at restaurants and cafes with more family friendly food options or cooked meals in our apartment. Had we been eating out at more upmarket restaurants, we would take the same approach as we do at home in Australia. For up market restaurants we make a booking and ask if allergies can be accommodated. This gives the restaurant time to prepare a safe meal or alternatively let you know that they can’t or won’t be able to accommodate your allergies.

Food shopping in Vienna

As were were staying in an apartment with our own kitchen we could prepare our own meals when needed. We stayed in an apartment building near the Opera House and the inner city. Nearby grocery stores included SPAR and BILLA, where we could buy plenty of ingredients for cooking and snacks. There were plenty of allergy friendly options, including dairy free butter and cheese at the shops. While we don’t need to avoid wheat or gluten, we saw gluten free options too.

Thoughts about Vienna and food allergies

While we didn’t feel that food allergy awareness in Vienna was quite as high as London for example, it was easy to find the allergy information we needed. We found most places to be very helpful when asked about food ingredients. The clear allergy menus were a big plus and made dining out less stressful. Again, being able to cook in our own kitchen at the apartment also gave us a backup for allergy safe meals.

It’s definitely manageable to travel to Vienna with food allergies. Just be sure to plan well, pack your allergy translation cards and have your Google translate app ready to go if you don’t speak the language.

Austrian flags, Vienna castle, cake, pretzel, strudel, schnitzel and sausage with text "Travelling to Vienna with Food Allergies"

More tips for travelling with allergies

Before you travel, don’t underestimate the importance of ensuring you have travel insurance that actually covers your allergies. We take out insurance for pre-existing medical conditions at the same time as we book our trips. You can read more about travel insurance for allergies in our post – Travel Insurance for Allergies: What You Need to Check.

We also never travel without our amazing allergy travel cards from Equal Eats. You can read more about them in our review, or head over to Equal Eats and use our discount code ALLERGYSPOT for 10% off your order.

If you are planning to visit other European destinations, see our travel tips for eating out with food allergies in London, Rome or our tips for visiting Paris with food allergies when you don’t speak French.

For more practical tips for holiday planning and staying safe while you are away, have a look at our tips for safe travel with allergies.

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