Destination: Austria: Vienna
Vienna is famous for its festive pre-holiday season, when the entire city seems illuminated by Christmas lights (those along the Graben are shaped like oversized chandeliers). The market in front of the Rathaus (City Hall) is the largest and most touristy; more intimate is the artisanal one at the Freyung, where you can find handcrafts as well as organic honey, gingerbread and wine. My favorite is the one at Schönbrunn for its magical setting.
The sprawling outdoor market that begins across the street from the Secession hails from the 16th century and draws locals and tourists alike, especially on weekends (come early to avoid the crowds). The goods at this bazaar-like market run the gamut from fresh produce brought in by farmers to gourmet treats like homemade jams and honeys, rare spices and Turkish breads and pastries.
A Viennese institution not to miss: Gegenbauer (www.gegenbauer.at), a small shop near the beginning of the market (Stand No. 111–114). Founded in 1929, Gegenbauer sells homemade infused vinegars—the more than fifty kinds include sour cherry, melon, blackberry, apple and a variety of balsamic and wine-based vinegars. They are bottled from small kegs and make lovely gifts.
Urbanek, a tiny cheese and charcuterie shop (Stand No. 46), is an insider tip: the sliver of a store offers patrons a taste of most everything on sale here, and on weekends it’s packed with customers who balance truffled salami or aged cheeses in one hand and a Stehachterl (four-ounce) glass of wine in the other. It’s a good place to meet locals: you’re in such close quarters that conversations happen naturally.
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