The Viennese love their markets, and there are still more than 20 permanent sites in the city, employing some 4,000 people. Most are old, family-owned concerns, and the influx of Turkish and other nationals to the Naschmarkt has caused tension among some stallholders. Yet faded signs bearing names such as Grkinic or Strmiska are a reminder that Vienna has always been an ethnic melting pot and that immigrants from the east were the lifeblood of the old Austro-Hungarian empire. This rich ethnic mix is on full display at the Naschmarkt.
To get there, turn your back on the State Opera House, tuck your wallet into a safe inside pocket, and head south along the Operngasse, away from the city center. A five-minute stroll, passing the exhibition hall of the Vienna Secession movement with its cupola of golden openwork leaves, will bring you to the market area. There fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices are set out in row upon row of stalls. Interspersed are huts selling cheeses, hams, salamis, dried fruits, pulses, grains and juicy olives from all corners of Europe and beyond.
At the city end of the Naschmarkt well-heeled shoppers stop at the Nordsee pavilion for a glass of champagne, accompanied perhaps by a couple of oysters. But for those who plunge into the heart of the market there are tiny, crammed bars serving sushi, hand-made pasta or the plain Viennese fare known as Hausmannskost. Go to Meyer's for a spicy goulash soup, or try a plate of smoked Tyrolean ham at Aibler's. If time is short there are slices of doner kebab stuffed into pitta bread, or a scoop of this season's "champagne" sauerkraut so-called because of its slight sparkle. Further west, beyond the Naschmarktkapelle, the Balkan flavor becomes more apparent. Although the aubergines are not so highly polished or the tomatoes so perfect, the goods are just as tempting and prices are cheaper.
The Naschmarkt is open every day except Sunday, but Saturday morning is the best time to absorb the sights and flavors. Fittingly, two highly decorative apartment houses by Viennese architect Otto Wagner overlook the market area from the Linke Wienzeile, which skirts its northern edge. At the turn of the 20th century, Wagner and the work of the Secession movement to which he belonged were viewed as revolutionary. But today the bold colors and flamboyant faĉades seem to reflect the motley character of the Naschmarkt.
Once you've had your fill of the Naschmarkt you might wish to tackle the other two Viennese obsessions. The house where Franz Schubert died is at nearby Kettenbrückengasse 6. Or, for really strong stomachs, there's the funeral museum (Bestattungsmuseum) a 10-minute walk away. Among its curiosities is a dagger that was used to ensure that people were indeed dead before burial and not merely in a deep post-prandial slumber. Entry to the museum is by appointment (Tel. 43 1 501 94 227).