Whenever you have a chance to follow your child or grandchild through a new-to-you location, like Central Europe, do it! When my daughter participated in the Global Youth Leadership Foundation program, I followed her through Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Munich, Germany. Turns out, if you ever do any research on Vienna, you’ll learn that the most unmissable stop is Mrs. Braun’s for apple strudel. Thus started our search for the best apple strudel in Central Europe.
First, a review. Strudel originates from Turkish times, an iteration of baklava. The current version, though, developed from the 19th century’s Austro-Hungarian Empire and remains a favorite childhood memory for many. The German word strudel means swirl, which is what the pastry looks like when crosscut. Apple strudel is apple filling stuffed in a roll of thin dough.
In Central Europe, we learned, that one of the biggest differences was how the strudel is served: cream, ice cream, or additional sugars or fruit. In Vienna, the apple strudel is often served with hot vanilla cream sauce. In Budapest and Munich, ice cream was more common.
Visiting other destinations in Europe? Check out our other guides:
- Where to Find the Best Schnitzel in Vienna, Austria
- 9 Best Vienna Restaurants
- 10 Fun Things To Do In Vienna
- The 13 Best Budapest Restaurants
- Best Traditional Hungarian Food
- 8 Best Brno Restaurants
- Best Apple Strudel In Central Europe
- Best Strudel in Vienna, Austria:
- Best Strudel in Budapest, Hungary
- Best Strudel in The Czech Republic
- Best Strudel in Munich
Best Apple Strudel In Central Europe
Best Strudel in Vienna, Austria:
The premier restaurant for apple strudel, Mrs. Braun’s is located on the same square as St. Michael’s Basilica. Greeted by a grandmotherly figure, it’s most beloved by the “Sound of Music” tour guides and recommended across the city. We liked the cozy décor and traditional dress that some wore. The strudel came with a thin vanilla sauce with a light, flaky crust. We’ll always be partial to it as the first we tried.
Conveniently located for tourists and concert-goers, this café hosted lords and ladies during the time of Imperial Vienna. While it’s always been a favorite among the upper echelons, artists and the rest of society enjoy it now. Graham Greene, author of “The Third Man,” may even have written it there. It’s featured in the movie. As we waited for our order, we witnessed many deliveries of the Emperor’s Pancake. While the apple pie comes with ice cream, their apple strudel is served with vanilla sauce.
Café Sacher Wien
Another Vienna institution, the Café is located within the Hotel Sacher Wien. The chandeliers could be hundreds of years old and cast a beautiful light on your time in this shiny city. While you may choose the traditional, and much beloved Sacher cake, try the apple strudel. I liked it even more than the cake.
Located in South Vienna, this was the hotel where we stayed and, since I was in a wheelchair, ate several of my meals. Their apple strudel was served with a thicker vanilla cream.
Lucky for us, it’s close to the Shopping City Sued, the largest mall in central Europe. So when going from cold climate (like Ireland) to super-hot and humid, you can go pick up anything you need.
Best Strudel in Budapest, Hungary
On either side of the Danube river lies the beautiful city of Budapest, which is in reality, a combination of what was formerly two cities, Buda on the Left Bank of the Danube, and Pest on the right.
Budapest is noted for its outdoor restaurants, where the spirit of gaiety and hospitality mingles with the spirit of music. Strudel, called “rétes” in Hungary, is beloved, traditional, and multi-flavored.
Our hotel appeared to be a refurbished military barracks and doesn’t deserve to be included in any “best of” list. It did teach me a valuable lesson, though.
ProTip: test the bottled water or tea prior to trying a large drink. We found them all to be carbonated water unless you knew to specifically request flat water.
Hungarians love their strudel. Although sweet fillings are more common, the savory editions of strudels are just as delicious. Traditional sweet flavors are apple, plum, and sour cherry. Savory strudel fillings include cabbage, pumpkin, or even mashed potatoes. Cottage cheese and poppy seed flavors seem to fall somewhere in the middle. Maybe the best thing you learn about strudel that it can be filled with just about anything.
Első Pesti Rétesház (The first Strudel House of Pest)
Located in a historic building downtown, take advantage of the opportunity to indulge in Hungarian traditions by taking the time to watch a short movie about Hungary. Better yet, enjoy or participate in one of their strudel stretching presentations. While we didn’t take the time to stretch the strudel, many around us were stretching their pants after enjoying their apple strudel with vanilla cream.
Normafa Rétes Büfé (Normafa Strudel Buffet)
On the Buda side, head for this strudel buffet that remains a favorite among locals. While they seem to prefer the sour cherry and plum strudels based on what we saw during our visit, we enjoyed our apple strudel, with powdered sugar, sitting out on the wooden benches amongst the crowd.
If you’re in Judenplatz, the center of Jewish life since the Middle Ages, make a point to find this café, tucked in a side street with both sweet and savory flavors. Yes, we continued our quest for the best apple strudel and there was among the best.
Located within the Buda castle in a narrow street near Fisherman’s Bastion, this cute little bakery is slightly hard to find, so ask for the “Strudel Castle.” It’s worth it. Fresh from the oven strudel, dusted with powdered sugar, and the prices are excellent. While I stayed with the traditional apple, they serve both sweet and savory strudel including sour cherry, cabbage, sweet cheese, and poppy seed.
Házi Rétesbolt has a shop in Buda and a shop in Pest. On the Pest side, you’ll find a welcoming atmosphere with both tourists and locals, while the one in Buda near a busy intersection on Karinthy Frigyes Road finds more locals than tourists dropping in for a strudel and coffee. The smell of all the different flavors make it a joyous place to enter, then you spot the trays and trays of strudel… it’s a happy place.
The owner invents many of the fillings, including savories like broccoli, raspberry-milk rice, or chocolate-cottage cheese, as well as the more traditional cabbage or cottage cheese, with the sweet apple, sour cherry, plum, and peach.
It’s no wonder the locals keep coming back. I’d have enjoyed the apple strudel for days on end. They had the opportunity to “mix it up” as they chose, and across town.
Rétesbolt Anno 1926
Established in 1926, this club style little strudel shop in the 13th district lets you watch them make fresh, home-made strudels behind protective glass. Their recipe hasn’t changed since 1926, but they do offer more flavors, 17 sweet and savory, including new ones to us, banana and pineapple. I also highly recommend their hot chocolate. It’s impressive how delicious it was on a hot day.
Best Strudel in The Czech Republic
This small country is filled with amazing sights, inexpensive beer, interesting people, and some of the best sweet treats in Central Europe. The Czech cakes, pies, and pastries all look as good as they taste, so be sure to leave enough room after a meal … or do as we do, eat dessert first!
Best Strudel in Prague
We only had one full day there, so in the city for less than 36 hours.
The hotel chosen by the event coordinators was, surprisingly, not handicapped accessible, which was a very real problem for me since I was still in a wheelchair at the time. Keeping that in mind when making your travel plans; should you be handicapped in any way, once you get into the hotel, you’re loathe to leave. It’s a hassle.
So it’s no surprise that I had more than one meal in the hotel restaurant. The apple strudel was perfectly adequate, a little on the dry side, and served with ice cream upon request.
Grand Hotel Pupp, Karlovy Vary
An easy half-day trip from Prague, we visited Karlovy Vary during their film festival, fitting as it’s famous for its appearances from The Last Holiday with Queen Latifah and Casino Royale with Daniel Craig. The Grand Hotel Pupp has a dress code for the dining room but if you’re in typical tourist fare, they’ll serve you dessert in the Reception area.
That’s where we enjoyed our desserts. My family had the apple strudel, keeping with our new tradition, while our friends had every other dessert on the menu. I highly recommend this form of family dining as a lovely way to spend a few hours in the afternoon.
Our apple strudel, accompanied with a light vanilla cream sauce, was heavier than the strudel we’d had in Vienna, filled with raisins that added a different texture to the perfectly stewed apples.
The combination of great food and great friends couldn’t be beaten in the Czech Republic. It was a bonus to see how the actual location differed from what we saw in the movies.
Best Strudel in Munich
One advantage my daughter enjoyed on this trip was taking an online history course as we traipsed through the country. She was able to study the Austro-Hungarian Empire as we passed Vienna’s City Hall or the rivers that traversed them. Arriving in Munich, much of the history had been destroyed by bombs replaced by military-style brick-like buildings.
But saunter into the local bakeries and you’ll find some of the prettiest pastries you’ve ever seen. From mousse cakes to Apfelstrudel, you’ll find many things to enjoy in this Bavarian city. How many pastries can you have in 36 hours you ask? Apparently five. They were lovely, and that was in addition to the soft pretzels that take the place of bread baskets during meals. I’m looking forward to going back but may need to be a little under-weight the next time I go.
Schlosscafe im Palmenhaus
While the apple strudel is delicious, the ability to sit outside on a sunny summer day was equal to the pleasure. Located close to our hotel, it was difficult not to keep going back.
The apple strudel is so amazing, with vanilla cream, to start or end your meal, or as a stand-alone dish for a mid-afternoon snack. Sit out in the garden to enjoy a nice breeze.
The variety of Bavarian dishes made this popular from the tour guides to the tourists. As we witnessed schnitzel with cranberry sauce or pork knuckle with sauerkraut pass to other guests, we enjoyed the apple strudel with vanilla sauce.
Gaststätte “Zum Brünnstein”
For all the options between ice cream or cream sauce, this is the place where you can have the decadence of all three options, ice cream, whipped cream, and fruit. Utterly delicious.
It’s such a fun restaurant to visit, fine dining with a casual vibe. The apple strudel is another favorite among locals – as a complement to a great meal or a stand-alone dish. When visiting Munich, there are so many great places to see, and so many great places to eat. We recommend this one for their strudel.
Gail Clifford, MD, a physician for more than 25 years, has traveled to five continents and all 50 United States. An avid traveler, she happily goes on new adventures, especially on birthdays. Multi-generational travel remains a treasured pastime. She divides her time between Ireland and the U.S. You can find her on Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.