Searching for a few facts about Austria?
Austria is a country that is busting at the seams with alpine lakes, stunning mountains, modern and historical cities, charming villages, fresh air, and adventure sports. Needless to say, it’s easy to see the allure.
This country has a ton of history and interesting facts to learn. Whether you’re traveling to Austria or just interesting in the culture we’ve compiled some fun Austrian facts for you.
Here are some interesting Austria facts to learn about before visiting.
1. Austria is a landlocked country
No beach days in Austria, guys. Austria is entirely landlocked. But what it’s not lacking is neighbors. It’s bordered by Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, and even little ol’ Lichtenstein. That’s a lot of border crossings!
2. Most of Austria is high altitude
This Central European nation sits in the Austrian Alps. As a result, only about 30% of the country is found anywhere below 1,640 feet. Most of it is tall – like, really tall. The highest peak is 12,461 feet above sea level. The mountains naturally affect the culture of the country and how people live.
3. It was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire
Aka Austria-Hungary. This was a union between the two empires of these countries in 1867. It was made up of a bunch of kingdoms in Southeastern Europe, including Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. Ruled by the influential Habsburg dynasty, it was one of the most influential, powerful, and biggest countries of Europe. Issues within the empire led to WWI, after which it collapsed.
4. Austria has a big roster of famous composers
Famous names like Franz Liszt (born in Austria), Mozart, Strauss (both junior and senior), Schoenburg, Josef Haydn, and Franz Schubert were all from Austria. Classical and orchestral music is still a big deal in the country.
5. Vienna was a creative and cultural hub of Europe
A lot of those composers would have been active in Vienna. The capital city of Austria, it drew creatives and intellectuals from all over Europe – thanks in part to its own intellectual heritage, delicious Austrian food, and, of course, its famous coffee houses. Beethoven (not Austrian) spent most of his life here. Sigmund Freud hung out here, so did Leon Trotsky, former Yugoslavian dictator Josip Tito, and Adolf Hitler.
6. Yes, Hitler was Austrian
So, in a way, Germany (with help from Austria) didn’t just start the First World War, it’s also how the Second World War began… kind of. After serving in WWI, Hitler got into politics in Munich and, well, you know the rest. Around 85 million fatalities later, there hasn’t been a war like it since.
7. Austria isn’t called Austria in German
It’s called Österreich, which means “Eastern Realm,” or something like that. It was first recorded in 996 AD as Ostarrîchi. It was called this because Austria was once the easternmost portion of Bavaria. Hence the German.
8. The Habsburgs were based in Austria
Properly referred to as the House of Habsburg, this royal dynasty began in the 11th century and became the most distinguished noble house of Europe. Every single Holy Roman Emperor, bar one, was a Habsburg. That lasted up until the Empire ceased to exist in 1806, which created the Austrian Empire.
9. After WWII, Austria was split into different zones
A little known fact about Austria, we think. These were the British, French, American, and Soviet occupation zones. The country was split into four and run by the Allied Commission for Austria. Vienna, the capital, was also divided into four and was effectively an international zone. This lasted until 1955.
10. Austria’s National Day celebrates the allied forces leaving
Yep. Well, sort of. On October 26, 1955, the Austrian Parliament passed a law of “permanent neutrality.” It’s this day, October 26, that’s celebrated as the country’s National Day each year.
11. Austria is home to the oldest restaurant in Europe
Founded in 803 AD in the walls of an abbey, St. Peter Stiftskulinarium is a super, super old restaurant and inn. It’s the oldest still in existence, anyway. Greats such as Mozart and even Christopher Colombus are said to have eaten at the restaurant.
12. Half of Austria’s electricity comes from hydropower
It may seem strange for a country with no coast, but hold up: there are waterfalls, rivers, and a whole lot of water streaming down the mountains all the time. Hydroelectric dams are the way to do it, with Kolnbrein Dam being the tallest. Combining wind, solar, and biomass power plants, Austria makes about 60% of its electricity from renewable sources.
13. It doesn’t have a big population at all
Austria has a population of 8.83 million people. 1.8 of these people live in Vienna. To put that into comparison, London, UK, has a population of 8.7 million. Austria’s second-largest city only has a population of 255,000.
14. 19% of Austria’s population are foreign-born
That’s a lot for a European country. If you’re looking for hard numbers, that’s about 1.69 million people not born in Austria living in Austria. All manner of people from inside and outside the EU come to Austria looking for better prospects.
15. You really get to know your teachers in Austria
In the Austrian equivalent to elementary school, kids are taught in classes by one teacher for four years. They’d be like a member of the family by the time you moved on to junior high. Oh, and also, you only go to school from 8 am to 12 pm. Four hours a day? Not bad.
16. Sigmund Freud was an Austrian Jew
He sure was. He was a neurologist who lived and worked in Vienna and is considered the founder of psychoanalysis. He analyzed people’s dreams, came up with the theory of being fixated based on various stages of your childhood, the id, ego, and superego, and is supremely influential. After escaping the threat of Nazism in the 1930s, Freud died in London.
17. Red Bull came from Austria…
… Via Thailand, that is. Dietrich Mateschitz, an Austrian entrepreneur, went on a trip to Thailand in 1982. Looking for a cure for jetlag, he found Krating Daeng, an energy drink formulated in 1975 to help keep Thai laborers refreshed. He took the formula back to Austria as “Red Bull,” and, needless to say, it was a hit. Don’t worry; the Yoovidhya family, who originally came up with Krating Daeng (which also means “red bull” in Thai) own 51% of the business.
18. Winter sports are big news in Austria
So big, in fact, that they’ve hosted two Winter Olympics, as well as the very first Youth Winter Olympics. All those winter sports – like bobsleigh, luge, skeleton, as well as classics like ski jumping and slalom – have the benefit of a lot of dedicated facilities in Austria. Why would you not, with all those mountains and all that snow?
19. It never gets very warm in Austria
Another reason why winter sports are probably such a big thing: the snow never melts. Well, mostly anyway. Every 300 meters you go upwards, the temperature goes down by 5°C. Chilly. The hottest average temperature for Vienna is 19°C, the lowest average is -1°C. Needless to say, it’s cold here.
20. During the 19th century, Vienna was involved in nine major wars
Yeah, that’s a pretty crazy fact about Austria, don’t you think? It was a tumultuous time, that’s for sure. At the start of this century, you had Napoleon marching all over Europe. Then there was the Austro-Prussian War in 1866. The list could go on. With all these wars going on, the average life expectancy during this time in Vienna was just 38.
21. Vienna boasts one of the largest cemeteries in the world
Totally. It’s called Vienna Central Cemetery. And inappropriately enough, it was opened on October 31, 1874 (Halloween, if you were wondering). Spanning over 600 acres, it’s the site of over 330,000 graves and 3,000,000 internments. The first person to be buried there – Jacob Zelzer – was interred 15 days after it opened. Viennese people joke that “It’s half the size of Zurich, but twice as much fun.”
22. Austria has the largest ice cave in the world
A cool fact about Austria: it boasts the world’s largest ice cave. Located in Werfen, the Eisriesenwelt is completely plastered with ice in its 26-mile-long interior. It was only known locally until 1879, before which time the locals regarded it as the entrance to hell. A bit cold for hell though, right? Fast-forward to right now, and it gets over 200,000 visitors a year. Temperatures are below freezing, and no photos are allowed.
23. The oldest known natural human mummy in Europe was found in Austria
Sort of, anyway; it was on the Austria-Italy border. He’s over 4,000 years old, and his name is Ötzi. The Iceman (as he’s also known) was found in 1991 by two German tourists. They thought he was just some ice climber who’d not made it; little did they know, he was actually super old.
24. Croissants are not French
A diabolical fact about Austria now, as we imagine many of you are reeling in shock. But no; they’re not. They are actually just one of the many pastry-based delights that you can find in Austria – particularly in Vienna. Croissants, alongside other pastries that made the cut in Paris, are what are known as Viennoiseries: a selection of Viennese-style treats that either came from Vienna or were born in Paris after the Viennese fashion.
25. Coffee is super important to Austrian people
In Vienna’s golden age, there were tons of different coffee shops. Today, there are still loads. Old coffee shops still exist, like 19th-century establishments Café Central and Café Landtmann. They were the places where intellectuals created, sat, drank coffee, and exchanged ideas. There’s a Viennese blend – Wiener mélange – which is kind of like a cappuccino. Around 90% of Austrian people drink coffee. There’s even a name for a 3 pm coffee break (with pastries of course) – jause.
26. There’s a long history of organic farming in Austria
Starting up from around 1927 to 1935, the Carinthian region of Austria began seeing the emergence of organic farms. As of 2010, there were 21,800 farmers managing 545,000 hectares of organic farmland. That’s pretty good!
27. The Austrian flag is one of the oldest in the world
Based on the coat-of-arms of the Babenberg dynasty, the Austrian tricolor of red, white, and red was first attested in 1230. But it’s thought to have been used as a national flag from around the 15th century.
28. Postcards as we know them come from Austria
Though the first postcard known to be sent was from a London writer (to himself) in 1848, it was the Austrian government who allowed the use of postcards throughout the country in 1869 – and beyond. It was, in fact, a postcard from Vienna, with an image on it, that became known as the first postcard as a souvenir: the picture postcard.
29. Austria made the waltz popular
You know that dance, usually in a ballroom, everyone’s turning around as they walk along in a big circle? Yeah, the waltz. That wasn’t always so fancy. The nobility danced minuets, as composed by Haydn and Mozart, but the working people danced this thing known as a Landler. \
It became the waltz after many bored high rollers copied it from commoners’ dances. This style of dance, adopted by high society in 1780s Vienna, became uber-popular throughout Europe.
30. Vienna has a palace with 1,441 rooms
Wow, those Habsburgs sure knew how to live, didn’t they? Built in its current form between 1740 and 1750, the Schonbrunn Palace is a grandiose Rococo edifice, and one of the most spectacular buildings in all of Austria. It’s got a lot of rooms – almost 1,500 of them. That’s impressive.
31. Military service is compulsory for men in Austria
Yep. All males under the age of 35 must have completed a six-month conscription in the military, or a nine-month stint in the civil service. Between 17 and 51, all Austrian males are subject to compulsory military service.
32. Austria and Australia get confused a lot
Post gets sent to the wrong country; people book flights to Down Under instead of the Alps, social media mix-ups, news channels get them confused (CNN did it)… You can see why. One Australian parcel, for example, got sent to Austria a total of five times with, five “Missent to Austria” stamps (yes there’s a specialized stamp for it). An amazing fact about Australia – we mean Australia. Argh! Austria. A great fact about Austria.
What to Pack For Your Trip to Austria
You’re going to need something to carry your belongings in while you’re traveling around Europe in the winter. Even if you’re not doing extensive hikes you need at least something small for day trips. My favorite daypacks are from Camelbak.
I ALWAYS have a down jacket with me when I’m traveling in the winter, fall, or even spring. Sometimes even the summer depending on where I’m at. They aren’t just good for hikes, but doing anything outside and great for nighttime in Europe.
Down jackets pack up light and small so there is no reason NOT to have one in your bag. Seriously it could save your life in a bad situation. We wrote a whole post on our favorites (hint –Feathered Friends, Arc’Teryx Cerium LT Hooded Jacket, Patagonia Down Sweater, REI Coop Down Jacket)
Please consider purchasing a travel water bottle before your trip! We hate to see one time use plastic bottles ending up in the ocean. The tap water is so good here – seriously please don’t be one of those tourists that buys plastic water bottles. It’s a waste of money and plastic!
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