Whether you're preparing for a trip, learning for a quiz or simply want to know more about this mountainous country, check out these 77 fun facts about Austria.
77 fun facts about Austria
This post is part of a series of fun facts posts I'm doing for every country I have articles about here on the blog. Given their nature, these posts are research-based and even though a lot of time has gone into them, it's still possible a mistake has snuck in. If you see something that looks incorrect, please let me know at sofie [at] wonderfulwanderings.com and I'll look into it. Thanks!
1. The Austrian flag, one of the oldest in the world, is unique in that, when flown by citizens, it is comprised of three horizontal stripes, alternating red, white, and red. When the flag is flown by the government, in addition to the triband design, it includes an eagle and a coat of arms in the center.
2. Vienna, the capital of Austria, is home to almost one-quarter of the entire population of the country.
3. It has been said that Austria only appears to be a small country on the map because so much of it is vertical. Slightly over 62% of the country is covered by the Austrian Alps, thus over two- thirds of the country is over 1,640 feet above sea level.
4. Founded in 1752, Austria’s zoo is recognized as the oldest zoo in the world.
5. Famous classical music composers Joseph Haydn, Franz Liszt, Johann Strauss, Franz Schubert, and Wolfgang Mozart were all from Austria.
6. Psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, regarded as the founding father of psychoanalysis, was from Vienna. You can visit his former home and office there.
7. The waltz was born in Austria. Specifically in the 17th-century suburbs of Vienna.
8. Austria is regularly named as one of the countries with the highest standard of living in the world.
9. In 1498 Emperor Maximilian I founded one of the most famous choirs in the world, the Vienna Boys Choir, replacing castrati with young boys whose voices had yet to change.
10. Austria is ruled by a parliamentary democracy with three branches of government. They are the executive branch which includes a President and a Chancellor, the legislative branch, which includes the National Council and the Federal Council, and the judicial branch, which is headed by the Supreme Judicial Court.
11. Austria was formed when Emperor Francis II dissolved the Holy Roman Empire. At that point, Austria became the Austrian Empire, although it was also part of the German Confederation. That ended in 1866 with the Austro-Prussian War.
12. Austria once considered nuclear energy and the first of three planned nuclear power plants – Zwentendorf – was built. However, before the plant became operational, the Austrian Parliament voted to ban nuclear energy in 1978. Sadly, Austria was one of many European countries negatively affected by Chernobyl. In 1997, the Parliament voted to keep Austria a nuclear-free country. The Zwentendorf power plan never became operational and is now used for meetings and special events.
13. Very big in environmental protection and conservation, Austria has declared roughly one-third of its forested lands as protected areas.
14. In the annual list of most liveable cities, Vienna is nearly always at the top.
15. Tourism in Austria brings in around one billion dollars each year.
16. Based on the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, Austria is one of the 14 wealthiest countries in the world.
17. At 2,860 carats, the world’s largest emerald is on display in Vienna, at the Imperial Treasury.
18. Started in 803, the Haslauer is the world’s oldest inn and restaurant still in operation. It also holds the title of the oldest company in Europe.
19. The summer palace of the Habsburgs, Schonbrunn Palace, has over 1,440 rooms.
20. Austria is the only EU member that is not also a member of NATO.
21. Well known for its Alps, Austria boasts 13 peaks which are in excess of 3,000 meters and 34 peaks which exceed 2,000 meters.
22. Among the long list of famous Austrians is Ferdinand Porsche, founder of the sports car company which bears his name as well as the designer of the Volkswagen.
23. Oetzi, whose body was discovered frozen in a glacier in the Oetz Valley is recognized as the best preserved Stone Age man in the world. He died about 5,300 years ago at around the age of 46.
24. All Austrian men are required to complete compulsory military training. It lasts less than one year, but there are required periods of retraining later.
25. Compromise is a key ingredient in the Austrian lifestyle. This is why their practice of Social Partnership is so successful. It is basically a cooperative arrangement between employers and their employees. Trade unions and business leaders work together to create policies and practices which will benefit both sides.
26. Coffee has been an important staple of Austrians since the Turks were forced to retreat in the 17th century and left behind an enormous amount of coffee beans. Coffee houses have become iconic as gathering places for shoppers, businessmen, students, and workers alike. The daily coffee break, known as “jause” usually takes place around 3 in the afternoon when cakes and pastries are also enjoyed.
27. Going to school is compulsory in Austria with all children between the ages of 6 and 10 years attending an elementary school. Following that, most students go into general secondary schools, while a small percent attend more prestigious upper-level secondary schools. Technical schools are very popular and there are 12 universities and six art colleges in Austria.
28. Workers in Austria are well taken care of with 5 weeks of paid vacation per year in addition to 13 legal holidays. Men in Austria can retire at the age of 65 and women at 60, when they may begin to collect old-age pensions.
29. Religious freedom is highly respected in Austria. Every child over the age of 14 is free to decide their religion. The state pays for religious education for every child, regardless of their faith.
30. Boasting one of the largest unspoiled landscapes in western Europe, Austrians love walking and hiking. This may account for the popularity of its roughly 35,000 miles of mountain paths.
31. A popular gathering place for Austrians is the Heuriger, a unique kind of wine tavern where even families can come and enjoy a pleasant evening. The conversations can range from the light and breezy to more critical matters and gatherings may last well into the night. Buffets of hot and cold foods are usually available as well as the latest wines.
32. Favorite outdoor sports among Austrians include skiing, soccer, hiking, water-skiing, and sailing.
33. The Spanish Riding School in Vienna, home to the famous Lipizzaner horses, was founded in the 16th century. It still turns out some of the most famous classical-style equestrian performers in the world.
34. The world famous Salzburg Festival began in 1920 and is one of the highlights of summer in Austria. WIth concerts, opera, theatrical productions, recitals, and lectures, it attracts over 170,000 people each year. Of course, being held in Salzburg, the music of Mozart is widely featured.
35. It is difficult to define Austrian cuisine since it is such a varied combination of foods from other countries which were once a part of the Hapsburg empire. Most common however is a fried breaded veal cutlet known as “Wiener schnitzel”.
36. Most of the around 17 million tourists visiting Austria every year come from other European countries.
37. Habsburg Emperors did things their own way, including dealing with their remains following death. Their intestines were put in copper containers and kept in St. Stephan’s Cathedral. Their bodies were placed in the Imperial Vault in the Capuchin Church. Lastly, their hearts were buried at the Church of the Augustinians.
38. The sewing machine was the invention of Austrian Josef Madersperger.
39. The energy drink “Red Bull” was created in Austria. It is now the single highest-selling energy drink on the planet.
40. If you’re into caves, Werfen, Austria is home to the largest ice cave in the world. It extends for over 26 miles.
41. Every October 26th, Austrians celebrate National Day. This commemorates the passing of the constitutional law regarding permanent neutrality. It was passed in 1955.
42. Austrian physicist Ernst Mach discovered in 1888 that above the speed of sound, the air behaves very differently. In 1929 he was honored by the adoption of a set of Mach numbers which are still used to designate velocities above the speed of sound.
43. The Krimml Waterfalls is the highest in Austria. It has a vertical drop of 1,247 feet.
44. Postcards were first published in Austria.
45. Located in Vienna, the Austrian National Library is one of the world’s major libraries. It has works dating back to the 14th century and is currently home to more than 2 million books.
46. Austria is home to approximately 20,000 schnapps distilleries, both public and private.
47. Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, the second top-earning chef in the world, is Austrian.
48. Austria is the first country to establish national regulations regarding organic farming. They have strongly rejected the use of biotechnology as a way to increase crop production.
49. As a whole, Austria generates over 60% of its electricity through the use of renewable energy sources.
50. Despite its relatively small area, Austria shares borders with eight other countries: Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland.
51. Austrians are very proud of being the home of Mozart. One way that fact is celebrated is the introduction of “Mozartkugel”, a very high-quality type of chocolate.
52. The population of Austria is 269.4 persons per square mile.
53. The first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize was Baroness Bertha von Suttner, an Austro-Hungarian citizen. She won the prize in 1905.
54. Always environmentally aware, Austrians are at the top of the heap when it comes to recycling. They recycle an average 63% of their waste, the highest percentage in Europe.
55. With agriculture accounting for only 1.5% of their GDP, the average Austrian farm is only 45 acres.
56. Catholics and Protestants in Austria are required to pay a membership fee to their church based on their income.
57. The Austrian funeral industry is supposedly the biggest per capita in Europe. They not only make a big production about their funeral arrangements, but they also join so-called death associations. These groups ensure that someone will take care of the payment for the final plans.
58. With an average work week of 45 hours, Austrians work longer than any other Europeans.
59. Austria is comprised of nine Federal States, Vienna, Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Salzburg, and Styria.
60. Austria has one of the highest rates in the industrialized world of women working outside the home.
61. If you share a toast with an Austrian, be sure to make and maintain eye contact. Not doing so is considered bad luck and the price is seven years of bad sex.
62. The Central Cemetery in Vienna holds over 3 million tombs. That’s more than the current living population of the city. Residents of the cemetery include Beethoven, Brahms, Strauss, and Schubert.
63. In that they are landlocked European countries, Austria joins Switzerland and Luxembourg.
64. Adolf Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn, Austria in 1889. He relocated to Germany in 1913.
65. The discoverer of “The Doppler Effect”, physicist Christian Doppler, was born in Salzburg, Austria.
66. The main waterway in Austria, the Danube River, is the second longest river in Europe at 2,880 km. It is unique in that it is the only river in the world which flows through ten different countries.
67. An Austrian monk, known for his experiments with pea plants, Gregor Mendel carried on with more experiments and eventually became famous as the “father of modern genetics”.
68. The Austrian definition of a standard alcoholic beverage is 20 g of pure ethanol. That is approximately double the amount of any other European country.
69. The ibex, a species of mountain goat found in Austria, was near extinction at one point, but they have been successfully rescued and restored in the past two decades.
70. One of the oldest amusement parks in the world, the Wurstelprater is located in Vienna, Austria.
71. Famous 19th-century actress Katharina Schratt became the most well-known courtesan in the German-speaking world after she became the mistress of Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria.
72. Hollywood actor and former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger was originally a citizen of Austria.
73. One of the must-see museums in Vienna is the famous Mozarthaus. This is actually one of the many apartments the legendary composer lived in during his time in Vienna. It is the largest of his apartments and also the only one still standing. You can not only learn a great deal about Mozart himself, but you will also get an idea of 18th-century life in Vienna’s society.
74. Many of the members of the Rothschild family, known as bankers and investors, were citizens of Austria.
75. Austria was a free and independent nation prior to being incorporated into Nazi Germany in 1938. Austria regained its independence in 1955.
76. Austria can claim 20 Nobel Prize-winning laureates, with five of them in chemistry, three of them in physics, seven in medicine, and one in economics.
77. In a country where winter sports of all kind are enjoyed, it isn’t surprising that Austria has twice hosted the Winter Olympics. Innsbruck was the site on both occasions, in 1964 and 1976.
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