If you’ve been dying to go on a vacation somewhere scenic, then Austria might be the place for you. Located in Central Europe, this German-speaking country is known for its panoramic views of the Alps, its rustic mountain villages, and its diverse and great-tasting cuisine.
Recent travel concerns have made extended stays impossible, but the European Commission has devised a solution: the ETIAS system, a temporary visa for countries that usually don’t require them. Getting an ETIAS for Austria allows for more accessible travel, letting you experience the country’s rich cultural traditions and fascinating history.
Ready to be captivated by Austria? Here are ten interesting facts to entice you and help you create your travel itinerary.
1. The Alps Cover Over Half of Austria’s Land Area
The long stretches of mountains define Austria’s overall topography, with the Alps making up around 62% of its land area. The alpine region features 34 peaks above 2,000 meters and 13 peaks that rise above 3,000 meters. Großglockner is their highest mountain, rising to around 3,798 meters with a prominence of 2,423 meters.
Because of the high altitude terrain, Austria is also host to Krimml Falls. They are situated in Salzburg and extend down 380 meters, making them the tallest and most captivating falls in Europe.
2. It Has the World’s Biggest Ice Cave, the Eisriesenwelt
German for “World of the Ice Giants,” Eisriesenwelt, with a length of 42 km, is the largest ice cave in the world. In 1879, Anton Posselt was the first to explore the cave, delving up to 200 meters into its depths and publishing his findings in a small mountaineering magazine. In 1912, over 30 years later, Alexander von Mörk launched several expeditions to explore the cave fully, attracting national attention as tourists began to flock there.
Before its discovery, only locals knew of the cave’s existence, refusing to explore because they believed it was an entrance to hell.
3. Austria Is a Recognized Leader in Sustainable Development and Environment Protection
Austria is one of the most environmentally conscientious countries in Europe. They recycle 63% of their waste, and most of their electricity comes from renewable sources. The country champions sustainable agriculture, reducing the use of pesticides while bolstering organic farming techniques.
Additionally, the Austrian government has made nearly half of its forested areas protected lands. Their environmental policies advocate for minimal use of forest resources so that their biodiversity and ability to heal remains intact.
4. The Country Has No Coastlines
Austria, like many other central European countries, is completely disconnected from coastlines. The Austrian border connects to eight others: Slovakia, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Germany.
5. The Austrian Flag Is Among the World’s Oldest Original National Flags
The Flag of Austria is one of the oldest original national flags still in use. Derivative of the Babenberg Dynasty coat of arms, the red and white stripes have been an Austrian symbol since 976 AD.
There’s a legend that Duke Leopold V of Austria invented the flag after a fearsome battle during the Siege of Acre. His white surcoat ended up covered in blood, but once he removed his belt, it revealed a striking white stipe between two fields of red. Duke Leopold V was so taken by the imagery that he adopted it as his banner.
6. It Is Home to the Oldest Zoo, the Tiergarten Schönbrunn
Tiergarten Schönbrun or the Schönbrunn Animal Garden, is the world’s oldest zoo. Initially constructed in 1752 by Adrian van Stekhoven as an imperial menagerie, it originally had only 13 animal enclosures.
Over time the Tiergarten Schönbrunn was filled with more and more species retrieved from expeditions into Africa and the Americas, with the arrival of giraffes making a particular impact on Viennese culture. The Tiergarten Schönbrunn holds around 700 unique species, including some threatened animals, and is one of the few zoos to house giant pandas.
7. The Emerald Unguentarium, One of the World’s Largest Emerald, Is Displayed in the Imperial Treasury in Vienna
The Emerald Unguentarium, displayed in Vienna at the Habsburg Palace within the imperial treasury of the Hofburg, is measured to be around 2860 carats and is considered the largest emerald in the world. Emperor Ferdinand III commissioned it in 1641, having a 3,000 carat Colombian Emerald hollowed out and shaped.
8. Several Notable Composers Are Interred in the Vienna Central Cemetery, One of the World’s Largest Internment Grounds
Vienna’s Central Cemetery is the most well known in the country and one of the world’s largest internment grounds. Unlike other landmarks, the Central Cemetery was planned from the start to be extensive due to rapid population growth concerns in the capital. The cemetery was open to the public in 1874 but with fierce resistance because of its size and distance from Vienna’s actual center.
The city constructed a “grave of honor” or Ehrengräber to remedy the cemetery’s initial unpopularity. It houses prominent public figures’ bodies to act as a tourist attraction; some of the names attached to the Ehrengräber include Ludwig Van Beethoven, Antonio Salieri, Franz Schubert, and Johann Strauss II, to name a few.
9. Vienna Is Considered the “Capital of Classical Music”
One of the most interesting facts about Austria is its rich history of classical music. Its capital, Vienna, could be considered one of Europe’s most important classical music centers. The Habsburgs’ patronage attracted many 18th and 19th century composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Johan Strauss II.
Austrian classical music is still appreciated today, with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra still considered one of the world’s finest since its inception in 1842.
10. Austria Was Home to Numerous Notable Individuals, from Composers to Nobel Laureates and Hollywood Actors
Austria is considered home to many historical figures and contemporary stars:
- As mentioned above, many of the classical composers we know today, such as Mozart, Liszt, Bruckner, and Strauss, came from or grew prominent in Austria.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger, retired Hollywood actor and former governor of California, grew up in Austria.
- Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, lived in Austria before escaping to avoid Nazi persecution.
- Austria has produced several Nobel Peace Prize winners, including novelist and pacifist Bertha von Suttner, who was the first woman to win the prize in 1905. Other Austrians have won awards in physiology, medicine, physics, and chemistry.
- One of Austria’s most infamous citizens was Adolf Hitler, raised near Linz before moving to Germany in 1913.
Of course, there are many more exciting locations, traditions, and facts about Austria you can discover during your travel. For a smooth trip, be sure to plan ahead and get proper travel authorization.