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What Is Austria Known for & Famous For?
Austria has had a past filled with conflict and has often been associated with darker moments in history. However, this does not change the fact that Austria is rich in culture and art and offers an incomparable mountainous beauty of a postcard. If you plan to visit Austria, the country has much to offer.
Austria is known and famous for its contribution to Europe’s history, cities, medieval architecture, the beautiful mountainous scenery, culture, famous artists and musicians, classical music, and traditional foods.
Moving through is like moving through time, and at its heart is the music that permeates every part of the country’s history. It’s not only Vienna that draws in the crowds but the glorious Alpine landscapes that offer outdoor enthusiasts a veritable wonderland. Here are 39 reasons why Austria is so famous and why it’s well worth visiting.
Vienna, Austria’s capital, is one of Austria’s most spectacular areas to visit. It represents centuries of rich history, architectural masterpieces, soul-stirring music, and coffee-house culture, to name a few.
The city hosts numerous iconic buildings that define its landscape, such as palaces, castles, and cathedrals. The reign of Empress Maria Theresa and Franz Joseph in the 1700s gave rise to many of these monumental architectures.
- House of Habsburg residences
- Vienna’s famous dancing horses at the Spanish Riding School
- Prater Amusement Park to have the best view of the city from the Giant Ferris Wheel
- Take a ride at the Danube River
- “The Kiss” and other Gustav Klimt paintings at the Belvedere Palace.
There’s just so much to Vienna that I can’t squeeze all of them in here!
2. The Alps
The Austrian Alps create the most stunning mountainous sceneries in Austria, if not the world. It covers almost two-thirds of the country and stretches into Switzerland, Slovenia, Italy, and Liechtenstein. It also hosts three national parks: Kalkalpen, Gesäuse and Hohe Tauren. Hohe Tauren is the second largest national park in the whole of Europe.
The Alps provide the best playground for hiking during summer and skiing during winter. You can also enjoy this natural beauty simply by cycling or driving on its magnificent roads.
One of the scenes from the world-famous film “The Sound of Music” was shot in the Alps. The filmmaker shot this award-winning American film more than half a century ago. To date, people still associate it with Austria due to its fascinating setting.
Austria is home to the tradition of gemütlichkeit, which means a state of warmth or friendliness. They enjoy socializing with friends and family through conversation. The culture is characterized by a love for:
- Strong coffee
- Playing music
- Taking walks or Spaziergänge.
With a strong influence of Catholicism, the Austrian people are quite conservative and value traditions and family. Being a winter wonderland, Austrians are great outdoor enthusiasts, and the country has produced some world-class athletes and mountaineers.
4. Musical History
Vienna is the musical heart of Europe, with its long excellence in music stretching beyond the Habsburg imperial influence. Austria is close to some of the most famous music schools in Europe and is a mecca for those who wish to study music professionally.
Some of the world’s most famous composers learned and composed music in Austria, including:
- Johann Strauss
- Joseph Hayden
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Vienna is also home to some of the finest music venues in the world, including:
5. Classical Music
If you are a classical music aficionado, Austria is the place to be. Vienna, in particular, was home to many world-renowned classical music composers in the 18th through 19th centuries.
This musical history earned Vienna the nickname, City of Music, thanks to the house of Hapsburg. They welcomed the musicians to the city and provided an ideal setting for them to prosper.
To date, tourists visit Vienna for classical music. It hosts the world-famous musical event – The New Year’s Classical Music Concert, among other concerts held year-round.
Salzburg is Austria’s fourth-largest city and is famous for its rich history. The city was founded in 696 as the area of the bishop’s jurisdiction and later became the seat of the Archbishop of the Holy Roman Empire.
In the 17th century, Salzburg became the center of the Catholic Reformation, which saw numerous monasteries and churches built. Tourists visit this historical center to see its baroque architecture, the picturesque alpine surrounding, and live opera and orchestra performances each day.
Salzburg is also the native home of the celebrated Mozart. You can visit his house, which is now a museum. Besides that, you can attend the famous 5-week Salzburg Festival held each summer or the Salzburg Christmas Markets.
7. Wiener Schnitzel
Wiener Schnitzel is a German name for “Viennese Cutlet.” Austria’s most famous traditional dish is made of a slice of veal. Chefs first tenderize the cutlet, then coat in breadcrumbs and fry.
Wiener Schnitzel may be Austria’s most classic dish; however, it didn’t originate from there. Legend has it that it may have emanated from Italy. Whatever the ancestral place is, this dish is something you should devour for an authentic Austrian experience!
The dish traditionally comes with a piece of lemon and salad as a side dish. Due to the high cost of veal, you can find other types of schnitzel like pork, turkey, and chicken on Austrian menus.
8. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger, the Hollywood icon, has graced our screens in numerous action movies for many years. He is also an author, businessman, former bodybuilder, and governor of California State.
But, did you know that he comes from Austria?
He was born and bred in Thal, Austria. He began bodybuilding at the age of 15 and served in the Austrian army at 18. At 21, Arnold moved to the USA to realize his American dream.
He is one of the most celebrated icons in Austria, much so that there’s a museum in his birth village built in his honor. The museum exhibits his childhood items and enlistments with the army and traces his road to stardom. Therefore, you should include this place in your itinerary when you visit Austria.
9. The Blue Danube
Composed by Johan Strauss ll in 1866, the Blue Danube (“An der schönen blauen Donau”) is a famous waltz and is the nation’s unofficial anthem. The composer wrote the waltz after the country’s military was defeated by Prussia to console and elevate the nation’s spirit. The song has lived on and is still much loved today.
10. Vienna State Opera
The State Opera House was constructed in the 19th century in Vienna and is one of the leading opera houses globally. It has hosted most of the prominent opera stars over the years. The building was destroyed in 1945 by bombings. After the war, it was rebuilt with magnificent additions and reopened in 1955.
It is currently one of Austria’s landmarks and a great tourist destination. It offers tours and performances every day. Be sure to grab a ticket once you visit Vienna and be among the 2,200 people that sit in the auditorium.
11. Fortress Hohensalzburg
Fortress Hohensalzburg construction began in the year 1077 under the supervision of Archbishop Gebhard Von Helfenstein in Mozart’s city of Salzburg. Builders later expanded it and gave it a facelift on the behest of Archbishop Leonhard Von Keutschach in 1500.
During the 20th century, before Germany annexed Austria, the fortress served as a prison. However, its original purpose was to provide security for Archbishops from any hostile attacks.
It is among one of the forty Austria’s forts and fortresses and the largest in central Europe, measuring 820ft (249.9m) long by 490ft (149.3m) wide.
Built at the top of Festungsberg, at an altitude of 1660ft (506m), the fortress hosts various events all year round. You won’t miss seeing the medieval royal apartments and the eye-catching scenery of the alps and rooftops of Salzburg when at the fortress.
Located at Wienzeile over the Wein river, Naschmarkt is Vienna’s most popular market. Its existence has spanned over 100 years and contains more than 120 market stalls.
The market derived its name “Asch” (German for ash) from its milk bottle trade. The Austrians made the bottles out of ash trees. The name later led to “Naschmarkt.”
Naschmarkt operates from 6:00 a.m on weekdays and holds a weekly flea market on Saturdays. Not only does it serve fast foods such as hot dogs and sandwiches, but also goods such as souvenirs, fabrics, trinkets, and more can be found at the market stands.
The best way to access the market is through the underground rail system; it’s one way to avoid the crowded streets and much cheaper and more efficient. What’s more, you even get to enjoy free Wi-Fi, as you enjoy the beautiful sceneries and diverse cultures at the market.
13. Belvedere Palace
Belvedere palace is the world’s largest art museum, housing famous works of art such as the Gustav Klimt paintings and the Kiss. You may also enjoy its world-class baroque gardens.
It was built in the 17th century as a summer home for the prince of Savoy, Count Eugene, and later renovated to become the official residence of the Austrian royal family.
The palace houses the lower and the upper Belvedere palaces. It is surrounded by the world’s oldest Alpine garden park, stunning ponds, and the kindergarten garden.
Consequently, to stay at the top of the chart, a section of Belvedere Palace is dedicated to the exhibition, researching, collecting, and preserving works of art of all ages.
14. The Vienna Boys’ Choir
The Vienna Boys Choir was first established around 1498 and is famous for its angelic voices. Although it began as a six-singer group, it later transformed into the Vienna boys’ choir in 1924. It’s the oldest and first boy band in the world, consisting of boys aged nine to 14 years.
The band has nurtured great musicians like Joseph Haydn and comprises four choirs, Bruckner, Mozart, Schubert, and Haydn, its former iconic composers.
They perform in over 300 concerts every year, in diverse styles. You can catch them every Sunday, performing at the Wiener Hofburgkapelle, excluding the summer times.
Austria boasts of more than forty forts and fortresses. Despite being constructed centuries ago, most have stood the test of time to become the world’s biggest and most famous museums.
Royal and wealthy families often built castles as security from invasions, and some as a sign of social status the families held.
Some of the most famous castles found in Austria are the:
These castles offer areas for recreational activities to Austrians and visitors and some of the renowned world-class hotels.
Despite offering picturesque sceneries, the Austrian Alps offer connected and expansive hiking trails of more than 5128 m (16,824 ft).
Some of the famous trails include:
- Mountain Hikefriesenberghaus Olpererhutte – Stretching over 13.8km (8.57 miles). It can take one an average of more than four hours to complete the stretch, being famed for birding and backpacking.
- The Lynx trail stretches more than 200 km (124.27 miles) and takes more than 11 days to traverse successfully.
- The Pinzgauer Spaziergang – a 17 km (10.56 miles) stretch on which you’ll admire the spectacular sceneries of the Hohe Tauern Range and the Kitzbühel Alps.
The best part of the Austrian hiking experience is enjoying the jaw-dropping views of the alps and wildlife spotting.
Austria offers more than 400 of the world’s best-renowned ski resorts and more than 7,000 km (4,350 miles) of ski slopes. Moreover, skiing in Austria is much cheaper than in France and Switzerland.
Here, you’ll find every kind of skiing terrain regardless of your skill level.
If you consider a great skiing experience, the best times to ski in Austria are mid-January, early December, and late March, when it’s least crowded.
18. Coffee Houses & Cafes
Being the core fabric of social culture, you can never run out of modern or traditional Kaffeehauser or coffee houses in Austria. If you’re wondering what to order, you can try their famous cup of Wiener Melange.
Dating back to the medieval ages here are some of the highly-rated coffee houses in Austria:
Although they date back centuries ago, Austria is well known for its effort to preserve culture and trends. Surprisingly, some of the houses have been passed from generation to generation.
19. Red Bull Headquarters
I bet you didn’t know that your beloved energy drink, Red Bull, is an Austrian product. The drink was formulated and branded in the 1980s by Dietrich Mateschitz. It immediately became best-selling in Austria and consequently in the world.
Krating, an energy drink in Thailand, inspired the idea behind Red Bull. Dietrich enhanced the recipe to develop Red Bull, needing to satisfy the westerners’ taste.
Thanks to Redbull, you can get all the energy you need to explore Austria.
Known for its tradition of hosting winter sports, Innsbruck is Austria’s fifth-largest city and the capital city of Tyrol. You may locate it between Germany and Italy.
The city offers excellent recreational activities like winter and summer skiing and snowboarding. The city is also friendly to cycling enthusiasts. Boasting slow crime rates, Innsbruck is renowned for its world-class ski resorts.
Its diverse architectural arts give it its beauty, complementing its serene alpine gem. In addition, you can enjoy sports like paragliding and rafting on the White River.
21. Snow Globes
Snow globes refer to accessories made of glass containing a scaled-down position and fragment hanging in a clear liquid that gives the aspect of snow falling into the scene. The snow globes are mainly made in Austria and sold worldwide.
A lesser-known fact is that Erwin Perzy invented the snow globe while trying to improve the lightbulb!
The snow globe has become one of Austria’s most attractive souvenirs. There’s a snow globe maker and museum in Vienna that attracts tourists from all over the world. Why not include that in your to-go places when you come to Austria?
22. The Danube
The Danube is the second largest river in Europe. It sources from the black forest in Germany through 10 countries, Austria is one of them. Despite the country being a land-locked country, the river flows 350 km (217 miles) through Austria, and Vienna lies along the river banks.
The Danube is associated with centuries of history, culture, and beautiful landscape.
The Danube River was a boundary between historical empires, and the waters created monetary waterways between nations.
Austria was first populated in the Neanderthal era and still has a frost mummy called Ötzi” on display over 5300 years old. The Celtic tribes occupied Austria for much of its early history until conquered by the Roman empire.
In the 700s, Charlemagne took control of the area until 976, when Leopold of Babenberg took control of the area and made it Austria.
The 1300s were the glorious Habsburg era which ruled Austria for over 750 years and formed a great power in Europe.
In the 1800s, Franz Josef I ruled Austria until he died in 1916, after creating a dual Monarchy with Hungary. In 1919, after WWI, the empire collapsed, and the Austrian Republic was born.
In 1938, Germany annexed Austria in WWII and committed a terrible genocide against the Austrian Jewish population. After WWII, Austria was divided up and did not become independent again until 1955.
Thus Austria has had both a glorious and tragic past, but it is rich in museums and historical sites and is famous for castles, palaces, churches, and period architecture.
Austria has long been the center of the arts and has produced some of the world’s finest artists, such as:
The Viennese school of fine art broke away from tradition to introduce the Secessionist Movement, similar to Jugendstil in Germany or Art Nouveau in France. The advances they made influenced the rest of the world.
Today, Austria boasts over 92 galleries of modern and contemporary art for visitors to explore and countless museums exhibiting Austrian art through the ages. Some of the top galleries in Austria include:
Austria is well known for speaking the German language in their country. However, there are numerous linguistic varieties that you’ll hear in Austria, especially if you’re used to a particular German dialect.
Their relations are too close; this is due to the history they share and language, but German is the leading language influencer for both countries.
Interestingly, the European Union also recognizes the Austrian-German language as an official language.
Austria is an alcohol paradise with a pretty large population of beer consumers, just like its German neighbors.
Some report that an average Austrian consumes approximately 100 liters (26 gallons) of alcohol annually, thanks to the 300 breweries in the country. Austria is also famous for the production of over 1,000 varieties of beer. So, be sure to go on a beer tasting spree once you are there.
Besides beer, Austria is also a wine producer. Production occurs majorly in the areas bordering the west. Vienna, for instance, seats over 630 wine production enterprises.
27. High Standard of Living
It’s interesting how Austria is one of the nations with high living standards. Vienna, in particular, was voted for the 10th time in a row as the best city for high life quality. The low crime rates reflect this fact, as well as affordable housing, schools, and health facilities.
People also consistently rank the region high as the best in terms of freedom of speech and conservation of human rights.
28. Swarovski Crystals
Austria is renowned for accommodating the global’s largest crystal manufacturer, Swarovski.
Daniel Swarovski founded the business in 1895 and, to date, has been producing crystal glass, accessories as well as jewelry. The Swarovski crystals are used worldwide by fashion designers, sewing them on clothes, shoes, headgears, handbags, etc.
We have all tried it as a child, the funny part of the yodel, but it originates in Europe, particularly the Austrian Tyrol. Yodeling involves rapid changes from low-pitched and high-pitched registers, which is long associated with the Alpine way of life.
Due to the mountainous nature of the Austrian terrain, people used yodeling to communicate over distances and relay vital information in often inhospitable terrain.
This transfer of information became part of the region’s traditions and musical expression, which is still alive today in Austria.
30. Sweet Treats
Austria is well-known for some of the most delicious treats, such as the iconic Sachertorte. The treat is a dense cake made of chocolate with a double layer of apricot jam and chocolate icing.
The cake was first made in Austria by young Franz Sacher in 1832 at his employer’s bakery. The treat was for the visitors of Prince von Metternich. Sacher later founded his own hotel, Hotel Sacher, where they kept the original recipe under lock and key.
You can only get to taste the original Sarchertorte at the Hotel Satcher, cafe Satcher located in various areas in Austria, or order online. Ensure to devour this Austrian treat once you get there.
There’s also apfelstrudel, a famous Austrian dessert that’s also found in the countries that were part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The recipe was formulated in the 17th century, and the dish is still one of the favorite desserts in the country.
31. Mountain Scenery
If you ever watched Heidi as a child, you will have a clue about Austria’s beautiful landscapes. Austria is located in the Alps, with glacier-capped mountains stretching in every direction.
Major landscapes include :
- The gneiss and granite highlands of the Bohemian Massif
- The Alps and Carpathians
- The Vienna basin
- The Hungarian Lowlands.
Hiking trails and ski resorts abound in this mountainous part of the world, of which only a quarter of the total area of Austria is below 500 meters (1,640 ft).
32. The Austro-Hungarian Empire
Also known as the binal monarchy, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was a constitutional monarchy that ruled between the 18 and 19 centuries in Europe. Austria was one of the nations in the empire. However, they dissolved after the military signed an agreement.
Austria became famous because the Austro-Hungarian empire was the first to declare war in World War 1. It was indeed a great power during its regime.
33. World Wars
History has it that, in 1914, after Franz Ferdinand of Austria was killed together with his wife by a Serbian citizen, the country, specifically Austria-Hungary, declared war on Serbia. This act was the beginning of World War 1.
Consequently, during the second world war, Austria decided to support Germany in the war. Austria fought for Germany, and by the end of the war, approximately 250,000 Austrians had died in the cause.
It may sound unbelievable, but Adolf Hitler was of Austrian descent. Born in Braunau am Inn in 1889, Hitler grew up in Vienna until he was 24, when he relocated to Munich, Germany. He then joined the German army and served in World War I. Hitler rose to become the leader of the Nazis until his demise.
Hitler was still an Austrian citizen while serving in the army until 1925 when he revoked his citizenship to avoid being deported back to Austria. He later got German citizenship in 1932.
35. Schönbrunn Palace
The Schönbrunn Palace is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the summer residence of the house of Habsburg since 1569. It is the birthplace of Emperor Franz Joseph, and it’s where he spent the dusk years of his life. The palace consists of 1441 rooms, 45 of which tourists can visit.
You can also visit the palace park, which comprises a myriad of things: a museum, several gardens, a maze and labyrinth, and a desert experience house, among others.
36. St. Stephen’s Cathedral
St. Stephen’s Cathedral is the main Catholic church in Vienna and the Archbishop’s seat. Early builders initially constructed it in the Romanesque style in the 12th century, then reconstructed it in Gothic style in the 13th century.
However, the building was destroyed during World War II, which saw it reconstructed between 1948 and 1962.
Each year, millions of guests flock to the cathedral to explore the various highlights, including the Romanesque Giant’s Door, named after the mastodon bone found in 1443 during reconstruction.
Other notable features of the cathedral are the high towers. You can view the rest of the city, the various chapels attached to it, and the Bishop’s gate, originally a door for female worshippers. You can learn more about the cathedral here.
37. The Hofburg
Hofburg was formerly the imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty. It is located in central Vienna and was initially built in the 13th century but altered and expanded over the centuries. As a result, the palace exhibits numerous architectural styles, Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, Rococo, you name it!
The most significant part about Hofburg is that it’s the official residence and workplace for the Austrian president and also the home for the Vienna Boys’ Choir. You can catch their performance every Sunday at the mass services.
The palace is among the largest in the country and is often called the” city within a city.” It covers 59 acres of land and consists of approximately 18 buildings, 19 courtyards, and 2,600 rooms.
Karlskirche is a beautiful baroque church in Vienna that began in 1716 when Emperor Charles VI commissioned the church built to honor Saint Charles Borromeo. The eye-catching dome between two spires is arguably one of Austria’s finest examples of baroque churches.
The interior boasts beautiful frescos and statues, and the interior glows with scrollwork, carvings, and natural light. There is also a lift on the side of the dome to take you to the ceiling and a panoramic view of the city.
39. Grossglockner High Alpine Road
Are you looking for an adventure in the alps? Why not take a road trip on the Grossglockner High Alpine Road? This Austrian landmark runs from Bruck an der Großglocknerstraße to Heiligenblut in the state of Carinthia. You’ll drive 48 kilometers (30 miles) along this road and go through 36 bends.
That’s not all: You’ll drive up to 8,215 feet (2,504 meters) at Austria’s highest mountain, Grossglockner.
Officials selected the road to be a national monument in the year 1992. UNESCO consequently named it a World Heritage Site in 1998.
Austria is a land steeped in culture and history and something to offer every visitor. Beyond the cities and traditions, it is also a place of outstanding natural beauty. I hope this article is an eye-opener and that soon you’ll make a visit to this country and enjoy its splendor. Happy traveling!
- Wikipedia: Vienna
- Expert World Travel: What is Austria Famous For? (More Than Mountains)
- Trip101: 18 Best Places To Visit In Austria – Updated 2022
- Travel Drafts: What is Austria Famous for?
- Alpha History: Austria-Hungary Before World War I
- YouTube: Ten Minute History – The Austro-Hungarian Empire (Short Documentary)
- YouTube: “The Sound of Music” – THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965)
- NomadsUnveiled: 23 Famous Austrian Landmarks in Austria To Visit