Austria is famous for The Alps, which covers 62% of the country, cities such as Vienna and Salzburg, and classical musicians like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Austria is known for skiing, being the home of Red Bull energy drinks and famous Austrian foods such as Wiener Schnitzel and Sachertorte.
But we’re barely scratching the surface. Come and explore our list of 26 things Austria is famous for, including famous Austrians, landmarks and even yodeling. Let’s dive in!
Austria is famous for its sprawling capital city, Vienna. Vienna is an underrated European treasure trove, and it’s so splendid that it’s been given two nicknames: The City of Music and The City of Dreams.
There’s so much to Vienna’s cultural fabric that it’s almost impossible to squeeze them all in here. Be that as it may, thrill-seekers, listen closely! Visit Prater, Vienna’s historic amusement park located near the banks of the river Danube. The famous Ferris Wheel there has been turning since 1900, and no other place in Vienna offers a better view of the city!
There’s also plenty to do in Vienna if you prefer your feet on the ground. Cozy up in one of Vienna’s many coffee houses, or sample the delicious local cuisine. More on them later!
2. The Austrian Flag
Austria is famous for its flag, which happens to be one of the oldest national symbols still in use by a modern country. The iconic red and white stripes are difficult to miss and certainly impressive to behold, and the legend behind it is perhaps even more beguiling.
The Austrian colors and symbols have been in use since 1230, but legend has it that it was Duke Leopol V who “invented” the flag we recognize today. Apparently, after a legendary battle, the Duke noticed his white coat had been stained red with bloodshed. When he removed his belt, a white stripe remained; thus, the Austrian flag was born.
It’s a pretty gross story, and that supposedly happened 60 years after the first documented use of the Austrian flag. However, it’s an interesting one – so who are we to judge?
3. Coffee Houses
Austria is famous for its iconic coffee houses which originated in Vienna in the 17th century. The story goes that a Turkish army invaded Austria’s capital in 1683, but left bags of coffee beans behind when they retreated after being defeated by the Austrians.
The rest, as they say, is history!
Coffee houses sprung up all over the capital and then all over the country. In Vienna in particular, customers are encouraged to take as long as they like drinking their coffee. It’s a place to relax, socialize or just be a lone wolf for a while.
Tip: Don’t forget to try some Austrian coffee! The Einspänner is an Austrian favorite, and it’s basically a liquid coffee cake: black coffee, topped with whipped cream and a sachet of sugar. Delicious!
Austria is known for one of its most classic dishes, Wienerschnitzel. Apart from being outrageously amusing to say (try it) Wiener Schnitzel might just be the most iconic Austrian dish of all time.
Wienerschnitzel is traditionally made from tenderized veal, coated in a thin layer of breadcrumbs and fried.
As veal is pretty expensive, it’s more common to find pork, turkey or chicken schnitzels on Austrian menus. There are also vegan alternatives to be found, especially in Vienna. It might not sound exciting, but it is so delicious!
5. Classical Music
Austria is known for its many world-famous classical composers and musicians. Vienna, in particular, got its nickname, The City of Music for a reason.
The biggest names in the classical music scene have associations with Austria – including Franz Schubert, Johan Strauss II, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven.
So, if you’re a classical music lover, where should you go to enjoy some? Well, you can catch orchestral concerts all year round, pretty much. Notable concerts include the New Year and Summer Night Concert, which is performed in the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna.
Expect splendor, unforgettable music and crowds: nearly 100,000 people attend this concert so get your tickets early!
6. The Danube & Other Rivers
Austria is famous for being a land-locked country, but don’t discount Austria if you love water.
Europe’s second-longest river, the Danube, flows for 350km (217m) through Austria, and Vienna is located on its banks. In fact, one of the best ways to explore Vienna is by taking a river cruise and soaking in the capital’s architectural and natural beauty.
Fancy and splendid as the Danube is, Austria has other rivers to rival its beauty. These include the Inn, Salzach and Enns rivers which are tributaries of the Danube and can be found in Austria’s center.
If you’re headed to southeast Austria, keep an eye out for the rivers Mur and Mürz. In the northeast, you’ll find the Lethia flowing towards the Hungarian border.
7. The Alps
Austria is known for its stunning, natural beauty, and if that’s what you’re after then an absolute must is a visit to the Austrian Alps. The Austrian Alps stretch across nearly two thirds of Austria.
There are three National Parks located in the Austrian Alps: the Hohe Tauren, Kalkalpen and Gesäuse. Hohe Tauren is probably the most famous of them as it’s Europe’s second-largest national park, but all three are bursting with glaciers, waterfalls and peaks reaching 3000m into the sky.
The Austrian Alps have long since been a source of inspiration. Mozart wrote symphonies about its peaks, and Julie Andrews’ iconic scene from The Sound Of Music are world-famous.
But if you want to gather inspiration of your own, I recommend mixing your time between Austria’s natural beauty and brief diversions into nearby cities such as Salzburg or Innsbruck.
Austria is famous for being a country of ski fanatics and top notch ski resorts! Skiing is one of Austria’s national sports and people flock from all over to experience it.
Austrian athletes have won more than double the amount of medals won during the Winter Olympic Games than Summer Olympics, 218 and 86, respectively. Unsurprisingly, Austria has also won more medals in alpine skiing than any other nation.
Austria’s skiing scene is more laid back than that of neighboring France or Switzerland. Plus, a major bonus of skiing in Austria is that you can ski all year round thanks to those magnificent glaciers.
It’s also sometimes (marginally) cheaper to ski in Austria than in other Alpine countries; here’s a list of some awesome ski resorts to check out.
9. Sigmund Freud
Austria is famous for the world’s most well-known psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud.
He was born in 1856 in a city called Freiburg, now located in the Czech Republic but which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He grew up in Vienna and was the founder of psychoanalysis within psychology.
As you may have heard, Freud was a bit of an oddball, even by contemporary standards. He dabbled in cocaine and was convinced of its use as an antidepressant; he was obsessed with studies regarding sexuality (to the point he even studied the sexuality of eels – yes, eels!).
And yes, he’s the one who developed the Oedipus Complex theory and began talking about penis envy.
10. Austrian History
Austria is famous for its turbulent and fascinating history. Given its geographical location, Austria has, over the years, been part of many famous empires, taken part in epic battles and plenty of significant world events.
Austria was once ruled by the House of Habsburg (Haus Österreich) from 1273 to 1918. After Emperor Francis II of Austria dissolved the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the country became known as the Austrian Empire.
After the defeat in World War I, the dual-monarchy that Austria formed with Hungary (1867-1918) collapsed. Following this event, Adolf Hitler, an Austrian by birth, reclaimed Austria and Hungary as part of the German Empire.
After World War II, Austria was once again separated from Hungary and Germany and became a republic.
11. Energy Drinks
Austria is famous for being the home of energy drinks.
Students all over the world have one guy in particular to thank for helping them stay up all night – whether for study or partying – and his name is Dietrich Mateschitz. He created the drink and brand Red Bull in 1987, and it was an immediate success in his home country, Austria.
He didn’t do it alone, though. With the help of a Thai businessman, Chaleo Yoovidhya, Mateschitz created one of the biggest drinks empires in the world.
In 2013, all of the cans Red Bull sold had a total of 475 tons of caffeine – or, to put it another way: one Boeing 747!
12. Gustav Klimt
Austria is famous for its part in numerous art movements, but one artist stands out above the rest. Gustav Klimt was an Austrian painter who lived from 1862 to 1918, and was one of the most-celebrated Austrian painters of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Klimt’s art was heavily inspired by Japanese methods of painting and the female form. His later work often featured gold leaf, making them extremely vibrant and vivid.
Klimt did not just paint canvases; he was also a great lover of mural paintings. His most famous painting is The Kiss, which is on display among many of his other paintings at the Belvedere Gallery, Vienna.
Austria is famous for one of its most beautiful cities, Salzburg. Nestled on the northern border of Austria’s center, Salzburg is a bustling city packed with music, charm and history. Its close proximity to Bavaria, Germany, gives visitors the chance to country-hop if they desire – but there’s plenty to see and do in Salzburg, too.
Salzburg was the birthplace of Mozart (you can visit his house, No. 9 Getreidegasse which is now a museum) and it’s also where the legendary Salzburg Festival is held every summer for five weeks. Each day offers the chance to see opera, theatre or orchestras perform live in grand locations all over the city.
Salzburg is a delight on the senses, with views promising picture-perfect landscapes. It looks every bit the fairy tale whatever season you visit, though the Salzburg Christmas Markets are reputed to be some of the best in Austria.
Austria is famous for being a German-speaking country, but don’t be fooled. There is plenty of linguistic variety to be heard in Austria, especially if you are used to a particular dialect of German.
But there are a few things that could trip German speakers up – especially if you’ve spent time around north Germany. Bavarians will fare better, but still. Listen up.
A common way to say goodbye in Austrian German is “Bussi, Baba” meaning “kisses, bye-bye”. Do not try this in German unless accompanied by Austrians – you’ll just look really, really strange.
Fun fact: Austrian-German is now the only pluricentric language officially recognized by the EU, which has to count for something!
Austria is known for its modest but mighty wine trade. Ever heard the phrase less is more? Well, that’s what Austrian wineries are all about.
Austrian wine might not pack the punch of, say, French or Italian wine – nor do they produce as much as Spain, but the flavors are just as intense and highly sought-after.
Like German wine, Austrian wine tends to be sweeter – though not always, of course. Austrian wine production occurs most on its western borders, particularly towards Slovenia.
In Vienna alone, there are 630 wine producers (that’s one in every 2,500 people!).
16. Austrian Traditions
Austria is famous for its classicism and high-brow culture, but locals know Austrians have a hidden cheeky streak. Take weddings, for example.
In Austria, brides get “kidnapped” by the groom’s friends. Luckily, this is less menacing than it sounds. They take her bar-hopping, and when she is eventually found the groom must pay ransom to get her back. So it’s a little old-fashioned, but I think it’s quirky and endearing! This is fondly referred to as “Brautraub” in Austrian German.
There’s also an annual cow-train procession (yes you read that correctly) called “Almabtrieb”. This is specific to the Alpine region, and involves around 500,000 cows being led up the mountains to feed on Alpine pastures.
This occurs at the beginning of summer, and in October, the cows are led back down the mountains dressed to the nines and returned to their owners. Believe it or not, this is a huge event!
17. Famous Austrians
Austria is famous for more than just classical musicians and psychologists. Ever since The Terminator hit theatres in 1984 people have been famously quoting well-known Austrian, Arnold Schwarzenegger: “I’ll be back”.
Another Austrian who said the same, albeit in a completely different context, was Felix Baumgartner. He’s a daredevil legend who made headlines back in 2012 when he jumped from the stratosphere to Earth as part of a Red Bull campaign.
And before you get the chance, I’ll make the joke: no, Red Bull didn’t give him wings. He had a weird spacesuit on.
18. High Quality Of Life
Austria is famous for being one of the places on earth where you can experience the best quality of life. At least, Vienna is. While many capital cities experience high levels of pollution, crime and expensive public transport, Vienna does things differently.
In 2019, Vienna was named the best city for quality of life for the tenth year running. Not bad, huh?
And if you’re wondering what’s so great about Vienna, here’s what gave them the high score: availability of housing and schools, social and economic health and an abundance of culture. Well, Vienna certainly has that!
19. Swarovski Crystals
Austria is known for being the home of the world’s leading crystal manufacturer, Swarovski. Although the founder, Daniel Swarovski was born in what we now call the Czech Republic, he set the business up in Austria.
So fond of Austria was Swarovski that the initial emblem he used for the brand was the Edelweiss, a common but beautiful flower typically found in The Alps.
To mark 100 years of business, Swarovski opened its own attraction in Tyrol, Austria called Swarovski Crystal World. Fashion-loving people have flocked to it ever since, and admittedly, it looks absolutely stunning.
Like their other European neighbors, Austria is famous for its particular brand of folk music – in other words, yodeling.
Maybe it doesn’t have top priority on your Spotify playlist (or maybe it does, no judgment here) but Austrian yodeling is actually pretty central to Alpine culture.
Exactly why yodeling became so popular in Alpine countries is anybody’s guess. Maybe it’s the acoustics from the mountains or people just needed to express themselves differently up there…who knows!
Austria is famous for its incredible sweet treats, but none has more global fame than the Sachertorte. For those poor souls living life having never sampled a Sachertorte, here’s a lowdown. On the surface, it’s a chocolate cake. In reality, it’s a slice of chocolate heaven.
The eponymously named Sachertorte was created by Franz Sacher, who supposedly made it in 1832 for Prince Metternich. It’s a double-layered, dense chocolate cake which has a thin strip of apricot jam running through the middle. To top it all off, it’s coated in dark chocolate icing. Yum!
The Sachertorte has a bit of a shady history. Sacher ended up in a legal dispute with his former employer, the owner of Demel (a famous Austrian pastry bakery). Both wanted to claim it as their own but I think most of us agree – we don’t mind who made it, just let us eat it!
22. Austrian Inventions
Austria is famous for useful and decorative inventions, some of which make great souvenirs! First, let’s start off with the practical stuff. The alkaline battery was partly invented by Karl Kordesch and in 1814 Josef Madersperger presented one of the world’s first sewing machines!
But perhaps the best-loved Austrian invention is also one of the most iconic Austrian souvenirs: the snow globe. Believe it or not, Erwin Perzy accidentally invented them while trying to improve the lightbulb.
These days they’re iconic orbs that bring us back to a particular time and place. And of course, they’re quintessentially Austrian. Well, some are. The Erzy family still operate the Viennese Snow Globe Maker and Snow Globe Museum – go if you get the chance!
Austria is famous for being a nation of beer lovers, much like their German neighbors. The average Austrian drinks 100 liters (21.9 gallons) of beer every year, so if you’re a fan of hops then Austria is the place for you.
Austria is known for producing as many as 1000 different beers in 300 breweries nationwide. That means that even fussy drinkers should find at least one Austrian beer that they like.
Keep an eye out for Austrian beer brands such as Ottakringer, Stiegl, Zipfer and Gösser to drink like a local!
24. Vienna Boys’ Choir
Austria is famous for being home to the Vienna Boys Choir, one of the oldest choirs in the world that is not affiliated with a church. One hundred choristers, all boys, between the ages of 9 and fourteen make up the ensemble and they perform up to three hundred concerts a year.
The Vienna Boys Choir is a private NPO, and relies on donations and ticket sales to function. The boys are also educated in a grammar school to supplement their choir recitals.
Performances by The Vienna Boys Choir have been going since 1498 and even today, people clamor for tickets. You can book yours here.
25. Austrian Castles
Austria is famous for being home to plenty of castles, fortresses and residential palaces. Some were built to be impressive, others to accommodate fancy folk. One thing they nearly all have in common is that many were built during the Habsburg reign (1440-1740).
One of Austria’s most stunning castles is Hohenwerfen Castle, which is just over 900 years old and remarkably preserved. Nestled among the Alps and surrounded by thick pine forests, this is a fairytale castle come to life.
26. Mountain Railways
Austria is known for its staggering mountain peaks and Alpine pastures, so you might think transport would be a bit of an issue. Not so! Austria has some truly spectacular long-distance scenic railway lines that allow passengers to take in all the magical views without having to drive.
Two of the most famous rail routes include The Semmering and Arlberg railways. The Semmering line was listed as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1998, and it runs between Glognitz and Semmering. This vast railway spans 54km (34 miles).
The Arlberg Line connects Innsbruck and Bludenz and is a fan-favorite for locomotive lovers. You’ll cross plenty of bridges and viaducts as the train makes its way through The Alps, making it one of the world’s steepest functioning railway lines.
And there you have it! 26 things that Austria is known and famous for. Did anything surprise you? Let us know what you love about Austria in the comments below.
Interested in other Alpine countries?
- 22 Things Switzerland is Known and Famous For
- 30 Things France is Known and Famous For
- 30 Things Italy is Known and Famous For