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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

11 maps that help you understand Austria today

Despite its relatively small size, Austria is rich with history and culture - which is highlighted by the following maps.

11 maps that help you understand Austria today
Austria and the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Von AlphaCentauri - Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0 Creative Commons

Austria’s central location and its historical influence has made for a fascinating history. 

As can be seen with the above map, the current Austrian borders have only come into effect comparatively recently, after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 

From population density to Nazi occupation – and of course the inevitable comparisons with Australia – these maps shed a little bit of light on historical and modern Austria. 

Where do you come from?

Austria’s strong economy and central location mean its an attractive location for foreigners. 

Between 20 and 25 percent of Austrian residents were born in another country. This includes people who have acquired Austrian citizenship. 

Around half of those who live in Austria but were born elsewhere come from EU countries. 

READ MORE: Where do Austria’s foreign residents come from and where do they live?

The following map – based on official government statistics but put together by Austrian Maps – shows where people living in Austria were born, including those who were born in Austria itself. 

Image: Wikicommons/Austrian Maps

View the official tweet here. 

Austria’s ethno-linguistic composition a century ago 

While modern borders have largely set ethnic and linguistic boundaries in Central Europe in stone, the following map shows just how different this was in 1910. 

Ethnic and linguistic Germans can be seen spread all across the regions, concentrated of course around Austria, although there are pockets as far away as Transylvania (modern Romania). 

The map, which has been put together under a Wikicommons licence, comes from research by William R Shepherd, who published his book Distribution of Races in Austria-Hungary in 1911. 

Image: Wikicommons/William R Shepherd

Austria under Nazi rule, under the Allies and in the present day

After Austria’s Adolf Hitler rose to rose to the position of German Chancellor in 1933, he set his sights on reunifying Austria with Germany, known as the Anschluss (Annexation). 

Under Nazi rule, Austria’s German name – Österreich, which means eastern realm – was replaced by Ostmark, which sought to highlight the eastern march of the Third Reich towards its inevitable victory. 

The following map shows Ostmark in 1941, including the seven Reichsgaue, i.e. states. 

These were: Carinthia, Lower Danube, Salzburg, Styria, Upper Danube, Tyrol and Vienna.

Austria as ‘Ostmark’, as it was known under the Nazis. Image: Wikicommons/

This map shows how Austria was divided by the conquering Allied powers: the United States, France, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. 

As had been done in neighbouring Germany, Vienna itself was also divided between the four conquering powers. 

Image: Master UeglyAustria/Wikicommons

Finally, these are the current state borders for Austria.

As can be seen in comparison to the above map, the state borders are largely similar to the occupied Allied zones, other than the eastern part of Tyrol. 

Austria’s nine states. Image: Wikicommons

Changing lanes: When did each Austrian state switch from left to right-sided traffic? 

Fortunately for tourists and Austrians alike, the entire country of Austria – including each and every one of its nine states – drives on the right hand side. 

It might surprise you to learn however that this was not the case as recently as 100 years ago. 

The Austro-Hungarian Empire drove on the left-hand side, largely in resistance to Napoleon and his army, notes the British Motor Museum.

When Napoleon moved through Europe, the countries he conquered became right-hand drive. Those countries which were proudly unconquered, drove on the left to thumb their nose at Bonaparte and his forces. 

As a consequence, half of Austria – the half which had been invaded by Napoleon – drove on the right, while the other half drove on the left. 

After the Austro-Hungarian empire dissolved, gradually different states converted to right-hand drive, although this took place over a relatively long period – although of course regular commuting from one state to the other was comparatively rare at the time. 

As can be seen in the following map, Vorarlberg made the switch in 1921, but it was not until 1938 – when Austria was invaded by Germany – when Vienna finally made the switch. 

When Austria swapped from left-hand drive to the right. Image: Tubs/Austrian Maps/Wikicommons

Population density 

For a relatively small country, Austria has dense urban and rural areas – and pretty much everything in between. 

The following map, put together by Yale academic Michael Gastner, shows the population density of each Austrian state. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Vienna has the highest population density, followed by Upper Austria and Vorarlberg. 

Tyrol and Carinthia are on the other side of the equation. 

Image: Michael Gastner

Austria compared to Australia

Austria is frequently compared to Australia. 

These comparisons are due pretty much to how similar the country’s names are, with the countries not similar in most other ways. 

One example is size. The following map has Austria superimposed onto Australia – which a) shows just how different the countries are in size and b) otherwise serves very little purpose at all. 

Image: Google Maps

Innsbruck and Outsbruck

And then there are some maps which are just plain silly. 

The following map, courtesy of Twitter page Austrian Maps, provides a handy perspective on which parts of Austria are Innsbruck – and which parts are not. 

Image: Austrian Maps

For anyone wandering through the wild ravines or urban landscapes of Austria, keep this map in mind whenever you need to know if you’re in with the Innsbruck crowd – or not. 

Austria is the true centre of Europe

Throughout its history, Austria has represented the centre of Europe when it comes to things like culture, language, wealth, power and influence. 

The following map however shows that Austria also sits at the geographic centre of Europe, with the country placed along the axis of proximity between Istanbul and London.

In fact Vienna – which considers itself the centre of Austria despite being up towards the top corner – is almost split by proximity between the two metropoles of European culture and history. 

Image: Austrian Maps

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DISCOVER AUSTRIA

One day in Vienna: How to spend 24 hours in the Austrian capital

Vienna is undoubtedly one of the best and most beautiful cities in the world. If you only have 24 hours to spare, here's what not to miss.

One day in Vienna: How to spend 24 hours in the Austrian capital

Vienna is by far the most visited Austrian city. Data from Statistics Austria shows that the capital received more than 17 million tourist overnight stays a year – at least in a pre-pandemic year.

Austria’s second most visited city is Salzburg, with more than three million tourist overnight stays in 2019.

With a long history and the beautiful buildings and constructions that only a city which was the capital of an empire for hundreds of years can have, Vienna – Wien, to the locals – is definitely worth the visit.

READ ALSO: Austria: Six German expressions to entice your Wanderlust

Also, definitely worth an extended visit. But as weekend train rides become more common in Europe and low-cost flights make it possible for quick holidays across the continent, many visitors only have a few hours to spend in this historical town.

While it might seem impossible to see all, there is to see in Vienna in only 24 hours (and it is!), The Local has asked for the help of Robert Eichhorn, a Vienna-accredited tourist guide and a born and raised Viennese with an eye for the unique parts of town.

If you only have 24 hours in Vienna, arriving around 2 pm on a Saturday and leaving at around the same time on a Sunday, here are a few things you could do to make the most of the city.

Vienna’s St. Stephen Cathedral, in the first district (Photo by Dan V on Unsplash)

Start out with the first district

The Austrian capital is divided into 23 districts. The first is the central, where many historical sightings and political buildings are located. The remaining districts spiral from that, with 21 and 22 located just across the Danube river.

READ ALSO: IN PICTURES: The Vienna coffee shop where phone-less visitors get a discount

In the first district, you will find many of the most impressive places.

“Even for those who are not church fans, a visit to St. Stephen’s Cathedral should not be missed”, Eichhorn says.

The landmark stands for centuries in the heart of the city. It offers not only a postcard picture (literally) and a beautiful interior but also amazing views, as our tour guide explains that it is possible to reach the top of the big spire (343 steps by foot) or the smaller taller (by elevator) to enjoy the city from above.

If you enjoy the religious history, it is also possible to, from St. Stephen’s, reach Ruprechtskirche, one of the oldest churches in Vienna. “From there, it’s just a stone’s throw to the City Temple of the Viennese Jewish Community in Sitenstättengasse and the Ankeruhr at Hoher Markt”, describes Eichhorn.

READ ALSO: Six of the best things to do in spring in Vienna

Heading East from Ankeruhr, you will reach one of Vienna’s beautiful city parks. Actually, the city park: Stadtpark, the 19th-century park with a lake and a river. This is a fantastic starting point to Vienna’s incredible Ring Road.

“The Ringstrasse was built in the second half of the 19th century, and there are numerous buildings important for the city”, Eichhorn explains. Walking from the Stadtpark, with a short detour to visit the beautiful Karlskirche, it is possible to follow the road and see some of the main attractions, including the Vienna State Opera, Burggarten, the Hofburg, the Museumsplatz, the Parliament and Vienna’s City Hall (Rathaus), all the way to the beautiful Votivkirche.

“I would recommend taking a break in the coffee house in the Burggarten Palm House”, our tour guide notes.

“The historic ambience makes it a great place to relax”, he adds.

READ ALSO: The best spots to recharge on the weekend in Vienna

For the evening attractions

Truth be told, the Ringstrasse and its beautiful buildings also shine with the facade lights, and a walk around the first district could seem totally different depending on the time of the day – or the season in the year.

But if you want to have “old-school Viennese”, as the born-and-raised Eichhorn says, then a trip to a Heurigen would be suitable. Those are the typical and traditional Viennese wine taverns.

“They are located on the city’s outskirts but can be reached by public transport well”.

READ ALSO: Six tourist scams to be aware of in Austria

A less rustic option, but central, is the so-called (even by locals!) Bermuda Triangle, an area in the first district with plenty of pubs and bars.

“Or maybe end the day with a concert?” suggests Eichhorn. “Vienna has an incredible amount of music events to offer, from classical to modern music”.

The next morning

As you prepare to enjoy your final hours in the beautiful city, how about heading to a genuinely imperial and impressive palace?

The beautiful Schönbrunn Palace, in Vienna, viewed from the Gloriette, accessible from the palace gardens (Copyright: Schloss Schönbrunn Kultur-und Betriebsges mbH, Severin Wurnig)

It only takes about 30 minutes with the metro from the first district to Schönbrunn Palace. “It is the summer residence of the Habsburgs, the imperial family. An impressive palace and a beautiful garden complex”, Eichhorn explains.

Schönbrunn is really a crown jewel, and no visit to Vienna would be complete without going there. The palace gardens also house a modern zoo worth visiting – but could be cutting it close with the time, according to Eichhorn.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: EU plans digital-only Schengen visa application process

There might be still just enough time for a traditional Austrian meal as you head out your way: try the schnitzel and potato salad if you eat meat. For vegetarians, the Käsespätzle is a very typical one (especially in the Austrian mountains).

Unfortunately, there aren’t many vegan choices for traditional meals, but more and more restaurants offer vegan options.

Vienna also houses several beer gardens, where you can eat and drink local foods and beers just before taking your train back home.

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