The history of Austria covers the history of Austria and its predecessor states, from the early Stone Age to the present state. The name Ostarrîchi (Austria) has been in use since 996 AD when it was a margravate of the Duchy of Bavaria and from 1156 an independent duchy (later archduchy) of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (Heiliges Römisches Reich 962–1806).

Austria was dominated by the House of Habsburg (Haus Österreich) from 1273 to 1806, when the Holy Roman Empire came to an end. Austria then became the Austrian Empire, a part of the German Confederation until the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, after which Austria continued as the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867–1918) as a dual monarchy with Hungary. When this empire collapsed in 1918, Austria was reduced to the main German speaking areas of the empire (its current frontiers), and adopted the name German Austria, since it wanted to join the new German Weimar Republic. However, this union was forbidden by the Allies at the Treaty of Versailles. Following the First Republic (1918–1933), Austrofascism tried to keep Austria independent from the German Reich. But in 1938 it was annexed by Nazi Germany with the support of the majority of the Austrian people. After the Second World War Austria again became an independent republic as the Second Republic in 1955 and joined the European Union in 1995. Austria may be divided into three unequal geographical areas. The largest part of Austria (62%) is occupied by the relatively young mountains of the Alps, but in the east, these give way to a part of the Pannonian plain, and north of the Danube Riverlies the Bohemian Forest, an older, but lower, granite mountain range. 

 The Austrian Federal Government (German: Österreichische Bundesregierung) is a collective body that exercises executive power in the Republic of Austria. It is composed of the Chancellor, who is leader of the government, the Vice-Chancellor, and senior ministers. The President and the Government together form the executive branch of Austria.


Location: Central Europe, north of Italy and Slovenia bordering the Czech Republic 362 km, Germany 784 km, Hungary 366 km, Italy 430 km, Liechtenstein 35 km, Slovakia 91 km, Slovenia 330 km, Switzerland 164 km

Capital: Vienna

Climate: temperate; continental, cloudy; cold winters with frequent rain and some snow in lowlands and snow in mountains; moderate summers with occasional showers

Population: 8,223,062 (July 2014 est.)

Ethnic Make-up: German 88.5%, indigenous minorities 1.5% (includes Croatians, Slovenes, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Roma), recent immigrant groups 10% (includes Turks, Bosnians, Serbians, Croatians) (2001)

Religions: Roman Catholic 74%, Protestant 5%, Muslim 4%, other 17%

Government: Federal Republic




Around 120 million tourists visit the Alps every year making the impact of tourism on Alpine nature considerable. New waves of ‘mass tourism’ threaten to destroy pristine wildlife areas – the very thing that attracts tourists in the first place. A top industry in the Alps, tourism is also a major driver of urbanisation. Large tourist resorts have an area consumption rate that is far greater than that of a non-tourist community. In addition, touristic areas also experience an increase in motor traffic. This is especially problematic for remote and sensitive Alpine regions which would otherwise be safe from urban sprawl.

Now, modern adventure sports (mountain biking, canyoning, or paragliding) and some motor-based leisure activities are entering areas previously untouched by tourism. This is causing major disturbances to wildlife in the Alps and poses very direct threats to biodiversity.

One of the most ecologically devastating forms of leisure activities in the Alps is winter ski tourism. There are currently about 300 ski areas throughout the Alps where 10,000 transport facilities serve more than 3,400 km² of ski areas. The construction of ski runs causes irreparable damage to the landscape. The increasing use of snow canons sets off additional problems by their use of water, energy, and chemical and biological additives.

But not all forms of tourism threaten Alpine nature. In fact, sustainably designed tourism can be used instead to promote the protection of natural areas in the Alps. 

Austria is located in a temperate climatic zone with a Central European climate influenced by the Atlantic climate. The four seasons (Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter) each have typical temperature and climatic characters. 

The Alps cover 62% of the country’s total area, running west to east through Austria. The alpine regions are home to numerous species, including chamois, roe deer, hare, fox, badger, marten and marmot. A small bear population can mainly be found in the heavily wooded southern and central mountainous regions. The Danube flows through Austria, supporting unique wetland and floodplain habitats.

The Danube, as well as some of Austria’s other rivers and lakes, is threatened by pollution and unsustainable development along its shores. Other environmental problems facing Austria include forest degradation, air pollution and melting glaciers as a result of global warming. 

Christianity is the predominant religion in Austria. At the 2001 census, 73.6% of the country’s population was Roman Catholic. As of 2016, the number of Catholics has dropped to 59% of the population, losing 1% since 2015. There is a much smaller group of Evangelicals, totaling about 4.7% of the population in 2001, 3.5% in 2015. Since 2001, these two historically dominant religious groups in Austria recorded losses in the number of adherents. The Roman Catholic Church reported a drop of ~14%, the Evangelical Lutheran and Evangelical Reformed churches of ~1%.

In contrast, due to immigration the number of Muslims in Austria has increased sharply in recent years, with 4.2% of the population calling themselves Muslim in 2001, up to around 5% to 6.2% in 2010, and to 7% in 2015-2016. Orthodox churches have also grown to represent up to 6% of the population. Both the communities are represented by recent immigrants, especially from Turkey and the Balkans. There are also minor communities of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jews, and other religions in Austria. 

German is the official language spoken by 98% of the population as mother tongue. There are distinct differences between the many regional dialects, and also a wide variation in the ‘standard’ Hochdeutsch spoken from region to region. Slovene is an official language in the southern province of Carinthia. Other minority languages include Croatian (0.5%) and Hungarian (0.1%). All three languages are taught alongside German in some bilingual schools. Another minority language is Slovak. 

Austria’s culinary specialities are national and regional landmarks at the same time.

They reveal much about the soul of a country, about the openness to other cultures. It so can happen that an originally Chinese fruit (the apricot) is combined with a product from Southeast Asia (sugar) and a Bohemian method of preparation (the dumpling) to become the cultural icon of Austria’s picturesque Wachau Valley: the Marillenknödel (apricot dumpling).

 Many of these dishes are considered to be classic Austrian recipes today and would never have seen the light of day without intercultural dialogue. Austrians have always been true masters in the art of uniting a wide variety of cultural influences on a single plate. The Austrian menu reads like a stroll through the cultural history of Europe, like a journey into the past.

Take, for example, the famous Wiener Schnitzel. Its roots are to be found not in Vienna but in Venice. Italian chefs were frying meat in a breadcrumb wrapper as early as the sixteenth century, and before that, the Jewish population of Constantinople did the same. According to legend, this form of fried meat was brought to Austria around 1857 by the Austrian field marshal Count Radetzky. Austrian chefs perfected the recipe during the late imperial age, making Wiener Schnitzel what it is today: an incomparable Austrian delicacy.

The Linzer Torte is another dish known far beyond the borders of Austria. It took its name from Linz, the Upper Austrian capital, and is unique in the fact that it was the world’s first cake recipe to appear in written form. The cake first became famous in 1822 when a baker from Franconia, Johann Konrad Vogel, began working for Katharina Kress, the widow of a Linz confectioner. And that was the beginning of a success story. Today, the Linzer Torte is just as well known abroad as the Sacher Torte and no less popular as a delicious city souvenir.

Although the chocolate cake was not invented in Vienna, the legendary Sacher Torte was. Baked for the first time in 1832 by the clever baker’s apprentice Franz Sacher, the cake was impressive above all for its taste and design. But the person responsible for the Sacher Torte, which became the most famous of all chocolate cakes, was his son, Eduard Sacher. By the end of the nineteenth century, he had made the Sacher Torte a household name nearly everywhere, thus launching its unparalleled success story. 

Greetings are formal. A quick, firm handshake is the traditional greeting. Maintain eye contact during the greeting. Some Austrian men, particularly those who are older, may kiss the hand of a female. A male from another country should not kiss an Austrian woman’s hand. Women may also kiss men, but men never kiss other men. Titles are very important and denote respect. Use a person’s title and their surname until invited to use their first name. When entering a room, shake hands with everyone individually, including children.

A few words before you go:

Good Morning         Guten Morgen (or simply “Morgen”)

Good Day                Guten Tag

Good Day                Gruss Gott  ( translated as God’s Greetings or Blessings). This is the more usual local greeting, often shortened to ‘sgott

Good Bye                 Auf Wiedersehen  ( see you again) or Auf Wiederschauen (or simply “Wiedersehen” or “Wiederschauen”)

‘Bye!                        Tschuss!

Excuse me (attracting attention)                Entschuldigung.

Excuse me (for standing on your foot)       Verzeihung. 

Don’t mention it (response to above)         Nix (nichts) passiert!

Do you speak English?                              Sprechen Sie Englisch?

Thank you                                                  Danke

Please                                                        Bitte (also said when handing an item over, eg payment)

Don’t mention it (response to thanks)        Bitte

The bill (check) please!                             Zahlen, bitte!

Whilst waiting in a line (and next to be served)    —-  Ich bin der/die (masc/fem) nächste.

Vienna is increasingly tolerant towards gay and lesbian locals and visitors (more so than the rest of Austria), and the country legalised civil same-sex partnerships (though not marriage) in 2010. A sign of the capital’s openness is its traffic lights, which have male-male and female-female pairings (with love hearts in between) on its pedestrian walk signals, in addition to male-female couplings.