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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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For members


What makes Austria a difficult country for foreign residents to get started?

Austria generally ranks high in quality of living surveys, but it can be complicated for immigrants who move there. What makes Austria complex for new arrivals and how does it compare to its neighbours?

What makes Austria a difficult country for foreign residents to get started?

Austria is considered one of the best countries in the world to live and work in. It is always placed high on quality of living rankings, has excellent public services and is generally a safe country. 

However, Austria is a challenging place to move to, as a new InterNations survey showed.

Austria ranked 32nd in the Expats Essentials List title “Where do Expats Struggle Most to Get Started”, just behind Brazil, Hungary and Denmark, and ahead of the Philippines, Cyprus and Hong Kong.

The top destinations for dealing with administrations, digital life, housing and language were Bahrain, UAE, Singapore, Estonia, Oman, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kenya and Canada.

The bottom ten were Malta, France, Czechia, Vietnam, Greece, Italy, Kuwait, China, Japan and Austria’s neighbour Germany.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Will Austria follow Spain in introducing a digital nomad visa?

The ranking took into consideration four main criteria. The first was digital life, which includes the availability of administrative services online, ease of obtaining high-speed internet access at home, ease of paying without cash, and unrestricted access to online services such as social media.

It also looked into housing, both affordability of housing and ease of finding a home for expats; administration topics, including ease of dealing with local bureaucracy, ease of opening a local bank account and ease of obtaining a visa. 

READ ALSO: Renting in Austria: How to find a furnished apartment

The fourth factor was language, considering ease of living without speaking the local language and the ease of learning the local language.

Language remains an obstacle

The immigrants interviewed for the InterNations survey found that getting started in the Alpine republic wasn’t easy. Besides its overall ranking of 32nd, it was in the bottom ten in two criteria: cashless payments (45th) and applying for a visa to move (43rd). 

READ ALSO: Why is cash so important to Austrians?

The lack of cashless payment options is particularly disturbing to foreigners, with 14 percent saying they are dissatisfied with it, almost twice as many as worldwide (8 percent). “You can rarely pay by card, and ATMs are hard to find,” said an Irish resident. 

They also struggle with the national language. Austria is a German-speaking country, but the many dialects can make it even more challenging to get around – even if you took German classes.

“The locals speak a dialect that I, as a foreigner, don’t quite understand. This makes me feel excluded sometimes”, said a survey participant from the UK. “I have taken German courses, but people here don’t speak as they do in the courses’, they added.

READ ALSO: ‘Brutal’: What it’s really like to learn German in Austria

Survey participants found it difficult to find their way around Austria without knowing the national language (39 percent), and 52 percent found it difficult to learn (compared to 38 percent worldwide).

On the other hand, the housing search wasn’t an obstacle for immigrants, according to the survey. The majority of respondents (56 percent) found it easy to find a place to live, which is slightly above the global average of 54 percent. They also consider housing affordable (47 percent are satisfied with prices, compared to 39 percent worldwide).

Austria’s administration receives mixed ratings: While opening a bank account is easy (14th), Austria ranks in the bottom ten for visa issuance (43rd): 31 percent of immigrants had difficulties obtaining a visa (vs 24 percent worldwide).

How does Austria compare?

When looking at the DACH (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) region, Austria was right at the middle of the ranking, 32nd, while Switzerland ranked higher (20th), and Germany was the worst country to settle as an immigrant (52nd).

READ ALSO: 11 Austrian life hacks that will make you feel like a local

Switzerland was among the top ten (7th) regarding digital infrastructure and administrative issues, but Austria ranked 29th in the first and 27th in the latter (Germany was 48th and 36th).

Austria took the lead compared to its neighbours when it comes to housing, ranking 25th, ahead of Switzerland (44th) and Germany (47th).

Regarding languages, how well you can live without speaking the national language, or how easy it is to learn it, Switzerland ranked 30th, followed by Austria at 38th, and then Germany in the 49th spot.