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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


Is it possible to ski for cheap in Austria?

Skiing is an expensive sport but also a popular pastime in Austria. Are there places in the Alpine country where skiing is actually affordable and other ways to cut costs?

Is it possible to ski for cheap in Austria?

The skiing season has started in Austria, and most resorts are now open for those seeking the downhill adrenaline on skis or snowboards.

Winter sports are considered a tradition in the country of the Alps, but skiing and similar outdoor pastimes are notoriously expensive, especially for those who just want to try it out and don’t have season tickets or the equipment.

Day ticket prices to some of Austria’s famous ski resorts can cost over € 70 – and that’s only to use the lifts and go down the pistes, not counting expenses from the equipment, outfits, food or beverages. 

Is there any way to ski cheaply in Austria? Are there more affordable resorts? Here are our tips to enjoy skiing without breaking the bank.  

Find less expensive ski resorts

Some sports are cheaper than others (find a ball and something to act as the goal and you will have yourself a football match), and we can’t deny that skiing is on the more expensive side. However, ski resorts also charge for their “brands” and locations, so some will have a higher price tag simply because they are more sought after, have a busy nightlife, are traditional spots for higher earners or have prettier views.

READ ALSO: 29 ways to save money in Austria (but still have fun)

If you go near Ischgl, in Tyrol, for example, a day pass will be upwards of € 70, and you can expect accommodation and food prices to be higher as well.

Other resorts and ski runs are much cheaper. Here are a few examples:

  • Bödele, in Vorarlberg, has day tickets for adults costing € 43.20
  • Axamer Lizum, in hotspot Tyrol, has day tickets for adults costing € 49.50 in the high season
  • Salzburg is also expensive, but some places offer €54 for a day ticket for adults, like Fanningberg.
  • In Upper Austria, an adult can ski during the whole day for €24 in Kirchschlag or €21 in Hochlecken.
  • In Carinthia, day tickets for adults cost €38.50 in Koralpe.
  • Rieseralm, in Styria, has day tickets costing €38.
  • In Lower Austria, there are cheaper options as well, such as Aichelberglifte Karlstiff (€28.60; however, there will be no operation in the 2023/24 season, and the resort will be back for the 2024/25 season) and St Corona am Wechsel (€29,50).

People in Vienna often go nearby to Semmering for a short ski outing, with day tickets for adults costing €49. However, being the “Viennese Alps” comes with another price: the area is usually very full on weekends or whenever there’s fresh snow.

Smaller towns, especially in the Alps region, also have their own ski lifts that are less touristy, bringing people up to the top of the slopes. Those hidden gems can be cheaper than the better-known resorts. In Breitenfurt bei Wien, near the capital, a family-friendly ski slope where each ride up the ski lifts costs €1.40.

Some people will also hike up the slopes and then ski down off-piste, but a high level of knowledge and experience is recommended for this.

Salzburg, Tyrol and surrounding areas have plenty to offer the ski, or general outdoor enthusiast. Photo by KERSTIN JOENSSON / AFP

It’s not all about the pistes

Skiing trips are expensive because of the whole package – though the daily rates certainly can make them very expensive. The first tip is to consider different tickets other than the day-tickets for adults we mentioned. Most places will have discounts for families or groups.

There are also discounts for season tickets if you plan on skiing for many days or lower prices for fewer hours of skiing, which is especially good if you are just starting, as an entire day of skiing can be exhausting if you are not used to it.

READ ALSO: Eight things to know before moving to Tyrol in Austria

Most resorts also practice different prices for high season (more expensive) or shoulder seasons, and you can save hundreds of euros just by planning your trip a week ahead or later.

Another significant cost for ski trips is the equipment. You can’t just go somewhere and ski. You’ll need proper outfits and, well, the skis. Buying all of it can be extremely costly, so renting it out for the day is the better option. Or, better yet, if you have a local friend who will lend you their gear, that can be great. 

If you plan on skiing for many days, buying second-hand can save you a lot of money.

Finally, ski resorts tend to take advantage of the fact that people are basically stranded on mountains and valleys during their ski adventures, meaning that food and beverage prices can add up to a lot. Even one of the cheapest drinks, the “ski water”, has a hefty price tag just because of its name and popularity when, in reality, it is nothing but sparkling water and raspberry syrup.

READ ALSO: Life in Austria: Must-do activities to add to your bucket list

Your local friends will always advise you to take your drinks with you if you want to save money. You can make your own ski water juice, bring hot tea in a proper bottle and make yourself a sandwich with ingredients from the closest supermarket. That will get you going for the day and save you dozens of euros in the meantime.

Do you have more tips on how to save money while skiing in Austria? Do you have a favourite affordable resort or a hidden ski lift you love? Let us know in the comments below, or send us an email to [email protected].