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It is not only famous as one of the world’s premier skiing regions, but also for its historical buildings, world-class museums and galleries, breathtaking scenery, magnificent mountains and established hiking trails. Visitors in search of culture and visitors in search of scenery are spoilt alike. In addition to natural wealth, the country contains numerous and glorious architectural riches, including frequent reminders of the once-powerful Hapsburgs, who dominated central Europe for seven centuries. It must be said that Austria bears the hallmarks of past emperorship beautifully: the capital, Vienna, is magnificent with its ornate Opera House and the former imperial residence of the Hofburg; Austria’s other cities are similarly infused with a historical magic, notably Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, with stunning baroque churches set before a backdrop of snow-covered peaks; and Innsbruck, in the centre of the Austrian Alps.

Practical Information

Area: 83 858 km² (32 378 miles²)

Capital: Vienna (Wien). Population: 2.3 million

Population: 8.2 million

Currency: Euro (Eur) = 100 cents

Government: Federal Republic.

Tipping: Widespread, but large amounts are not expected. On restaurant bills, a service charge of 10 to 15% is included, but it is usual to leave a further 5%. Attendants at theatres, cloakrooms or petrol pumps, expect to be tipped Eur;0.15-0.25. Railway and airports have fixed charges for portering. Taxi drivers expect Eur;0.25-0.50 for a short trip and 10% for a longer one.

Legal drinking age: 16 (for beer and wine); 18 (for spirits)

Time zone: GMT + 1

Languages: German

Additional descriptions

Austria: Social customs

Austrians tend to be quite formal in both their social and business dealings. They do not use first names when being introduced, but after the initial meeting first names are often used. Handshaking isRead more normal when saying hello and goodbye. It is considered impolite to enter a restaurant or shop without saying Guten Tag or, more usually, Grüss Gott; similarly, to leave without saying Auf Wiedersehen can cause offence. Social pleasantries and some exchange of small-talk is appreciated. If invited out to dinner, flowers should be brought for the hostess. The Church enjoys a high and respected position in Austrian society, which should be kept in mind by the visitor. It is customary to dress up for the opera or the theatre.

Austria: Food and local specialties

Viennese cuisine is strongly influenced by southeast European cuisine, notably that of Hungary, Serbia, Romania and Dalmatia. Austrian desserts and cake are particularly renowned. Things to know: The mainRead more meal of the day is lunch. All restaurants have waiter service. Generally the strict registration laws mean that the quality of the wine will be fully reflected in its price. Most bars or coffee houses have waiter service and bills are settled with the arrival of drinks. There are no national licensing laws in Austria, but each region has local police closing hours. Wiener Schnitzel is a traditional dish of breadcrumbed and fried veal escalope. Tafelspitz is the most famous food, regarded as Austria’s national dish and consists simply of boiled beef. Kaiserschmarrn (dessert of shredded pancake and stewed fruit). Apfelstrudel, the classic pudding. Mehlspeisen is the national term for cakes and puddings. There are around 60 varieties of torte, which is often consumed with coffee. Local wines (often served in open carafes) are excellent and cheap: most of the wines are white and Riesling and Veltliner are particularly well-regarded. Obstler is a drink found in most German-speaking countries, and is made by distilling various fruits. It is usually very strong, and widely drunk as it is cheap and well flavoured.

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