Sandwiched between Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary (with which it was once unified), Switzerland, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Lichtenstein, Austria is located pretty much in the dead center of Europe, forming a bridge between east and west. Geographically, Austria is dominated by the Alps in its southeast and center, and the River Danube – 10% of which lies within the nation’s borders – on which the capital city Vienna was built.
Quality of life in Austria is regularly rated among the highest anywhere in the world. In fact, Vienna was named the world’s leading city for quality of life in Mercer's 2014 Quality of Living Survey. Home to over a quarter of Austria’s population, Vienna is renowned as one of Europe’s great cultural capitals, and is a popular choice for many international students – but it’s certainly not the only appealing study location the country has to offer.
Austria’s capital and largest city by far, Vienna boasts one of the world’s highest standards of living, a large and diverse student population, and an incredibly rich cultural landscape. This combines with its strong universities and relatively low tuition fees to earn it a place among the world’s top 20 cities for students, in the QS Best Student Cities. Famously beautiful, Vienna has reserved an impressive amount of green space, as well as boasting attractive baroque architecture, magnificent palaces, some of the world’s most celebrated museums, and a renowned café culture.
The city has a particularly impressive musical and artistic pedigree (having been home to Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, Fuchs, Klimt and Loos, among others), and has a number of prestigious academies dedicated to fine art and music. It’s also home to two of the highest ranked universities in Austria: the University of Viennaand Vienna University of Technology, ranked 156th and 246th in the world respectively.
Twice host to the Winter Olympics, alpine city Innsbruck is a paradise for those with a passion for the piste. The Austrian Alps are pretty much always in sight here, and you can be making your way to the top in a cable car in less than half an hour. Even if you’re not a keen skier or snowboarder, this is simply a beautiful place to be; its combination of attractive traditional and modern architecture, against the mountain backdrop, is difficult to beat.
Innsbruck is also known as a student-centered town; it’s home to Austria’s third largest student population, and has a lively nightlife ranging from traditional beer gardens to trendy bars. There are several universities here, of which the most prominent is the Universität Innsbruck , ranked within the world’s top 300.
Austria’s second largest city, Graz has a reputation for being a student town, with those enrolled at its four universities constituting a major chunk of its population. The best-known of its institutions is Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz (also called the University of Graz), which ranks within the world’s top 500 in the QS World University Rankings 2014/15. Unsurprisingly given its major student community, Graz offers a vibrant nightlife, alongside a famously relaxed attitude. Located in the heart of the state of Styria in the southeast of the country, Graz is also renowned for its food, offered called the “culinary capital” of Austria.
Departing from the historic architecture and traditional feel which characterizes many popular Austrian cities, Linz is known for its much more modern urban aesthetic. Austria’s third largest city, it was European Capital of Culture in 2009, having transformed its central area into a sleek, gleaming space full of modernist architecture and contemporary public artworks. The city’s old town remains lively and full of character, with plenty of cafes and bars to check out, while major cultural venues include the Brucknerhaus (a festival and concert center named for the region’s famous composer, Anton Bruckner) and the Lentos Art Museum, one of the nation’s leading venues for modern art.
Universities in Linz are led by Johannes Kepler University Linz, which ranks among the world's top 600 in the QS World University Rankings 2014/2015.
Another of Austria’s most popular tourist destinations, Salzburg is a well-preserved historical city, presided over by the imposing Festung Hohensalzburg, a 16th century (in its current form – construction actually started in the 11th) fortress that sits on a mountain overlooking the town, and boasts an old town that has earned World Heritage Site status. But Salzburg is no time capsule, and in its bars, cultural institutions (modern and traditional), and winter sport there’s no shortage of things to do once you’re done with the tourist trail.
Universities in Salzburg include the Paris Lodron Universitat Salzburg (also known as the University of Salzburg), which is ranked in the top 800 of the QS World University Rankings 2014/2015.