Austrian village Ehrwald
Austrian village Ehrwald © Octagon

Landlocked in the heart of Europe, Austria runs from the Alps in the west down to stately Vienna and the Danube River in the east. For six centuries it was the heart of the mighty Habsburg Empire which, at its peak, included what is now Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, along with much of Romania, Bulgaria and the Balkans. The Alps stretch west to Switzerland and, in winter, skiers come from all over the world to carve the slopes and experience the charm of the alpine villages and their welcoming inhabitants.

The country's imperial inheritance is particularly striking in the grand buildings and cultural institutions of the Baroque-flavoured capital, Vienna, resplendent with palaces and captivating churches, cosy coffeehouses and inns, and grand ballrooms where Strauss's waltzes still draw dancers onto the floor.

Another great Austrian composer was Mozart. He was born in Salzburg, a beautiful historic city where stunning Baroque churches rise up against the backdrop of the Austrian Alps. Travellers are able to visit the house where he was born as well as his former residence, both of which have been turned into museums.

The appeal of Austria may lie in its preservation of a romantic past, but this does not mean modern Austria has stood back from development. Behind the stunning scenery and antique architecture, the country's cities and towns buzz with vibrant industrial and commercial activity.

Austrians work hard and play hard, with Austrian hospitality and cuisine earning high praise around the world. Whether taking a cruise on the iconic Danube, cycling through Alpine meadows, or enjoying a breathtaking day's sightseeing in classic Vienna, there's never a dull moment for visitors to Austria.