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The best places to live in Austria that are not Vienna

Had enough of the Austrian capital? Then these cities and towns might be for you.

The best places to live in Austria that are not Vienna
Salzburg: the birthplace of Mozart. Photo: Photo: Wikicommons

Vienna is one of the most popular cities for international residents in Austria.

But living in the capital isn’t for everyone – especially in these coronavirus times as people crave more space and easy access to nature.

REVEALED: The best districts to live in Vienna

Instead, here are four alternative cities and the type of lifestyle they can offer.


Salzburg is a pretty city with a population of just 156,872. In normal times it attracts 30 million tourists each year.

For music fans, Salzburg is the birthplace of Mozart and home to the famous Rockhouse live music venue. 

For those looking for nature, there are several ski resorts within easy reach of the city centre. Plus nearby lakes to enjoy in the summer.

Long-term resident, Graham Crewe, loves living in Salzburg and says there is a growing English-speaking community in the city. 

He said: “The English-speaking scene has really boomed in the last few years, not only due to social media bringing people together, but also with a number of companies using English as their working language.”

Salzburg has an average monthly salary of €2,204 but a high cost of living with the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom city centre apartment at €885.

When it comes to connectivity, Salzburg Airport has routes to Dubai, Istanbul and Frankfurt. But Vienna is three hours away by car or train.

Key industries in Salzburg are the automotive and metal processing sectors. 

Tourism also plays a major role in the city so it has been impacted by the pandemic. At the start of the year, unemployment in Salzburg was 70 per cent more than in January 2020. 


Last year, Graz in Styria was listed as one of the best cities in the world by the InterNations Expat City Ranking (even higher than Vienna).

A major reason for the favourable ranking was the cost of living. Rent in Graz is 38 per cent cheaper than in Vienna, with a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre costing on average €594.

Then there is the average monthly net salary (after tax) at €1,941 and the cost of a monthly public transport pass at just over €50. Overall, it’s an affordable place to live.

Graz’s historic city centre from way up high. Photo: Photo: Wikicommons

Graz is also well connected with an airport offering routes to cities like Vienna, Dusseldorf and Brussels. And Vienna Airport is just 2.5 hours away by car.

When it comes to career opportunities, the main industries in Graz are biotechnology, energy and environmental technology, the creative industries and tourism.

The unemployment rate for March 2021 was 26 per cent less than in March 2020. But the long term unemployed figure in Graz has gone up by 46.7 per cent.

The population in Graz is 291,130.


Innsbruck is the capital of Tyrol and is located in the heart of the Alps. This means a passion for winter sports and a strong focus on environmental issues is a big part of life in the city.

The population of Innsbruck is 311,428 and there is a large international community – making up about 27.5 per cent of the residents.

Many international residents come from the university. But others are drawn to Innsbruck for the outdoor lifestyle and vibrant social scene.

Innsbruck, one of Austria’s most beautiful cities. Photo: Photo: Wikicommons

Innsbruck Airport has connections to places like Amsterdam, London and Menorca. For travel further afield though, Munich International Airport is the nearest major hub – around 2.5 hours away by car.

READ MORE: Which Austrian state has the cheapest rent based on your salary?

Unfortunately, the cost of living in Innsbruck is 15 per cent more expensive than Vienna. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom city centre apartment is €773 and the average monthly salary is €1,901.

Tourism is the main industry in Innsbruck, which means the sector has been hit by job losses in the past year. The unemployment rate for March was 8.8 per cent – although this was down from 10.5 per cent in January.


Linz is a cool city with an industrial past. It has the Danube River, a thriving cultural scene and the acclaimed Ars Electronica – a modern, technology-based museum.

An old map of Linz from 1594. It’s pretty much the same now, except that there’s a McDonald’s. Photo: Photo: Wikicommons

It’s the capital of Upper Austria and the country’s second largest economic area. The population is 205,726 people with foreign residents making up around 24 per cent. 

The overall cost of living in Linz is slightly higher than in Vienna, but rent is 17 per cent cheaper with the average monthly rent for a one bedroom city centre apartment at €671.

The average monthly salary is just under €2,000 and a monthly public transport pass is around €45.

Linz has a small airport with routes to cities like Istanbul, Leipzig and Belgrade. Driving to Vienna takes two hours but a fast train can reach the capital in one hour and 15 minutes.

The industrial and service sectors are the main industries in Linz with companies like Borealis, BMW and Siemens based in the city. This means there is a strong job market.

In fact, the unemployment rate in Linz is now 22 per cent less than it was a year ago. Compared to other cities in Austria, Linz has not been as heavily impacted by the pandemic.

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Eight habits that show you’ve embraced life in Austria

Living anywhere as an international resident will have an impact on your life, but if you recognise any of these habits then you have truly embraced the Austrian lifestyle.

Eight habits that show you’ve embraced life in Austria

Life in Austria can be similar to many other European countries, but there are some aspects that are distinctly Austrian.

Here are eight habits that show you’ve integrated into the Austrian way of life.

FOR MEMBERS: 23 essential articles to help you navigate life in Austria

Indulging in coffee and cake

Coffee and cake is almost as integral to the food culture in Austria as the Wiener Schnitzel.

So say goodbye to the diet, ignore any thoughts of guilt and get stuck into a slice of Sachertorte, Punschkrapfen or Linzer Torte

Preferably with a delicious coffee on the side.

READ MORE: Caffeine, war and Freud: A history of Vienna’s iconic coffee houses

Participating in winter sports

Austria, especially the west of the country, is a winter sports enthusiasts dream.

The Alps offer an almost endless choice in ski resorts, gondolas and mountain huts, with winter sports options ranging from skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing and Langlaufen (cross-country skiing).

Needless to say, if you live in the Alps, winter sports quickly become a central part of the lifestyle during the cold months. After all, it’s healthy, fun and even a bit dangerous (if that’s your thing).

It’s also a great way to explore the landscape of Austria and get a deeper understanding of the central role of winter sports in Austrian culture.

Downing tools for lunch

Lunch in some other countries (especially places like the UK) is often a sad sandwich while sitting at a desk. 

In Austria however, lunch is an important part of the day and many people sit down at midday with their colleagues or families to enjoy a proper cooked meal.

This is a prime example of the healthy work-life balance that residents in Austria enjoy, and is a much-better habit to embrace than working through a lunch break.

Wearing house shoes

In most Austrian households, people do not wear outdoor shoes inside. Instead, they opt for house shoes, otherwise known as slippers in English or Schlapfen in some Austrian dialects.

Also, many Austrian homes do not have carpet on the floor, which means walking around with bare feet or just socks in the winter can get cold – fast.

So if you’ve invested in a pair of house shoes or, even better, you have a backup supply for guests, then you have fully embraced life in Austria. 

READ ALSO: ‘I’ll probably return to the UK’: Moving to Austria as a Brit post-Brexit

Being punctual

Typically, Austrians are punctual people and don’t appreciate lateness.

For this reason, many international residents make an extra effort to be on time (or early), and it’s not uncommon to become stressed if you know you will be five minutes late.

As frustrating as this can be, it’s actually incredibly polite to be early for a meeting and not a bad habit to pick up.

sparkling water

(Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash)

Drinking sparkling water

People like to drink sparkling mineral water in Austria.

In fact, sparkling water is so popular that if you order a Mineralwasser (mineral water) in a cafe or restaurant, the sparkling variety is often served unless stilles Wasser (still water) is specified.

Want to be more Austrian? Then simply switch from still to sparkling water.

Stripping off

Countries in Central Europe are much more comfortable with nudity than other nations, and it’s no different in Austria.

The main place to expect an encounter with naked people in Austria is at the sauna. There are even some saunas that have a naked-only admission policy and won’t let people in if they are wearing swimming gear.

People also like to get naked at lakes – especially at the more remote or quieter locations – or at least go topless (for the women). 

The reality is, no one bats an eyelid. So put your prudish instincts aside and don’t be afraid to strip off.

READ ALSO: What are the rules on working overtime in Austria?

Taking sick leave

Employees in Austria are entitled to six weeks of paid sick leave (the number of weeks increases the longer the worker has been employed in the same company).

This means workers are more likely to take sick leave if they are unwell, rather than dragging themselves into the workplace and infecting their colleagues.

The downside though is that Austria has strict rules when it comes to taking sick leave with explicit orders to stay at home. Workers can even expect to be monitored by private detectives to make sure they really are resting at home, as reported by The Local.

For international residents in Austria, this can be hard to tolerate. But the upside is that you’re not expected to show your face in the office when sick, simply to comply with a culture of presenteeism.

And that’s a habit worth embracing.