Vienna is the capital and largest city of Austria. There are about two million people living here. It’s also a fairly diverse city, with a long and rich history. Vienna has been called the city of music because of our musical legacy, and the city of dreams because Sigmund Freud lived here for most of his life. It has repeatedly been at the top of various quality-of-life rankings and the city centre is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
Vienna is located in the east of Austria, close to the Slovakian border and it spans both sides of the Danube. The St. Stephen’s Cathedral is at the centre of the city.
There are two main circular roads: The Ringstraße, or ring road, surrounding the first district or inner city and the Gürtel, or belt, surrounding the nine most central districts. The ring road was built at the site of Vienna’s city walls during the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph II and is well known for hosting some of Vienna’s most important and beautiful buildings, including the Hofburg palace, the City Hall, the University of Vienna, the Austrian Parliament and more; the Gürtel is well known for having once hosted a large number of Vienna’s sex workers.
There are a number of radial streets, leading from the St. Stephen’s Cathedral outwards that are noteworthy as well, in many cases for being shopping streets, such as the Kärntner Straße, the Graben or the Mariahilfer Straße.
Besides all that, there is some stuff north of the Danube as well, called Transdanubia, but you don’t need to really care about that - it’s mainly some residential areas, that aren’t as nice as those in the south.
There were people around the area of Vienna as far back as the stone age, but it really was settled by the Romans in the first century ad to secure their border at the danube. During the migration period the settlement was lost and the next sourced mention of the town was in AD 881.
Vienna kept growing and when Austria became a duchy in the 12th century, Vienna was already it’s capital. In 1440 it became the home of the Habsburgs and basically the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. Over the next centuries it was besieged twice by the Ottomans and was the site of a plague epidemic.
After the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars Vienna played an important geopolitical role by hosting the Viennese Congress. It was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and an important cultural hub and centre of classical music. At this time it was also the largest German-speaking city in the world. In 1913, Adolf Hitler, Leon Trotsky, Joseph Tito, Sigmund Freud and Joseph Stalin all lived within a few miles of each other in central Vienna, some of them becoming regulars at the same coffeehouses.
After World War I and the collapse of the empire Vienna became the capital of the Republic of Austria, remaining a culturally important city. However, after Austria became a part of the Third Reich many of its cultural icons were killed or forced to flee the country. For the ten years following World War II Vienna was occupied by allied forces, with France, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union all supervising a sector of the city. In 1949 Austria became a member of IAESTE.
Austria became an independent country again in 1955, which was made possible only after neutrality was passed into law and Austria joined neither NATO nor the Soviet Bloc. In the following decades Vienna has regained much of its international status and is the host (or one of the hosts) of many international organisations, such as the UN, OPEC, Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.