Find out the real reasons why Vienna is consistently voted the worlds most liveable city..
Each year that I have lived in Vienna, since 2012, I’ve been proudly sharing the announcement of Vienna being voted the Worlds Most Liveable City. Inevitably, my mum will post a comment with a counter-article about Melbourne, my hometown, being voted number 1 in a different survey, bless her, but Vienna has my heart for now!
Every year, I read the gushing articles about Vienna from newspapers and magazines and big-name websites, but none of them really seem to get why Vienna is the worlds most liveable city.
They talk about the classical music history, or the palaces, or the architecture, but they never really touch on the true essence behind why it is such a glorious place to live, month-in month-out, and the steps the city takes to make it more than just a tourist hotspot, but a haven for locals.
So this is my run at capturing the best bits of life in Vienna – I’d love to hear what you think makes this city the worlds best in the comments below!
Why Vienna is the Worlds Most Liveable City Every Year
Though rental prices and up-front costs can be daunting when you first move here, over time, the affordability of living in Vienna far exceeds cities of similar stature like London, Sydney or Paris for example.
Rent in Vienna will not take more than 30% of your income. That’s not hearsay, that’s by design – 60% of the city property is social housing. When I tell my friends who live in London what we pay in rent, they weep – particularly as we have a roomy 2 bedroom apartment with small balcony around the corner from a palace and only 15 minutes from the city center.
This is not a humblebrag – our situation is not unusual in a city of 1.8 million. In fact, because we live outside the Gürtel, some folk would say we live ‘out in the sticks’ for Vienna.
Affordability is also more than rent – the cost of alcoholic drinks & cigarettes are lower (if that’s your thing), restaurant meals will rarely top out over €60 – €70 for two people including wine, and most major events in the city are free to attend. That includes the Wine Wandertag, the Donauinselfest, any and all Rathaus festivals, celebrations on public holidays and heaps of non-ticketed parades and beer festivals you can just wander into on any given weekend.
Public swimming pools across the city are just €4 entry for the whole day, public transport is as low as €1 a day on the annual ticket, beach bars and Christmas markets are freely accessible, the options really are endless.
Living a good enjoyable life is easy in Vienna, because it is affordable, more so than most capital cities.
This is definitely a cultural thing, because Austrians love to get out of the office and off into the great outdoors.
In most workplaces, people leave the office by 2pm on a Friday, having fulfilled their contractual 38.5 hours a week.
They are likely off doing the grocery shopping or hopping on a train to a nearby mountain for a hiking weekend, or wine tasting in the nearby vineyards. The Viennese definitely embrace a much more balanced approach to working culture, where there is as much time dedicated to families and sports as there is to work.
This doesn’t come without its flaws – working parents can be infuriated by the number of half days, holidays and early finishing times for school-aged children, and if you work for a more international company they may not have the same flexibility, but in general, the population of Vienna works hard and leaves on time to relax hard too.
This also extends to the infamous ‘closed stores on Sundays’ that bothers so many unsuspecting travellers and new arrivals to the city.
Vienna still has some legacy traditions from centuries of Catholic Habsburg rule, and quiet family time on Sundays is one of them. Though it can be an inconvenience that stores close by 7pm on weekdays and don’t open at all on Sundays, once you adjust your internal clock, it actually gives you more free time to unwind and relax.
The Viennese have definitely conquered work-life balance.
While tourists might love the grand strolls around Schonbrunn Palace or the Naschmarkt, the locals are enjoying some real outdoorsy activities, right on the doorstep of Vienna.
From the extreme outdoor sports like wakeboarding at the Danube, or a treetops ropes course on Kahlenberg, to the very accessible outdoor gyms in public parks, Vienna encourages it’s residents to get outdoors and active in a number of natural ways.
The cycling paths throughout the city and into the old town also encourage residents to take the bike over driving, and the extended cycling paths to surrounding suburbs also make a great day trip on weekends to find hidden heuriger wine taverns.
Speaking of wine….
Even if you’re not a fan of wine, you have to admit that the vineyards and wine villages surrounding Vienna are pretty damn adorable. Vienna is one of the last remaining cities in Europe to have active vineyards within the city limits.
Not only are they picturesque, they sell super cheap and delicious wine. You can get a fresh glass for as little as €2, served to you by the vineyard owner as you overlook the sunset across the mighty Danube river and nibble on home-made meat and cheese platters.
In the spring and Autumn months, the vineyard owners throw open their doors for wine walking days, where you can hop between wine taverns tasting as you go and hike your way around the major wine districts of the city.
If that’s not your idea of a fairytale existence for a major metropolitan city…well….I don’t know what to tell you friend.
Location, Location, Location
There are so many travel opportunities from Vienna. Trains to Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany… Budapest is just a 2-hour train ride away (check my Weekend Guide to Budapest here). Even with all of Vienna’s charms, you can easily escape for a weekend away to surrounding countries and cities in the blink of an eye.
Add the flight opportunities to that? London in 2.5 hours, Moscow in 4, Dubai in 6 hours, Spain in 2, Greece in 2 hours….Toronto is only 8 hours away! I realize as an Australian 8 hours is short to me and may be long for others, but honestly, with so many countries nearby, you’ll never feel stuck in Vienna.
Oh, and yes, there are downsides to a landlocked country – there being no beach is a major one. But, Italian, Croatian and Greek coastlines are never that far away when you need your sun and sand fix.
Viennese Humour & Approach to Life
This one takes a while to ‘get’ if you aren’t aware of it. In fact, the best description I’ve ever heard was from the original Viennese celebrity himself, Christoph Walz.
‘The Austrians are to the Germans, what the Irish are to the English’
Although it may not feel that way on your first interaction, Austrians and yes, even Viennese are funny – in a very dry, arch way.
Their approach to life is relaxed – not lazy, exactly – but I think the phrase ‘shau ma mal’ (let’s see) combined with a squinched up face and palm in the air best sums up their attitude to most things. It’s more ‘we see how it goes’ than aggressive ‘better get this right’ or a nonchalant ‘eh, who cares’. The Viennese fall in a unique place between those things in that they care deeply, but execute in a relaxed way.
Just Viennese things 💕 Starting the day on cobbled streets with views of a Fiaker. Would you take a ride?⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ Tbh a lot of people see these ‘Fiaker’ carriages as cruel for the horses, but I’m not 100% on that, seeing the way the riders treat their horses and knowing the historical role of horse drawn carriages in Vienna. Plus there’s a lot of people who rely on these for income for their families and livelihood. I’m against animal cruelty but don’t really know enough about the regulations in place here to make an informed decision. What do you guys think? Know any good resources about this?
It’s hard to define, but it certainly makes your life easier…most of the time. If you’re waiting on official documents or approvals it can be infuriating!
The number 1 thing that most articles raving about Vienna’s quality of life miss, is that the city is actually filled with creative independent stores, pop up food trucks, a vibrant student population, and the streets are thrumming with artists, writers, creators, bloggers, opera singers, woodworkers and creative people of all stripes.
Sure they’ll talk about the cultural side of things – yes we have hundreds of museums, and opera and classical music shows are easy to attend which is fab!
What they miss is the open mic poetry slam nights, the design festivals in breweries, the pop-up flohmarkts in boutique hotels on weekends, the dance festivals and all the creative energy of a city filled with people who see the pursuit of art and creativity as a virtue, not a ‘waste of time’.
In the 4th and 7th districts you can see the fruits of this – with independent fashion stores, art galleries, cafes and ceramic stores run by locals. In almost any cafe you can spot a student or writer or freelancer working away on their grand plans.
Its what I love most about the city, and the social structures in place that allow creative pursuits to flourish is one of the best things about living in Vienna.
It’s just so damn beautiful.
I might be biased on this front, because I swoon at most European cities, but my God, Vienna has an incredible mix of historic architecture, rolling vineyards, outdoorsy woods and huge public parks and green spaces to enjoy.
Vienna street scenes 💕 Cafe Diglas here in the first district has been around in one form or another since 1923 😲 The current design is from the 1950s and the entire place is an adorable Viennese coffeehouse- but if the suns shining I’d be outside like these guys 😊 Do you have a favorite classic coffeehouse in Vienna? . . . . . #wien #vienna #austria #igersvienna #visitvienna #viennanow #living_europe #vienna_city #welovevienna #austrianblogger #wonderlustvienna #igerswien #igersaustria #discovervienna
Of course, with the river Danube running right through the city you’ll find yourself perched by the waterside sipping an Aperol Spritz most balmy evenings in the summer, or going for lazy swims and stand up paddleboarding in the Alte Donau, where all locals flock in the heat of summer. In the cooler
In the cooler months, it’s all about hiking the Lainzer Tiergarten, the Lobau reserve or uphill to Coblenz or Wilhelminenburg to look out across the city (and maybe reward yourself with a fresh glass of delicious wine).
Vienna is beautiful architecturally and naturally thanks to its location, and every time I walk its streets I feel lucky to live here.
What makes Vienna the worlds most liveable city in your books? Let me know in the comments!
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