Do you live in the best place to live? I don’t, but I used to. Find out why Vienna Austria is the world’s most livable city, and how you as a traveller can test it, using seven key insider travel tips.
Best Place to Live: Official Rankings
Vienna has been ranking among the most livable cities in the top 8 places of three respected annual ‘quality of life’ rankings during the past six years, with some consistent no.1 rankings throughout.
- Quality of Living Survey (Mercer Consulting): no.1 (2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010)
- Global Liveability Ranking and Report (Economist Intelligence Unit): no.2 (2014, 2013, 2012, 2011); no.3 (2010)
- Quality of Life Survey (Monocle Magazine): no. 6 (2014) no. 5 (2013) no. 4 (2012), no. 6 (2011); no.8 (2010)
The surveys take hard and soft factors such as political and economic environment, healthcare, housing, public transport, environment, education, cultural offer and more into consideration.
Details And Test Travel Tips
If you visit Vienna do a few key things to fully experience the quality of life there. I’ll show you SEVEN THINGS TO DO. If you search for the best place to live and move there tick those key factors below that matter to you and compare them with your priority list.
Austria is an Elysium in many respects: It is a safe haven, far from political, social and economic turmoils. More working age people than anywhere else in Europe (except Germany) are employed (4,9% according to Eurostat, as per 2014). In Austria and Vienna, we earn good salaries, keep a low crime rate, and we hate strikes. If we demonstrate, it’s mostly peaceful. As for crime statistics, Vienna’s crime rate is half that of New York City (source: numbeo.com).
Test tips: Feel free to walk back to your hotel after a concert or opera. Keep an eye on your belongings as usual. Don’t worry about transport strikes – they are VERY rare.
Vienna is co-governed by the Green Party. Its shows in a relentless focus on clean green space, water and air, little noise, environmentally-friendly energy and no messing with waste. In a European pollution index, Vienna comes out as 11th least polluted city among 89 European towns (May, 2015, source: numbeo.com). [I think it could do better, and it likely will in the next couple of years.] Vienna is one of the world cities closest to sustainable waste management. We take recycling and composting seriously. District heating through thermal recycling is a growing trend.
What my little son loves about Vienna: drinking his shower water. It is mountain spring water, arriving from Hochschwab mountains through Vienna’s Mountain Spring Pipeline directly to your bathroom and kitchen.
More than half of Vienna is green space. We love to hang out in parks and gardens. The biggest green space in the city is Lainzer Tiergarten (Lainz Nature Reserve).
Finally, Vienna is the only world city cultivating its own vineyards.
Test tips: choose a Green Hotel such as Boutique Hotel Stadthalle or Steigenberger Hotel Herrenhof with its rooftop beehive; visit urban garden project Karlsgarten in the centre; use a mobile water fountain to refresh yourself during hot summers; go on a Prater biking tour or borrow a City Bike; take an hour to hike through the Vienna Woods and vineyards of Neustift and Grinzing; get a Green Taxi; make sure you picnic on a permitted area – not all park lawns can be used for picnics.
Vienna has one of the densest, most reliable and modern public transport systems in the world: You can whizz through Vienna on 143 lines, getting on and at more than 5,000 public transport stops (not bad for an area totalling just 415 square kilometres). with five metro lines, 29 tramway lines, and 90 bus lines. Wherever in town, you are almost never further than 5 minutes from a tramway, train, metro or bus station. Many of them indicate imminent arrivals and work seamlessly. Most tramways run with good frequency between 5am and midnight.
Ticket fares are comparably cheap. For example, a 24-hour ticket including use of all public transport costs EUR 7.60 (as per May 2015).
At the start of the 20th century Vienna was built to house two million inhabitants. Many inner city buildings were elegant town houses with spacious rooms and high ceilings. The number of inhabitants was reduced massively through two consecutive world wars. Today, we have around 1,8 million inhabitants, while creating some 20,000 new apartments over the next years. This is expected to keep already reasonable real estate prices down. Prices per square meters for a flat outside the center are €3,500 (May 2015; source: numbeo.com)
Test tips: To feel the traditional ‘grand space’, book a hotel or apartment located in a historic townhouse. Go for a B&B or private apartment in a residential neighbourhood to get a feel for local housing and living.
Vienna ranks 6th place for quality of healthcare among 49 European cities (May 2015, source: numbeo.com). My local family and I have stayed at a few Vienna hospitals and they were all professionally run, clean and accessible. Since I moved away, I have found I’m not the only traveller/expat who does regular health checks when in Vienna. Our public health system is excellent, according to WHO and OECD, robust and doctors top class. Accessing great medical care in Vienna is still easier than in many European cities. Most specialists have their own practices outside the hospitals and take direct (private) appointments, or appointments by referrals through local GP’s.
Test tips: Search for a Vienna doctor to arrange a health check while you are in town.
Going out to have fun and join top cultural events makes a difference to your life. On average, Vienna stages seven large events per day. It’s fairly normal for a Vienna middle class family to have an annual concert, opera or theatre subscription, dressing up for several of our 450 annual balls, or go to a bar, nightclub or open air event. (I’m not even speaking of tourist magnets Vienna Boys Choir, Spanish Riding School, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.) An opera premiere review is covered with almost the same importance in the prime evening news as a natural disaster.
Test tips: Check a classical concerts calendar for Vienna, and venues such as Musikverein, Konzerthaus and the Vienna State Opera.
Vienna follows its own Charter to promote ‘good neighbourly relations’ between all citizens. This includes respect and tolerance towards different religions, world views, and same-sex relationships. You can generally kiss and hold hands with your partner in public – whether you are hetero, gay or lesbian – without fear of being hassled. In the odd case of a stupid remark, chin up and refer to the Vienna Charta…
Test tips: Get to know local Viennese and hear their world views during a taxi ride, or a Vienna Coffeehouse Conversation; visit Life Ball;
Where Vienna Needs To Improve
Vienna has to improve in two major areas to maintain its top positions as the best place to live.
Vienna’s schools and universities need to improve their international competitiveness. Austrian school kids have been hovering below or just above average in the international PISA study. Universities need more top class international lecturers and partly reform their curricula.
Ever tried to shop for groceries, fashion, computers or books on a Sunday in Vienna? According to the Retail Opening Hours Act from 2008 you should be able to grab souvenirs and sweets, and buy fresh flowers from a stand. As Monocle Magazine never tires to point out, Vienna won’t cut it as best place to live in the long term if it doesn’t liberalise its retail shopping hours.