Top 20 liveable cities / Vienna
05 - Vienna
Vienna is back at the heart of Europe – its well-connected airline helped put it in fifth place.
Mittel-European grandeur meets modernity in the new Vienna. The Austrian capital, famous for its rich cultural heritage, also has a progressive eco-friendly municipal government. Smart white and red trams cover 30 routes, and the metro is punctual, smooth and clean. By 2010 the network of cycle lanes will be 800km long. Vienna is one of Europe’s greenest capitals in every sense, with around 90 parks and gardens. Its student population of 120,000 keeps the city young and lively. The city boasts a thriving contemporary arts scene.
Austrians take a more relaxed view of the world than their German neighbours. There’s always time for a leisurely outdoor lunch or a coffee in one of the city’s historic cafés. But Vienna is also evolving. The former slaughterhouse area, covering 177,000 sq m, is being turned into a technology and office complex. But while infrastructure is world-class, business culture is not. Entrepreneurs complain of a bureaucracy that they suggest has barely evolved since the Austro-Hungarian empire. Kafkaesque legislation and heavy taxes slow the job market.
However, Vienna is attracting young people from across Europe. Ouriel Morgensztern, 31, is it director of centropa.org, a digitised archive of Jewish eastern Europe. He moved to Vienna from Paris four years ago. “The quality of life here is better than in France,” he says. “The infrastructure and social security system is much more developed, and access to medicine is easier. The quality of service for our computer systems is among the best in Europe.”
Vienna is also reaching out to its eastern neighbours. Before the Second World War, Vienna and neighbouring Bratislava, the Slovak capital, were linked by the same public transport system. A new catamaran service that zips straight down the Danube now links the two and takes just 75 minutes. Vienna is a city that is finding its place in the world.
International flights: each week 2,253 scheduled flights leave from Vienna international airport to 147 countries. Austrian Airlines has developed a sophisticated route network across the region and continues to bolster its hub.
Crime: murders, 56; domestic break-ins 11,281 (2006).
State education: the state education system is well-regarded internationally. State schools are free. State universities are also free, and have a liberal admissions policy. Vienna has eight state universities.
Health care: world-class state-funded medical care is widely available.
Sunshine: annual average, 2,350 hours.
Temperature: in January the average temperature is -1C, in July 20C.
Wired: excellent communications infrastructure and mobile coverage. A planned optical-fibre network will bring super-high speed internet connections to the whole city within the next 10 to 15 years. There are 121 free Wi-Fi hotspots.
Tolerance: Vienna is gay-friendly. The municipality has passed anti-discrimination laws. Attitudes to race often depend on age. The older generation is often conservative and may be prejudiced, especially against people from the Balkans and the developing world.
Drinking and shopping: there are great late-night places such as Café Drechsler, recently revamped and open virtually 24 hours. Late-night shopping remains tricky due to restrictive labour laws.
Transport: expect to pay around €12 for a cross-town ride in an air-conditioned Mercedes with a courteous driver. Public transport is excellent, clean, safe and reliable, especially the trams.
Local media: thriving broadcast local media scene, centred at the Media Quarter Marx, a regional media hub, supported by €57m from the municipality.
International media: major international newspapers are widely available and also a news-gathering hub for international news organisations.
Green space: almost 50 per cent of greater Vienna is green space.
Access to nature: there are 49 forests within the city limits.
Environmental initiatives: approved by a UN development programme, the Vienna Eco Business plan, launched in 1998, blends good business practices with environmental concerns.
Monocle metrics: FM4 is one of the best radio stations on the planet, the public pools attract handsome locals, it’s home to the Loos Bar and our favourite footwear brand Ludwig Reiter.