Quality of Life Makes Vienna "World's Top City"

Feb 26, 2016 by apost team

The Austrian capital ranks at the top of socioeconomic conditions study index while New York, London and Paris list below top 35

According to the research by an international study group, Vienna is the world's best city for residency. Baghdad ranked worst. But surprisingly, London, New York and Paris are not even listed within the top 35.

Cities where German is the primary language dominate the list of top cities as part of the Mercer Quality of Life 18th survey. Vienna shares the top seven with Zurich, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich.

Paris fell 10 positions to rank 37th, only a few rankings ahead of London, as attributed to the City of Lights' terrorist attack vulnerability.

Social and economic conditions were examined as part of the study, along with health, housing, environment and education. Major employers use this data to determine where their locations should be, as well as how much employees should be compensated.

Vienna's top position did not come as a surprise to Viennese-born Helena Hartlauer, according to the 32-year-old native. Her city's social democratic government has historically invested in social housing of the highest quality, helping to ensure Vienna is more affordable for residents than other major cities.


Paris slid down 10 places and is now ranked 37th.

Hartlauer told The Guardian, "I live in a 100sq metre turn-of-the-century apartment in a good area about 20 minutes’ walk from the city centre. But my rent is just €800 (£625) a month." A similarly positioned and appointed dwelling in London would cost more than £2,000. In New York, the 44th ranked city by Mercer, the cost would be much higher.

Personal safety and crime cause American cities to perform poorly as compared to European locations in the study. San Francisco ranked at 28th in the report, as the highest ranking city in the United States. Boston ranked at 34th. Vancouver led Canadian cities, far ahead of the United States metropolitan areas with the results.

Hartlauer expressed appreciation for her city, saying, “You don’t realize how safe Vienna is until you head abroad. We also have terrific public transport, with the underground working 24 hours at weekends, and it only costs €1 per trip [for those who buy a €365 annual card]."

New York secured rank 44 on the index.

The demise of the Berlin Wall is attributed as one large benefit for Vienna's prosperity. This made the city the gateway to countries in Europe's east, those with ties throughout history as related to the former Austro-Hungarian empire.

Martin Eichtinger, the Austrian ambassador to London, told the Guardian, "Our big USP is our geographic location. The fall of the Berlin Wall helped define Vienna as the hub for companies wanting to do business in central Europe." He has resided in Vienna for over 20 years.


The World Bank purports that Austria boasts a healthy economy for its residents, with one of the highest figures for gross domestic product per head in the world. This is only just behind the United States and more than the United Kingdom and Germany. Neighboring Switzerland is a great deal higher, in regard to GDP.

Switzerland's city of Zurich is touted by Mercer as offering the world's second-ranked quality of life in the world. But Viennese residents are quick to claim that their home city is far more engaging and fun that Zurich. Hartlauer told The Guardian, "There are more students in Vienna than any other German-speaking city. It’s a very fast-growing, young and lively city." Of course, Hartlauer works for the city's tourism board, so her opinion is an educated perspective of marketing.

Brits on weekend travels leave their city to enjoy European destinations. But Vienna has long been ignored as a prime spot for these types of excursions. Most Brits head to Barcelona or Berlin, believing Austria to be a haven for skiers, mountaineering and enjoyment of area lakes.

London Eye. The city has never made it to Mercer's Top 10.

As budget-friendly flights increase from UK cities like Manchester and Edinburgh, Vienna is on the fast track to popularity among travellers from Britain. 2015 brought almost 600,000 Brits to Vienna, as 18 percent more than 2014's results. This increase is cooperative, however. Vienna residents also flock to Britain, with London being the top city for Austrian travelers to visit.

According to Mercer, "Vienna has ranked top in the last seven published rankings. It scores highly in a number of categories; it provides a safe and stable environment to live in, a high level of public utilities and transport facilities, and good recreational facilities.”

Because of the European migrant crisis, a large influx of asylum seeking refugees has passed through Vienna, headed towards Germany. This has not had a significant impact on the Austrian city of almost 1.8 million residents, according to Eichinger. He added, "We have managed to accommodate 90,000 refugees in Austria, but the numbers have slowed in recent months."

Auckland viewed from Mount Eden, is the highest ranking English-speaking city in the survey.

London's negative scores for things like air pollution, congested traffic and weather keep that city from the quality-of-life top rankings. It has never ranked in the top ten in the annual report. Edinburgh falls below London, at 46th place.

Paris has suffered a great deal in the annual rankings, due to major newsworthy events occurring in that city over the past year. "Paris has remained stable for several years but has this year dropped 10 places overall in the overall ranking," according to Mercer.

This drop can be attributed to the dramatic and deadly terrorist attacks of 2015. But Mercer added, "It is important to highlight that safety issues are a very highly weighted factor within the ‘basket’ so any small adjustments can have a big impact on the ranking.


New Zealand's top city of Auckland ranked the highest among English-speaking counterparts in the survey. It landed in third place, with Vancouver following as the next English-speaking city at fifth. Australia's cities tend to perform well in the annual survey. This is evidenced through Sydney's ranking at 10th and Melbourne at 15th position. Melbourne consistently ranks as The Economist's most liveable city in the world. But that survey is often criticised as being too weighted toward English-speaking cities.

All of the cities ranking poorly are placed in such positions due to war and political unrest. Damascus is surprisingly ranked at seventh worst, higher than one would expect due to its climate of unrest and civilian threat. It is ranked better than Baghdad and the Central African Republic's city of Bangui. Yemen city Sana'a, Haiti capital of Port-au-Prince, Khartoum of Sudan and N'Djamena of Chad all ranked lower.