7 Reasons Why Vienna is the Best City for Expats in 2016 

by Dominic James Fusco

Yet again (for the seventh year in a row!), Vienna has been proclaimed the world’s best city for expats in 2016. Basically, if Vienna were a sports team instead of a culturally refined city in the heart of Central Europe, they’d be shattering some serious championship records right now! 

Hofburg Imperial Palace, Vienna, Austria

Mercer’s annual quality of life rankings were recently released, placing Austria’s capital in the top spot once again (right in front of of Zurich, Auckland, Munich, and Vancouver). Mercer’s rankings take into account multiple factors, including prosperity, opportunity, culture, efficiency, and safety, to determine where in the world are the most desirable destinations for companies and organizations to send their employees overseas. For nearly a decade, that place has been in Vienna, which means #jobopportunities!

But beyond these rankings, statistics, and sociological measures, what is it exactly that makes Vienna the best city for expats in the world? We’ll break it down for you, in case you weren’t already sold by Vienna’s almost annoying reputation at the top. Below you’ll find the top reasons why Vienna is the world’s best city for expats: 

1. Historical Prominence 

Beginning with the beginning; Vienna has been an influential global city for a very long time. Vienna first became the resident city of the Habsburg Dynasty in the 15th century, then the de facto capital of the Holy Roman Empire until the 19th century, and then the actual capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the early 20th century. Today, Vienna is the capital of Austria, one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and serves as a major headquarters for many important international organizations and corporations. And if that’s not enough...

Vienna city view

2. Cultural Legacy 

Throughout this entire history of constantly evolving global prominence, Vienna has managed to retain its position as a beacon of high culture and innovation within the global community. Most widely regarded for its rich musical legacy, Vienna’s influence expands far beyond the opera house into other fields, such as philosophy, art, and scientific research. Some of the most notable Viennese alumni include composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, psychologist Sigmund Freud, director Fritz Lang, and physicist Erwin Schrödinger. Not a bad lineage for expats in Vienna to contribute to. 

3. Geographical Crossroads

Let’s move forward to establish a bit more about Vienna’s modern context. Settled neatly in the Vienna basin on the Eastern slopes of the Austrian Alps, Vienna finds itself not only in a position of immense natural beauty, but also at the greater cultural crossroads, where Western Europe meets Eastern Europe. It is an archetypal Central European city that endured significant turmoil in the Cold War theater, only to re-establish itself as one of the world’s greatest cities in the 21st century.  Vienna’s setting, thus, provides more than just a pristine natural backdrop; its location has played a deeply influential role in the city’s hybrid cultural identity as well.

Vienna City View

4. Urban Planning

Beyond Vienna’s picturesque scenery and unique geopolitical context, a large part of its livability also manifests from the physical beauty and public cleanliness of the city itself. To put it simply, Vienna is exceptionally charming. Cobblestone streets, imposing historical architecture, sprawling gardens, spacious public squares, and niche shopping of all different sorts makes everyday life in Vienna for expats very pleasant. The larger metropolitan area is also connected efficiently by an extensive system of subways, buses, and trains, making expat life that much easier. 

5. Immersive Opportunities

Even more impressive than its natural blessings are the immense cultural opportunities which lie within. Vienna is home to an array of some of the world’s most impressive museums, theaters, universities, historical monuments, and other enriching avenues of cultural exploration. Vienna even holds classical balls at local opera houses several times a year, which are completely open to the public, expats included! Part of what makes Vienna the world's best city for expats are these endless opportunities for immersion and refinement amidst an increasingly international community. 

6. Endless Gastronomy

Where would we be if we did not bring up gastronomy at this point? From bottomless wiener schnitzel and hot apple strudel to some of the finest wine and craft breweries in the world, expats working in Vienna will not struggle to find pleasurable dining experiences. “Café culture” has been a central tenant of life in Vienna for centuries, with local residents of all different professions and backgrounds coming together to make great conversation over everyone’s favorite caffeinated pastime (Viennese café’s invented filtering coffee…enough said).

Café Building, Vienna, Austria

7. Global Orientation 

Finally, perhaps the most important aspect that makes Vienna the best expat city in the world is its global orientation. A list of acronyms for all the global organizations with headquarters in Vienna reads more like a confused jumble of scrabble tiles than any system of cohesive international establishments (UN, OPEC, CTBTO, OSCE, FRA, and UNIDO, we’ll stop there before you get confused).

The point is that Vienna is a very progressive, outward looking, and all-embracing city, making it the perfect environment to seek out jobs abroad. For these reasons and so many more, Vienna continues to retain its prestigious number one position as the world's best city for expats.