The World’s Most Livable City Is All About Parks, Music, and Seriously Good Cake

Vienna claimed the title of world’s most livable city in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual index once again.

Vienna street scene

Once again, Vienna took the top spot in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual ranking.

Photo by Dan V on Unsplash

Vienna once again topped the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual ranking of the world’s most livable cities. The city took the top spot in 2022, as well as in 2019 and 2018.

The rest of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s top 10 is dominated by other Western European cities (Copenhagen, Zurich, and Geneva all ranked) and Australia (Melbourne and Sydney came in third and fourth, respectively). Canadian cities also fared well with Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto all in the top 10.

Asia-Pacific cities benefited greatly in the survey in 2023, after pandemic-related border openings finally came into effect. These cities accounted for eight of the top 10 movers up the rankings. For example, Wellington, New Zealand, is now 23rd (up 35 places), Auckland, New Zealand, gained 25 spots, and Hanoi, Vietnam, is up 20 places.

Economist Intelligence Global Livability Index 2023:

1. Vienna, Austria
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
3. Melbourne, Australia
4. Sydney, Australia
5. Vancouver, Canada
6. Zurich, Switzerland
7. (tie) Calgary, Canada, and Geneva, Switzerland
9. Toronto, Canada
10. (tie) Osaka, Japan, and Auckland, New Zealand

What makes Vienna the most livable of all the great cities in the world? The Economist Intelligence Unit bases its analysis of 173 cities on five categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.

If you’re considering moving abroad, these categories are all something to be considered when picking a city to begin expat life. But even if you only have a week to spare, Vienna’s cultural scene, walkable city center, and iconic cafés all make it a strong contender for your next city getaway.

Stairway to statues in marble hall in the ornate Kunsthistorisches Museum

Inside the Kunsthistorisches Museum

Photo by / Shutterstock

It’s worth setting aside an entire afternoon to explore the collections at Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum, but also make time for newer museums, like the Whitney-like Albertina Modern and the Heidi Horten Collection, a contemporary space opened by the Austrian billionaire and art collector just days before her death in 2022.

The city’s world-class music scene is also an essential part of any visit. For just a few euro, you can snag tickets to the standing-room-only section at the Vienna State Opera.

It may not be a scientific fact that eating cake makes your life better, but it’s safe to say that Vienna’s famous Sachertorte—a chocolate cake filled with apricot jam—will bring a smile to your face. For the classics, go to Hotel Sacher or Demel. Or try the Vollpension project, “where seniors use their baking know-how to bolster their incomes in a pro-social café, which just launched a studio for in-person classes. Pick from an assortment of recipes doled out by a roster of sprightly locals, from apple strudel to Sacher-style chocolate gâteaux,” according to AFAR contributor Mark Ellwood.

A slice of Original Sacher-Torte at Hotel Sacher in Vienna

A slice of Original Sacher-Torte at Hotel Sacher in Vienna.

Photo by Leqi (Luke) Wang on Unsplash

Even better, Viennese are happy to welcome travelers to their city. According to a 2022 survey of 3,600 residents of Vienna by the Vienna Tourist Board, 90 percent of them see tourism as a positive for the city.

To experience Vienna like a local, head to one of the city’s many green spaces. One example that’s slightly off the regular tourist’s map is the leafy tree-lined lanes of the Augarten, also home to a porcelain museum and the MuTh Concert Hall, where the Vienna Boys’ Choir regularly performs.

Where to stay in Vienna

You can’t go wrong with a historic grande dame hotel like the Hotel Imperial, which opened in 1873 and is now part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection. But several exciting new properties have opened recently in Vienna, including the 99-room Rosewood in a 19th-century building on Petersplatz, the Amauris (the former Ring Hotel fresh off a gut renovation), and the Almanac, which opened in a pair of converted 1870s palaces this spring. A Mandarin Oriental is also expected to open later in 2023.

This article originally appeared online in 2018; it was updated most recently on June 22, 2023, to include current information.

Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at AFAR who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
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