As Vienna’s Ringstrasse celebrates its 150th anniversary, the Austrian capital is once again championed as the world’s best city in which to live.
Long regarded as a firm favourite on the city break circuit, Vienna can once again lay claim, for the sixth consecutive year, to being the most liveable city across the globe. According to the 2015 Quality of Living survey of 230 worldwide cities, the aim of which being to assist multinational companies determine compensation packages for employees seconded overseas, the Austrian capital provides “stability and opportunity to expatriates and their employers”.
Carried out by global consultancy firm, Mercer, the survey compared the political, social and economic climate, medical care, education, and infrastructural conditions such as public transportation, power and water supply. It also took into consideration recreational offers such as restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports facilities, the availability of all kinds of consumer goods from food to cars, as well as environmental conditions – from green space to air quality.
Indeed, the top 10 was dominated by European capital cities and centres of finance, industry and style, with only three cities outside the European continent, Auckland (3rd), Vancouver (5th) and Sydney (10th), featuring amongst the high ranking destinations. In second place came the financial powerhouse of Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city though not its capital, with the German cities of Munich, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt attaining fourth, sixth and seventh positions respectively.
Switzerland was once again represented in ninth position by Geneva, home to a wealth of international and diplomatic institutions including the headquarters of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, the World Health Organisation and the European HQ of the United Nations. The final European city to make the top 10 was beautiful Copenhagen, Denmark’s charming capital and a consistently popular city break destination.
Back to Vienna and the Austrian capital is undoubtedly worth a visit in 2015 for this year marks the 150th anniversary of the opening of the city’s famous Ringstrasse, home to some of Vienna’s most stunning architectural gems. These include the National Theatre (Burgtheater) and Vienna State Opera (Staatsoper), set in a beautiful neo-Renaissance building. Not only a prominent Viennese landmark, the Staatsoper is also a major player on the European operatic and ballet scene and even if you don’t get to see a performance, join a behind-the-scenes tour of the impressive interior.
Also situated on the Ringstrasse is the Parliament, the Palais Epstein and the late 19th-century Rathaus, seat of the city council and a rather attractive backdrop to a number of city events, most notably the Wiener Festwochen and Christmas Market. From a museum perspective, you’ll find two of the finest – the Natural History Museum and the Kunsthistorisches (Fine Arts) Museum – here as well as the magnificent Hofburg Palace complex, official residence of the Habsburg monarchy for over 600 years. One of Vienna’s most recognisable and symbolic landmarks, the Hofburg Palace, also known as the Imperial Palace, is not only home to the offices of the Austrian President, it also plays host to the Imperial Treasury, the Emperor’s Apartments, National Library, Silver Vaults and the Albertina, Neue Burg and Sisi Museums. You can also see performances of the Vienna Boys Choir and the Spanish Riding School here.
Away from the Ringstrasse, there’s plenty to tempt the tourist from both an architectural, musical and culinary perspective. Be sure to take in Schloss Schönbrunn, the former summer palace of the Habsburgs, Schloss Belvedere, built as the summer palace of Prince Eugène of Savoy and once home to Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and Stephansdom, Vienna’s distinctive cathedral with its soaring gothic tower.
Pay a visit, too, to Mozarthaus, Vienna’s leading attraction to the musical genius, Mozart. It was here, at Domgasse 5, that Mozart penned perhaps his most popular opera, The Marriage of Figaro and today the Mozarthaus offers a fascinating overview of the composer’s time in Vienna, considered the most successful period in his career.
And when it’s time for a spot of respite, stop off at one of the city’s many traditional cafes or ice cream parlours for a tasty Viennese treat!