Living in Vienna: A guide to Austria’s capital

Living in Vienna: A guide to Austria’s capital

by Jakob Straub

Updated November 7, 2022

Austria’s capital has a unique and cosmopolitan flair: Vienna is a city of art and culture where you’ll encounter imperial splendour at virtually every corner. A buzzing and modern metropolis with a history reaching back centuries, the city can be thrilling and laid-back at the same time.

Vienna’s heritage of classical music, its coffee house tradition, the Modernist heritage and impressive architecture and the city’s many parks make it easy to understand why it’s a popular destination for travellers.

The city ranks consistently high for quality of life and enjoyment. Are you considering visiting Vienna or moving there altogether? Find out the best tips with our city guide for expats and digital nomads headed for Vienna.

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Why Vienna is a good place to live

Austria’s capital is among the wealthiest European cities in more than one sense. Not only does Vienna have a high per capita income and thriving economy, but it’s also rich in culture. The city’s musical legacy includes Beethoven and Mozart, you’ll always walk amid stunning architecture and the many museums and art galleries reward you with plenty of high culture.

The city and its inhabitants keep Vienna clean. Pristine streets, buildings and facilities make you feel right at home. With around 280 parks in the city, there’s lots of space for recreation and relaxation and the high air quality is remarkable. If you want to be in nature, Vienna’s proximity to the countryside has you exploring the surrounding lush hills and rural landscapes in no time.

Vienna is a safe city where driving on the roads, being out in the street at night or riding public transport by yourself will hardly make you uncomfortable. Speaking of getting around, public transportation is affordable and works well. Vienna is well connected to the rest of Europe, so that you can explore other countries easily. 

Living in Vienna as a student can be cheap, especially when compared with other popular study destinations such as London, Barcelona or Paris. You can rent a single bedroom apartment or studio for a few hundred euros and can save even more when you’re willing to share a flat with others.

Living in Vienna: neighbourhood guide

The Vienna neighborhoods are distinct districts (Bezirke) which you can easily identify by their names and numbers. The first district in the centre is posh, expensive and touristy, but the other ones wrap around it.

Notable neighbourhoods for living in Vienna are: Leopoldstadt, the second district, offers a great balance between central location, historic buildings, parks and bars, cafes and markets. Landstraße and Wieden (3 and 4) are laid back with good vibes for young families and artists, and green spaces for recreation.

Mariahilf, Neubau, or Josefstadt (6, 7, 8) are great when you want to be among the hipsters spending their nights out on the cobblestone streets among the many trendy shops.

Margareten, Favoriten, Fünfhaus, Ottakring and Brigittenau (5, 10, 15, 16, 20) are cheaper districts with character, hidden treasures and multicultural life. Hietzing, Währing and Döbling (13, 18, 19) are wealthy suburbs with high rents.

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Living in Vienna pros and cons

Depending on your living preferences, ideal climate and circumstances, not everything about Vienna is necessarily coming up roses for you. Before you make your move, weigh the pros and cons of living in Austria’s capital with our side-by-side comparison.

Transportation: Vienna is a very bicycle-friendly city, has excellent public transportation and is well connected to other European cities by rail and plane.Prices are relatively standard for a world-class capital, but comparatively expensive among European cities. Austria is not a cashless society, so expect to pay cash in many places.
Austrian and Viennese culture is lively and you’ll find world-class museums, opera, classical and modern music, astonishing architecture and tasty cuisine in the city.Depending on your preferences, things to do in Vienna are less diverse than in other capitals of similar size. Things close on Sundays or the weekend!
English is widely spoken, though not all Austrians do so. Yet because English is a popular business language, it’s always on the rise.The weather definitely gets cold and dark in the winter for quite some time. Stay away if you can’t deal with four full seasons.
Austria has a good healthcare system and you’ll get access as an expat.Similar to German culture, making local friends is a slow and steady process instead of instant acquaintances.
Austria has a high democracy index and the city is family and LGBTQ+ friendly.If you consider German hard to learn, the Austrian variant of the language adds an extra challenge. (Find out more about the differences in dialects.)
Vienna is very safe and has good infrastructure with safe roads, fast internet and high quality of education.Locals in Vienna have a certain attitude which foreigners often perceive as rude, though it just comes down to cultural differences. It’s definitely not the service mentality you might be used to from the US!
It’s fairly easy for foreigners to do business in Vienna (though income tax is high).Housing can be expensive and challenging to find. Expect to pay (high) agent fees!

Living in Vienna as an expat or digital nomad

Vienna ranks among the top hundred destinations for digital nomads and expats, making it a popular and rewarding city for foreigners. Local and international inhabitants report a high happiness factor because of the good quality of life score. Austria’s capital has a reputation for being family-friendly, safe and relaxing and friendly to foreigners.

Internet speed is fast with an average of 42 Mbps, air quality is good and there are sufficient places such as coworking spaces from which you can work. However, the difficulty of starting your own business in the city (or in Austria) is moderately high and the housing or office space expenses for a central location can be prohibitive for some.

Cost of living

The cost of living in Vienna varies, depending on your status and the services available to you. When you’re only passing through as a digital nomad, you’ll spend more on average with monthly expenses of roughly €2,400. Expats living in Vienna average minimal monthly costs of at least less €1,500 while locals need a minimum of €1,000 a month. (All costs and prices according to Nomadlist; cost of living includes cheap rent, groceries and not eating out.) 

The average price for a cup of coffee is €3. You’ll spend around €4 for half a litre of beer in a pub or restaurant, and you can have a cheap dinner for around €9. A coworking opportunity will set you back around €150 per month and a one-bedroom studio apartment in a central neighbourhood comes to around €700 per month plus expenses. These are rough rule-of-thumb guidelines, and exceptions are always possible. (Compare these to the cost of living in Switzerland.)

Quality of life in Vienna

For a decade (from 2009 to 2019), Vienna has topped the Mercer list of cities with the highest quality of living in the world. As you can see from our summary above, major contributing factors were quality education and healthcare, transport and infrastructure, a well-developed economy and high safety rating, a green environment with low pollution, Vienna’s central location at the heart of Europe and last but not least the city’s rich culture.

Are you tempted by these advantages of living in the country’s capital? Find out more about Vienna, the country and its inhabitants with our overview of the languages spoken in Austria.

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Jakob is a freelance writer in Barcelona, Spain, and his favorite books have pages all empty. As an expert storyteller, he publishes creative fiction in English and German and helps other authors shape their manuscripts into compelling stories. Thanks to an expertise in a wide range of topics such as writing, literature and productivity to marketing, travel, and technology, he produces engaging content for his clients. Apart from the escape that books offer, Jakob enjoys traveling digital nomad style and stays active with climbing and hiking. Find out more about him on his website, Twitter or on Goodreads.

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