Post-Brexit edition: Dispatches’ 2020 list of Europe’s 5 best cities for expats

TIE No. 3 Vienna: 495 points (485 in 2019)

Vienna rises on the list as Europe’s only affordable major capital while still dominating all those lists of the most livable cities.

What has worked against Vienna in the past was location, far from the center of Europe’s business and tech centers in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Luxembourg, Brussels and Paris. What lands it on this 2020 list is, ironically, location. Vienna is close to where we predict the action will be in the coming years, and that’s Emerging Europe, specifically Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia. That and its startup and tech scenes have gone from zero to 100 just since we were there to cover the ecosystem in 2016.

Since we’ve been there a lot, we can verify that Vienna is – by most people’s definition – the most beautiful city on this list, with urban parks, recreation, party spots along the Danube and endless cultural opportunities and events.

Last year, it was not at the top of our list because of the Far Right government. That’s changed a bit, with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz drifting closer to Germany and distancing himself from Far Right groups.


• Overall cost of living compared with London: Score 75

Vienna is about 37-percent cheaper overall, according to Expatistan with no sacrifice in quality of life, at least in our opinion.

• Quality of life/housing: Score 85

Rents in Vienna are about half of those in London, according to Expatica.

That’s because Vienna just keeps building to stay ahead of the influx of people. Entire new sections of the city have come online since 2015, including Aspern Seestadt as well as a supply of social housing for middle-class residents. The public transportation matrix is one of the best – if not the best – in the world. And the city has more arts and entertainment than just about anywhere in Europe, in the same league with Paris and London.

• Talent and serious career opportunities: Score 80

In The Valley Model, Stanford creates the talent, the big tech companies hire the talent, the VCs finance the startups, and the startups rule the world. Vienna doesn’t really have any those things, though the University of Vienna ranked a respectable No. 134 in the world. Nevertheless, Vienna’s startup scene has matured since our first list in 2016, producing more startups raising millions such as PlanRadar, which digitizes the construction industry.

Vienna hast multinationals with operations/headquarters including arms manufacturer Styer-Mannlicher, Johnson Controls, IBM, GE, and easyJet’s Europe HQ. Finally, Vienna and all of Austria have a labor shortage, with about 200,000 jobs going unfilled nationwide. Austria has a low unemployment rate of about 4.8 percent as of last August.

Vienna is rising on the European Digital City Index, which uses hard data to rank how European cities support digital entrepreneurship.

• Prevalence of English: Score 70

English isn’t the main business language, though about 70 percent of people in Vienna are fluent.

 International schools: Score 100

Vienna has at least 9 international schools with something for almost every family’s budget. See Part 1 here and Part 2 here of our Dispatches list of schools in Vienna.

• Corruption: Score 85

Austria ranks No. 14 on Transparency International’s list, just below Tier 1 societies such as Denmark, Switzerland and Finland.

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