Vienna: Really the worst city in the world?

Two articles in the Austrian edition of internet magazine Vice - on why Vienna “is really the shittiest city in the world” have provoked a heated online debate and hundreds of emails from people defending their city.

Vienna: Really the worst city in the world?
Vienna from across the Danube. Photo: Paul Gillingwater

Vienna regularly tops global consulting firm Mercer’s annual quality of living rankings. So, why has managing editor of Vice Austria, Markus Lust, been talking Vienna down?

“Actually, this is really a sort of declaration of love to the city, but packaged in a very Viennese way,” said Lust, who originally hails from Linz. “The Viennese are famous for complaining all the time – people are intentionally always very grumpy, we call it ‘grantig’. Something you’ll notice when you go to restaurants or cafes. It’s an attitude.”

But his articles (NSFW pictures) turned many readers into furious defenders of the city. Lust acknowledges that Vienna is a great place to live but thinks that “it also has problems, and I think we should acknowledge that – it’s more like a small town than a city, and because of that it has a bit of an inferiority complex.”

“We used to be bigger, we used to be part of an empire, a metropolis… we have 1.8 million inhabitants but we don’t rank alongside London, Paris or Berlin. But we like to picture ourselves as a world city.”

And although Viennese people are grumpy, they are also, admits Lust, very laid back. “You don’t have the buzz of New York but Viennese people know how to relax and enjoy themselves.”

The way people use language also sets Vienna apart from Berlin, Munich, or Zurich, Lust believes. “The way Austrians use language, it’s very passive – not direct. They’ll say something like, oh, it’s a little hot in here, so maybe we could open a window. You have to read between the lines with Viennese – which can be interesting, or annoying, depending on your perspective.”

Top on his personal list of pet-gripes about Vienna are people failing to clean up after their dogs, the lack of decent sandwiches (but who needs sandwiches when you have cake?), the city’s large ageing population, its torturous bureaucracy, rude cyclists, and the fact that shops close earlier than in many other capital cities.

“The bureaucracy really gets to you – the whole system was designed for a time when we had ten times the number of inhabitants than we do now, when Austria was a great empire. But we still have the same system, which is about to be redesigned but it will take time.  Just very basic things take so much time, like going to register your address… and the people in power like to play with you.”

And the elderly Viennese have the edge on grumpiness, he believes.

“It’s a very old-fashioned city – and the old people here tend to be quite traditional – they don’t use smart phones, or keep up with technology, and they disapprove of a lot of things young people do. If you’re making a lot of noise in the metro, they’ll tell you to shut up!”

He also contests that the quality of living is not as great as the Mercer study suggests.

“It is safe here, that’s true… And of course there is still some crime in Vienna, nasty things still happen. Berlin is cheaper, and there’s more going on. But Vienna will always welcome the Mercer study as it’s so good for its image.”

Mercer's annual survey is conducted to help employers work out what to pay and compensate their employees when placing them on international assignments.

The survey uses 39 criteria, such as political stability, health care, education, crime, leisure and transport. Vienna has been voted the world's most livable city five times in a row, with German and Swiss cities also performing well.

From The Local’s perspective, it has a vibrant cultural scene – concerts by the Vienna Philharmonic still sell out months in advance, and it also boasts a thriving nightlife and alternative music scene. Its legendary Habsburg-era coffee houses are just as buzzing in the low season as they are during tourist season. And its moderate housing costs, as well as an extensive and affordable public transport system make it a relatively easy place to live.

But you know, we’d much rather you listen to Vice and stay away.

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For members


Everything that’s new in Vienna in December

From new energy bonuses being sent out to important trials and major events, here are the important changes, dates and events happening in Vienna in December.

Everything that's new in Vienna in December

Vienna will send €200 bonuses to help cushion rising energy costs

The City of Vienna announced more government assistance to cushion rising costs for residents.

Viennese households will receive €200 in a new “energy bonus’, as The Local reported. The administration said the bonus would benefit about two-thirds of all city homes.

Single households with a gross annual income of a maximum €40,000 or multi-person households with an income of up to €100,000 gross per year are entitled to receive the payment. 

In December, every household in the capital should receive an information letter with a password they will need to use for an online application for the bonus. Once applied for, the money should arrive within a few days”.

READ MORE: Vienna Energy Bonus: How to get a €200 payout

Influenza vaccination appointments

The City of Vienna has made available 64,000 influenza vaccination appointments for December in the city’s vaccination centres and those of the ÖGK. 

The City is investing a total of €9.9 million to be able to offer the flu vaccination campaign in Vienna free of charge again this year.  The campaign will run until the end of the year unless an extension becomes necessary due to high demand.

The influenza vaccination campaign focuses on people aged over 65. This avoids multiple exposures to Covid-19 and the “real flu”. Chronically ill people, children and health or care workers are also among the priority target groups. However, influenza vaccination is also recommended to all other people.

READ ALSO: Reader question: How to get a flu vaccination in Austria?

Vienna starts inquiry committee over Wien Energie

Starting on December 2nd at the Vienna City Hall, the City Council’s investigative commission on the Wien Energie case will meet every two weeks.

On the initiative of the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), it will investigate the events surrounding the dramatic financial needs of Wien Energie that became known in the summer. The commission can summon people to testify and request documents.

They will focus on two issues.

The first concerns the extent to which Mayor Michael Ludwig and City Finance Councillor Peter Hanke have exercised their ownership rights regarding Wien Energie, which is wholly owned by the city via Wiener Stadtwerke. Specifically, the commission wants to know whether the two SPÖ politicians reacted in time and appropriately to the price increases in the electricity markets in the summer.

The second matter revolves around Ludwig’s emergency powers as head of the city, with which he granted Wien Energie loans totalling €1.4 billion. It is to be clarified whether this procedure was legally compliant and whether Ludwig should have informed committees such as the City Senate earlier.

READ ALSO: Why did Wien Energie ask for €6 billion from the Austrian government?

Terror trial continues

On November 2nd, 2020, a jihadist terrorist shot dead four people and injured more than 20 in the centre of Vienna before police forces killed him.

Now, the country is going through a complex trial involving six men who allegedly helped the shooter prepare for the attack started. The process first started in October, as The Local reported, but a final verdict is not expected until at least February.

In December, tricky trial stages are scheduled, including questioning people suspected of having sold weapons to the terrorist.

READ ALSO: Austria starts trial over Vienna jihadist shooting

Armed police officers stand guard by the area where the terrorist attack took place in Vienna, Austria on November, 2020. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

This Human World Festival

The This Human World Festival is celebrating its 15th anniversary and it focuses on the theme of human rights. In four Viennese cinemas (Schikaneder, Topkino, Gartenbaukino, Stadtkino) and two other venues (Brunnenpassage, Brotfabrik) you can watch films that deal with human rights, current conflicts and crises from December 1st to 11th. 

About 90 feature films, documentaries and short films await you – some of them will celebrate their Austrian premiere at the festival. 

The aim of the film festival is to draw attention to political and social grievances in a sensitive, stirring and occasionally humorous way.

You can read more about the event HERE.

Harry Potter: The Exhibition

“Harry Potter: The Exhibition” is touring worldwide and the major exhibition about the wizard’s universe will get its first European location in Vienna on December 16th, 2022. The show will be housed in the METAStadt in the 22nd district (Dr.-Otto-Neurath-Gasse 3).

The ticket sale has already started on the official site of the exhibition and via oeticket. Tickets are available from € 24.90 for children (up to 12 years) and € 29.90 for adults (from 13 years).


Last year, many markets around the country were cancelled after a snap lockdown in November, although some events still went ahead with strict rules in place.

But this year, the Christmas markets are back in full swing without restrictions, so make sure you visit one (or two) to really get into the Christmas spirit. Austria’s most famous markets are in Vienna, like the Christkindmarkt in front of the Town Hall that runs from November 19th to December 26th.

The Viennese markets are drawing in thousands of tourists to the Austrian capital. Don’t miss out on all the Glüwein (even if it is more expensive this year), geröstete Kastanien and Weihnachtskugeln you can get. 

FOR MEMBERS: IN PICTURES: A guide to the main Christmas markets in Austria

Public holidays

Besides Christmas (December 25th) and Stephan’s Day (December 26th), December 8th, when Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Mariä Empfängnis), is also a public holiday in Austria.

Of course, there are also several celebratory dates in December. For example, every Sunday until Christmas is an Advent Sunday, and Austrian families commemorate it in many ways, including lighting up candles.

On December 4th, there is Barbaratag, while on December 5th, Krampus pays his visit to Austrian villages and cities. On the next day, December 6th, it’s time for St Nikolaus to bring chocolate and tangerines to children who were nice during the year.

Christmas Eve, Day, and St Stephen’s Day (December 24th, 25th and 26th) are important dates for Austrian traditions.

It’s also worth noting that Austrians celebrate Christmas on the evening of December 24th, usually with a family meal.

READ ALSO: Austrian Christmas traditions: The festive dates you need to know

New Year celebrations

Expect lots of fireworks on New Year’s Eve (Silvester) in Austria – and especially in Vienna.

In the capital, the bells ring out at St. Stephan’s Cathedral to welcome in the New Year, which is also broadcast on national television. This is followed by fireworks and some even take part in a communal waltz on Rathausplatz in front of the Town Hall.

But if you really want to celebrate New Year like an Austrian, then give a marzipan pig to your nearest and dearest. The little pigs represent a good luck charm and are handed out every year on New Year’s Eve.