Vienna is one of the most unique cities in Europe in that it’s the most beautiful and also the most boring, and it’s hard to understand how both of those things could be true simultaneously. It has good food and not-so-great people, and while it’s pretty to look it, very little of the city has anything by way of character. So would I want to live in Vienna? Not likely. Here’s why.
Central Vienna is like a decadent chocolate dessert with elaborate trimmings and goldleaf accents that tastes like absolutely nothing when you take a bite. Everything looks stunning and well-maintained, from the massive museums and churches to the gorgeous fountain-covered parks. But it has the personality of paint drying. For being one of the most popular European capitals, there is nothing charming about walking around its center.
Of course, it’s unfair to judge any city by the heart of its tourist districts. But having spent a considerable amount of time in some of the more hip parts of the city including its very large gay neighborhood, the personality that Vienna does have is actually not that pleasant. There are a ton of cutesy bistros and shops, but everything is either kind of pretentious or obnoxiously crowded. There’s nothing that doesn’t feel forced, even in its laid-back haunts.
Perhaps I could overlook the general blandness of Vienna if the people were at least warm and sweet. But I have a theory about the people of Austria, and that’s that while its Nazi neighbor learned a hard lesson after WWII about nationalism and prejudice, Austria quietly did not. There are just too many Proud Boy-looking motherfuckers with slicked back hair and their polos tucked into their khakis. And I get the sense that these people are either all miserable or they really hate outsiders – it’s the same feeling I get interacting with their border patrol agents at the airport. It’s either unpleasant or downright hostile.
Sometimes the attitude makes you just want to tell them, “Get off your high horse, Adolf, you work at a bakery.” Coming from Prague where people are not necessarily nice but at least they’re kind, I have a pretty high tolerance for cold social interactions. But the people of Vienna are more often than not neither nice nor kind. And this is evident in how the city’s infrastructure treats dogs.
One of the best things about Vienna is the food scene. Even if going out to eat is kind of a drag because everyone is such an asshole, at least you’ll be eating pretty amazing food whether you like Italian or Thai or you want traditional Austrian food. One thing I noticed is that it’s hard to find excellent restaurants according to reviews. Almost everything has less than 4.5 stars on popular review sites, but on closer inspection, that’s because the service is usually so terrible. The food itself is actually great. Certainly not great enough to subject myself to the rest of Vienna as a home, but it’s good nonetheless.
Getting around Vienna is pretty convenient even if the public transportation system isn’t perfect and sometimes gets uncomfortably busy. Things tend to run a couple of minutes delayed, and buses and trams overshoot their stop and then everyone has to cram into the rear compartment. It’s certainly a better/cleaner/more efficient system than anything the US has to offer, but it probably ranks as average for European standards.
Perhaps the biggest inconvenience about Vienna is that it’s kind of dead on certain days of the week. All malls and stores are closed on Sundays. I don’t know what kind of puritanical shit that is but if I work Monday through Friday, I would like the option to go buy shoes or a new lamp on Saturdays and Sundays. Many restaurants and bars are also closed on Sundays and Mondays. So it just seems like my ability to have a life would be limited by their arbitrary hours.
Total livability score 3/10
Despite how much I sort of loathe Vienna, I can acknowledge that it has its positives. But certainly not enough for me to ever consider living there.