Academic credits and bank account permitting, studying abroad is an experience no college student should pass up, regardless of where you end up. With that being said, choosing your study abroad location requires research and thought– after all, you’re going to be living in this new country for a semester, or even a year. So, why Vienna? As of August 2019, Vienna was named the “World’s Most Livable City” for the second year in a row by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) annual index, outshining more popular study abroad destinations like the sandy shores of Melbourne (a close second) and the lively nightlife scene in Barcelona (not even top ten). This city is the perfect choice for study abroad for countless reasons but, to keep this brief, I’ll just name five.
Kaffeehauskultur (Coffeehouse culture)
One of the most notably improved aspects of my daily routine since coming to Vienna has been my morning coffee run, which consists of no running whatsoever. Walk down any street in Vienna and you will find coffee houses scattered every few hundred feet, each one more charming and inviting than the last. In this city it is normal, even expected, to sit for hours in a coffee house, even if you only buy an espresso shot. Most importantly, the quality of the coffee itself is unusually good.
Viennese coffeehouse culture is reflective of broader cultural sentiments surrounding attention to detail and an appreciation of time and space that you won’t find elsewhere.
2. Music and Art
Vienna is probably most renowned for its vibrant and long-standing music and art culture. From the Opera House to the Belvedere, housing first edition Gustav Klimt paintings such as “The Kiss,” it’s hard to miss the abundance of original works adorning the walls of each building. If you walk just a few blocks from the Belvedere, you’ll end up at the Vienna State Opera, where different performances are shown each night. Musicians and artists alike flock to Vienna, the “City of Music,” and once you visit it’s obvious why.
3. Christmas Markets
While Viennese winter is a force to be reckoned with, it also brings about a wonderful cultural tradition: Christmas Markets. Dating back to the Middle Ages, the city’s most beautiful squares are transformed into a picturesque winter wonderland, complete with international choirs, culinary delights, and an abundance of hot cider. Each Christmas market has a different vibe, targeting a different demographic, so there is always something for everyone. Regardless of your religious orientation or personal beliefs, it’s hard not to enjoy the palpable holiday spirit in such a merry and communal atmosphere.
4. Season of the Ball
If Christmas Markets and hot cider aren’t enough to warm your spirits, winter is also the official season of the Viennese Ball. With hundreds of balls occurring each season, there is no shortage of ballroom dancing lessons or gown rentals offered as the temperature begins to drop. At each ball, guests arrive wearing their most formal, most elegant gowns and tuxedos; this is an occasion where you dress to impress!
5. Location, location, location
A factor that is often overlooked amongst students who plan to study abroad is the location. Travel is expensive, even if you limit your air-time and stick to trains and busses. Vienna is conveniently located in northeastern Austria, almost dead-center of Central Europe. From here, countless countries and cities suddenly become accessible; you can hop to Budapest, Prague, Bratislava, or Venice in mere hours on a relatively affordable bus…that is, if you ever want to leave Vienna in the first place.