The worst part of living in Melbourne, the world’s most liveable city, is travelling to places that are, inevitably, less liveable. When we travel I am all like “Eating baguette and cheese in the shade of the Eiffel Tower is good and stuff, if only Paris were a little more liveable”, or “Venice’s stunning architecture and endless charming canals are breathtaking, it’s just lacking a bit of liveability”. Enter Vienna.

We spent a few weeks in August travelling through Germany and Austria. Last stop in Austria was Vienna; you can read about where else we went thanks to Lucy and Oli.

Vienna is the world’s second most liveable city (according to The Economist, though according to the clearly less reputable Mercer study Vienna is number 1).

I have to admit, though, I was at the start underwhelmed. Vienna is a city of beautiful architecture. I just wasn’t feeling the vibe; it seemed to lack soul. The city centre was full of people, yet felt lifeless. The Hofburg area, home to the huge palaces of the Hapsburg royal family, should have been impressive. Usually reading about the local history while in amongst the grand buildings being spoken about brings the place to life. Here, for whatever reason, it missed the mark for me.

Then we stumbled into the outdoor Venice film festival, in front of city hall.

We were early, so no films were playing but we still immediately loved the vibe. Just behind the huge cinema screen was a dozen or more food trucks and a huge seating area. The place was buzzing and all the food look too delicious, making choosing lunch difficult. We came again another evening to grab some dinner, with no regrets.

Svet and Lucy have cake for lunch at the food truck festival
Svet and Lucy have cake for lunch at the food truck festival

Later on we wandered out and around to the back of the palace area, where a nice little park and a butterfly enclosure were hiding. Schmetterlinghaus (only German can make the word for butterfly house sound like a chesty phlegm cough) was built for the Austrian royal family to chillax after a hard day repressing the peasants. Today it is a quiet tropical oasis from the noise of Vienna. The park outside was also lovely, and filled with picnickers. We would have spent more time lying under the shady trees if not for one of the kids cracking the sads for no particular reason, necessitating a hasty exit.

Finally, at the end of one day we went to an “interactive music museum”, Haus der Musik. It was really well set up for younger visitors. Oli and Lucy accidentally learnt a lot about the big name composers that called Vienna home at one point or another.

The kids compose a new orchestral piece by rolling over sized dice at the Music Museum.
The kids compose a new orchestral piece by rolling over sized dice at the Music Museum.

And, of course, there was cake for dinner.

Oli had wurst for dinner, cake for dessert. Lucy had cake for dinner and wurst for dessert.
Oli had wurst for dinner, cake for dessert. Lucy had cake for dinner and wurst for dessert.

So in the end, Vienna was pretty cool. It’s charm wasn’t initially obvious but with a little exploration we found some great places and thoroughly enjoyed our time.

So to finish where I began: Melbourne and Vienna vying for the most liveableness. Sydney, Paris, Rome, Venice have the tourist-approved laundry lists of spectacular sights. Melbourne and Vienna reward you if you put in the time to find their hidden gems, and Melbourne and Vienna are always at or near top of the survey. Perhaps this is the secret ingredient for liveability?