Best student cities: Vienna
The Universität Wien is Vienna’s most illustrious university. (Ulf Boettcher/Getty)
This article is the fifth in a series featuring the top five cities for students around the globe in 2012, determined by QS. A number of factors were considered in the organization’s ranking, including educational institutions, quality of living, affordability and employer activity. Vienna came in fifth.
Considering Vienna’s long history as an international leader in the arts, it is easy to understand why students from around the world come to study in the land where such luminaries as Mozart, Freud and Klimt once walked. In fact, around a quarter of the city’s enrolled students come from abroad, totalling about 25,000. Cities such as London and Boston might contain a greater concentration of top universities, but it is the composite experience of studying in Vienna – a city of easy living and affordable tuition -- that makes it one of the world’s best cities for students.
The Universität Wien is Vienna’s most illustrious university and the Innere Stadt --the 1st District, where the university is located -- is always crowded with students. The inner-city, pedestrian-friendly area is also a draw for tourists visiting the Hofburg imperial palace, the National Library and the elegant Spanish Riding School, the world’s oldest equestrian institution practicing haute école. The WUK, one of Europe’s largest cultural centres both in area and prominence, makes for a popular student hangout as many attend concerts and events here, as well as linger in the courtyard and dance until the wee hours of the morning in the on-site disco., The Alt Wien, a local cafe is also frequented by an artistic crowd.
The bourgeois, bohemian 7th District, near the centre of Vienna, is a popular student spot for its many trendy cafes, including the attractive (both in atmosphere and clientele) Café Europa. At the end of the nearby Mariahilferstrasse, one of the most famous streets in the city, coeds also gather at the MuseumsQuartier, a huge, open square surrounded by institutions like the Leopold Museum, which showcases Austrian artists, and MUMOK, the modern art museum. In warm weather, people convert the square into an open-air bar, pulling up brightly-coloured lounge chairs scattered around the square to relax and socialise over beers.
Students get their schnitzel fix at the simple and tasty restaurant Schnitzelwirt on Neubaugasse in the 7th District or dine at the pay-what-you-want Pakistani buffet Der Wiener Deewan, located near the Universität Wien. Favourite nightclubs include Flex, which is located along the Danube and attracts top international DJs, and Pratersauna, a former sauna (a pool remains on-site) located in the massive public park Prater, which also contains one of the world’s oldest amuseument parks. A boisterous after-dark scene can also be found in the city’s Bermudadreieck (Bermuda Triangle) area, where pubs are filled with imbibing tourists, locals and students.
For sports and exercise, students take advantage of the Vienna University Sports Institute, which encompasses both team sports and fitness classes. Co-eds also partake in the city’s plentiful cultural programming, such as the Donau Insel Fest in June, a free music festival on an island in the Danube, or the Lange Nacht event series, when Vienna’s museums stay open all night.
The classic Austrian spot to eat with fellow students is at any of the city’s canteens – subsidised cafeterias that are open during the week and serve classic Viennese fare like schnitzel and beer at student-friendly prices. Try the canteen at the art school Akademie der Bildenden Künste.
Many of Vienna’s museums and cultural sites offer free entry or discounted rates for students including the Sigmund Freud Museum, which is popular among psychology students. Co-eds on a budget can also queue for an hour or so for inexpensive standing-room-only opera tickets (as low as €3) at the tony Wiener Staatsoper. While a university ID works most places, some students opt for the International Student Identity Card as well, which grants further discounts on transport and admission in Vienna, like cheaper entry to the Johann Strauss Wohnung, the house of famed composer Johann Strauss.