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Vienna vs Berlin: Which German-speaking city is better to live in?

The European cities of Vienna and Berlin attract internationals from around the world. But which city is best to live in? From the population to wages and the cost of living, we look at several factors so you can compare them.

People at a cafe in Vienna.
People at a cafe in Vienna. Photo by Rick Govic on Unsplash

The Austrian capital Vienna and the German Hauptstadt Berlin are both German-speaking cities in central Europe, have fascinating histories and are a magnet for many people from around the world. But that is really where the similarities end.

Residents of Wien praise the culture and beauty of the city, as well as the high quality of life. Meanwhile, people in Berlin tend to enjoy things that are a little grittier – this is arguably the nightlife capital of Europe (hello, Berghain!). Yet there’s really a lot more to everyday life in both of these places. 

The Local collected data from various sources to offer a comparison of these two cities.


Population: Vienna is by far Austria’s biggest city. At the beginning of 2022, around 1.93 million people lived in the city. 

About 32.2 percent of Vienna’s residents are foreign nationals, with 37.6 percent born abroad and 42.6 percent of foreign origin. That means for example they either hold a foreign citizenship or are Austrian nationals born abroad.

Wages: In the latest survey by online job platform Step Stone for 2022, the average gross annual salary in Austria is €49,609, and the median salary is €44,500.

A view of Vienna, Austria.

A view of Vienna, Austria. Photo by Nguyen Minh on Unsplash

When it comes to Vienna, the average gross annual salary is €52,783 and the median salary is €46,800. That means that people earn on average €4,398 before tax. 

Rents: According to the site Numbeo, which gathers user contributed data on cost of living across the world, a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre costs on average €870.38 per month in rent, while a one-bedroom flat outside the centre costs on average costs €664.24. 

Meanwhile, Expat Arrivals  reports that the average price for a one bedroom apartment in the city centre is €915, an is up to €2,000 for a 3-bedroom place. 

FOR MEMBERS: REVEALED: The best and worst districts to live in Vienna (as voted for by you)

Public transport and connections: Vienna’s public transport system is world renowned thanks to its reputation for being clean, efficient and relatively cheap. Wiener Linien is the state-owned company that runs public transport, operating five underground lines, 29 tram and 127 bus lines, including 24 night lines. 

A great offer in Vienna (which Berlin did consider copying at one point), is the annual season ticket costing €365 – just €1 per day. 

“It entitles the holder to travel as often as they want on the underground, trams and buses (with the exception of special rapid bus lines), trains operated by ÖBB (suburban trains) and on services operated by Wiener Lokalbahnen (as far as Vösendorf-Siebenhirten),” says Wiener Linen. 

Meanwhile, a day ticket costs €5.80, while a single trip costs €2.40 (there are concessions and under 6s travel free).  

International connections: Vienna International Airport, which is the hub of Austrian Airlines, is well connected. It offers flights to destinations across Europe as well as further afield from New York to New Delhi. 

Due to the location of Vienna in the east of Austria on the Danube River, there are also great train connections to both western and eastern Europe. Plus you can even take various boat trips on the Danube, including a ferry to Bratislava. 

READ ALSO: How much do you need to earn for a good life in Austria?


Population: The German Capital is also by far Germany’s most populous city and, by the end of 2022 the number of people living in the city state reached a new record high of 3.86 million.

According to the latest data from Office for Statistics in Berlin-Brandenburg from the end of 2022, the proportion of foreigners living in Berlin made up 24.3 percent of the population, while the share of residents with a migration background in Berlin as a whole was 38.6 percent in 2022.

Wages: According to the jobs website Kununu, the average annual salary for Berlin is €45,934 per year before tax, based on the latest data from October 2022.

A view of Berlin, Germany.

A view of Berlin, Germany. Photo by Marcus Lenk on Unsplash

That makes the average monthly wage around €3,827 before tax.

In the site’s rankings of 30 German cities by average annual salary, Berlin comes in at 21st place.

The German cities with the highest average salaries are Munich, where the average gross pay is €55,766 per year, Stuttgart with €55,719 and Frankfurt am Main with €55,403.

The main reason for the relatively mediocre wages for Berliners is the capital’s economic structure. Unlike Stuttgart or some regions in Bavaria, Berlin is not a location for strong industries such as automotive suppliers or car manufacturers.

Rents: Rents across Germany have been rising a lot over the last few years and Berlin certainly hasn’t escaped the trend. According to the Berliner Morgenpost, as of June 30th, 2022, the average “cold” rent (before utility costs are added) was €6.52 per square meter per month in the capital – 15 cents more than the year before.

However, some studies have found that asking rents (that is for new contracts) are now over €11 per square metre in Berlin. 

Meanwhile, the cost of living site Numbeo, says that a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre costs on average €1,282.83, and a one bedroom apartment outside of the city centre costs €902.31. 

Although the rents in Berlin are cheaper on average than some other large cities such as Munich and Hamburg, a major difficulty in Berlin is finding a flat. The competition is fierce because the demand is so high. Many people live in studio flats (known as one-room apartments) because they are slightly cheaper and easier to snag than a one or two-bedroom place. 

IN NUMBERS: Who is coming to and leaving Berlin?

Public Transport: Berlin has an extensive and well-developed public transport network, which includes subways, trains, buses, trams and even a ferry that crosses the river Spree.

A sign for Berlin public transport.

A sign for Berlin public transport. Photo by Sangga Rima Roman Selia on Unsplash

Three fare zones apply in Berlin: AB, BC and ABC. The AB fare zone covers the city area up to the city limits, while the ABC zone covers the surrounding area of Berlin and Potsdam.

The standard price for a monthly ticket for AB fare zones is €86 and those travelling after 10am can take a reduced monthly ticket for €63.

A standard, single ticket costs €3 and a Kurzstrecke (short distance) ticket for a ride of three stops with a train or 6 with a bus or tram costs €2. A daily travel ticket will set you back €8.80.

At the moment there’s a €29 monthly ticket offer covering the Berlin AB area. Later in the year, the nationwide €49 public transport will arrive. 

READ ALSO: Berlin to extend €29 monthly ticket and offer new social ticket

International Connections:

Berlin’s Brandenburg Airport – many years in the making – may not be the world’s best airport, but it’s certainly well-connected. As well as offering flights to all major European cities, international travellers can take direct flights to far-flung destinations such as New York and Singapore.

Berlin is also well-connected when it comes to international rail travel. Trains from the city’s main Hauptbahnhof station go to cities in Poland, Prague, Sweden, Amsterdam and France. 

With reporting by Rachel Loxton and Sarah Magill.

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For members


The 5 best and worst things about living in Berlin

Berlin can be a truly magical place. But it also has some big drawbacks. Here are the 5 best and worst aspects of living in the capital.

The 5 best and worst things about living in Berlin

The best things

We don’t want to put you off moving to the capital, so let’s start with the five best things about living in Berlin.

1. Endless entertainment

No matter what day of the week it is, or even what time of day it is for that matter, you will be able to find something entertaining going on in Berlin.

The capital is home to three opera houses, over 150 theatres and stages, more than 175 museums and collections, around 300 galleries and 130 cinemas. 

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Who is coming to – and leaving – Berlin?

And the nightlife isn’t bad, either. There are over 4,500 bars and clubs in the city, including the world-famous Berghain, and there are countless comedy nights, quiz nights, burlesque nights, cabaret shows, readings, poetry slams…you name it, there is probably an event (or 20) happening in Berlin right now. 

2. Diversity

The wide variety of entertainment on offer in the Haupstadt has a lot to do with the diverse mix of people living here. 

Berlin is a melting pot of cultures. In fact, almost every nation in the world is represented in the German capital.

People celebrate Christopher Street Day (CSD) in front of the stage at the Brandenburg Gate in 2022. Last year’s parade was “United in Love! Against hate, war and discrimination.” Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Monika Skolimowska

The city also has a long history of openness and tolerance, making it welcoming to foreigners and people of all cultures, beliefs, genders and sexualities.

READ ALSO: ‘I came to Berlin for Gay Pride six years ago, and never left’

You can find a vibrant mix of languages, cuisines, and traditions, creating a rich multicultural environment and if you move here on your own, you will soon be able to find a group of like-minded people here.

3. Summertime

Summer is hands down the best time in the capital.

There are over 25 open-air swimming pools, plenty of lakes and acres of green space to hang out in. Bars and restaurants spill out onto the street, making it feel more like a city in southern Europe than in northern Germany. 

READ ALSO: 7 reasons why June is the best month in Germany

Two people row their rubber dinghy down the Spree in the setting sun. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Paul Zinken

The river Spree also becomes a hub of summery fun and frolics too, and many Berliners can be seen in their Schlauchboote (inflatable boats), on stand-up paddles, or even just floating down the river on an inflatable armchair (I’ve seen it).

The city’s laissez-faire attitude to drinking alcohol in public means that virtually any green space can become a party scene.

4. Thriving creative the scene

Berlin is, without a doubt, the home of art and creativity in Germany.

According to the Senate Department for Culture, there are around 20,000 professional artists living in the capital and around 160,000 employees in the cultural and creative industries. 

READ ALSO: ‘Lack of diversity is a problem’: What it’s like to work at a Berlin tech startup

Creative business is also very much at home in Berlin. The German Capital is the highest-ranked startup ecosystem in Germany and there are almost a thousand startups based in the city.

5. History

Berlin has a rich and complex history marked by periods of division and reunification. From the Prussian era to the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the city has witnessed significant political and social transformations and much of this history can still be seen and experienced in the city today. 

View of the old border crossing at Checkpoint Charlie. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Britta Pedersen

From the Brandenburg Gate to Checkpoint Charlie, there are countless fascinating historical landmarks and museums charting the history of the capital. 

READ ALSO: ‘Their experiences need to be understood’: What was life like for East Germans?

But it’s not just the major tourist attractions that offer a glimpse into Berlin’s past. You can find traces everywhere, from the Stolpersteine to remnants of the Berlin Wall, even to the Altbau or Plattenbau flat you may be living in.

The worst things

Now that you’re ready to move to Berlin – or unpack your bags and stay here after all – we come to the downsides of life in the German capital. 

1. Finding a place to live

In recent years, the property market in Berlin has become highly competitive, leading to a huge surge in rental prices and in demand for flats. 

READ ALSO: Berlin rental prices rose by ‘almost a third’ in three months

In a few short years, the city has gone from being one of the most affordable western European capitals to one of the most expensive areas to reside in within Germany.

Tales of 100 people queuing to see overpriced studio flats and adverts for new rentals being flooded with hundreds within five minutes are everywhere. 

2. Winter

While in summer, the streets are bustling with smiling, beautiful people eating vegan ice cream and drinking cold beer, winter is the opposite.

A tourist walks across Pariser Platz at the Brandenburg Gate in temperatures around minus 10 C in Berlin in February, 2021.

A tourist walks across Pariser Platz at the Brandenburg Gate in temperatures around minus 10 C in Berlin in February, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

From November to at least February, temperatures generally drop to between 0C and  -10C in the Hauptstadt, though it’s been known to reach less than -20C here. While there are nice things going on in the winter (think Christmas markets) which can offer an uplifting distraction, generally the winters are pretty brutal.

This most recent winter (2022/2023) dragged on until April, and that is not such an uncommon occurrence.

So my advice for anyone moving to Berlin is: try and get out of the city during these frosty months.

3. Dog poo

According to the available latest figures from May 2022, there are around 126,000 dogs living in Berlin.

While the four-legged creatures are generally a welcome addition to the capital’s population, one thing that is definitely not welcome – and sadly very common – is their poo.

A dog ban sign hangs on a fence in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Sebastian Kahnert

Unfortunately, it seems that many owners in the city neglect to pick up their canine friends’ post-digestive offerings, which means that coming across an unsightly and smelly brown pile is by no means an unusual occurrence in the city.

Actually, it’s one of the few things that can take the edge off the amazing Berlin summertime.

4. Bureaucracy

Germany as a whole has a bad – and well-deserved – reputation for its slow bureaucracy. But the capital really takes the biscuit.

Those trying to get an appointment for a Wohnungesanmeldung (apartment registration) have to get up at the crack of dawn to try to nab a slot within the next few months from the constantly over-booked registration offices.

People stand in front of the Berlin State Office for Immigration.

People stand in front of the Berlin State Office for Immigration. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Britta Pedersen

Those having to deal with the Ausländerbehörde (immigration office) tell tales of pre-dawn queuing and months of unanswered calls and emails. 

READ ALSO: Why German citizenship applications in Berlin are facing delays

Currently, Berlin is also in the midst of a huge backlog of applications for citizenship, as all of the city’s Einbürgerungsämter (naturalisation offices) are being combined into one central office. That means a lot of applications are on hold at the moment.

5. Customer service

Everyone who lives in Berlin will surely have a few favourite bars and restaurants. Usually, what makes them endearing, is that the staff are friendly.

That’s because, in Berlin, the prevailing service culture is that of disinterest with a touch of hatred for the customer.

That, combined with the fact that many bars and restaurants are very slow to catch on to the availability of card payment options – and still insist on cash (often without telling you before your meal – making you hurry to a cash point with a full belly) doesn’t make for great customer service either.