In a battle of Vienna vs. Vancouver, both win

St. Stephen's CathedralVIENNA — Vienna or Vancouver? What’s the better city? They duel annually for the distinction of the world’s best metropolis to call home. Vienna this year topped the Mercer Index for Top Quality of Life while Vancouver was named The Economist’s Most Liveable City in the world.

I lived in Vancouver for five years (and intend to return to my home there one day) and I just got back from a four-day stay in Vienna. Picking a winner would be difficult. This is Ali vs. Fraser, or Halle vs. J-Lo, or Dom vs. Cristal.

Vancouver wins on scenery, hands-down. Vienna, from what I could tell, comes out on top in standard of living.

Vancouver is a little better on its overall food scene, but Vienna has Steirereck, one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Vancouver has mountains, Vienna palaces. Vancouver has the Shangri-La, Vienna has the new Sofitel, with the hot Le Loft restaurant at the top. Vancouver has Stanley Park, Vienna has the historic village of Grinzig and the forest surrounding it. Vancouver has Granville Island, Vienna the Naschmarkt. And you can go on and on.

When it comes down to it, though, there’s a reason people find these two cities to be so terrific: The atmosphere. In Vancouver, you head to English Bay, Third Beach or the seawall on Coal Harbour and you instantly escape. Vienna relaxes you with its wide streets, friendly people and truly amazing modern art installations, many of which will make you to smile.

Of course, it also has more history than any North American city, with ruins dating to Roman times and churches as old as the 13th century. The art collection from the former Hapsburg empire is loaded with great works, including Vermeers, Rembrandts, Raphaels, van Goghs and Titians. There’s also Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss,” a treasured painting that holds the viewer’s gaze with its beauty and intricate details. The 103-year-old painting is at Belvedere Palace, which boasts a number of other great works.

The best part about Vienna, I found, was its quirkiness. There are cool concept stores and lots of experimentation and an easygoingness that is refreshing after coming from Paris where there’s an abundance of stress, no matter how many people you see lounging outdoors on café chairs.

I’ll have some travel tips on Vienna in the coming days, and more on Paris, too.

Le Loft restaurant in Vienna

Le Loft restaurant at the top of the Sofitel has an awesome view of Vienna - and great food too. Book a table for lunch and try the beef filet. Above, St. Stephen's Cathedral.

[Julia took the pics]

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