Real Talk: As a creative person, you have the luxury of choosing a place to work based on your own needs. And that was already the case before the pandemic - even if digitization in your country is sluggish at best, the creative industry is proving to be a pioneer and has long since switched to flexibility and mobility á la New Work. It is not for nothing that the term “digital creative” has become commonplace. A clarification is in order here: When we talk about creative people, everyone who works creatively and is primarily active in an agency context should feel addressed at this point - e.g. designers, copywriters or marketing experts. Whatever job title you currently have on LinkedIn: A particularly important defining feature of the scene is the large overlap between creative people and digital nomads. Collaboration tools like Slack or Monday ensure that you can work from practically anywhere - and this flexibility is absolutely invaluable for creative work.
But choosing is spoiled for choice. ABCD Agency wants to give you a helping hand in finding the best place to work. For this purpose, we compared 60 European cities and looked at where there is a lot to do for creative people and where life is good. Superficial categories are not enough for us. Neither the wallet nor the work-life balance should be neglected. In addition to aspects such as the number of agencies and vacancies we also looked at local nightlife, cost of living and general life satisfaction.
"Creatives live in a rapidly changing, international part of the working world," says Robin Wilfert, Founder and Managing Director at ABCD Agency. “In addition to challenges, this also brings with it the freedom to work in a wide variety of places. With our study, we want to emphasise exactly this aspect and show how colourful and international the industry is.”
Here you will find an overview of the ranking.
The absolute winner is Manchester
Manchester, UK, is the undisputed number one. Here the whole mix is right across all categories. There is a sufficient range of local agencies. Manchester is just as suitable for graduates and juniors among you as it is for seniors. There is also a good salary on top, with which modern co-working spaces, café stays or a relaxed nightlife can be financed. The average salary of a marketing manager is €54,600 per year. As a creative person, you are definitely never on your own here, but have good prospects of being able to build up a sustainable network. The only downside: cinema lovers have little choice in Manchester.
London only at first glance far ahead
Actually, one could think that London should be number 1. The city with the most jobs, co-working spaces, pubs, nightclubs and cinemas has very good life satisfaction. The salary is comparatively high, but that doesn't make the horrendous rents in the British capital any more attractive. On average, they are almost twice as high as in Manchester. And: Excessive offers for nightlife are of no use if they are not affordable. According to a 2021 study by JeweleryBox, a night out in London is significantly more expensive than the rest of the country.
Creatives in Prague enjoy affordable nightlife
For the party animals, the clear recommendation is Prague. In the overall comparison, the Czech capital is in second place and offers you over 600 pubs and clubs to choose from. And where you pay more than 20 euros in some London clubs at the weekend, you can expect 8-10 euros in Prague. So in this city you have the best cards to enjoy a wild nightlife. Whether electro, techno or hip hop, everyone will find something to their liking here. So if you only think of Art Nouveau when you think of Prague, you are far from it. Another bonus point: If you want to work for a well-known employer, you have the best cards here in comparison. A total of 9 top companies from the industry are based here.
Paris as a tip for all cinephiles among the creatives
The “City of Love” has another, less well-known title: it is also known as the cinema capital of the world. In terms of numbers, the city isn't all that different from London, but it does have one key advantage: price. On average you pay 8 euros less for 2 tickets than in the English capital. As a bonus for all cinema buffs, there is also history to be enjoyed in Paris. It hosted the world's first film screening in 1895, and Paris' oldest cinema, Cinéma du Panthéon, has been in operation since 1907.
Dusseldorf in the German comparison at the top
The best German city for creative minds is Düsseldorf, even if one or the other might have expected Berlin. In addition to the longest bar in the world, the Düsseldorf Carnival and Little Tokyo, the city on the Rhine is also home to many co-working spaces, pubs, clubs and agencies. Those who prefer to say “Kölle Alaaf” instead of “Düsseldorf Helau” will find almost the same conditions in the competing city of Cologne. Although Berlin has the most co-working spaces of all German cities, it is behind Düsseldorf and Cologne overall.
(Non-)European insider tip: Tel Aviv
As a special Easter Egg, Tel Aviv ranks 22nd. The Israeli city is often referred to as the financial and creative centre of the country. Even if it is not a European city, Tel Aviv is in the European catchment area. The city on the Mediterranean Sea can be reached from Berlin in just over four hours by plane. A detour is worthwhile to be inspired by the start-up atmosphere. Israel has been offering a special visa for international entrepreneurs for several years - a perfect place to let off steam creatively and to participate in many exciting projects.
Switzerland and the Netherlands: top 5 salaries
If you only go by gross salary, the Swiss cities of Basel, Zurich and Geneva occupy the top 3 in terms of salary. Here, a marketing manager earns an average of between 105,000 and 115,000 euros per year. However, the cost of living in Switzerland is also around 20-30% higher than, for example, compared to their German neighbour. In other words: For Basel creatives it makes sense to go shopping in Germany in order to save costs. Alternatively, it is worth taking a look at the Netherlands. The city of Rotterdam offers comparatively little in terms of nightlife, and co-working spaces and vacancies are also rather rare. In terms of salary, however, it is in 4th place with significantly more moderate living costs than Switzerland. So if you don't value excessive parties, you'll get your money's worth here.
The cheapest rent can be found in Bucharest
If you want to pay particularly low rent, the best thing to do is to move to Bucharest. You can live well there for 440 euros, and the city has something to offer both in terms of nightlife and job offers. Disadvantage? On average, you only earn the equivalent of 17,800 euros per year there. Since the average annual salary in Romania is just under 16,300 euros and the cost of living is low, your own standard of living will probably not suffer.
Tallinn as the international tail light
Tallinn has little to offer when it comes to creativity compared to other cities. There are hardly any jobs, few pubs, clubs and cinemas, and at 27,600 euros per year, the salary is actually below the Estonian average. Overall, the Baltic states do not fare well: Vilnius and Riga rank higher than Tallinn, but also end up in the lower places.
Methodology: This is how ABCD Agency did the ranking
In order to find out which European cities are best for creative people, 11 influencing factors in the research fields "Creative Scene", "Jobs & Salary", "Nightlife" and "Life" were examined for 60 cities. The largest cities within the EU, Switzerland, Norway and the UK were used for the city ranking. The list has been expanded to include some handpicked cities such as Luxembourg. This ensured that smaller cities that are important for the industry are also represented. Tel Aviv was also included because the city is located in the European sphere of influence and is very attractive for creative people. All of the influencing factors described here were selected with regard to their relevance for the typical creative lifestyle. The study was conducted in April 2023.
Research fields, influencing factors and sources
Research field 1: “Creative Scene”
(Creative) agencies: The industry is very diverse. We looked at LinkedIn’s “Advertising Services”, “Marketing Services” and “Public Relations & Communications Services” as an example. These areas are set up heterogeneously and are therefore well suited to depicting the various facets of the industry.
Top Corporates: Number of leading advertising agencies represented within a city. These companies were defined by: Top 10 ad agencies leading the advertising industry in 2022
Co-working spaces: Number of co-working spaces per 100,000 inhabitants. As digital nomads with maximum freedom to choose their location, it is becoming increasingly popular for creative people to stay in co-working spaces. In this way you get a professional working atmosphere and at the same time remain flexible in your choice of work location. Source: https://www.coworker.com/ Research field 2: “Jobs & Salary”
Entry-level positions: This value indicates how many open entry-level positions without work experience there are in a specific city per 100,000 inhabitants. The job of marketing manager was taken as an example. Source: www.linkedin.de
Higher positions: Here, job postings for "Marketing Manager" were searched for with the filter "With experience" for the respective city. The figures refer to 100,000 inhabitants. Source: www.linkedin.de
Salary: Good earnings make for attractive positions and adds value to a certain place of living. As an example, the data for the job of marketing manager was collected. For Germany, the data comes from Stepstone, for all other countries Glassdoor.
Research field 3: “Nightlife”
Pubs, nightclubs & cinemas: Creative people love their after-work life. Of course, leisure activities do not only consist of pubs, nightclubs and cinemas. These categories are representative of all leisure activities that a city has to offer and were chosen as they best represent the typical creative lifestyle. The data was collected with Tripadvisor and refers to 100,000 inhabitants.
Research field 4: “Life”
Rent: Big cities like Berlin, London or Geneva always make negative headlines with horrendous rents. A roof over your head is not a luxury item, but should be counted among the “bare minimums”. The average rent per city for a one-bedroom apartment in a central location was used as a reference value for this study (source: Prices by City of Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Center (Rent Per Month)).
Level of living costs: The lower, the better - then more of the salary is left over that you can use to organise your own life. Numbeo assigns a score for this. In order to make the category as easy to interpret as possible, we based ourselves on the Numbeo score and assigned the labels "low", "moderate" and "high".
Life satisfaction: The World Happiness Report has been published by the United Nations since 2012. It is an indicator of the level of life satisfaction in individual countries and cities. Among other things, healthy life expectancy, freedom of life decisions and the gross domestic product are collected as factors. For cities in this study for which no single value existed, the national value was taken. The ranking goes from 0 to 10. Here, too, we worked with labels and assigned the labels “very good” for areas 7-10 and “good” for areas 4-6. Our study did not include any city that scored below “good”.
Calculation and Scoring
In order to guarantee comparability between the individual cities, the data collected in each case was standardized and reduced to 100,000 inhabitants for some of the categories. Points between 0 and 100 were awarded within each category. The resulting values were then added up to a value across all categories for each city. This final total value was weighted again using the same scoring principle. The city with the highest value within a category received a score of 100, while the city with the lowest value received a score of 0. In this way, a ranking could be created that shows how well a city performed across all categories.