Special edition 2018

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HWWI/Berenberg Culture City Ranking 2018

Stuttgart again Culture Capital No. 1, Dresden edges ahead of Berlin

Study by Dörte Nitt-Drießelmann and Jan Wedemeier

For the fourth time since 2012, 2014 and 2016, the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI) and the Berenberg private bank examined the cultural life of the 30 largest cities in Germany. The results: Stuttgart has further extended its lead, and took the title of Germany’s No. 1 Cultural Metropolis for the fourth time. Dresden and Berlin were neck and neck for second place, with Dresden ultimately coming in slightly ahead. Munich and Karlsruhe took fourth and fifth places respectively. Wiesbaden made the most progress in this year’s rankings, jumping ahead ten places, while the North Rhine-Westphalian cities of Gelsenkirchen, Mönchengladbach and Duisburg remained in last place.

The attractiveness and variety of a city’s cultural landscape are quality of life factors that influence people’s choice of places to live and work, and thus the position of cities in the competition for the best talent. "The variety of cultural offerings not only determines the attractiveness of a city, it is also a significant economic factor and plays into the development dynamics of a city. Whole industries cluster around culture," said Hans-Walter Peters, Spokesman of the managing partners of Berenberg.

The culture industry is an important employer in 30 of Germany’s largest cities. In the four German cities with over a million in population, currently in Munich 7.1%, in Cologne 5.9%, in Berlin 5.0% and in Hamburg 4.9% of employees who pay social security work in the culture industry, and that number is rising. Stuttgart leads them all with 7.6%. Demand by residents and tourists feeds other economic developments going beyond culture. "Investment in cultural infrastructure, cultural events with trans-regional pull, and culture venues can help move cities onto a new development path," said Peters. "The Hamburg Elbhilharmonie is a classic example of that."

The ranking

The HWWI/Berenberg Culture City Ranking addresses the multifaceted importance of the cultural climate for urban development, and compares numerous aspects of culture production and reception. Culture production has to do with infrastructure and other basics needed for art and culture to happen, like the number of theatre, opera and cinema seats, libraries, museums, cultural education and jobs in culture. Culture reception is the demand for and appreciation of cultural offerings by residents and visitors to the cities. It is reflected by the number of theatre or museum visitors, for example, and cultural revenues. The ranking measures selected areas of culture based on quantitative indicators available for all 30 cities. No statements are made with regard to the quality and significance of the offerings and infrastructure. Neither theatre awards nor valuations of museum art collections play into the ranking.

The results

The Cultural City Ranking shows that the cultural scene differs widely from one German city to another. "The four top-ranked cities showed good results in both culture production and reception, giving them very advantageous conditions for culture," said Dr Jan Wedemeier, economist with HWWI.

Stuttgart took first place for the fourth time, and was even able to significantly extend its lead over its competitors. This is thanks to its extensive cultural offerings (first place in Culture Production) and again improved demand (from third to first place in culture reception). "Whether in terms of opera and theatre seats (1st place) or theatre attendance (1st), for library spending (1st) or number of library users (1st), Stuttgart again scored at the top," noted Wedemeier of the city’s outstanding placement. "Also, Stuttgart has the highest per capita proportion of culture industry employees and revenue." Mayor Fritz Kuhn called the result an "outstanding confirmation" of Stuttgart’s quality of life and a "great compliment to everyone who makes and appreciates culture." Kuhn says: "Stuttgart is a cultural hot spot and an important part of the national and international scene. A love of culture, both high and broad, informs the life of our city and creates a fertile soil for social and business innovations."

Dresden (2nd place) and Berlin (3rd place) ran neck and neck, with Dresden finally winning by a nose. Dresden has the most museum visitors, and leads in cinema seats. Dresden was third in theatre and opera attendance, number of museum exhibitions and expenditure for libraries. After three fourth places in a row, Berlin pulled ahead of Munich for the first time. As third place winner, the Federal capital has the highest per-capita artist density with over 39,000 artists, followed by Cologne and Munich. Berlin also leads in proportion of cultural businesses and in historical monument preservation, but its per capita cultural industry revenue is only middling.

This year saw Munich slip to 4th place from 2nd in 2016. In culture reception the Bavarian state capital was second, while it again placed sixth for culture production. Munich stands out in number of galleries and auction houses (1st place), ongoing expenditures for public libraries, and proportion of employees in culture (2nd place for each), and has high proportions of artists and companies in the cultural industry (3rd place for each).

The city comparison shows that even moderate-sized cities like Dresden (2nd place), Karlsruhe (5th place) and Bonn (6th place) can have a diverse cultural life. Karlsruhe took second place in festival visitors and in absolute number of museum exhibitions. Bonn got points for the largest per capital number of museum exhibitions.

Wiesbaden (11th) and Bochum (12th) have risen steadily through the ranks since 2012. Wiesbaden (+10 places) improved most of all in culture reception this time, and scored well in number of auction houses and galleries (6th) and in culture industry revenue per capita (5th place). The five cities at the bottom of the field (Duisburg, Mönchengladbach, Gelsenkirchen, Dortmund, Wuppertal) have not once ranked among the best 25 cities since 2012. 

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Rankings 2016 and 2018