London, Paris, Madrid, Istanbul and Rome are (in that order) Europe’s most digitally visible cities, according to Europe’s Most Talked about Cities, an annual report from ING Media, on the UK’s leading PR agencies for the built environment. 

London tops ING’s digital visibility ranking for a fifth consecutive year. The city also came first in the report’s soft power ranking, outperforming all its rivals by cultural measurements and number of visitors. 

Overall, the return to events and attractions after the Covid-19 lockdowns has seen a 13% increase in online mentions across Europe’s top 60 cities, according to the report. In particular, Nordic cities increased their visibility by talking about their energy security and strong clean energy credentials, with Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Oslo all ranking higher than in 2021. In a similar vein, Glasgow’s digital output returned to a more familiar ranking position after its boost from hosting COP26 – revealing the true power of global events.

ING’s report provides a unique insight into which cities are garnering the most attention and profile, as measured by social media and online news mentions. This year it examines the role of ‘soft power’ for the first time, revealing a direct correlation between a city’s soft power, digital visibility and ability to attract foreign direct investment.

“Digital visibility is an increasingly important influence on attracting investment, businesses and talent while developing a city’s reputation,” said Damian Wild, managing director at ING Media. “This year’s research shows that increasing your digital visibility leads to tangible benefits for your city’s brand. Whether this is elevating your soft power profile or increasing your overall draw to investors – what is clear is that effective communications strategies are fundamental to a city’s growth story.”

Soft power, which was measured based on the influence of culture, travel, education, diversity and environmental credentials, was found to have a positive correlation with a city’s digital visibility and investment prospects. 

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London and Paris came a respective first and second in ING’s soft power ranking, followed by Berlin in third place, thanks to its flourishing tech hub and reputation as a modern history hotspot. The city performs strongly across all soft power index categories, especially in areas such as Unesco World Heritage sites and Michelin star restaurants.

Rome’s soft power ranking of seventh is due to its huge number of international visitors and World Heritage sites. The city’s ability to attract tourists with its historic cultural attractions is a clear selling point, ranking third in number of soft power conversations across the 60 cities.

Similarly, Vienna’s soft power ranking of 12th can be attributed to its impressive strength in arts and culture, showcased through more than 100 museums and galleries. Additionally, the city is home to some of Europe’s top universities and has a large international student population.