Vacancy rankings in European cities:
where do we find the lowest vacancy rates?

When we read about retail vacancy, it usually focuses on areas where the concentration of brick-and-mortar store closures is the highest.  But wouldn’t it be much more interesting to see where things are going well? These are the areas in which you might want to invest. In the Netherlands, big cities are doing well. Here we find the most extensive range of shops, lots of restaurants, bars, and cafes, and there is a lot to see and do in the cities themselves. And that is what the consumer is looking for. But how well are the Dutch and Belgian top-performing cities doing relative to their European cousins?

Locatus has been active in the Netherlands and Belgium for many years. From 2010 onwards, we have also been gathering data in the city centres of the most important cities in Europe. Each year, we add another few cities to our list, and we have been focusing mainly on Spain for the past two years. At the moment, we have up-to-date retail information on 57 European city centres. This retail information includes the vacancy rates: as the percentage of the total number of store fronts as well as the percentage of the total m2 of retail floor surface.

Ranking vacancy of 57 European city centres

We can see that vacancy is limited in almost all the city centres of the larger European cities. But which cities and which countries are doing better, and which of them worse? This blog will compare those 57 cities on the basis of their vacancy rate.

We find cities with low vacancy rates both in the north and the south of Europe. Nevertheless, looking at the vacancy ranking list we do find mainly southern European cities dangling at the bottom, while there are 5 German cities in the Top-10 of lowest vacancy rates by storefront. Dutch cities are doing well, too, with Amsterdam at the head of the list, and Utrecht still making the Top-10 at number 8.

Differences between the cities at the top of the list are very small. What’s more, a certain level of vacancy in a city is a sign of health, and functions as greasing oil in the market: some vacancy is necessary to make new transactions, and to ensure the necessary innovation takes place. A vacancy rate of about 4-5% is therefore called “healthy vacancy”. Of the 57 European cities, 35 have got a vacancy of 6% or lower (by number of retail outlets).

Ranking 57 city centres by lowest number of vacant retail outlets

Ranking City Country % vacancy
(retail outlets)
1 Centrum Amsterdam The Netherlands 1,9%
2 Zürich Zentrum Switzerland 2,6%
3 München Zentrum Germany 2,7%
4 Hamburg Zentrum Germany 2,8%
5 Hannover Zentrum Germany 3,1%
……………………….. ……………
………………………… ……………
54 Centrum Antwerpen Belgium 13,0%
55 Glasgow Centre UK 13,2%
56 Athina Kéntro Greece 13,7%
57 Liège Centre Belgium 15,6%

Ranking 57 stadscentra naar minste leegstaande winkelmeters

Ranking City Country % vacancy
(retail floor surface)
1 München Zentrum Germany 0,5%
2 Centrum Amsterdam The Netherlands 1,1%
3 Geneve Zentrum Switzerland 1,2%
4 Hannover Zentrum Germany 1,3%
5 Hamburg Zentrum Germany 1,3%
…………………. ……………..
………………………………. ………
……………………. ……………….
54 Athina Kéntro Greece 10,3%
55 Centrum Antwerpen Belgium 10,5%
56 Santander Centro Spain 11,4%
57 Budapest Központ Hungary 18,3%


See the complete rankings

Budapest features the highest vacancy rates, and the bottom of the list is mainly formed by southern European cities. In addition to these cities, the position of Antwerp and Liverpool are noteworthy, too. Nevertheless, we would like to stress that even though a vacancy rate of 10% may be significant, it is definitely not the end for this shopping area.

Gertjan Slob

Gertjan Slob is the Director of Research at Locatus. He is responsible for the entire data course. During his work, he is constantly analysing data, and frequently flags interesting trends and developments.

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