A new study has unveiled Europe’s 59 most congested cities for drivers – and Brussels is top of the list. Poland and the UK are also places where urban driving can be a nightmare, while Spain and the Nordic countries offer a smoother journey.

According to the study, drivers in the home of the European Commission face delays on over 37.7% of its main roads each day – narrowly beating Warsaw into top spot on the list. Another Polish city, Wroclaw, is in third place.

It’s bad news too for the Brits: despite the congestion charge, few Londoners will be surprised to find their city comes in fourth overall, while Edinburgh and Belfast also make the top 10. And before the Welsh start singing the praises of their roads, they should take note that Cardiff at number 26 is one of a further five UK cities that make the overall list.

Driving in much of France is a happier experience – once you can escape Paris and Marseilles, no other French city is listed. And it’s not just Germany’s autobahns that allow traffic to flow smoothly: its most congested city, Munich, comes just 28th in the list. But once they’ve made it into the table, there’s no stopping the Germans: Essen, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Cologne, Düsseldorf and Berlinare all between 31st and 38th place. With six further cities in the lower levels of the table, Germany has a greater number of congested cities than anywhere else – though this may reflect the number of large cities the country has.

Residents of Spain and the Nordic countries are most likely to escape the jams. Only three Scandinavian cities make the top 20 – Oslo is 16th with 26% of roads congested, while its Swedish counterpart Stockholm has just 6%.

In Spain it seems gridlock is relatively rare. Barcelona comes in seventeenth place, but its other major cities are all in the lower echelons of the table. Bottom of the table – and therefore best for drivers – comes Zaragoza, where just 1.5% of the roads are clogged. Is this the model other European planners need to follow?

The rankings

The table has been produced by satnav provider TomTom. Rankings are based on how fast cars can travel on a city’s road network – as measured by the anonymous speed data TomTom collects every day from drivers who use its devices. Wherever drivers were travelling at 70% or less of the speed limit, traffic was defined as congested.

The full list of the most congested cities is:

1.Brussels
2.Warszawa
3.Wroclaw
4.London
5.Edinburgh
6.Dublin
7.Belfast
8.Marseille
9.Paris
10.Luxembourg
11.Milano
12.Rotterdam
13.Birmingham
14.Roma
15.Amsterdam
16.Oslo
17.Barcelona
18.Budapest
19.Napoli
20.Poznan
21.Lódz
22.Torino
23.Palermo
24.Praha
25.Genova
26.Cardiff
27.Wien
28.München
29.Leeds
30.Kraków
31.Essen
32.Hamburg
33.Lisboa
34.Sheffield
35.Stuttgart
36.Köln
37.Düsseldorf
38.Berlin
39.Tallinn
40.Helsinki
41.Nürnberg
42.Madrid
43.Frankfurt
44.Hannover
45.Glasgow
46.Bremen
47.København
48.Bratislava
49.Sevilla
50.Bern
51.Vilnius
52.Leipzig
53.Dresden
54.Dortmund
55.Málaga
56.Stockholm
57.Zagreb
58.Valencia
59.Zaragoza

Notes

1. The research was based on TomTom’s real travel times database, compiled over years of researching and tracking road speeds with the help of millions of TomTom users worldwide.  Travel information is sent anonymously to TomTom every day when TomTom users connect their device to TomTom HOME desktop software. Through the TomTom community of more than thirty million users, TomTom has collected more than 1.8 trillion speed measurements to date. More than a billion new measurements are collected each day. The result, TomTom claims, is realistic travel time information for every five minutes, every day of the week.

2. Cities are ranked according to how fast cars can travel on the street network. A city’s traffic is defined as congested if drivers can travel at only 70% or less of the posted speed limit, meaning that an hour-long commute would include 20 minutes or more of significant delays.

3. The percentages refer to the percentage of main roads (4 highest road classes) that experienced congestion as defined above during a day.

4. Only cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants were included.