What makes a city somewhere you’d want to live? Rome and Paris look stunning when you visit for a romantic weekend, but could you really imagine yourself living there? Clearly not, according to Mercer’s 2016 Quality of Living Survey – Paris came 37th and Rome an even lowlier 53rd.
The survey ranked a total of 230 cities around the world for their quality of life, examining all sorts of indicators (39 in all) – from political stability, crime and personal freedoms to schools, hospitals, public transport and housing. Here we count down the cities that made it into the top ten. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, bottom of the pile was Baghdad, Iraq, in 230th.
10. Sydney, Australia
The iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge make this city instantly recognisable. But it’s the endless beaches, stretching many miles north and south of the city centre, plus the year-round sunshine that make life here so mellow. Add to that a generally happy multicultural mix and a good standard of living and you have one very happy city. One downer: Sydney has Australia’s most expensive housing.
9. Copenhagen, Denmark
Denmark came top in the last UN happiness survey, and its capital city also has plenty to smile about. As well as nationwide boosters such as excellent healthcare and childcare, Copenhagen residents enjoy living in a compact city with a charming harbour, independent shops, cobbled streets and historic buildings alongside some striking modern structures. Living here isn’t cheap, though – it’s one of the world’s most expensive cities.
8. Geneva, Switzerland
Perched on the shores of Lake Léman and surrounded by mountains, Geneva is a clear winner when it comes to natural beauty. Low on traffic and pollution, the city centre is small and easy to get around – and easy to get out of at the weekend. Nearby are opportunities for skiing, snowboarding and climbing, and there’s sailing and water skiing on the lake too. Home to many international organisations, Geneva’s a cosmopolitan city – and an expensive one.
7. Frankfurt, Germany
Set on the River Main, Frankfurt is a major European financial centre and business hub: the European Central Bank, German Federal Bank and Frankfurt Stock Exchange are all based here. It has the glass and concrete skyscrapers to match, but at its heart is the medieval Altstadt (old town). There are also riverside walks and parks, and traditional neighbourhoods with outdoor cafés and bars catering to the city’s many students as well as young financiers.
6. Dusseldorf, Germany
Upmarket, glossy Dusseldorf is never going to win any prizes for urban grit. It’s a centre for fashion and advertising, among other glamorous industries, and it’s also home to some cutting-edge architecture. The riverside Altstadt (old town) claims to be ‘the longest bar in the world’ as it’s lined with bars and clubs. Dusseldorf is said to be Germany’s most expensive city.
5. Vancouver, Canada
The only city on the American continent to make the top ten, ethnically diverse Vancouver has two trump cards: a mild climate and a stunning location on the Pacific shore with a mountain backdrop. It’s safe, especially in comparison with US cities, and the great outdoors is right on the doorstep: there are plenty of activities to enjoy, from whale-watching to skiing. On a negative note, affordability is becoming a real issue as a red-hot housing market shows no sign of cooling.
4. Munich, Germany
Munich is Germany’s third-largest city, with a population of more than three million. But cobbled streets, Gothic buildings and a lack of high-rise development in the centre help to create an intimate feel. The city is Bavarian to the core, and there are plenty of beer halls and outdoor beer gardens to enjoy. Visitors flock into town for Oktoberfest, a huge beer festival.
3. Auckland, New Zealand
Surrounded by water (it’s nicknamed the City of Sails), Auckland has immense natural beauty, matched by warm summers and mild winters. The modern city itself is easy to navigate, and wherever you are, the ocean is never far away. The region has some stunning beaches, and locals love fishing and boating. Close by are other natural wonders, including rainforests and thermal springs.
2. Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich is a picture-postcard city: it’s set on the shores of Lake Zurich, with the River Limmat running through it, and the old town is dotted with soaring spires and winding streets. It’s also typically Swiss in being a financial hub and is home to plenty of wealthy bankers. Nevertheless, Zurich has embraced contemporary culture: old warehouses have been transformed into contemporary arts centres and the summer Street Parade is one of the world’s largest techno parties.
1. Vienna, Austria
Vienna made number one, and while it has similarities to other cities on this list – safety, cleanliness and so on – there are also differences. Many of the listed cities are pricey places to live. Not so Vienna, where rents are low and public transport is not only efficient but cheap. It also scores points for sheer romance thanks to its Habsburg imperial architecture, classic coffee shops and rich musical heritage. But Vienna’s not stuck in the past either: it’s home to striking contemporary architecture and a vibrant arts scene.
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