Global Finance selects the world's 10 best cities to live in based on four reputable rankings.
If the world is your oyster, where would you want to clam down? There are hundreds of best cities rankings to help you make a decision, but they all have one thing in common: both travelers and expert researchers will often say they are total nonsense.
What these critics tend to miss is that these city league tables are not targeted at just anyone, but a very specific audience: businesses looking to expand abroad and professionals who want or must relocate. Global employers take these city ranking into account to define their talent attraction and retention strategies, executives and employees consult them to make critical career decisions and seize the best opportunities a place can offer. These lists also serve another purpose: policymakers and other stakeholders use this evidence-based research to identify areas of improvements in their own small and large cities around the world and to implement proven solutions.
That is the case of the most often referenced and respected of such rankings: Monocle Magazine’s Quality of Life Survey, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Index, Mercer Consulting’s Quality of Living City Ranking and Deutsche Bank’s Liveability Survey.
Global Finance's 10 best cities list is based on these four reputable rankings. While no amount of data, benchmarks, or empirical evidence that will ever be able to truly quantify a city's greatness, all these cities do extremely well when it comes to measuring safety, quality infrastructure, housing affordability, economic and natural environmental factors, healthcare, education and cultural services.
#10 | Wellington, New Zealand
The capital and second most populous city of New Zealand makes our top 10 in large part due to the high scores bestowed by Deutsche Bank, which rewarded Wellington with the second spot in its survey after two consecutive years on the top. Commutes are short, pollutions levels are low and purchasing power ratios—researchers say—are among the best in the world. While the bank’s ranking does not focus on cultural and entertainment opportunities and only features cities relevant to global financial markets, it does not hurt the fact that Wellington—a tight-knit and diverse community of about half a million people—can boast stunning beaches and bays, a vibrant cultural life and restaurants and cafés at almost every corner.
#9 | Sydney, Australia
Both the analysts at Deutsche Bank and at the Economist Intelligence Unit think that Sydney is just a marvelous place to live, assigning to this city of a little over 5 million—the most populous in Oceania—the 10th and the third place in their surveys respectively. After reviewing 140 locations based on indicators across the categories of stability, healthcare, education, infrastructure and culture and environment, the experts at the Economist Intelligence Unit particularly singled out the Sydney’s increased focus on combating and mitigating the impacts of climate change, reason for which the city jumped two spots in their ranking from the fifth position it held last year. Granted, it does rain a lot in Sydney (over 130 days per year, almost twice as much as in London), but according to both locals and visitors, the city remains one of the most beautiful and vital places in the world.
#8 | Helsinki, Finland
Occupying the fifth position in Monocle’s survey and the sixth in Deutsche Bank’s report, this seaside city of about 630,000 people is also—according to the United Nations—the capital of the happiest country in the world. Monocle praises Helsinki's vibrant cultural life and its plethora of galleries, museums and social events. The city also recently inaugurated Oodi, a new state-of-the-art central library, as well as Amox Rex, an underground contemporary art museum and an architectural masterpiece in itself. Helsinki residents also enjoy high-quality education and healthcare are free of charge, hyper-efficient city services, and very short commute times partly because you can get almost everywhere by bike.
#7 | Tokyo, Japan
When it comes to the quality of urban living, smallness is often an asset; Tokyo is an exception. Recent estimates put the number of Tokyo residents at almost 14 million, a figure that grows to over 38 million when we consider the greater metropolitan area, making the city home to one-quarter of the entire Japanese population and the world's largest urban agglomeration economy. As tourists prepare to visit for the 2020 Olympic Games, this supercity occupies the second spot in the Monocle’s survey and the eighth spot in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s ranking due to its cultural and social life and the quality of its services and institutions.
#6 | Vancouver, Canada
Coming in sixth place in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s liveability index and the third in Mercer’s list, Vancouver is an ideal place to live, visit and work. In evaluating living conditions in more than 450 locations worldwide based on indicators in 10 categories, Mercer’s experts note that this city coastal city of about 630,000 people is the perfect destination for multinational corporations and their employees. But not only that. In Vancouver, there is something for everyone: a thriving art scene, great food and the most stunning natural attractions.
#5 | Melbourne, Australia
Australia’s second-largest city after Sydney takes the seventh spot in the Deutsche Bank’s survey and comes in second in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s list after eight consecutive years on the top. Melbourne excels in all areas, be it healthcare and education, infrastructure, or culture and environment. A renown financial and commercial center, its population of about 5 million can also enjoy beautiful architecture and parks, delicious food and breathtaking views of the ocean. The rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney is legendary, but for those who have to pick between the two there is no wrong choice to be made.
#4 | Munich, Germany
Coming in third place in Monocle’s survey and fourth in Mercer’s ranking, Munich combines effective public services with a healthy work-life balance. A highly international city with affordable universities attracting students from all over the world and an airport offering connections to almost 300 destinations, Munich is also close to the Alps and famous for its storybook-like countryside. With a population of around 1.5 million, owing to the high concentration of industries, providers of financial services and other businesses, the Bavarian capital boasts an unemployment rate of just 3.5%, among of the lowest in the EU.
#3 | Copenhagen, Denmark
A fun place to live that is nonetheless run like a well-oiled machine, this capital of close to 800,000 people is one of the two only cities that appear in the top 10 of all the rankings we use: Monocle puts it in fourth place, the Economist Intelligence Unit in ninth, Deutsche Bank’s researchers in third, and Mercer’s consultants at number eight. Copenhagen scores well across the board thanks to its great infrastructure, city services and leisure facilities. The city has also taken ambitious steps to prepare for climate change, pledging to generate more renewable energy than greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Part of the plan includes increasing the percentage of people cycling to work or to school to 50% by then. It shouldn’t be too difficult: over 45% already do it.
#2 | Zurich, Switzerland
First in the Monocle’s and Deutsche Bank’s rankings and second on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s list, Zurich knows how to mix business with pleasure. An increasingly diverse and inclusive location, today the city—with its over 400,000 residents—is a unique combination of different cultures, religions and languages. On one hand, it attracts tech startups and established multinational corporations, on the other is full of attractions, galleries, boutiques and clubs. Certainly, the cost of living is sky-high: a fast-food hamburger can cost 15 Swiss francs (about $15 U.S. dollars), and renting a two-bedroom apartment will set you back by over 4,000. But if you are lucky enough to be gainfully employed in this almost too perfect city surrounded by majestic mountains, green pastures and scenic rivers, you can probably afford to splurge: the median monthly salary is about 7,000 francs.
#1 | Vienna, Austria
It is time to move to Vienna. Everyone says so: for Mercer and the Economist Intelligence Unit is the city with the highest quality of living in the world, while Monocle and Deutsche Bank both place it at number five in their rankings. What is so special about it? Plenty of things, actually, From the thriving music and art scene, to its imperial sights and cozy taverns, its shopping streets and green spaces, this capital of almost 2 million people embodies urban life as its best. With excellent public services, infrastructure and, well, pretty much everything one can think of, it is no surprise that Vienna consistently scores high in surveys of the best places to live. There is only one question: how good is your German?
Monocle's Quality of Life Survey
Economist Intelligence Unit's Global Vileability Index
Deutsche Bank Liveability Survey
Mercer Quality of Life Ranking
Global Finance's World's Best Cities