Using EIU, Mercer and Monocle’s most liveable cities, we take a look at the top 10 based on the combined rankings

Author: S.J. Yun

As the EIU ranking does not include cost of living as a criteria, we’ve also included the results from two other notable surveys and then used the rankings from all three to create an alternative top ten.

By using all three liveability rankings and awarding each city a score from 10 (for first) to 1 (for tenth) we’ve created an amalgamated/alternative top 10, which hopefully benefits from the best that the other three have to offer. Vienna is the only city to appear in all three top 10s, so it’s no surprise that it takes top spot in our combined top 10 and while the rest of our list doesn’t produce any major upsets, it’s worth bearing in mind that the differences between the cities is minimal. The EIU go so far as to say that there is relatively little difference between the first 64 cities of EIU’s liveability ranking, which are considered to have the “top tier of liveability”. 

In all three rankings mid-sized cities with lower population densities scored better, which explains why Australian, Canadian and European cities dominated top spots.

That said, while all three rankings have different findings, the overall pictures are similar and they have all been judged through a somewhat corporate lens. Both the EIU’s and Mercer’s indicators are rated based on a narrow perspective of liveability for well–remunerated expatriates and Monocle’s is targeted at the wealthy, mobile and cosmopolitan reader interested in culture, fashion and design.

Top 10 Best Cities To Live

10 | Toronto, Canada

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Although ranked fourth in the EIU’s liveability ranking Toronto was ranked first in the EIU’s 2015 Safe Cities Index thanks to consistently high scores for liveability, cost of living, business environment, democracy and food security. Toronto’s motto is “Diversity Our Strength” and it really is one of the world’s most multicultural cities famous for a diverse choice of food, arts and festivals. The fifth largest city in North America and the largest city in Canada Toronto has vibrant downtown neighbourhoods. Although it has the second largest public transport system in North America gridlock on the roads is an issue as people commute from the Greater Toronto Area (home to over 6 million people) to avoid high housing costs in Toronto.


9 | Berlin, Germany

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Since the Berlin wall came down the city has become a mecca for edgy creative types looking to enjoy the party atmosphere in a city brimming with galleries and a diverse nightlife. Since then it is earning a growing reputation as a tech hub as start-ups, and others, flock to the relatively low cost of living in the city. Having leapt up Monocle’s rankings to third spot, the magazine states “Berlin is far from passé….it’s simply at last transitioning into a post-poor but still sexy era.” Berlin still offers a colorful nightlife and tolerance but it also enjoys fabulous architecture, lots of green spaces and a quality of life that is relaxed and affordable.


8 | Munich, Germany

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Munich represents conservative Germany and traditional values. The quality of living is high but expensive (by German standards). There are over 20 big parks in Munich and with just over 1.3 million residents the greenery and open spaces help give Munich a small town feel despite it being a large city. Strict building codes have ensured there are no high-rise buildings in the city center and its cobblestone alleyways and boutique stores have all helped Munich earn the distinction of being referred to as "the village with a million inhabitants".  Public transport is excellent, roads are well sign-posted and there are plenty of cycle lanes. The Oktoberfest is an annual highlight, but you can enjoy Munich’s famed beer gardens all year round (weather permitting).


7 | Tokyo, Japan

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Ranked first by Monocle “due to its defining paradox of heart-stopping size and concurrent feeling of peace and quiet,” Tokyo has the world’s largest metro economy. With a population of around 13.3 million Tokyo is a city that thrives on efficiency and convenience. Public transport is clean, safe and prompt and strikes are unheard of. Amidst the hustle and bustle there is both calm and polished pristineness - where ancient rituals coexist with ultra modernity (the density of skyscrapers in Tokyo is among the top five in the world). Tokyo has the world’s highest volume of Michelin stars in a city but also excels at cheap street food. Although the cost of living is high so are most salaries.

6 | Auckland, New Zealand

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Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city and has ranked third on Mercer’s list for the third year in a row. In keeping with its rivals in Australia, Auckland boasts a sparkling harbor and beautiful beaches - perfect for outdoor activities.  Average income is around $21,000 a year but as Auckland’s natural wonders don’t cost anything, this is not a major issue. Low salaries however mean that Auckland has one of the world's 10 most overvalued housing markets. Affordable housing and infrastructure are Auckland’s weakest links, but $4.2 billion has been earmarked to improve Auckland’s transport system, which is a promising start.

5 | Zurich, Switzerland

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Another great city for water lovers, Zurich has two rivers running through it and, of course, Lake Zurich. It is an artistic hub and boasts more than 50 museums and over 100 art galleries. Zurich is a clean and well-ordered city. According to Mercer Zurich scores highly for safety, absence of crime, few strikes, and timely public transport with airports very close to city centres and good schools, while the EIU says Zurich is the fourth most expensive city in the world. Luckily, with an average annual salary of $100,000 - this is not a problem for the majority of its inhabitants.

4 | Sydney, Australia

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Elevated six positions by Monocle to fifth spot, seventh in the EIU ranking and tenth in Mercer’s - there is much more to Sydney than its iconic harbor. Like its archrival Melbourne, Sydney has four million inhabitants, enviable weather, plenty of green open spaces, pristine beaches, and fabulous food. Sydney is Australia's largest city. The cost of living is high in Sydney but housing is still considerably cheaper than New York, London and Hong Kong.

3 | Melbourne, Australia

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The Victorian capital won perfect scores of 100 in the healthcare, education and infrastructure categories as well as in the sub-category of sport in the EIU’s ranking. Home to four million people, Melbourne enjoys a diverse and multicultural population. Melbourne is Australia's fastest-growing capital and the only city in the world to have won the title five consecutive times. Melbourne is Australia’s culinary capital and boasts a thriving cultural scene. Straddling the scenic Yarra River makes Melbourne a great place for boating and water sports and provides a great backdrop for the many harbor front bars and restaurants.

2 | Vancouver, Canada

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Blessed with great weather and stunning scenery, Vancouver is one of a few select cities that haven’t managed to destroy the beauty of it surroundings - the 1001 acres of trees in Stanley Park, limits on urban growth, View Corridors and Vancouver Seawall have all helped make nature accessible for all on foot, bicycle and transit, making it both quicker and easier to access open spaces. Aside from its many outdoor attractions Vancouver also has great museums, excellent shopping, dining and nightlife. While housing is low to moderate compared with other global cities it is expensive by Canadian standards.  

1 | Vienna, Austria

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Austria’s elegant capital, with its Habsburg-era coffee houses and architecture, palaces, operas and other cultural institutions make it a prime tourist destination. For those preferring the bright lights and hustle and bustle of say New York or London, Vienna might feel a little too sanitized and touristy, but Vienna has an abundance of green spaces and is positively brimming with culture. With a population of 1.7 million, Vienna boasts high employment and a low crime rate. It enjoys comprehensive health care and moderate housing costs and its extensive public transport system costs just 1 euro a day for an annual pass.

About The Rankings

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Global Liveability Ranking 2015 assesses which locations around the world provide the best and worst living conditions. Using a rating system based on 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across five categories: stability, healthcare, culture/environment, education and infrastructure, the EIU then assigned a score ranging from 1 (intolerable) to 100 (ideal) to each of the 140 cities assessed.

The EIU’s 2015 top ten holds no surprises from previous years – with Anglophone and cities from small Nordic and Germanic countries taking all the top spots. Melbourne in Australia remains the most liveable location for the fifth year running and Vienna (2), Vancouver (3) and Toronto (4) all hold on to the same positions as last year and most other cities move just one or two places.

Number In Brackets Indicate Ranking From Previous Year

  1. (1) Melbourne, Australia
  2. (2) Vienna, Austria
  3. (3) Vancouver, British Columbia
  4. (4) Toronto
  5. (6) Calgary, Alberta
  6. (5) Adelaide, Australia
  7. (7) Sydney
  8. (9) Perth, Australia
  9. (10) Auckland, New Zealand
  10. (8) Helsinki, Finland
  11. (11) Zurich, Switzerland

The Mercer Quality of Living Survey 2015 is designed to assist multinational companies and other employers with their site selection searches to enable them to fairly compensate employees when placing them on international assignments. Mercer ranks local living conditions in more than 230 cities it surveys worldwide. Living conditions are analysed according to 39 factors, grouped in 10 categories: economic, socio-cultural, political and social environments, medical and health considerations, schools and education, public services and transportation, recreation, consumer goods, housing and the natural environment.

Vienna tops the Mercer Quality of Living Survey for the sixth year in a row and there are, in fact, no changes in the top 10 from last year, which sees European dominance only slightly challenged by Auckland (3), Vancouver (5) and Sydney (10).

Number In Brackets Indicate Ranking From Previous Year

  1. (1) Vienna, Austria
  2. (2) Zurich, Switzerland
  3. (3) Auckland, New Zealand
  4. (4) Munich, Germany
  5. (5) Vancouver, British Columbia
  6. (6) Düsseldorf, Germany
  7. (7) Frankfurt, Germany
  8. (8) Geneva, Switzerland
  9. (9) Copenhagen, Denmark
  10. (10) Sydney, Australia

Monocle’s Quality of Life Survey 2015, includes data-canvassing elements such as crime, healthcare, state-funded education and business climate but it's the "liveability assessment" that sets it apart from similar surveys and this year Monocle added 22 new metrics - from the number of international routes that connect cities to the rest of the world, to the amount of violent crime, to the availability of outdoor seating. This has resulted in a lot changes and a few surprises as the change in the metrics used to rank the selections to reward greater freedom (less nannying) has seen a drop in rankings for Scandinavian cities and the elevation of more vibrant cities, such as Berlin (up from 14 to 3) and Sydney (up from 11 to 5). Monocle is also the only ranking to include a metropolis - Tokyo (1).

Number In Brackets Indicate Ranking From Previous Year

  1. (2) Tokyo, Japan
  2. (6) Vienna, Austria
  3. (14) Berlin, Germany
  4. (3) Melbourne, Australia
  5. (11) Sydney, Australia
  6. (4) Stockholm, Sweden
  7. (15) Vancouver, Canada
  8. (5) Helsinki, Finland
  9. (8) Munich, Germany
  10. (7) Zurich, Switzerland
  11. (1) Copenhagen, Denmark

Combined Ranking – including score based on points from each ranking based on all three surveys

  1. Vienna (28)
  2. Vancouver (18)
  3. Melbourne (17)
  4. Sydney (11)
  5. Zurich (11)
  6. Auckland (10)
  7. Tokyo (10)
  8. Munich (9)
  9. Berlin (8)
  10. Toronto (7)

Are These Cities In The Happiest Countries Of The World?


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