Global Finance selects the world's 10 best cities to live in based on eight metrics, including cost of living, quality of life, and pandemic response.

Author: Marc Getzoff

Some cities are great to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there. So what makes a city one of the best places to live? Cost of living is key, and house prices are usually the largest component of a household budget, but the housing market cuts both ways: While people want quality affordable homes, soaring real estate prices are a kind of hard proof that a city is attracting residents. Broader measures of both cost of living and quality of life are needed.

People are willing to pay more to live in cities for the wealth of benefits they typically offer—cultural attractions, quality health care and social activities. Within large cities, one often finds neighborhoods that deliver the comfort of a small town community. Cities are dynamic centers for young people, who seek lively nightlife. Money matters too: The largest cities offer higher pay than small towns or even smaller cities. Accessible cities offer senior citizens the best hospitals. All these combine to make these among the world's best places to live.

Global Finance's 2022 best cities to live in ranking is derived from a score that reflects eight distinct metrics contributing to quality of life: economic strength; cultural interaction; livability; environment; accessibility; Covid-19 deaths per thousand for the country; research and development; and annual population growth rate. These factors are all critical for quantifying the quality of life of people living in urban areas. All of the metrics were normalized in order to properly quantify them into a single overall score and provide a measure of comparison.

Where did we get the data? The first six factors (economic strength, research and development, cultural interaction, livability, environment, and accessibility) come from the Global City Power index. This study provides multiple scores that quantify different aspects of city life, including cultural, technological, environmental, and economic factors. The report’s list of cities forms the basis for our decision of what cities to include. The Covid-19 deaths per thousand comes from a combination of Johns Hopkins University and Statista for the remaining cities. The population growth is based on data from Macrotrends.


#10 | Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam made a surprising climb from 14th place on the 2020 list to 10th place scoring higher than other European cities such as Vienna, Berlin, and Copenhagen powered by better livability and transportation access scores. Another factor is that makes Amsterdam one of the best places to live is that it is affordable compared to European competitors, Amsterdam residents enjoy manageable monthly rent and house prices as well as plenty of low cost public transportation methods.

#9 | New York City, United States

New York City is the lone city in America on this year's ranking due to its strong economy, cultural significance, and research and development. The factors pushing it down from fourth place in 2020 to ninth place in 2021 are the United States' exceedingly high Covid-19 death rate and this big city's skyrocketing cost of living, driven mainly by home prices.

#8 | Beijing, China

Beijing's rise to a top 10 of the best places to live is a surprise given that it placed 22nd in 2020. Beijing scores poorly on livability—although that has been changing recently—and its high levels of pollution produce a poor environmental safety score. Nonetheless, Beijing's rich culture attracts visits, and its ranking benefitted from China’s low Covid-19 death rate. With its residents expanding by 2% in the past year, Beijing may have issues, but the city is still growing and evolving.

#7 | Paris, France

Paris has suffered a lot recently. France’s Covid-19 death rate has been higher than the global average and Paris' growth is minimal. However, with strong scores on traditional metrics such as cultural significance and livability due to an abundance of low-cost public transportation options, as well as rich art and cultural attractions, nightlife and amenities, Paris is unquestionably one of the world's best places to live.

#6 | Sydney, Australia

Right behind its fellow Australian city Melbourne is Sydney and they share many of the same strengths: Robust environmental safety, a moderately strong economy that is growing well, and the Australian government's lockdowns succeeded limiting Covid-19 deaths per capita. Also, stunning beaches, beautiful weather year round, varied outdoor activities and lively nightlife appeal to tourists and locals alike.

#5 | Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne maintained its 5th place from the 2020 ranking by being strong on environmentalism. It not only sets strict guidelines in a pursuit of zero carbon emissions but it also has a variety of groups aggressively pursuing judicial paths for tougher environmental standards. These characteristics are mirrored in an abundance of outdoor activities and attractions. Melbourne also experienced significant population growth despite the pandemic.

#4 | Singapore, Republic of Singapore

Singapore exhibits similar strengths to the other populous metro areas in Asia, which made this year's top 10. It scored moderately well in economic strength, cultural attractions, and environmental safety, and successfully limited Covid-19 deaths per capita. The city-state emphasizes education and science. Its reputation as a safe city, with low crime make it among the world's best places to live.

#3 | Shanghai, China

Using traditional metrics, Shanghai would not have ranked in the top 10 because its scores on economic strength, cultural significance, and environmental safety leave a lot to be desired. What set Shanghai apart is the exceptionally low Covid-19 death figures due to China’s zero-covid policy and its strong population growth. It continues to draw job seekers and tourists.

#2 | Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo gets second place as it scores very high on combatting Covid-19. It also continually demonstrates a passion for research and development into tech sectors and its immense public transportation system offers a high level of accessibility. Even so, Tokyo has a weakness in one key area: It is one of the few cities among the top 10 to suffer population decline in the past year. Still, although it is unquestionably a big city, many of its various wards feature the type of neighborhood bars and warm community one finds in a small town.

#1 | London, United Kingdom

London claims first place with high scores across the board for everything except Covid-19 as the U.K dealt with significant surges in case numbers from the beginning of the pandemic to as recently as January of 2022. Nevertheless, London's strength in culture, accessibility, amenities, diversity, and surprisingly strong population growth pushed it above and beyond every other city in the world. Living in London

Tailoring our methodology to the current phase of the Covid-19 pandemic led to some surprising results in the 2022 edition of Global Finance's best cities ranking (and it is important to note that past performance is no guarantee of future success in combatting Covid-19 deaths given the unpredictability of variants like Omicron emerging). Many European cities that scored highly in traditional metrics—including Berlin (16), Helsinki (17), Stockholm (18), and Zurich (19)—had high Covid-19 death rates as well. These cities also had relatively low population growth, as has been common across much of Europe recently. U.S cities such as Los Angeles (35) and Boston (41) have faced the same circumstances of high Covid-19 deaths per capita and low population growth. These factors led to many cities in the developed Western world to score poorly in this year's rankings.

Population growth combined with low Covid-19 death rates are the key factors for why some Asian cities surged in the rankings compared to where they were in 2020. Hong Kong (11), Dubai (12), Seoul (13), Bangkok (22) exhibited strong population growth and did well in limiting Covid-19 deaths. In China, strict lockdowns in specific cities were so successful in preventing Covid-19 deaths that Beijing and Shanghai catapulted from 21st and 22nd place, respectively, in the 2020 ranking and into the top 10 of this year's ranking.

The extreme divergence of population growth among the world's major cities was another significant factor in this year's ranking. Cities across the United States, Japan, Italy, and Russia have seen their populations stagnate or decline, leading to gloomy forecasts that for future generations they will be less lively, less diverse, and less wealthy places to live. At the other extreme, cities with high population growth rates such as Kuala Lumpur (24), Johannesburg (48), and Cairo (38) were held them back from reaching the top 10 by their poor scores on the other seven metrics.

Best Cities to Live in 2022 Full Ranking

Rank City Country
1 London United Kingdom
2 Tokyo Japan
3 Shanghai China
4 Singapore Republic of Singapore
5 Melbourne Australia
6 Sydney Australia
7 Paris France
8 Beijing China
9 New York United States
10 Amsterdam Netherlands
11 Hong Kong China
12 Dubai UAE
13 Seoul South Korea
14 Copenhagen Denmark
15 Toronto Canada
16 Berlin Germany
17 Helsinki Finland
18 Stockholm Sweden
19 Zurich Switzerland
20 Vienna Austria
21 Madrid Spain
22 Bangkok Thailand
23 Vancouver Canada
24 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
25 Frankfurt Germany
26 Taipei Taiwan
27 Dublin Ireland
28 Istanbul Turkey
29 Geneva Switzerland
30 Barcelona Spain
31 Osaka Japan
32 Tel Aviv Israel
33 Fukuoka Japan
34 Brussels Belgium
35 Los Angeles United States
36 Cairo Egypt
37 San Francisco United States
38 Milan Italy
39 Jakarta Indonesia
40 Moscow Russia
41 Chicago United States
42 Chicago United States
43 Washington, D.C. United States
44 Buenos Aires Argentina
45 Mumbai India
46 Sao Paulo Brazil
47 Mexico City Mexico
48 Johannesburg South Africa