What makes a city liveable for you? Things like transport, housing, political stability, health care, climate, crime rate and green areas are probably all on your list. These are more or less the same criteria used by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) to come up with their list of the most liveable cities in the world.
It’s no surprise that the liveability rating has sunk for cities where unrest, war, or economic decline have dominated the headlines recently. Cities in this category include Damascus, Cairo, Tripoli, and Athens.
The liveability index notes that cities with low population density in wealthier countries tend to get to the top of the list. The one exception is Tokyo, which occupies 12th place despite being very densely populated (6,000 people per square kilometre).
So, according to the EIU and other sources, the top 15 most liveable cities (taking 30 factors into account) are:
1. Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne was named the world’s friendliest city by Conde Nast Traveller magazine. Other factors which helped it earn the top spot were:
- low crime rates
- prestigious educational institutions
- world-class healthcare
2. Vienna, Austria
Vienna has world class cultural facilities including beautiful buildings, cultural events, and museums. Vienna’s transport system is cheap, and the city provides housing at reasonable rates. Its coffee houses provide a warm haven when the weather gets very cold.
3. Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver’s infrastructure got very high marks, along with its health facilities. The Metro Vancouver’s Evergreen Line project got particular mention. Once it’s completed, it will be the longest rapid transit system in Canada. In addition, Vancouver is becoming a safer city, reaching a record low homicide rate in 2013.
4. Toronto, Canada
Toronto gets fourth place because it is one of the safest cities in the world. In addition, it has beautiful green spaces and attractive neighbourhoods which can be reached either by walking or with the excellent transport system. It has wonderful facilities for hosting sporting and arts events.
5. Calgary, Canada
Because of its proximity to mountains and beautiful weather for winter sports, Calgary is an excellent place to live. It is also clean and has an efficient transport system. It is an ideal center for organizing trips to the nearby icefields and glaciers and other spectacular mountain scenery.
5. Adelaide, Australia (tied for 5th place)
A safe, clean environment, with affordable housing prices plus a high standard of living helped Adelaide to share the fifth position. Its municipal policies regarding the environment and pollution are well known and appreciated by residents.
7. Sydney, Australia
Sydney’s temperate climate is among the most pleasant in the world. Obviously that was a big plus in getting it into seventh place. In addition, there is a very low rate of unemployment and the economy is booming. It is a spacious city with a spectacular harbour setting, and has plus gorgeous beaches and a cultural life next to none. It would have scored even higher except for the infrastructural problems it has faced trying to cope with traffic and the very high cost of living. The photo shows Centennial Park in Sydney.
8. Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki has a population of 600,000 although that is growing at a fast rate, according to demographers. The capital city of Finland has led the way in energy efficiency and helping to preserve the environment. The city council is committed to building new residential areas and making the excellent transport system even better in the future.
9. Perth, Australia
Perth is rather special because it has managed to strike a happy balance between open spaces and housing developments without ruining the environment. Work-life balance is also respected by the citizens of Perth, who value recreation highly. They have a superb natural environment in which to enjoy themselves.
10. Auckland, New Zealand
Space is no problem in New Zealand. The average population density is only 16 people per square kilometre, which is about half of the USA average. Auckland scored top marks for education, not least in caring for Maori educational needs.
Brilliant sunsets, a wide variety of ethnic food at reasonable prices and stunning street art make the city a very attractive place. Day trips are easy and there are ferries to Rangitoto Island which will give you a beautiful view of the city.
11. Copenhagen, Denmark
Danish citizens rank at the top of the UN World Happiness Report. There are many reasons why they are so content. One is that they value their work-life balance and secondly they have one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Copenhagen is a compact, clean, and safe city. It looks after its environment well. Cycling lanes are everywhere and you can easily get to any city district in about 20 minutes. The population of Copenhagen is around half a million.
12. Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo would be much higher on the list if it were only measured by efficiency and safety. The transport system will impress you for such a large city. On top of that, there’s the almost universal politeness of the Japanese and the city’s astonishing amount of green space. Although Tokyo did not win their 2016 Olympics bid, their proposal to use the existing buildings as much as possible without adding more buildings was admirable. The photo shows passengers on theTokyo metro.
13. Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm is a remarkable location simply because of the fact that one third of the city is built on water. Another third consists of 14 islands. It has been compared to Venice. It has an astonishing array of architectural gems and museums which make it a beautiful urban space to experience. Its districts are also colourful and distinctive, which, together with the friendliness of Stockholm residents, makes it a remarkable place to settle down in.
14. Frankfurt, Germany
Frankfurt is one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities. When you live there, you have an astonishing range of ethnic food stores, and eating out can be a real adventure. As regards the other liveability factors, these include:
- work hard, play hard mentality
- buzzing nightlife
- the village atmosphere of some city districts
- world-famous universities such as the Goethe
15. Dusseldorf, Germany
One of the most attractive things about living in Dusseldorf is the low cost of living. You can rent a one-bedroom flat in the city center for about $760 a month, while a month’s gym membership would only cost about $50. Dusseldorf has a relatively small population of half a million and scores high on the educational rating. It also has some very good international schools, and the city infrastructure is second to none. The atmosphere is also rather cosmopolitan.
Most people regard liveability indexes with a great deal of suspicion and I am inclined to agree with them. However, let us say that they are a starting point. Living happily in a city or country really depends on whether you can find a job (or live comfortably while retired), and integrate successfully by learning the language. It really is what you make of it. Just like everything in life!
Featured photo credit: “Cars Suck”/Denis Bocquet via flickr.com