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What makes a city ‘livable’? According to the consulting firm Mercer’s 18th annual Quality of Living survey, it’s a combination of 39 different factors, which include internal stability, crime figures, local law enforcement performance, currency exchange, recreational facilities, housing, climate and more. Read on for the top 12 most livable cities.
For the seventh year in a row, Vienna has been dubbed the most livable city in the world. The capital and largest city of Austria is a place of international gathering and cooperation, housing many major international organizations like the United Nations and OPEC. The city has a rich sense of history with streets filled with Baroque castles and other majestic buildings. It is also a prosperous city—Vienna has been highly regarded as a city of innovation, and urban planners have used it as a case study because of its success.
Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland, houses one of the world’s largest financial centers. The city is filled with museums, parks, galleries, and theaters, making it a fantastic cultural hub. Zurich is also one of the world leaders in climate protection. Bicycles and public transportation—via train, tram, bus, boat, or cable car—are popular methods of travel, and the country leads research and projects for renewable energy. High scores in work, housing, leisure, education, and safety also propelled Zurich, one of the most expensive cities in the world, to the top of the livability list.
Located on New Zealand’s North Island, Auckland is the largest urban area in the country and the first non-European country to make the list. The positive lifestyle in Auckland is influenced by a mild climate, numerous employment opportunities, and convenient leisure facilities, but increased housing costs, lack of public transportation, and heavy traffic are problems yet to be tackled in the city. Auckland is home to many arts and cultural events throughout the year, including Auckland Festival, New Zealand International Comedy Festival, New Zealand International Film Festival, and many more.
Munich is Germany’s first of a handful of cities to make the top 12 livable cities. Munich is one of the largest cities in Germany, and it has the highest population density in the country. Although it was largely destroyed in WWII, Munich has experienced strong economic growth since the 1980s, and it is a major center for art, advanced technologies, finance, innovation, and more. The city has low unemployment rates and it is home to some large corporations like BMW.
North America makes its first appearance on the list with Vancouver, located in British Columbia, Canada, a city that is consistently high in livability rankings. It is Canada’s most densely populated city, but Vancouver was also rated one of the cleanest cities in the world, and it has taken an enviable approach to urban planning that preserves green spaces in the city. ‘Ecodensity’ has been a popular topic up for debate in Vancouver, and the word describes the concept of how density, design, and land use can contribute to environmental sustainability, affordability, and livability. Although the city is full of positive points, an overpriced real estate market and bad traffic stand out as unfortunate flaws.
Dusseldorf, Germany is a hub for international business and finance, and it is one of the top telecommunications centers in Germany, leading the mobile phone market. The city is also known for its fashion and trade fairs, its large influence on electronic and experimental music, and its arts and cultural events like Karneval, one of the city’s most important events throughout the year. Dusseldorf used to be full of excellent, old-fashioned architecture, but much of that was destroyed in WWII. The city’s famous old town was rebuilt to resemble the historic town.
Frankfurt, a center for commerce, culture, education, and tourism, is another of Germany’s many livable cities. The city is home to many cultural and educational institutions as well as the world’s largest motor show and the world’s largest book fair. Its many museums include the Städel, Goethe House, and Naturmuseum Senckenberg, and it houses two large botanical gardens. Before WWII, Frankfurt was known for its timber-framed buildings located in the old town, but today it is known as one of Europe’s most skyscraper-filled cities. The city contains a network of cycle routes, and 50 percent of Frankfurt’s city limits are protected green areas.
Nicknamed the Peace Capital, it’s easy to see what makes Geneva a livable city. Located in Romandy, the French-speaking area of Switzerland, Geneva is an important world financial center and a center for international diplomacy, housing organizations like the United Nations, the Red Cross, and, historically, the Geneva Convention, as well as many international company headquarters. Geneva is one of the most expensive cities you could live in, but it is filled with wonderful cultural institutions including theaters and museums, it has an extensive public transport network, and it consistently makes strides in sustainable development and environmental protection.
The capital of Denmark and most populated city in the country takes the ninth spot of the top livable cities. The economy has developed rapidly in recent years with Denmark making strides in information technology, pharmaceuticals, and clean technology. The city has a stable economy and accessible education services as well as city planning that favors cyclists and pedestrians over automobiles. Copenhagen is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world as well as one of the most environmentally friendly. The city has invested in a large offshore wind farm as well as sustainable sewage treatment, and it aims to be carbon-neutral by 2025.
Sydney, the state capital of New South Wales and most populous city in all of Oceania, is Asia Pacific’s financial hub. The city acts as a gateway into Australia for international visitors, featuring popular landmarks like Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach, and more. The city is home to many green spaces like the Royal Botanic Garden, Hyde Park, and The Domain. Sydney has bus, train, and ferry services, but its citizens still largely rely on automobiles to get around, so traffic congestion throughout the city is high. In recent years, the government has started encouraging Sydney’s citizens to use public transport, bikes, and electric cars to decrease air pollution in the city.
The capital and most populous city of the Netherlands is Amsterdam, where popular tourist attractions include the historic canals, the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House, the red-light district, and the Rijksmuseum. The city is home to a huge variety of nationalities with about 50 percent of the population being immigrants, and typically Amsterdam has a very open and tolerant society, though tensions have arisen on occasion. The city’s intricate canal system was created as a practical answer to an expanding city in the 1600s rather than being purely ornamental. Amsterdam is filled with parks and open spaces in the city, and it is very friendly toward pedestrians and cyclists.
The second most populous urban area in New Zealand is Wellington, the capital city. The city operates as New Zealand’s political center, but it is also a city of importance to the film and theater industry as well as other cultural and creative industries. Tourism, arts and culture, and film have played a large role in boosting the local economy. As a contrast to many of the other cities on this list, Wellington is widely regarded as a very affordable city, making it look appealing to tourists as well as international companies. The city is full of iconic sculptures, historic buildings, and quaint homes, and there are festivals around the year.