The 10 Greenest Cities in the World

Take a walk on the wild side: Downtown Vancouver faces onto Stanley Park
Take a walk on the wild side: Downtown Vancouver faces onto Stanley Park | © All Canada Photos / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Ania Manczyk
24 December 2020

All of these wonderful cities are green destinations where cutting-edge urban culture can be enjoyed alongside the outdoors. Interestingly, almost all of them are water-linked cities.

Copenhagen

Copenhagen has won so many awards for its eco-credentials over the years that it is becoming almost boring. However, with its extensive cycling infrastructure and the option to swim in pristine harbor waters right in the center of town, it’s difficult not to be impressed. Queen Louise’s Bridge is the busiest cycling route in the West, with an estimated 35,000 cyclists during rush hour. Green in Denmark equals cool and hip. Look out for local ethical fashion designers Ecoture by Lund and Barbara i Gongini – and if you’re looking for a place to stay, we’ve rounded up the best boutique hotels in town.

EFX6EJ Colorful Copenhagen street scene | © Kenny Ferguson / Alamy Stock Photo

Vancouver

Facing the Pacific Ocean and a step away from the wild mountains of British Columbia, Vancouver has a natural advantage in the green city stakes. Its use of renewable energies and hydropower means it has super clean air. Also, unlike many North American cities, Vancouver actively promotes urban living, meaning its central neighborhoods are buzzing with life, hip bars and restaurants. And then there are the 200 parks where you can breathe Vancouver’s fresh air to your heart’s (and lungs’) content. The big one is Stanley Park, occupying its very own island with a West Coast rainforest, beaches, and the Seawall.

Feeling inspired? Check out our pick of the best hotels in Downtown Vancouver for a special stay in the city centre.

BG1ET3 Light beacon on the seawall promenade in Stanley Park, Burrard Inlet, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, North America | © robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

Amsterdam

With its hundreds of cyclists and open spaces among the canals, it’s no surprise that Amsterdam is classified as one of the world’s greenest cities. Visit the regenerated former industrial area of Amsterdam Noord to relax by the waterfront areas or explore the rural landscapes. Noord has become a creative hub with galleries, restaurants, and quirky shops in former factories and hangars. Explore the cutting-edge EYE Film Museum and its terraced cafe, or the Tolhuistuin, a former toll house with a live music venue, a restaurant, and cinema.

From old dockland cranes to a refurbished tram depot, Amsterdam is also packed with unique places to stay. We’ve curated our best boutique selection here.

© JOHN KELLERMAN / Alamy Stock Photo

Stockholm

Spread across a 14-island archipelago, Stockholm’s green credentials are well-established. Join the locals in their commute to work and explore the islands by ferry, or rent a kayak for a more active afternoon. Stockholm has built up a reputation for innovative restaurants using fresh, local ingredients from the city’s several iconic market halls. The best are Östermalms Saluhall located in the Östermalm district, Hötorgshallen in the Norrmalm district, and Söderhallarna located on Södermalm.

Stockholm’s keenness for greenness extends to its tourist accommodation too – check out our pick of the best boutique hotels designed with sustainability in mind.

JYKMFR STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - JULY 5, 2017: View over Drottningholm Palace and park on a sunny summer day. Home residence of Swedish royal family | © Anastasiia Petrych / Alamy Stock Photo

Singapore

More often associated with gleaming skyscrapers, Singapore is Asia’s greenest city. As a small, dense, and resourceless island, it has found ways to innovate with an eco-first approach. For locals, rooftop gardens are a way of life. The huge SkyPark on top of the Marina Bay Sands complex, with its dramatic infinity pool, is the most famous. Awe-inspiring Supertree structures that ascend up to 165ft (50m) in the Gardens by the Bay have come to symbolize Singapore’s commitment to sustainability. The city also created its own equivalent of New York’s High Line – a 15mi (24km) stretch of parkland along old railway tracks.

Looking for a special place to stay? Avoid the chains and resorts and opt for something more unique.

© Galen Crout / Unsplash

Portland

Portland is consistently rated the greenest city in the USA. The Oregon capital is known for its friendly and relaxed vibe. So pack your outdoor gear to blend in and deal with the frequent drizzle. Forest Park, on the western hills of the city, overlooks Willamette River. It contains over 70mi (113km) of trails. Hire a bike to discover Portland’s eight bridges. The most interesting are Steel Bridge, a unique double-decker vertical lift bridge, and Hawthorne Bridge, the USA’s oldest operating lift bridge. After all that activity, it’s best to relax in one of Portland’s many microbreweries to enjoy a local brew.

And for accommodation, you won’t be left wanting. From renovated drive-in motels to hip luxury hotels, Portland has a lodging for just about anyone.

© Wilhelm Gunkel / Unsplash

Reykjavik

Tiny Reykjavik with its 115,000 inhabitants has led the way in renewable energy. All of its hot water, heating, and electricity come from hydropower and geothermal resources. This means you can enjoy hot springs, heated outdoor pools, as well as the clean air. For the truly brave, there is Nauthólsvík geothermal beach, which consists of a lagoon with large sea walls, where the meeting of cold sea and hot geothermal water results in higher temperatures. Locals enjoy the swimming, even in the winter, warming up in the steam baths and hot tubs, but at its coldest the temperature can fall close to zero.

A trip to the Icelandic capital needn’t cost a fortune either; these sleek and budget-friendly hotels keep your costs down without compromising on comfort.

© Evelyn Paris / Unsplash

Cape Town

With its numerous nature reserves, miles of dramatic coastline, and an efficient public transport system, Cape Town is considered Africa’s greenest city. Take the cable car up and, if you’re feeling brave, abseil down Table Mountain before heading to peaceful Oudekraal Beach, still inside Table Mountain National Park. For a beautiful beach with a difference, explore the aptly named Boulders Beach, which is home to 2,000 endangered African Penguins. Groot Constantia, the oldest wine-producing estate in South Africa, about 20 minutes outside of Cape Town, provides the perfect setting to toast your trip.

If you plan to visit, keep your personal eco-conscience clean with a stay at one of the best eco-hotels in Cape Town, bookable with Culture Trip.

© mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Curitiba

Curitiba is recognized as the most livable Brazilian city. The local council has promoted green policies since the 1970s, often through controversial tax cuts and subsidies, leading to the creation of 30 parks and urban forests. Locals have also taken to their city’s eco-friendly reputation; planting a total of 1.5m trees along highways over the decades. If you go, be sure to use the Bus Rapid Transit system – a Curitiba invention – to explore the parks and memorials to the city’s multicultural background, including the German Woods and the Polish Memorial.

AKXB1W Barigui park at Curitiba. Image shot 02/2008. Exact date unknown. | © Marcelo Rudini / Alamy Stock Photo

San Francisco

San Francisco is making huge strides to become one of the USA’s greenest cities. As the home of the Sierra Club – one of the first environmental grassroots movements in the country and the birthplace of the “eat local” trend – the city has strong credentials. It all started with the creation of the Golden Gate Park in the 1860s. Today, the park’s grounds contain the de Young Museum, the Academy of Sciences, the botanical and tea gardens, and a herd of bison.

To make the most of San Francisco, it’s important you choose your accommodation wisely. To help you do that, we’ve handpicked the best boutique hotels in town.

MK5AGR Famous Golden Gate Bridge framed by old cypress trees at Presidio Park on a beautiful sunny day with blue sky and clouds, San Francisco, California | © Scott Wilson / Alamy Stock Photo

Cookies Policy

We and our partners use cookies to better understand your needs, improve performance and provide you with personalised content and advertisements. To allow us to provide a better and more tailored experience please click "OK"