The World’s Best Places to Live

As the world economy continues to slump and health scares such as the swine flu terrify millions, many people are becoming increasingly interested in the world’s best places to live.  Fortunately, Mercer Consultings releases a yearly list ranking the world’s best places to live out of 420 global cities.  A score is given to each city on the list, with New York City considered the base (with a score of 100).  Factors used to determine ratings include:

  • Law enforcement
  • Crime
  • Stability
  • Strength of the economy
  • Quality of health care
  • Restrictions on free speech and personal freedom
  • Sports activities
  • Recreation
  • Theaters
  • Relationships with neighboring countries
  • School quality
  • Cost and availability of housing
  • Climate
  • Natural disasters
  • Access to grocery markets
  • Infrastructure (including public transportation, traffic congestion, mail service, available water and electricity, and more)

European cities ranked among the world’s best places to live, with seven being in the Top 10.  The highest-ranked American cities were Honolulu, Hawaii (#29) and San Francisco, California (#30).  The three lowest-ranked places to live were N’Djamena, Chad; Bangui, Central African Republic; and Baghdad, Iraq (with a score of just 14.4, compared to New York City’s base score of 100).

Worlds best places to live


Below, I’m going to list the 10 cities which are currently considered the world’s best places to live.  While it’s safe to assume that they scored high on most of the criteria listed above, I’m also going to throw in a few additional reasons why each city might be a pleasant place to live.  If you decide to move to one of these amazing destinations, be sure and drop me a postcard or email.

Vienna, Austria

Ranked as the world’s best place to live, according to the Mercer score of 108.6.  Vienna is Austria’s largest city and capital, and the total population is in the range of 1.7 million.

  • While it scored the top spot in 2009, it also took second place in 2008.  As far back as 2001, it ranked third for quality of life.
  • Conveniently located near Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.
  • The economic, cultural and political capital of Austria.
  • Half of the population adheres to the Roman Catholic beliefs, making it an excellent choice for people of this religion.  Other religions include Jewish, Muslim, Orthodox and Protestant.
  • Vienna has a large public transportation network.
  • Numerous parks and gardens add to the beauty of the city.
  • Renowned for its architecture, museums and theaters (including opera and classical music).

Zurich, Switzerland

Ranked #2 on the world’s best places to live for 2009 (with a score of 108), Zurich is the cultural and commercial center of Switzerland.  Having finished in first place in 2008, Zurich routinely ranks among the world’s cities with the best quality of life.

  • It is often ranked as the wealthiest city in Europe.
  • Zurich is among the world leaders in protecting the environment.
  • The city is a hub for air traffic, roads and railways.
  • A leading financial center, Zurich is also the biggest center for offshore banking.  Numerous international companies make their home here.
  • Zurich is home to two of the most prestigious universities in Switzerland, ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich.  Both are ranked among the top 200 universities in the world.
  • The city contains a number of art and history museums, including Uhrenmuseum Beyer (which documents the history of timekeeping and timekeepers).  The Zurcher Opernhaus is one of the leading opera houses in Europe.
  • Zurich is known for its nightlife, with a multitude of bars, clubs, restaurants, cinemas, hotels and lounges.  There’s also a thriving red light district.  Every August, the city hosts the internationally-known Street Parade.

Geneva, Switzerland

Ranked third on the list of the world’s best place to live in 2009, Geneva also ranked second in 2008.  The total city population is 438,177, and it is known as a center for international diplomacy and cooperation.  It is sometimes known as the “Peace Capital.”

  • Considered the sixth most important financial center in the world.
  • Numerous international organizations make their home in Geneva, such as the Red Cross and the United Nations.  Over 25,000 people are employed by these agencies alone.
  • The city has a temperate climate, and locals enjoy swimming in Lake Geneva and going to the public beaches.
  • An abundance of art galleries and museums are located in the city.

Vancouver, Canada

Considered the fourth best place to live in the world for 2009 (tied with Auckland, New Zealand).  Also ranked fourth in 2008.  The largest city in Western Canada and British Columbia.

  • Vancouver has a low rate of unemployment, and the economy is consistently strong.
  • Compared to cities in Europe, Vancouver boasts a relatively low cost of living.
  • The cost of healthcare is low, and the quality is high.
  • Both public schools and universities are highly regarded.
  • Numerous recreational activities exist in and around the Vancouver area.

Auckland, New Zealand

Tied with Vancouver as the fourth best place to live in the world in 2009, the largest city in New Zealand finished in fifth place in 2008.  This city has the largest Polynesian population in the world, and many Asians have begun to migrate there over the last two decades.

  • While the city is large, the number of people are relatively small.  This allows residents to live inside the city but maintain houses instead of cramped and overpriced apartments.
  • Over 200,000 Auckland residents speak multiple languages, and over 55,000 speak three or more languages.
  • The city enjoys a mild climate throughout the year.
  • Numerous educational and employment opportunities exist.
  • One of the top 25 richest cities in the world.
  • Known as the “City of Sails,” Auckland’s harbor has more yachts per capita than any other city in the world (an estimated 135,000 yachts and launches).

Dusseldorf, Germany

In both 2008 and 2009, this capital city of North Rhine-Westphalia finished in sixth place in the Mercer rankings.  Located on the River Rhine, the total city population is 581,858.

  • Known for many yearly events, including trade and fashion fairs.  One July fair in Dusseldorf draws more than 4.5 million visitors.
  • The average yearly temperature is a mild 51 degrees (10.5 C).
  • Known as a center for German fashion and advertising.
  • Over 18 internet providers are located in the city.
  • King’s Avenue has some of the most exclusive–and expensive–shopping opportunities in all of Germany.
  • A major railway hub, more than 1,000 trains stop in Dusseldorf each day.
  • A wide array of culture is available, including ballet, opera, political cabarets, and museums for film, art, and history.

Munich, Germany

Ranked seventh among the world’s best places to live in 2009, it also ranked seventh in 2008.  The capital city of Bavaria, Germany has a total city population of 1,300,000 (making it the nation‘s third largest city).  Locals often refer to Munich as “Millionendorf,” which means “village of a million people.”

  • 47.4% of Munich does not belong to any religious group.  This is the fastest growing segment of the city’s population.
  • Munich consistently ranks in the Top 10 in regards to quality of life.
  • The city’s economy is driven by publishing, technology and biotechnology.
  • Low levels of environmental pollution.
  • The crime rate is much smaller than other major German cities.

Frankfurt, Germany

Ranked eighth by the Mercer survey, Frankfurt finished seventh as one of the world’s best cities to live in for 2008.  The fifth-largest city in Germany, the population of Frankfurt is 662,000.

  • The largest financial center in continental Europe.
  • Frankfurt International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world.
  • The only German city listed as one of the world’s 10 Alpha cities.
  • The Frankfurt Central Station is one of the busiest (and largest) train stations in Europe.
  • Boasts the highest concentration of jobs in Germany (with 922 jobs per 1,000 residents).  The Frankfurt International Airport is the largest supplier of jobs in Germany.
  • The Museum Riverbank Festival is one of the largest cultural festivals in Germany, drawing more than 3 million visitors each year during a 3-day period in August.
  • More than 20 museums are located on the Main Riverbank.
  • Numerous places of culture and history exist, including Frankfurt Opera House, Old Opera House, Saint Paul’s Church and Saint Bartholomeus’ Cathedral.
  • Has the highest number of home owners in Germany.

Bern, Switzerland

Ranked ninth by Mercer in both 2008 and 2009.  The total city population is 962,983.

  • The city market is located in the center of Bern, and fresh fruits and vegetables are available three times per week.
  • The city’s size allows residents to walk almost anywhere they need to go.
  • Covered walking areas allow shoppers to stay comfortable in both winter and summer.
  • Citizens love to swim in the river Aare during the summer, and the free Marzili baths are also very popular.
  • Many small, quaint towns are located with five minutes of Bern.

Sydney, Australia

Sydney finished tenth in 2008 and 2009, making it consistently one of the world’s best places to live.  This largest Australian city has 4.34 million residents and serves as the capital of New South Wales.  It was also the site of the first British colony to be established in the country.

  • Built around a port, Sydney is known as “The Harbour City.”
  • Numerous international sporting events have been hosted in Sydney, including the 2000 Summer Olympics and the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
  • The Economist has ranked Sydney is the Top 10 of the world’s most livable cities.
  • One of the most multicultural cities in the world.
  • Of all the cities in Australia, Sydney has the highest median household income (equivalent to $42,559).
  • A large variety of culture can be enjoyed in Sydney, with the most famous being the Sydney Opera House.
  • Sydney is also well-known for its beaches, bays, rivers, and national parks.

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