In considering what makes a city a great place to live, everyone has different criteria, from climate to geographic location to entertainment options. However, some factors weigh heavily across the board, including the cost of living, accessibility, availability of jobs and housing, and quality of education. The Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) releases an annual Global Liveability Index, ranking 140 world cities by 30 different criteria in five main categories, with scores in the areas of health care, stability, culture, education, and infrastructure. In the past, European cities have tended to dominate. However, the most recent rankings for 2021 considered several extra criteria in light of the pandemic. As a result, this year’s index is noticeably different from previous years' and includes many cities in Asia and Oceania. The following 10 places are the world’s most livable cities.
Brisbane, Australia (Score: 92.4)
Several Australian cities feature in the list of top 10 most livable cities, largely thanks to the country's handling of the pandemic and low case counts compared to other nations. Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, earned a perfect score in health care and education and a strong score for stability. Australia’s third-largest city, Brisbane is located on the banks of the river that shares its name. Residents enjoy an average of 283 days of sunshine per year. To the east is a stunning coastline with idyllic beaches and thriving marine life, while forests and valleys to the west of the city offer opportunities for hiking and outdoor recreation. Brisbane also has a rich arts and cultural scene, with the annual Brisbane Festival showcasing some of Australia’s finest creative talents each September.
Melbourne, Australia (Score: 92.5)
Melbourne has also moved up the rankings this year, with perfect scores in the fields of education and infrastructure. It is Australia’s second-largest city and the world’s southernmost city with a population of more than 1 million people. Melbourne is located at the northern end of Port Phillip Bay, but its suburbs are rapidly expanding across the bay’s eastern shore. The city enjoys a moderate climate throughout the year, rarely dropping below freezing or becoming uncomfortably hot. It is the financial hub for the state of Victoria, but much of downtown Melbourne is pedestrian-friendly, making it easy to explore the markets and art galleries on foot. Meanwhile, cricket enthusiasts can catch the national pastime at Melbourne’s famous cricket ground.
Geneva, Switzerland (Score: 92.5)
Tied with Melbourne for eighth place is the Swiss city of Geneva. Located at the southern tip of Lac Leman, Geneva is close to the French border and has many French cultural influences. The United Nations and Red Cross are both based in Geneva, along with many European banks. Residents of this cosmopolitan city enjoy views of both the lake and the scenic Alps and Jura mountains surrounding it. Despite Geneva’s proximity to ski resorts, the waters of Lac Leman help keep the climate pleasant all year. Although Geneva is clearly a modern city, its streets still feature many wonderful examples of medieval and Renaissance architecture, lending a romantic small-town charm.
Zurich, Switzerland (Score: 92.8)
Also retaining its spot in the top 10 is Zurich. Like fellow Swiss city Geneva, Zurich is an international hub for banking and trade. However, since it is located in the northern part of Switzerland, it has a much more German flavor. The old town maintains its medieval feel, and there are plenty of open green spaces throughout the city and along the shore of Lake Zurich. More than one-third of the city’s population are immigrants, adding to its diverse mix of international restaurants and cultural attractions. The Swiss National Museum showcases a vast collection of artifacts, and for those seeking to experience another key element of Swiss culture, the Lindt Home of Chocolate features the world’s largest chocolate store.
Perth, Australia (Score: 93.3)
What Perth lacks in proximity to other major Australian cities, it makes up for with its own cultural identity. The EIU gives Perth perfect scores for health care and education, suggesting it is an ideal place to raise a family and enjoy a good quality of life. Perth is situated on the continent’s western coast, where the Swan River enters the Indian Ocean. Sandy beaches and lush botanical gardens allow residents to make the most of its tropical climate. June and July tend to be damp, and January and February can be quite hot, but the rest of the year is comfortable and mild. The Western Australia Ballet and Western Australian Opera are both based within the Perth Cultural Centre, a district that also is home to art galleries and museums.
Tokyo, Japan (Score: 93.7)
Tokyo is one of two Japanese cities that rank among the top 10 most livable cities. The EIU notes that its perfect stability score during the pandemic has been an important factor. The sprawling Tokyo metro area has a population of more than 37 million people, making it the most populated city on the planet. Tokyo offers a fascinating mix of modern technology, with its high-rise buildings and neon signs, and traditional Japanese culture. Even in the midst of the crowded shopping areas, one can happen upon a peaceful shrine or temple. The climate can be extremely humid in the summer months, with temperatures climbing above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but spring and fall are more comfortable, if prone to showers. The city is particularly appealing during cherry blossom (sakura) season, when the pretty pink flowers blossom throughout Japan, symbolizing the start of spring.
Wellington, New Zealand (Score: 93.7)
Sharing fourth place with Tokyo is New Zealand’s capital, Wellington. The city entered the top 10 in large part due to its protective measures at the start of the pandemic, which led to a low infection rate. Wellington sits at the southern end of New Zealand’s North Island, and, in addition to being the center of government, is a key port and commercial hub for the country. Much of the city is built on land reclaimed from Port Nicholson (Wellington Harbor). Te Papa Tongarewa (the Museum of New Zealand) and the Wellington Zoo are popular cultural attractions in the city. New Zealanders love getting outdoors, so there are plenty of opportunities for fresh air and exercise nearby, including wineries, hiking trails, and beaches.
Adelaide, Australia (Score: 94)
In third place, ranking highest among the Australian cities, is Adelaide. Like Perth and Brisbane, it scores perfectly in health care and education. The city is located on the southern coast of Australia and enjoys a Mediterranean-style climate of warm summers and mild winters. Adelaide is the gateway to Australia’s wine country, and some of the nation’s finest vineyards are just a short drive away. The city also has a highly regarded dining scene with flavor influences from around the world. The Adelaide Festival — one of the largest of its kind in Australia — takes place every two years and features art, music, and literary events.
Osaka, Japan (Score: 94.2)
Osaka claims second place in the Global Liveability Index. Part of the second-largest metro area in Japan, the city is both a major industrial hub and a bustling destination for nightlife and street food. Like Tokyo, it has a mild winter climate and hot, humid summers. Although Osaka is based around manufacturing and shopping more than tourism, there is much to see. Osaka Castle, built in the 16th century, is one of its most popular attractions. The downtown area’s grid system also makes it easy to navigate. In July, Osaka hosts Tenjin Matsuri, one of the largest festivals in Japan. For two days, the city is alive with parades and firework displays.
Auckland, New Zealand (Score: 96)
For the first time, Auckland holds the top spot in the Global Liveability Index. According to the EIU, this is largely due to the New Zealand government’s handling of the pandemic, which allowed schools and other cultural attractions to remain open while the country’s borders were closed to the outside world. Previously, the city had ranked sixth, but in 2021, Auckland scored strongly in every category. It is New Zealand’s largest city and covers an area of more than 2,000 square miles. As such, it has something to suit everyone, from museums to outdoor activities. Not only is it a great place to live, but Lonely Planet also named it one of the best cities to travel to in 2022.