The university has a nudist beach. Whistler mountain ski resort is a quick drive from downtown. The climate is mild in winter and sunny in summer. Just some of the reasons why Vancouver has been nominated as the world's most liveable city, beating Melbourne into second place and leaving London far behind at 47th.
Vancouver eclipsed 127 other cities in a new survey which looked at a wide range of criteria, including personal risk, healthcare, the availability of goods and services, and climate. But this is not the first time the City of Glass, so-called because of its mirror-fronted skyscrappers, has received outside recognition. Vancouver has topped the United Nations quality of life survey for nearly a decade.
Condé Nast Traveller, which describes the Canadian metropolis as a "perfect Pacific city, shimmering on the edge of a beautiful harbour" last year ranked Vancouver the "Best City in the Americas".
"There are hardly any problems in Canada, and even less in Vancouver," said Jon Copestake, editor of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EUI) which commissioned the research. "Hardly any factors in Vancouver present challenges - crime no, transportation, not really."
It wasn't always so. When the city put in its bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics, the International Olympic Committee complained about the long journey to the ski resort of Whistler. The road that connects Vancouver to Whistler - Highway 99 or the "Sea to Sky" highway - is notorious for its white-knuckle turns that twist alongside steep river gorges. Rocks from the Coast Mountain range tumble onto the road. Traffic backlogs are common. The city's Olympic committee promised to revamp the road, showcased photos of the glistening harbour (set to the music of Vancouver-bred Bryan Adams), and won the Olympic bid.
Though the residents of Vancouver like to boast they can happily cycle in Stanley Park in the morning, ski in the afternoon and stroll naked on Wreck Beach in the evening, there is a dark side, primarily in the Downtown Eastside area. This was the setting for Canada's largest serial murder case, which involved the disappearance of 63 prostitutes.
But despite its problems, it's still a great city to live in, says Will Ferguson, the Canadian writer and author of Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw. "Vancouver is the envy of all Canadian cities," he said. "There are five steps in Canadian life. First, you hate Toronto, second, you move to Toronto. Third, you wish you moved to Vancouver, and fourth, you stay in Toronto. Then you hate Vancouver." Toronto was ranked number nine in the survey.
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