Clean, safe and a little bit dull... the world's most liveable cities

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Forget Paris, New York or London, the best places to settle no longer need to be happening – as Vienna proves

The songbook of the world's most likeable cities needs an urgent rewrite. "We will always have Dusseldorf"; "I love Zurich in the springtime"; "Tulips from Vancouver"; "Maybe it's because I'm a Frankfurter that I love Frankfurt so". In a survey of the world's most liveable towns, published yesterday, European cities dominate but not the European cities that you might imagine. Paris comes only 33rd, between Adelaide and Brisbane. London comes 38th, jointly with Yokohama.

The city with the highest quality of urban living in the world, according to the survey, is Vienna, followed by Zurich and Geneva. Auckland and Vancouver come joint fourth. All of these cities have a reputation – perhaps undeserved – for crashing dullness. Cities with romantic, glitzy reputations, from New York (49th) to Rome (55th), fare badly.

The Worldwide Quality of Living Survey is, arguably, more suburban than urban. The league table of 215 cities reflects the criteria set by Mercer, an American management consultancy which specialises in advising companies on the relocation of executives. Political stability, security, air pollution, schools, supermarkets, environment and transport rank highly. Cutting-edge culture, architecture and excitement count for relatively little.

Unsurprisingly, the city that comes bottom of the table is Baghdad with a score of 14.4 (encouragingly up from 13.5 last year). The top city, Vienna, scores 108.6, overtaking Zurich, which has led the table for eight years. No American city comes in the top 25. The highest is Honolulu in Hawaii, scarcely a city at all, which ranks 29th.

Of the top 10 most liveable cities in the Mercer table, seven are European; three are German (Dusseldorf, Munich, Frankfurt); three are Swiss (Zurich, Geneva, Berne) and one is Austrian (Vienna). Auckland and Vancouver tie for fourth place. Sydney comes 10th.

What faith can one have in a table that ranks Brussels (14th) above Paris? Is Vancouver (fourth) preferable to LA (59th)? Is Vienna, city of waltzes, cream-cakes, coffee-houses and Sigmund Freud, truly the most liveable city in the world?

Otmar Lahodynski, European editor of Profil magazine, based in Vienna, believes that it is. "There are few cities in the world in which you can walk safely in the street after midnight. In Vienna, you can. There are few cities in which you can swim, for free, in clean water in the centre of town in the summer. In Vienna you can, in the Danube canal."

Vienna is not a small city (population 1,800,000) but it has no suburban sprawl. It was built as an imperial capital for up to 6,000,000 people and so has a wonderful feeling of spaciousness. It has delicious tap-water piped straight from the mountains. It is clean and green.

But isn't Vienna rather a, er, dull city, compared to, say, London or Paris or Amsterdam? "When I moved here in the 1970s, it is true, that the city was rather a grey place that closed at 10pm," Mr Lahodynski said. "But now there are bars and restaurants open until late. There is as much culture as anyone could need – music of course, also theatre and wonderful art galleries. The collapse of the Iron Curtain changed everything. Vienna used to be at the far end of western Europe, the end of the democratic world. Now we are in the centre."

OK, fair enough for Vienna. But what about Zurich, city of gnomes and spires, often said to be the wealthiest city in Europe? Surely Zurich is just a teensy bit dull. "Not a bit of it," said Bill Hall, a former British newspaper correspondent in Zurich. "Berne, yes, there's a dull city. Boring Berne, they call it. How Berne gets so high in the table is a real mystery.

"Not Zurich. Zurich is the most liveable city I know. Much more liveable than Vienna, because it's smaller, only 376,000 people. In Zurich, I've had some of the best meals I have ever eaten. There are little bars and coffee houses for young people. The trams and trains always run to time. People are friendly. Prices never seem to rise. Great walking and skiing are only two hours away. Zurich is just a great city, a city that works."

Tom Armitage, 31, a British insurance executive in Zurich, agrees wholeheartedly. "A few years ago maybe Zurich was a sleepy place," he said. "Not any more. There is a lively new media scene, a much more international population."

The criteria used by Mercer to rate cities include political stability, crime, medical services, schools (especially international schools), public services, transport, recreation, shops, housing, climate and pollution.

Superior cities? The survey's top 50

1. VIENNA

For Clean, green, safe city, packed with music, theatre, art, history, coffee-bars and trams.

Against Full of grumpy old fur-coated ladies and sad historical ghosts from its formerly heavily Jewish past.

2. ZURICH

For Great public transport, services and restaurants. Beautiful buildings and accessible mountains and lakes.

Against Miserable, dull winters; high cost of living; conservative and narrow-minded older Swiss population.

3. GENEVA

For Great public transport, services and restaurants. Swimming and yachting from centre.

Against Achingly dull city populated by stand-offish international bureaucrats and far-out radical Swiss youth.

=4. VANCOUVER

For Greenest city in North America. Sea-sports just to the west; skiing, climbing and walking just to the east.

Against Culturally dull city. It is a long way from almost everywhere.

=4. AUCKLAND

For New Zealand's most ethnically mixed and friendly city.

Against Poor infrastructure. Crime and other urban problems. It is a long way from almost everywhere.

6:Dusseldorf

7: Munich

8: Frankfurt

9: Berne

10: Sydney

11: Copenhagen

12: Wellington

13: Amsterdam

14: Brussels

15: Toronto

=16: Ottawa/Berlin

18: Melbourne

19: Luxembourg

20: Stockholm

21: Perth

22:Montreal

23: Nürnberg

24: Oslo

25: Dublin

=26: Singapore/Calgary

28: Hamburg

29: Honolulu

=30: San Francisco/Helsinki/ Adelaide

33:Paris

34: Brisbane

=35: Tokyo/Boston

37: Lyon

=38:Yokohama/London

40: Kobe

41: Milan

=42: Portland/Barcelona

=44: Washington DC/Osaka/Lisbon/Chicago

48: Madrid

49: New York

50: Seattle

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick