Forget Paris, London, and most of Australia: There are new winners for the list of the world’s most livable cities

June 23, 2022, 5:54 PM UTC
Views of the Nyhavn Street of Copenhagen, Denmark.
There are new winners for the list of the world’s most livable cities. Copenhagen is among them.
Maxym Marusenko—NurPhoto/Getty Images

What does it mean to be the best city in the world? Every year, one organization tries to figure it out.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a research organization owned by the Economist media outlet, releases an annual Global Liveability Index, a ranking of the best cities to live in.

“The concept of liveability is simple,” the organization wrote in its 2022 report, which ranks 172 cities. “It assesses which locations around the world provide the best or the worst living conditions.”

The top of the list is typically dominated by cities in North America and western Europe, along with Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. The same is the case this year, although there have been several key shifts. While New Zealand topped the list last year as its closed borders let residents have relatively normal lives, it has since lost its edge as most pandemic-era restrictions have been lifted across the globe. 

This year, Vienna returned to number one, a spot it also held in 2018 and 2019, after its cultural and entertainment attractions reopened. 

The EIU measures liveability using several factors like political stability, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure, which allow it to asscopign a score between 1 and 100 to every city. A score of 1 is “intolerable,” according to the EIU, while 100 is “ideal.” Scores in general improved on this year’s ranking, though the overall index score is still below what it was pre-pandemic.

Geopolitical unrest also impacted this year’s list, causing Russian and Eastern European cities to fall. Ukraine’s capital and most populous city, Kyiv, was removed from the list altogether.

Here are the cities that made the top 10.

1. Vienna

Austria’s capital and most populous city topped this year’s list after slipping to number 12 in 2021, as COVID restrictions shuttered its cultural attractions. 

“Stability and good infrastructure are the city’s main charms for its inhabitants, supported by good healthcare and plenty of opportunities for culture and entertainment,” wrote the EIU in its report. Vienna also held the number one spot in 2018 and 2019.

2. Copenhagen

Last year, the capital of Denmark was number 15 on the list. This year, it scored 100 for stability, education, and infrastructure, bringing it up to the top. 

3. Zurich

The Swiss capital made the top 10 for the second year in a row, after landing at number seven in 2021. 

3. Calgary

There are three Canadian cities in the top 10 this year, with the country’s third largest city, Calgary, placing highest. Tied for number three with Zurich, the city moved up 15 spots since last year with the easing of its COVID restrictions. 

5. Vancouver

Vancouver is typically a mainstay on the EIU’s list, holding strong at number one for nearly a decade between 2002 and 2010. It’s back in the top 10 this year after falling off during the pandemic.

6. Geneva

Switzerland is the only European country with two cities on this year’s list; Geneva moved up two spots to earn an overall score of 95.9 on the index. 

7. Frankfurt

While Frankfurt made the top 10 this year, moving up from 39 last year, other major European cities like London, Berlin, and Paris did not. 

“Most German, U.K., and French cities had slipped in our survey a year ago because they were still under COVID restrictions imposed as the Delta wave spread across the continent,” wrote the EIU in its report. “This has changed with COVID-19 in the process of becoming endemic and normalcy largely being restored.” 

8. Toronto

Like Calgary and Vacouver, Toronto has historically done very well on the EIU’s list, earning top 10 spots multiple years in a row. Though it fell off in 2021, it’s back on the list this year with an overall index score of 95.4.

9. Amsterdam

The Netherlands capital also made a big jump since last year, with its cultural attractions reopening after COVID restrictions eased. In 2021, it was number 30 on the list. 

10. Osaka

Prior to this year, Osaka had landed spots at the very top of the EIU’s index since 2018, reaching its peak at number two last year. Despite scores of 100 for stability, health care, and education, an 83.1 score for culture and environment led it to sink on this year’s list.

10. Melbourne

Between 2011 and 2017, Melbourne ranked number one on the list every year, with other Australian cities like Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, and Sydney consistently in the top 10 alongside it. This year, it’s the only Australian city in the top 10, tied with Osaka. “In Australia, some states were slower to lift restrictions than others,” wrote the EIU in its report. “As a result, Perth and Adelaide have lost ground since last year, and Melbourne is once again Australia’s highest-ranked city.”

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