Have you ever visited a city and left with such a good vibe from it that you immediately begin checking property listings and job adverts once you return home?
Anyone who has visited any of the top ten cities on the Economist’s annual Global Liveability Index can perhaps relate.
The 2023 listings give an insight into where it’s preferable to live this year and include cities from every continent. In recent years, there have been recurrent entries for certain cities in the top 10, making you wonder whether they have cracked the secret to better living.
How are the best cities chosen?
Of course, when compiling the Global Liveability Index, it’s not just a good vibe that sets cities apart for the Economist’s Intelligence team.
The overall score - out of 100 - is determined by examining a plethora of factors, including the quality of healthcare, education, cultural scene, infrastructure, and so on.
Many cities out of the 173 cities studied as part of the report saw an uplift in their scores after the last COVID-19 restrictions eased and life regained some semblance of pre-pandemic normality.
In fact, the average index score across all cities (excluding Kyiv) survey has now reached 76.2 out of 100, up from 73.2 a year ago, the highest score in 15 years for the original list of 140 cities compared.
Is Europe on the slide?
Despite a shift for the better for the majority of cities post-pandemic, one of the noticeable shifts in this year’s report compared to 2022 is the number of European cities slipping further down the rankings.
This is partly due to instability scores plunging, with some cities feeling the effects of the Ukraine war.
Frankfurt and Amsterdam both crashed out of the top 10, having previously occupied 7th and 9th spots in 2022.
Cities in the UK were among the European cities with the most significant declines. Edinburgh, which broke into the top 50 for the first time last year to take the 35th spot, fell to 58th in 2023.
Likewise, London (34th in 2022) and Manchester (32nd last year) both suffered poor scores this year, dropping 12 and 16 places respectively.
On a global scale, regional scores across the board improved on those attained in 2022. Despite a number of its cities sliding, Western Europe retained its poll position, improving its score of 91.4 last year to 92.3 this year.
The biggest improvement was noted in the Asia-Pacific region which achieved a score of 73.5, making noteworthy gains on last year’s figure of 69.1. Furthermore, eight of the 10 biggest climbers in the rankings were from the region; the most notable climber Wellington in New Zealand jumped 35 places to land in 23rd position.
So, which cities made the top 10?
10. Auckland, New Zealand
As the city with the second biggest improvement in the past year, Auckland - New Zealand’s biggest city - leapfrogged an impressive 25 spots to reach joint 10th position in this year’s index.
10. Osaka, Japan
The end of COVID-19 restrictions saw a significant boost to many cities in the Asia-Pacific region. Osaka, Japan’s third most populous city and one of its most multicultural, was one of the beneficiaries of increased scores in its culture and environment ratings thanks to the withdrawal of the COVID-era measures.
9. Toronto, Canada
The lowest-ranking Canadian city in the top ten, Toronto is another consistent performer when it comes to the annual rankings. While it has slipped one spot from 8th place to 9th in 2023, its stability score increased this year after anti-vaccine protests last year had caused a dip.
7. Geneva, Switzerland
Continuing the trend of European cities falling back in the rankings, Geneva has retained a spot in the top 10 again this year. While it slipped from 6th to 7th place, the Swiss city saw a boost to its education scores this year. It is generally rated as one of the best cities to live but it is also one of the most expensive to live in, with consultancy firm Mercer rating it third in its annual global list.
7. Calgary, Canada
Europe is not the only continent to have seen a slip in the rankings. While no cities from the United States appear in the top 10, Canadian cities are usually well represented. However, in 2023, cities like Calgary have also dipped. It was joint third in 2022, but this year the biggest city in Alberta province has slid to joint 7th this year. Its culture and environment score was its biggest drawback, pulling down its overall index score in spite of perfect scores in stability, infrastructure, education, and healthcare.
6. Zurich, Switzerland
Switzerland’s largest city Zurich has slipped down from third place to sixth over the past year. While it is included in the top 10 of the Global Liveability Index, Zurich - like Geneva - was also rated as one of the world’s most expensive cities to live and work in as an expat, according to Mercer’s 2022 Cost of Living Survey. It was second only to Hong Kong in the consultancy firm’s annual report.
5. Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver is a non-mover in fifth spot, with its stability score up from last year after anti-vaccine protests dragged it down.
4. Sydney, Australia
COVID-19 had a very notable impact on Australian cities like Sydney, but the easing of restrictions has seen them dethrone European cities in the top 10. As well as its healthcare system getting a perfect score, the city's education and infrastructure also received scores of 100.0.
3. Melbourne, Australia
As with Sydney, Melbourne's ranking was dented by significant pressures on many aspects of city life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Several waves of the virus threatened to overwhelm the city's healthcare system but this year, this particular factor has been given a perfect score of 100.0 by the Economist, helping Melbourne to return to the top 10.
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
In second place for a consecutive year is Copenhagen. Denmark is consistently listed as one of the happiest countries in the world in which to live, and this is certainly reflected in the scores for each category in the Economist’s liveability report. It continues to have high scores across the board, including perfect scores of 100.0 for education, infrastructure, and stability.
1. Vienna, Austria
No change at the top - Vienna retains its crown as the most liveable city in the world for another year. The Austrian capital has dominated the rankings in the last 10 surveys, coming first in eight of them. It was only knocked off its perch by the COVID-19 pandemic when many of its museums and restaurants shuttered their doors.
The report noted that Vienna continues to offer "an unsurpassed combination of stability, good infrastructure, strong education, and healthcare services, and plenty of culture and entertainment". The only flaw, it said was a lack of major sporting events.
While its ranking plummeted in last year’s list following Russia’s invasion in February 2022, Kyiv has returned to the index though with low scores. Bombardments and missile strikes on the Ukrainian capital saw its scores for infrastructure and stability plunge, but it has made a significant return to the overall rankings if only with a lowly 165th out of 173 cities.