2013 Top Ten Cities to Live in

August 19, 2013 No Comments


When you’re looking for a city to live in, maybe you’ll consider the quality of transport links or the number of good quality schools.  Maybe you’ll think of healthcare accessibility or even whether the summers are unbearably hot.

The Economist’s Intelligence Unit (EUI) has compiled a list of the most ‘liveable’ cities of 2013, relying on data on crime levels, threat of conflict, levels of censorship and temperature as well as schools and transport.  Below, we’ve listed the Economist’s finding, supported by data from the cities themselves.

Each city was ranked by the EIU in terms of its aggregate score in a number of areas, and the final aggregated score is out of 100.  Each individual area – stability, infrastructure, healthcare, culture and environment, and education – is scored out of 100 also and then the final score is collated.

In time-honoured best-of list fashion, we’ll start at the bottom of the top ten before going all the way to the top.

10: Auckland, New Zealand – 95.7

Auckland is by far New Zealand’s largest city, with a population of 1.5 million, meaning that as cities go, it’s still quite small.  Auckland benefits strongly from being in New Zealand, where it sits at the northernmost point of the country’s North Island.  Auckland’s place at number ten on this list is down to losing points for infrastructure (the city scored 92.9 from a possible 100 for infrastructure) and stability – though those scores are still within the band the EIU refers to as ‘few, if any, challenges.’  By contrast, though, if you have school-age children and are looking for a place to relocate to, Auckland might be a more favourable choice: the city’s score for education was a perfect 100.  In 2010, a survey carried out by the Auckland Council as part of New Zealand’s Quality of Life project found that 91% of Auckland residents rated their lives in the city as ‘good’ or ‘very good,’ and it speaks volumes for the level of competition for the top ten places on the EIU’s list that even in Auckland, whose placing was compromised by a stability score of 95, 93% of residents felt ‘safe’ or ‘very safe’ when walking home alone after dark.

9:  Perth, Australia – 95.9

At this end of the list, there often isn’t that much to choose between the cities, as shown by the 0.2 point difference between 10th and 9th place.  Perth is the most isolated large metropolitan area on earth, but it’s also home to 1.9 million people and a Mediterranean climate that appeals to many more than the hotter, dryer north coast cities.  Because the scoring disproportionately weights certain scores – stability and infrastructure, for instance, take up 45% of the final score – Perth languishes at the bottom of the top ten despite scoring perfect hundreds in healthcare, education and infrastructure.  The city’s economy is based on processing and selling the products of Western Australia’s extraction industries, meaning it’s strong and local, and the Australian education system is ranked joint first in the world with Finland’s.

8: Helsinki, Finland – 96.0

Speaking of Finland, seventh place goes to the Finnish capital Helsinki.  The city scores 100 in stability and healthcare, and its 1.1 million inhabitants benefit from Finland’s relatively strong economic performance including high employment and a higher average takehome wage than the typical European country.  However, typical property prices have been criticised for being inflated in the city, with homes in the city centre costing about €6, 000/m2.  However, Monocle magazine called Helsinki the most liveable city in the world in 2011 and praised the city’s ‘talent, ideas and guts’ – pointing to booms in homegrown small businesses and a close community that supports them.

7:  Sydney, Australia – 96.1

Sydney is the capital city of New South Wales, on the far south-east of Australia, and with a population of 4.6 million people, the most highly populated city in Australia.  The city’s temperate climate is moderated by its proximity to the Tasman Sea and it has a thriving surf scene centred on its beaches.  Sydney has low unemployment – 5.6% – and its thriving economy means it’s a relatively expensive place to live; the Economist Intelligence Unit’s worldwide cost of living survey found Sydney to be the 16th most expensive place to live worldwide, though it was found in a separate survey by UBS to be 15th worldwide in terms of net earnings.  The city scored 100 for healthcare, education and infrastructure, reflecting its status as an urban centre for the surrounding countryside as well as showing the city benefitting from the well-regarded Australian education system.

6: Adelaide, Australia – 96.6

No, we didn’t miss one out; Adelaide is ranked equally with Calgary in the EIU’s listings, scoring a perfect 100 in education and healthcare.  While Australian cities win out in education due to the nationwide success story that is the Australian education story, Adelaide has its own appeals.  The city was the most liveable city in Australia three years running, according to the Property Council of Australia.  To top it off, Adelaide is experiencing a housing boom right now, with experts saying that they expect the uptick in market activity and prices to continue on the back of the lowest rates for a generation and increasing market confidence.

5: Calgary, Canada – 96.6

Calgary consistently places highly in liveability surveys; it was Forbes’ cleanest city in 2007, Mercer’s most ecologically sound city of 2010 and Money Senses’ ‘Best Place to Live in Canada’ in 2013.  The city also scored well in its own internal surveys, with 81% of respondents surveyed by the 2012 Citizen Satisfaction Survey saying they felt Calgary ‘fosters a city that is inclusive and accepting of all people,’ while 83% rated the city’s quality of services as ‘consistently high.’  Chiming with Adelaide, Calgary is also experiencing a housing boom at the moment, seeing the market pick up and then rise consistently, with further growth confidently predicted to be supported by low inventory and rising demand.

4: Toronto, Canada – 97.2

Toronto is the fifth largest city in North America, and 49% of its 6 million inhabitants are foreign born, making it a surprisingly diverse city.  Winning perfect 100 scores in stability, healthcare and education, Toronto has a bustling post-industrial economy and plenty of cultural life, including heritage parks and several world class museums.  Toronto also has a well-deserved reputation as the safest city in North America, as well as being home to no less than 20 public hospitals.  Buying a home in Toronto means paying an average house price of $510, 819 (€385, 170) in a city where property prices leapt by over 8% year-on-year in July this year alone, but there is thought to be some downward pressure on condominium prices.

3:  Vancouver, Canada – 97.3

Vancouver scores perfect 100s in healthcare, culture and environment and education, and one reason is the city’s coastal location.  On the West Coast of North America, Vancouver is backed by the North Shore Mountains and the seas nearby are prime areas for observing wildlife including dolphins and killer whales.  The surrounding area, British Columbia, offers both impressive scenery and local people use it for a wide range of outdoor activities, including salt and freshwater sports.

The city is even more diverse than Toronto, with 52% of its population speaking English as a second language.  Vancouver came out in Mercer’s 2012 listings as the best place to live in Canada, and scored number 5 worldwide.  Buying a home in Vancouver will mean surfing a wave of rising prices that saw a 13% year-on-year jump in July this year, to a new average of $785, 730 (€572, 450), though some experts predict a Canada-wide price readjustment.

2:  Vienna, Austria – 97.4

Vienna has consistently ranked highly in surveys of the best places to live, scoring top place in the EIU’s own survey in 2005 and topped Mercer’s list of most liveable cities worldwide several years running as well as scoring a perfect 100 in the EIU’s education, infrastructure and healthcare categories.

Because of its history as a Romano-Celtic settlement and Mediaeval and Baroque city, Vienna contains both fascinating ruins and the architecture of its ancient past.  However, this shouldn’t be seen to detract from its status as a modern city, and it’s this mixture of classical charm and modern amenities that explain Vienna’s position at number 2 on this list.

Vienna resident Anna Staribacher explained the city’s appeal to Reuters: ‘Austria is a wealthy country, we have low unemployment and free university access. Living is affordable and prices are still moderate by international standards.’  Meanwhile other city residents praised Vienna’s parks, its cheap and reliable transport system and its cultural life; the city is sometimes known as the City of Music because of its association with several classical composers who were born or worked there.

If you like the sound of that, a home in Vienna will cost between €2, 500/m2 and €3, 298/m2, in a market that has soared while the rest of Europe has suffered, rising 83% since 2000.  Austria’s first city suffers from very steep property prices partly due to the difficulty of building new property there, but for many, the benefits outweigh the cost: Vienna’s charms drew 83, 000 foreign-born people to the city in 2012 alone.

1: Melbourne, Australia – 97.5

Melbourne wins out over Vienna by a whisker to take top spot as EIU’s most liveable city of 2013.  Melbourne has won high spots in several lists of best cities to live and was named the fourth best university town in the world by Melbourne is a modern city with large areas dating from the second world war, often sitting next to Victorian colonial architecture.  The city’s docklands have been deindustrialised and renovated and now serve as a destination for nightlife and cultural pursuits including a highly popular dragon boat race, while Melbourne itself is home to museums commemorating its ancient and contemporary indigenous art movements.  Additionally Melbourne is the home of Australia’s largest free community festival and several festivals of modern, traditional and classical music.

Melbourne’s economy is in comparatively good shape, showing steady growth from 2002-2012 and supporting a housing market that grew 3.1% year on year and 1.1% month on month in July 2013, a 6.3% rise through the 12 months to July to a median house price of $562, 000 (€407, 000).  Houses are selling better than apartments, which some commentators ascribe to increased interest in houses while rates are very low.

Moving to Melbourne usually means getting a skilled migrant visa, and job categories that currently qualify for one include occupations as diverse as chemist, electrical engineer, midwife, software engineer, veterinarian, plumber, welder, and pastry cook.  Expatriates who move to Melbourne report finding a welcoming culture and often recommend it.

With its high standard of living combined with a great quality of life, it’s no surprise that Melbourne tops this list!

Written by writer of overseas property

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