A short list of the world’s most livable cities might not come as a surprise to anybody—Melbourne, Tokyo, Berlin, Vancouver, and Vienna all carry hefty reputations that should be familiar to any traveled urbanite today. Though what might be a bit less known is what exactly we mean when we say ‘livable cities.’ Are the world’s best cities also the most populous? Or the most fun? Or the most beautiful?
Actually, it is a topic that everyone from architects, to city planners, to economists, to social scientists have spent a fair amount of effort studying. What they’ve found is that the answer is complicated, and comes down to a wide range of factors. Here are a few qualities that all of the best cities share:
Those who study cities find that the places people enjoy calling home most are also those that are well connected to international culture. Not only do foreign tourism and trade dollars feed into the local economy, but new waves of visitors consistently bring in fresh ideas and perspectives.
A common downfall for many great cities is the simple ability to get around town. While it may seem incidental at first glance, shorter commute times mean greater efficiency, lower pollution, and a happier population.
Less of a catch-22 than we might first think, it turns out that the best urban environments also incorporate their share of nature. Whether this means large, centralized parks at the center of town, creative landscaping amidst the sidewalks and buildings, or the push toward green architecture, humans simply love to see plant life wherever they go.
It makes sense that city dwellers spend as much time looking at their home as they do living in it. Smart and attractive building design can not only solve practical problems, but become more attractive places to live, work, and play.
An unfortunate downfall of many global cities is that they are immersed in snowbanks for half (or more!) of the year. Cities declared most livable are also those with plenty of sunshine and warm weather.