Quality of living: The world's top cities to live well

  • Quality of living
Published last year

No, we can't have it all. Unless we are Vienna — a popular expat destination that stands out as the best city in the world for quality of life according to Mercer's newly released ranking for quality of living.

Making a move to a new destination involves self-doubt, and concern about the lifestyle, and how well you will adapt to it. To a great extent, a successful expatriation depends on the circumstances that you land on — infrastructure, access to healthcare, quality of education, security, leisure, and transportation. Our everyday lives are lead by such external factors, and the more efficient these aspects are, the happier citizens we are.

Europe: The world's highest quality of life

Brian Kinney /

Despite the political and financial turbulences in Europe for the past decade, the top 10 positions for the best qualify of life are taken by major European cities. Zurich ranks 2nd, Munich (4th), Dusseldorf (6th), Frankfurt (7th), Geneva (8th), Copenhagen (9th), and Basel ranks 10th.

It's no surprise that Vienna, Zurich, and Geneva rank as the best European cities for quality of life. Take into account the advanced infrastructure, such as international airports and local transport networks, as well as the use of smart technology, the consumption of alternative energy, and the implementation of innovative solutions.

Other European cities such as Amsterdam (12th), Berlin (13th), Bern (14th), Hamburg (19th), and Stockholm (20th) have rightfully made it in the global top 20. While most European cities have remained relatively stable in the ranking when compared to previous years, Brussels (now in the 27th position) is the only city to have dropped six places due to terrorism related issues during the past year.

Popular expat destinations such as Paris, Lyon, London, Milan, Barcelona, and Lisbon rank in lower positions — 38th, 39th, 40th, 41th, 42nd, and 43rd respectively.

Asia-Pacific: Which cities guarantee a good life

DmitrySerbin /

Auckland and Sydney remain in the top 10 of the best quality of life ranking thanks to their pleasant climate, lush green landscapes, and people's friendliness. However, the same cities rank lower due to poorer infrastructure and traffic congestion. Wellington and Melbourne are also in the global top 20.

A multicultural melting pot, Singapore, ranks 25th overall but remains the best city for quality of life in Asia, especially for its air connectivity, local transportation networks, and water, electricity, phone and internet supply.

In fact, Asian cities are lauded for their career prospects and higher wages, but they seem to be lagging behind when it comes to quality of living according to the Mercer report. Only two Asian cities — Tokyo and Kobe — are in the top 50 while other popular expat destinations, such as Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, and Beijing are far behind.

The Americas: A variety of lifestyles


Vancouver (5th position) is the only North American city that has made it in the top 10 for its quality of life. The city has many charms to boast about, such as first-class infrastructure, reliable transportation network, and efficient public services. Two other Canadian cities, Toronto and Ottawa are in the 16th and 18th positions respectively.

On the other hand, major US cities are nowhere to be found in the top 20. While San Francisco ranks 29th, Boston, Honolulu, New York City, and Seattle rank 35th, 36th, 44th, and 45th. Due to high crime rates during the past year, Chicago and Los Angeles have dropped down four and nine places to rank 47th and 58th.

In South America, Montevideo is the best city for quality of living for expatriates although it takes the 79th position on a worldwide scale. Buenos Aires and Santiago both remain in the top 100 cities, while the rest of Latin American cities are at the very bottom of the list of 231 cities for their poor infrastructure and public services, as well as the traffic congestion.

The Middle East and Africa: Good quality of life is not a myth


Across Africa and the Middle East, Dubai is the best city for quality of living, taking the 74th position. Climbing three places is Abu Dhabi which now ranks 79th. Doha, which will be hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, ranks 96th overall for its modern infrastructure.

Port Louis, the capital city of the small island State Mauritius, is on the 84th place in the global ranking. The South African cities – Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg – are also in the top 100 mostly for their infrastructure.