Over the past three centuries Vienna has produced the visionary composers Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert and Johann Strauss. This year the culturally and historically vibrant Austrian capital can claim another feat: For the second year it has been named the world's best place to live, according to a report released Wednesday.
Vienna offers a thriving opera scene, a hospitable business environment and a comprehensive public transportation system. Zurich and Geneva take the No. 2 and 3 spots, respectively. Switzerland's strong showing on the list is little surprise to Mercer, the global outsourcing and investment consultancy that produces the annual Worldwide Quality of Living Survey.
"The Swiss cities are very pleasant, the natural environment is clean, and we weigh heavily the prevalence of hostilities, and Switzerland is neutral," says Rebecca Powers, a Mercer consultant. "If you can't be safe in Switzerland, you can't be safe anywhere."
Vienna beat Zurich by just over half an index point, and less than one point separates the top three cities, making them roughly equal for livability.
"There's probably a little bit more to do in Austria than Switzerland - I would think the symphony is better - but we're splitting hairs between countries," says Powers.
European cities take seven of the top 10 spots for quality of life, thanks to their relative safety, political stability and cultural offerings. As for the US, Honolulu, at No. 31, has the best quality-of-life record and the continental US makes its first appearance on the list at 32, with San Francisco tying Adelaide, Australia. Boston came in at No. 37, Chicago and Washington, D.C. tied for 45th place, and New York ranked 49. Philadelphia and Dallas were ranked for the first time this year, landing spots 55 and 61 on the list, respectively.
Behind The Numbers
Mercer ranked 221 global cities on 39 measures, emphasizing political safety and health, but also including factors from restaurant availability to air pollution. Cities are ranked against New York as the base city; it has an index score of 100.
The cities that scored best on Mercer's list had the best safety records and the lowest levels of political upheaval, which helps explain why volatile Baghdad sunk to the last-place spot. While strong infrastructure, cultural amenities and good schools also helped separate the top and bottom cities, most of that was trumped by the importance of local stability.
Although the US didn't do poorly by Mercer's standards - most American cities on the list had index scores above 100 - weaker safety records kept them from competing with lower-crime Western European capitals.
Image: Vienna, Austria
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