Defining a “Livable City”
Do you ever find yourself contemplating where in the world you’d like to live? Is it a warm tropical island, or a bustling cosmopolitan city? What are the places that inspire you and resonate with you? What is it that brings out your happiness, and makes you tick? Often, I find myself contemplating these same questions. Like you, my preferences and tastes are shaped by life experiences.
Based on my personality and travel experiences, I tend to gravitate towards cultural and historically significant places; livable places that make me appreciate the outdoors and artful ambiance.
However, there are many other kinds of criteria that define the most livable cities of the world. Therefore, when I came up with the list of top cities below, I chose to think broadly across several dimensions:
– Things to do, see, and learn
– Emphasis on culture and the arts
– Abundance of greenways and parks
– Eclectic cuisine options
Having visited 30 countries so far, I do not consider my list complete by any means, but it does offer a glimpse into some of the world’s most livable cities.
1. Valencia, Spain
Known as the city of arts and sciences (and beach), Valencia has cemented itself as one of the world’s most livable and ultra-fit cities. La Turia, Valencia’s majestic park that runs from the beach to the outskirts of the city, is comprised of an array of bike paths, playgrounds, and exercise equipment.
Within this impressive park also lies the largest aquarium in all of Europe, containing cutting-edge exhibits including a museum of science, planetarium, and oceanographic park! Contrary to its northern neighbor Barcelona, Valencia is not too touristy, and emits the charm of a small Spanish town. Once you try the paella valenciana, there is no way you’ll want to live anywhere else!
2. San Diego, California
San Diego is the epitome of a diverse and dynamic American city. Surrounded by mountains, cityscape, parks, and beach, San Diego has something special to offer all walks of life. Consistently between 65–80 degrees year-round, San Diego is the perfect place for enjoying the outdoors.
Business and real-estate are booming, making this city a hotspot for growth and innovation. San Diego’s reputation as a trendy oceanfront haven is seamlessly embodied in its restaurants, shops, and nightlife. Catching the sunset while biking along Pacific Beach is enough of a reason to stick around!
3. Vienna, Austria
Renowned for its unique culture, history, and cuisine, Vienna is a picture-perfect hub in Central Europe. Vienna’s pristine palaces and parks will mesmerize you, and so will its Wiener Schnitzel (breaded veal cutlets).
As the site of several historic accords and peace treaties, Vienna is a cultural and economic center of Europe. Although Vienna is a major city with 1.8 million people, greenways and parks comprise over half of the city. The quaint street cars and architecture will dazzle you, the immaculate greenways and churches will inspire you, and the delectable food options will always leave you hungry for more!
4. Geneva, Switzerland
As the de facto capital of peace and diplomacy in the world, Geneva is truly a sight for sore eyes. Geneva is home to many of the world’s most prominent international organizations, including the UN and World Trade Organization. Its clean alpine air and close proximity to the ski slopes make Geneva, Switzerland an idyllic place to call home.
Geneva is also one of Europe’s top financial centers, and leads the charge on global sustainability. As I gazed in awe at the serene sunset over Lake Geneva, I was surrounded by hordes of mosquitoes, and even they, too, were peaceful.
5. Stockholm, Sweden
Considered by many as the capital of Scandinavia, Stockholm is a cultural, political, and economic hub in Northern Europe. Stockholm is treasured for its natural serenity, thanks to the Stockholm archipelago and its boating, fishing, biking, and hiking options.
Stockholm also has a reputation for its work-life balance, with workers averaging over 40 paid vacation days each year. Stockholm’s start-up scene has lent itself to some of the world’s most iconic brands, including Ikea, Spotify, and Skype. Stockholm’s vibrant architecture, picturesque landscape, and delicious meatballs rightfully make it one of the world’s most livable cities!
Discovering your livable city
Happiness is heavily influenced by our environment. Whether that entails having a meaningful career or a desirable lifestyle, happiness can be achieved through your own mindset and decisions. My study abroad experience, in particular, helped shape my outlook on life and future aspirations. Through living in a place much different from my home, I had the opportunity to grow and appreciate a unique way of life.
Unless you already wake up every morning thinking your current residence is ‘heaven on Earth’, I encourage you to try living in a new place – even for just a short period of time. In your quest to discover the most livable city on Earth, you will learn a lot about who you are, and what you value in life.
To follow my journey through Europe and around the world, feel free to connect with me on Instagram: @Global.Viewpoint!
Happy Travels! -Jon
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Well done! Great pictures, too. I am always surprised to see (pretty much annually!) the Scandinavian countries making the top ten! Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland are always listed as the happiest countries on earth. Goes to show you weather isn’t everything! And my forever favorite – New Zealand – is always near the top as well. Not sure how/who is doing these ratings. There are so many lists! The people are the most important aspect of the nation, I think. USA = the best.