Vienna, Austria’s grand capital on the Danube River, offers the highest quality of life of all cities in the world; Baghdad is the worst, and London, Paris and New York do not even pull off into the top 35, according to international research into quality of life by consulting firm Mercer.
The survey includes 230 cities to helps companies and organizations set compensation and hardship allowances for international staff. It examines social and economic conditions, health, education, housing and the environment, crime, recreation and transport.
German-speaking cities ranked 18th in the Mercer Quality of Life study, with Vienna joined by Zurich, Munich, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt in the top seven.
Paris dropped 10 places to 37, just ahead of London at 39th, mainly because of the city’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks.
US cities had relatively low ranks in the study, largely because of issues related to personal safety and crime. The highest ranking city in the US is San Francisco, at 28th; Boston is 34th. Canadian cities, led by Toronto, far outrank their US rivals in the table.
Vienna’s 1.7 million inhabitants benefit from the city’s cafe culture and museums, theatres and operas. Rents and public transport costs in the city whose architecture is marked by its past as the center of the Habsburg empire are cheap compared with other western capitals.
The municipality’s social democratic government has been investing in high-quality social housing, making Vienna almost uniquely reasonably priced among major cities.
“Vienna has ranked top in the last seven published rankings,” said Mercer. “It scores highly in a number of categories; it provides a safe and stable environment to live in, a high level of public utilities and transport facilities, and good recreational facilities.”
Switzerland’s Zurich, New Zealand’s Auckland, Germany’s Munich and Canada’s Vancouver followed Vienna – which ranked top seven times in a row – in the top five of most pleasant cities to live in.
Baghdad was again ranked lowest in the world. American-led invasion in 2003, the country has been subjected to waves of sectarian violence and extremist movements, making it almost impossible to achieve a good quality of life and personal safety.