New Measure of Quality Urban Lifestyle: Europe Dominates List of Top-25 Cities     Print Email

Ensuring a high-quality lifestyle is no challenge for European cities at their urban cores. A recent ranking of global cities – by special and sophisticated criteria reflecting modern priorities for living conditions – Europe claims 14 of the 25 top-ranked cities. The United States only made it into two slots, none in the top 10.

The survey, conducted by a trendy magazine, Monocle, emphasized features such as high-quality transportation systems, eco-friendliness, vibrant cultural life, and business-inspiring atmospheres, which are valued as the most livable urban environments for all ages. In other words, Monocle’s Tyler Brulé, downplayed aspects such as high median incomes and high-tech jobs – features that ensure top spots for cities such as New York, Los Angeles and London in most city rankings. None of these three made this list.

Monocle’s favorite is Munich, the Bavarian capital near the Alps. The city won praise for assets such as reliable and easy public transport, “its balance between technology, green thinking, and the arts,” great location for sports, and easy global travel connections. All these qualities have given Munich a comparatively high birth rate despite the number of DINKs (“dual-income no kids” couples) who have moved there.

Helsinki, Finland, ranking #5, is praised for free internet access for all residents, high-quality education, and good access to air travel. In neighboring Sweden, Stockholm is admired for different quality reasons: this urban center offers great outdoors life in the city – including crystal water that flows around the city’s edges, 1,000 beautiful islands, and numerous parks that revitalize its air (which is unpolluted by much manufacturing or traffic).

Copenhagen, listed at #2, has high rates of innovation in many “green” technologies, starting with its new forms of architecture and its emphasis on true conservation living. Eighth-ranked Vienna is cited for its cultural life and impressive health-care system.

Although Portland (#22) is known for its high-levels of tolerance…and coffee, many American cities would benefit from European ideals of providing quality lifestyles in inner-cities. American development planners should focus on reinvigorating life in inner-cities in order to combat the flight to the suburbs.

Perhaps the U.S. still has something more to learn from Europe?

Meghan Kelly, European Affairs

 
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UMD Jean Monnet Research Project

The University of Maryland has received a Jean Monnet grant from the EU to conduct a series of policy exchanges between Europe and the US on filling infrastructure needs and the utility of public/private partnerships as the financing mechanism. If interested in participating in or receiving more information about these exchanges, please contact Rye McKenzie (rmckenzi@umd.edu).

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