Skift Take

Monocle's list never rewards destinations that splash out on grand gestures. It looks to places that think out development for tourism and locals alike in a way that's sustainable for the long term, not for what's cool right now.

So you hate destinations crawling with tourists, clogged with traffic, and stuck in some decade where walking to a sidewalk cafe and ordering a sensible glass of wine is a rarity?

We understand. We live in New York.

Like you, each year we look forward to Monocle magazine’s Quality of Life Index, a top 25 list of cities that have achieved a certain balance that make living there not just free of typical burdens, but rather inspiring to locals and visitors alike on a daily basis. Restaurants that get going after 10pm (Madrid), locals that surf in city creeks (Munich), or hotbeds for innovation that single-handedly create new markets (Fukuoka) are more than welcoming for anyone looking at this compilation.

For years we’ve thought of this as a complement to the New York Times’ Places to Go list. You can go, and visit, and have a wonderful time, and the locals may just invite you back. Or you may sign a lease.

Tyler Brûlé, Monocle’s editor in chief, said in a statement, “We have focused on the pleasures of being up all hours, noting the places that still serve a good meal after 22.00 and have transport that keeps going throughout the night.” Cities in the survey are graded on their public-transport networks, international connections, general safety and quality of architecture.

Unlike the New York Times’ list, this one makes few exceptions for exceptions. North America rarely cracks through to the top 20 (due to multiple issues with crime, development, and transportation), London always fails to chart, and Africa never has. But in recent years the list has made way for both the megalopolis and the multi-cultural melting pot, this year in the case of Tokyo in the number one slot (second year in a row), and Vienna and multiple German cities as models of accepting a flow of immigration from Syria and other destinations.

Top 25

Rank City Rank City
1 Tokyo 13 Zurich
2 Berlin 14 Madrid
3 Vienna 15 Hamburg
4 Copenhagen 16 Lisbon
5 Munich 17 Dusseldorf
6 Melbourne 18 Hong Kong
7 Fukuoka 19 Barcelona
8 Sydney 20 Singapore
9 Kyoto 21 Amsterdam
10 Stockholm 22 Auckland
11 Vancouver 23 Honolulu
12 Helsinki 24 Portland
25 Montreal


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