Business Week carries an article by Carl Winfield at The World's Best Places to Live 2008, presenting the annual Mercer Consulting list of global cities having the best quality of life (see the Mercer Quality of Living Reports). The ranking is an objectively-based subjective judgment which of course depends on the parameters used for evaluation, but the results are nevertheless of great interest for understanding social and economic trends worldwide.
In compiling their list, Mercer Consulting uses a base figure of 100 for the Big Apple (New York City) and ranks all other cities above or below that, with Zurich in Switzerland ranked at the top at 108 and Baghdad ranked at the bottom at 13.5.
We present the top 10 of the Business Week list of the top cities below, using where possible an official photograph at the official city or tourism website of each city, with our own commentary to that list, plus some of our own photos of selected cities, taken from our own experience or from a variety of sources (see for example Visit European Cities), i.e. we are not confined to the Business Week article or the Mercer Consulting Report. If you have not been to all of these places, then you still have a few places to go.... Enjoy.
1. Zurich (Zürich), Switzerland - Mercer Score 108 points
Photograph at the Official Site of Zürich Tourism
Zurich has a scenic location second to none in the world, with a magnificent view of Lake Zürich and the snowcapped Alps, as shown by the Zürich Tourism photograph of Zürich above. This location makes Zurich an outdoor recreation paradise. The predominant language in Zurich is German, a dialect called Schweizerdeutsch (Swiss German). French and Italian are also spoken, and, of course, English. Most people in Switzerland are multilingual. Albert Einstein studied at the ETH Zürich. (Check out our blog at Einstein's Voice.) Zürich's main pedestrian street - the Bahnhofstrasse - is one of the most famous of the world's shopping streets, offering exquisite (and costly) products from nearly every well-known luxury store of significance. Perhaps equally famous is the newly renovated (by Norman Foster) Dolder Grand, one of The Leading Hotels of the World, and part of the Dolder Resort, picked by Tatler as the Smartest Escape in its list of the current 101 Best Spas. Even if you can not afford (or do not wish) to stay there, it is worth going to "the Dolder" just to have a cup of coffee and be King or Queen for a day. It is a singular location with a superb atmosphere.
Photograph of the Grand Dolder at the Dolder Grand website
2. & 3. Vienna, Austria and Geneva, Switzerland - Mercer Score 107.9 points (tie)
Photograph at the official website of the Vienna Tourist Board
European savoir faire guarantees that neither Vienna nor Geneva will likely complain about their 2nd & 3rd place ranking on the list, though inhabitants of either city will probably tell you that they are the true Number One.
Vienna has a storied history of immense political importance for the contiguity of modern Europe. During the Hapbsburg Dynasty as well as during the reign of Maria Theresa, Vienna became an important economic and cultural center. The Viennese Waltz and its composers Josef Lanner, Johann Strauss I and son, Johann Strauss II, immortalized the city in music, for which Vienna remains famous, for example, through its annual Vienna Opera Ball (February 19 this year - a Dress Circle Box ticket costs 17000 Euros). Not to be forgotten for the gourmets is the world's most famous chocolate cake, the Sacher-Torte of the Hotel Sacher in Vienna, a Leading Hotel of the World.
Photograph of the Sacher-Torte from the Hotel Sacher website
An absolute must for us is the annual New Year's Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, broadcast throughout the world to close to 50 billion people. It is so popular that tickets are available only by drawing lots.
Photograph at the Official Geneva Tourism Website
Geneva is a beautiful city, as witnessed by the above photograph (actually a panoramic photo collage). Geneva is synonymous with the concept of global diplomacy, being the location of many United Nations organizations and the International Red Cross.
Photograph at the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)
The Global Financial Centres Index 4, published by the City of London, ranks Geneva sixth, after London, New York City, Singapore, Hong Kong and Zürich, but ahead of Tokyo, Chicago, Frankfurt and Sydney.
4. Vancouver, Canada - Mercer Score 107.6 points
Photograph at the official City of Vancouver Website
Vancouver will host the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
As written by Dave Caldwell at the New York Times: "Although it is only 35 miles north of the border, Vancouver looks and feels different from any city in the United States or, for that matter, Canada. With its glass-and-steel towers crowding a sweeping harbor, it could be in Asia.... With nearly 16 hours of daylight in summer, Vancouver is an ideal place to play golf at one of the city’s 12 courses, or to go boating in the bays and inlets. Three mountains loom over Vancouver, close enough for skiing after school or work. Local residents say it is possible to golf, sail and ski in the same day."
5. Auckland, New Zealand - Mercer Score 107.3
Wikimedia Commons Photograph of Auckland, New Zealand by Arjan Hoogendorn
Auckland is known as the "City of Sails because the harbour is often dotted with hundreds of yachts and has more per capita than any other city in the world, with around 135,000 yachts and launches estimated." Greater Auckland is inhabited by over 30% of the entire population of New Zealand, and has the largest Polynesian populaton of any world city. As written at Wikipedia: "Auckland lies on a portage between the Hauraki Gulf of the Pacific Ocean to the east, the low Hunua Ranges to the south-east, the Manukau Harbour to the south-west, and the Waitakere Ranges and smaller ranges to the west and north-west. The central part of the urban area occupies a narrow isthmus between the Manukau Harbour on the Tasman Sea and the Waitemata Harbour on the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the few cities in the world to have harbours on two separate major bodies of water."
6. Düsseldorf, Germany - Mercer Score 107.2
Photograph from the Wikimedia Commons of the Düsseldorf Media Harbour
(the crooked walls are intended by architectural design)
A walk along the prosperous "see and be seen" boulevard Königsallee, known to insiders as the "Kö", is a must in Düsseldorf. A great number of German millionaires live in Düsseldorf and the neighboring Meerbusch, and Düsseldorf has the largest Japanese community in Europe. Düsseldorf is the capital of North-Rhine Westphalia and has a penchant for art, with 18 museums and over 100 art galleries, many clustered in the Old Town. The famed Düsseldorf Media Harbor or "Art and Media Center Rhine Haven", also known as the Gehry Buildings, "was completed in the place of the old customs building in 1999. The American architect Frank O. Gehry ... made a name for himself worldwide with his deconstructivist architecture ... [e.g.] ... the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, the Disney concert hall in Los Angeles and the dancing house in Prague...." The Deutsche Oper am Rhein is somewhat unique in that it performs both at the newly renovated Opernhaus Düsseldorf (Düsseldorf Opera House) as well as at the Theater Duisburg. The city recently won a gold medal in the European floral competition Entente Florale.
7. & 8. Munich, Germany and Frankfurt, Germany - Mercer Score 107.0
The capital of Bavaria, Munich, or as the Germans call it, München, is probably best known outside of Germany for its annual Oktoberfest.
Photograph of Oktoberfest at the Hacker-Pschorr Tent
Hacker-Pschorr explains the origin of Oktoberfest as follows: "In 1810, Munich Oktoberfestbier was served for the first time. According to Bavarian brewing regulations dating back to 1539, brewing was only allowed between the Feast of St. Michael ('Michaeli') on September 29th and the Feast of Saint George ('Georg') on April 23th." That made October a special "beer month".
Photograph of Frankfurt by night at Wikipedia Commons
Money, money, money. Frankfurt is Germany's financial center and also home to the European Central Bank. This is where the famed Rothschild fortunes began. Indeed, the LawPundit was born veritably next door to the Villa Rothschild in Königstein im Taunus, one of the middle mountain suburbs outside of flatland Frankfurt, where the greatest number of millionaires per capita are said to reside (about 100 of the total population of 18000). Mayor Petra Roth welcomes you to Frankfurt as follows: "Welcome to the most international city in Germany, the largest financial centre on the continent, the historical city of coronations, the city of Goethe and the Frankfurt School… "
9. Bern, Switzerland - Mercer Score 106.5
Photograph of Bern at Wikipedia Commons
Bern (also spelled Berne) is located in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. As written at Wikipedia: "The city was originally built on a hilly peninsully surrounded by the river Aar but outgrew these natural boundaries in the 19th century. A number of bridges were built to allow the city to grow beyond the Aar.... Berne's city center is largely medieval and has been recognised by UNESCO as a Cultural World Heritage Site. Perhaps its most famous sight is the Zytglogge, an elaborate medieval clock tower with moving puppets. It also has an impressive 15th century Gothic cathedral, the Münster, and a 15th century town hall. Thanks to 6 kilometers of arcades, the old town boasts one of the longest covered shopping promenades in Europe."
10. Sydney, Australia - Mercer Score 106.3
There is such a great photo of Sydney online that we just link you here simply to the Wikipedia. Click that photo of Sydney (top of the right column and then go the highest resolution on the next page). It is a fantastic photo of the city which calls itself the business gateway to Australia.