1 - Vienna, Austria
Vienna, Austria has it all. As the largest city in Austria and the nation’s capital, Vienna is Austria’s political, cultural and economic center and has a fascinating history that goes as far back as its founding in 500 BC by the Celts and its position of great significance in the Roman Empire in 15 BC. As a city famous for its musical tradition, Vienna was once home to Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Strauss and currently holds concerts and performances at a number of opera houses and the famous Wiener Musikverein concert hall. The diversity of architectural styles spans from Romanesque to Art Noveau and the relatively low buildings, imperial squares and abundance of green spaces keep Vienna’s urban expanses beautiful.
2 - Zurich, Switzerland
Located just north of the Alps, at the tip of Lake Zurich and on the banks of River Limmat, the Swiss city of Zurich was first permanently settled 7,000 years ago by the Romans and is now one of the top metropolitan areas in the world. As a banking and economic capital, it has been consistently ranked highly for its excellent quality of life, while also being one of the most expensive cities in Europe. Zurich has much to offer in terms of festivals, fine-dining, world-class shopping and exciting nightlife and there is always plenty to see when leisurely wandering through the streets of the old town.
3 - Geneva, Switzerland
Geneva, Switzerland, the headquarters of many international organizations, various United Nations agencies and the Red Cross, is an international city and a center of diplomacy. It is located on the southwestern end of Lake Geneva and bordered by the Alps and Jura mountains and given its proximity to France, has strong Gallic influences. The city’s natural beauty, cleanliness, safety, culture and mixture of cosmopolitan and rural atmosphere all contribute to its residents’ high quality of life.
4 (tied) - Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland, New Zealand, has earned the nickname “City of Sails” for its yacht-filled harbor and long love affair with the sea. Spread over an isthmus between the two harbors of Waitemata and Manukau and located on a volcanic field over about 50 dormant or extinct volcanoes, Auckland is surrounded by breathtaking nature, with a warm-temperate climate and comfortable sea breeze. Its blend of Polynesian, European and Asian cultures allows those living in Auckland to experience a truly unique melting pot.
4 - Vancouver, Canada
This recent Winter Olympics host is the largest metropolitan area in Western Canada and being called the “city of neighborhoods,” it is densely populated by a diverse range of people representing many different ethnic communities. Vancouver, with its mild coastal climate and varied natural ecology has towering conifers and flowering rhododendrons, while the streets are lined with cherry and chestnut trees. Known for its sustainability efforts, Vancouver is working on becoming the world’s “greenest” or most environmentally friendly city. One plan uses the idea of “ecodensity,” where the city uses a large number of high-rise buildings with strict environmental standards in order to limit urban sprawl, or the outward spreading of a city into lower density suburbs.