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  1. Helsinki: A city that is genuinely and fundamentally bettering itself, this well-designed capital in the north leaps up to number one for bravery alone.

  2. Zürich: Still the ideal place to live and work (and grab summertime swims in your lunch break), Zürich retains a spot in the top three.

  3. Copenhagen: Its ongoing commitment to being the world’s greenest city continues to gather momentum, despite Denmark’s slight lurch to the right.

  4. Munich: Last year’s winner slips out of the top three not for doing anything wrong but not doing anything new.

  5. Melbourne: The perfect balance of balmy summers and serious business, Melbourne is finally addressing its shortage of housing.

  6. Vienna: The sleepy fairytale city in the middle of Europe has toughened up with two of the continent’s bravest urban regeneration projects.

  7. Sydney: A burgeoning business district and an increasingly profitable retail sector, sunny-side-up Sydney continues to shine.

  8. Berlin: We’re still waiting for a world-class city to emerge from under the tarpaulin and construction works, but there’s plenty to enjoy in the meantime.

  9. Tokyo: The next 12 months will be a testing time for Tokyo, yet its population has the problem-solving bravura to deal with its troubled situation competently, punctually and innovatively.

  10. Madrid: Stifling summers and high unemployment doesn’t deter the Spanish capital’s can-do attitude, as it unveils a series of urban projects set to transform the city.

  11. Stockholm: Lean and green Stockholm needs to take a few more strides forward architecturally to get back in the top.

  12. Paris: This year’s unique electric car rental scheme is set to be the game-changer, which the city’s Vélib’ concept once was, yet (thankfully) little else changes in Paris.

  13. Auckland: Last year, the city’s seven small councils unified to create one dynamic force that is set to improve quality of life for Aucklanders even more.

  14. Barcelona: Spending cuts are set to tighten their grip on this Mediterranean city, yet its happy-go-lucky spirit will no doubt keep it afloat.

  15. Singapore: The population is on the rise and the country’s politics and tolerance are slowly improving. Changi’s tops too.

  16. Fukuoka: Better connected than ever with the new Hakata station, Japan’s sunshine city is firming up its position as one of the country’s key conurbations.

  17. Hong Kong: One of two new entrants in our list, the island comfortably slips in on the grounds of its connectivity, business edge and its sheer dare.

  18. Portland: The outpost in the US northwest sits even more comfortably in our index this year, nominated for its transport developments and ongoing commitment to getting green.

  19. Honolulu: All that sun hasn’t gone to Honolulu’s head, and the city is on track to becoming the ideal business hub between Asia and America. APEC’s there this autumn.

  20. Vancouver: The Winter Olympics jumpstarted Vancouver and it has proved a hit as faras the finer things in life, yet the city has yet to address its lazy attitude to contemporary architecture.

  21. Kyoto: It may not have embraced the future as readily as its younger brother Tokyo, but Japan’s ancient capital still charms.

  22. Hamburg: Germany’s second-largest city ploughs on with its sprawling HafenCity development, yet the city needs to protect its cultural sector.

  23. Lisbon: Portugal’s had a tough year, yet Lisbon is bouncing back with an entrepreneurial spirit and by making the most of its links with superpower Brazil.

  24. Montréal: Plenty to commend it, Montréal needs to address its transport problems: it’s one of the most miserable places to commute in.

  25. Seattle: A new entry in our index, the bustling home of Starbucks has plenty going for it, including a brave new light-rail system.

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