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  1. Zurich: Topping our ranking for the second time, the Swiss city wins us over with its booming economy, enviable airport connections, bustling art scene, clean, safe streets and, of course, all those parks and the water.

  2. Helsinki: More creative than ever, with a new entrepreneurial spirit, our last year’s winner still delivers one of the world’s best living environments.

  3. Copenhagen: Great food, fashionable crowd, advanced design, and endless cycling alleys – no wonder the UN again rated the Danes as the happiest people in the world.

  4. Vienna: Up two places from last year, the Austrian capital is fast adopting future-forward ideas, without losing its retro charm. Others, take a note.

  5. Munich: Still a great place to live, Germany’s largest and wealthiest city should address its urban planning issues – better public transport and cheaper accommodation are needed.

  6. Melbourne: Our favourite Australian city is dropping one spot this year – we still love it but Melbourne needs to sort out its traffic congestion.

  7. Tokyo: Up from last year, Japan’s capital wins over with its civilised charm: a small town sense of civic responsibility, coupled with big city first-rate public transport, culture and shopping.

  8. Sydney: With plenty of urban renewal projects, the largest Australian city is on the way to becoming the southern hemisphere’s most sophisticated city. We’d like a convenient, safer cycling network, though.

  9. Auckland: Aucklanders are embracing new opportunities for change and a raft of culture initiatives. And we love it.

  10. Stockholm: As Sweden is coping better than most with the economic crisis, its capital is as buoyant as ever.

  11. Kyoto: With its beautiful gardens and temples, Kyoto is a place where rich cultural heritage exists within the framework of a modern metropolis.

  12. Fukuoka: With the anticipated reopening of Kego Park after a recent face lift, Fukuoka is an inspiring model of urban renewal.

  13. Hong Kong: On the rise as the city on the South China Sea investing in culture, with a new museum on the horizon and an art fair that keeps getting better by the year.

  14. Paris: The French capital still charms with beautiful gardens, indie boutiques and a buzzing art scene. However, it would benefit from less traffic in the centre and better opening hours on Sundays.

  15. Singapore: The green and clean Singapore stays in 15th place this year as the city-state continues to struggle with a widening wealth gap.

  16. Hamburg: Germany’s strongest riser, Hamburg’s improvements aren’t just in the chi-chi areas – the city’s making efforts to enhance life for all.

  17. Honolulu: A reputation based on sun, sea and surfing is gradually evolving as Hawaii’s capital takes advantage of its Asia links to become a rising business hub – and Oscar-nominated films like The Descendants don’t hurt either.

  18. Berlin: It’s still lively, it’s still creative, it’s still cheap, but Germany’s capital could do with a good dose of organisation. The new airport’s well-publicised problems highlight a growing concern.

  19. Vancouver: While it likes to see itself as laidback and beautiful, the high cost of living threatens to ruin what makes Vancouver great.

  20. Madrid: The folk who run Spain’s capital haven’t done much wrong since making our top 10 for the last two years but the country’s economic crisis is having a terrible effect.

  21. Barcelona: As with their neighbours to the south, Barcelona’s slip down the ranking is due more to events outside the city’s control. Ambitious infrastructure projects could haul them up next year.

  22. Portland, Oregon: Still a model for other small cities, still something of a bohemian paradise. And they’ll take some pleasure from pushing Seattle out of the 25.

  23. San Francisco: A new entry that has slowly, but irrevocably, stolen our heart. Not just a tech hub, increasingly a design centre too. Homelessness remains a problem though.

  24. Montréal: Like all good cities it has its mix of interesting bike schemes and ambitious infrastructure projects on the go. Its internationally diverse population helps too.

  25. Geneva: A new entry and one that relies hugely on its reputation as an international hub. Its an expensive place to live though and the nightlife – restaurants aside – could do with perking up.

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