The Danish capital has hit the top spot this year not just because of its daring art scene, its matrix of cycle super-highways and its pioneering approach to street culture but also its ability to define itself as a global city. Copenhagen’s wonderful self-reinvention continues to impress.
A devoted food culture, a near-worrying commitment to good coffee and a very Aussie approach to gentrification has notched the city up to second place this year.
2011’s winner leads the way in architecture and urban development. The Finnish capital has evolved to meet the demands of its climate and is home to a growing cadre of young entrepreneurs.
Abe-nomics has put a spring in the step of the Japanese capital and helped it shuffle up two places in our rankings. As ever, it gets full marks for fostering the balance between small town values and the vibrancy of a 24-hour megalopolis.
The Austrian capital is a city we’ve earmarked for great things. A slew of urban improvements include a new airport and a slick shuttle from Wien-Mitte.
The bosky, bucolic Swiss city hasn’t faltered on its outdoorsy lifestyle. Yet last year’s favourite has dropped off the top spot. We blame some stiff competition and the fact Zürich could do more to address the issue of fun.
The Swedish capital hasn’t had the greatest press this summer – the suburb of Husby resembled Brixton circa 1981. But the city has injected fresh vim by opening an Abba museum and continues to work on its infrastructure.
The Bavarian capital has all the trappings of a pleasant hamlet and all benefits of a venerable historic city. Yet it’s perhaps because of this equilibrium that it’s moved down the rankings. Munich needs a little more grit and vision: we love the new Isar river regeneration project – more of the same please.
New South Wales’ sunny capital has slipped down a notch because of a little too much swimming and not enough innovation. But hey, it’s great.
Surrounded by wild surf, black-sanded bays and only a short boat ride from the Kiwi answer to Martha’s vineyard, Waiheke Island, what’s not to like about this New Zealand’s largest city? Auckland’s only problem is prices are getting steep.
11. Hong Kong:
It is frenetic, dense and a little too partial to air-con but turbo-driven Hong Kong is finding space for it artistic culture and new entrepreneurial zeal. And it must be the only megalopolis with hiking trails.
From its handy spot between Tokyo and Seoul this green, compact, and sparky island city has a keen eye on its future; it’s busy updating everything from its subway system to its arts scene.
Japan’s venerable 1,200-year-old cultural heartland may be dense with temples and shrines but it is determined to avoid the status of “museum city”: it’s attracting a new clan of creative minds.
The French capital is peerless when it comes to elegant bistros, chic nightlife and strolls down the Seine. But entrepreneurs still complain about the stilted business climate.
The city-state has an enviable transport network and a lush planting scheme but it falls down on civil liberties – it’s time to amend some its draconian laws.
HafenCity continues to emerge in the Elbe and a raft of restorations and new projects will contribute to the breezy, efficient way of life. It could hurry up a little though.
Balmy weather and great beaches make this mid-Pacific metropolis a increasingly seductive billet. The city must work on its homeless problem.
Despite austerity and unemployment Madrid has seized the moment and is ushering in a raft of planning reforms: small businesses are springing up and a can-do culture is defining the city.
Surrounded by natural beauty and home to a growing creative class this city has green ambitions and a handsome mayor too.
We love it for its creativity, enviable park life and its cool approach to change – but its relentlessly delayed airport continues to edge it further down our list.
The Catalonian capital has some great plans but it has been a tough year. City hall needs to set to work encouraging small enterprise.
Liberal, open-minded and pioneer of two wheels rather than four, the city’s reintroduction to our top 25 is in part down to its stunning Rijksmuseum renovation.
Oregon’s most populous is flourishing, propelled by its dedicated, civic-minded, creative populace.
24. San Francisco:
Northern California’s spectacular city scores high on tolerance and urban verve but tech-dollars continue to drive up the cost of living.
This city combines industrious work ethic with constant creative output. Its ever-expanding, heavy investment in infrastructure is a boon too.