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Where do you want to live? It’s a simple question with a complicated answer. This is our seventh attempt to solve the conundrum and, while the result may be familiar (Copenhagen becomes the third two-time winner alongside Munich and Zürich), our approach to the challenge has been tweaked with the addition of two major metrics: Sundays and street life.

Too many major cities, including some of our top 25, all but shut down on a Sunday – we believe a city should be a seven-day operation. We asked our team of correspondents and researchers to judge how easy it is to arrange a spontaneous dinner with friends on a Sunday night. Are the restaurants open? Can you buy groceries and wine?

The great outdoors may be something more associated with country living, but it has a huge impact on the quality of city dwelling too. We’ve counted up the plazas, sampled the outdoor cafés and thrown all that into the mix as well.

Common factors remain. A liveable city has low crime rates, decent weather, good education, superb healthcare, reliable transport and an airport with a host of international destinations. It’s the sort of place where you can be gay or Muslim, or gay and Muslim, and no one cares. Its art galleries open late and museums are free. It takes recycling seriously and encourages independent shops.

For many, the answer to that original question – where do you want to live? – is “none of these places, thank you very much”. There is not enough edge, not enough spontaneity. They – and given our base in London, there are a few of us in that “they” – prefer to find their home in a city where crime rates are higher and transport links are poorer, but the nightlife and culture, the food and the architecture more than make up for it. Turn to our Expo on page 259 and you will find five cities that fit the bill. Palermo, Tel Aviv, San José, Colombo and Chiang Mai all fail too many of our tests – but that doesn’t mean they fail as cities.

This issue asks another big question: how do you make your city a place where people want to live? Few great cities achieve that pre-eminence without an inspirational and charismatic mayor, someone with the power and the will to take difficult decisions and think further ahead than the next election. The five city chiefs – three mayors, a governor and a council leader, interviewed on page 97 – are each in the process of transforming their home towns, whether they’ve been in charge months (Governor Evans Kidero of Nairobi) or are approaching the end of their second decade in office (Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester city council).

A great mayor, of course, needs impressive back-up. On page 117, we’ve assembled a city hall dream team, from the ideal planning commissioner to the perfect voice for announcements on the metro. And for the more unusual city jobs, such as dealing with the monkey menace of New Delhi or organising one of the world’s biggest ports, turn to page 66.

The private sector plays its role too. In each section we look at a company that makes a difference across a city or, in the case of Santiago, a series of companies; Chile’s capital is the world’s most outsourced city. Turn to page 59 to see if it works.

The perfect city doesn’t exist. What works for you may not work for me. The quality of life index is not definitive, nor should it be. But it helps – or at least begins – to answer the question: where do you want to live?

World-conquering urban quality of life requires the trickiest of balancing acts – between progress and preservation, stimulation and security, global and local. Perfection is unobtainable, of course, but Copenhagen is striking one of the best deals right now.

The Danish capital has undergone a radical transformation in recent years. If you had visited a decade ago, you would have found a city in a permanent state of semi-hibernation. The shops closed on Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday. Nightlife was lived on Fridays and Saturdays only. Where were the locals? What were they doing? (Answer: mostly playing handball, or watching Taggart.) But it isn’t just opening hours that have been revised; there has been a wholesale change of attitude among the people who live here. Copenhageners seem finally to have shrugged off their Lutheran mistrust of sensory pleasure and indulgence; they’ve discovered a self-confidence and an enthusiasm for what their city can be.

These days, if the weather is even slightly permitting, they bathe in the harbour swimming pools and lounge beside the waterfront. There’s a great barista or gelateria on every street, and not a week goes by without some or other festival erupting, be it film, music, art or food. There is the clubbers’ street party, Distortion; documentary festival cph: Dox; Copenhagen Cooking; or the latest, the clunkily-named, but actually rather excellent, Wondercool – a February arts umbrella. No one’s kidding themselves that they live in Montpellier or Madrid – the wind still howls and the clouds still glower for much of the year – but the Danes are proving that Northerners can still enjoy their public spaces, that their city need not merely function.

The Danish capital has benefitted from some foresighted mayors – all Social Democrats, as it happens – who have made, and continue to make, the bold infrastructure investments (airport terminals, metros, cycle “superhighways”, urban parks and so on) – from Jens Kramer Mikkelsen until 2004, then Ritt Bjerregaard and the incumbent Frank Jensen, but if any one man embodies the spirit of Copenhagen’s transformation to a model city, it is architect Jan Gehl. It was Gehl who, as early as the 1960s, pointed out that Functionalism was dehumanising and that, rather than building into the sky, it was the architects’ job to foster life on the streets. “But it’s not just about creating places where people can sit and drink cappuccinos,” says Gehl. “It’s about something as basic as that we meet each other in the public space.” Gehl has been instrumental in reducing traffic in the city centre, one of the keys to creating a liveable city. “We showed that by establishing pedestrianised streets and cycle paths you could create a city that was pleasant to be in.”

Copenhagen is a cycle city. Over half of commuters choose two wheels over four, which is fantastically levelling in social terms: this is how everyone from ceos to dinner ladies gets about. Cyclists tend to have right of way, yet drivers rarely feel like pariahs. Most of the time the traffic flows; miraculously, there’s parking.

“Copenhagen used to be a city of the poor,” explains design guru Jens Martin Skibsted of Kibisi. “This was changed by systematically improving conditions for families with kids. They used to move to suburbia, but with the new kid-friendly environment they stayed and shared their riches as they grew older. With more money comes more culture and a more attractive environment.”

The city is basking in an unprecedented level of international attention. TV shows The Killing and Borgen; architects and artists such as Bjarke Ingels and Olafur Eliasson; and the city’s groundbreaking chefs have captured the imaginations of their peers around the world. “I used to think of Copenhagen as a small city,” says chef Christian Puglisi, owner of the Michelin-starred Relæ and café, Manfreds & Vin, both on Jægersborggade. “But in terms of gastronomy, for instance, we’ve realised that you can make something important and high quality that can be of interest around the world.”

Puglisi is too modest to mention it, but his restaurants have done their bit for the ongoing regeneration of one of the city’s most interesting quarters, Nørrebro. Jægersborggade, once a place to avoid, now throngs with small independent stores, cafés and bars thanks to his initial intrepidity, and there are numerous other examples of streets like this in the city – Elmegade, Værnedamsvej, Istedgade, Ravnsborggade and so on. The blossoming flower is an apt analogy: Copenhagen continues to unfurl, and first-time entrepreneurs are finding a receptive audience here Nørrebro, an old workers’ quarter, still has its challenges, with its dense tenements – some, astonishingly, still with communal cellar bathrooms – and the continuing struggle to integrate its ethnically diverse population, but this is the place to go when you tire of Scandinavian conformity and neatness.

“These days, we are really getting some culture out on the streets,” says Puglisi. “I was brought up in Italy, and I am starting to feel that kind of piazza atmosphere on my street. Copenhagen is not an enormous, polluted metropolis. It’s small in a good way. Whenever I return here after travelling, I appreciate it more and more. There aren’t a million homeless people on the streets. It’s safe, it’s a city that makes you feel good.”

In recent years Copenhagen has had to deal with increasing migration from elsewhere within Denmark: it is home to around a third of the country’s population. Wisely, the city planners have staggered the development required to house these new arrivals. We’ve already seen Sydhavn (the southern harbour) and the new town of Ørestad blossom with some interesting hotels, offices, waterfront housing and the magnificent new home for the national broadcaster, Danmarks Radio. Nordhavn (the north harbour) is well underway, with the new, carbon-neutral United Nations City complex now completed. Next in line for a spruce-up are the atmospheric military docks on Refshaleøen, already the base for a growing artistic and creative crowd, and the Carlsberg Brewery in Valby. Meanwhile, on the adjacent island of Amager they are building an improbably charismatic waste-to-energy plant, designed by Bjarke Ingels’ big. It has an artificial ski run on its roof. Apparently, it’s going to blow smoke rings.

So, why isn’t Copenhagen number one on this list every year? Well, some might argue it should be, but something in particular has changed over the last 12 months, and it’s not just the sumptuous new food halls, Torvhallerne. Perhaps we are projecting here, but it feels to us like there has been another kind of mood shift in Copenhagen. At the last general election the Danes booted out the xenophobic right wingers who had so soured the country’s international relations and left the capital an isolated oasis of diversity and openness.

“The new government might not be quite as left wing as I would like,” is how one local Dane puts it to monocle. “But political discussion has changed in Denmark. It’s moved away from being negative and inward-looking.” Visa regulations are changing and the government is even considering allowing residents dual nationality. The locals do still complain, of course. They complain about the new Metro extension work that has temporarily annexed numerous public spaces. They complain about the traffic, and the draconian cycle laws (the police are a little heavy-handed with cyclists), but in truth they don’t have much to moan about. (On the other hand, complaints from visitors about the cost of everything are more justifiable: this is a fiercely expensive city for tourists.)

It used to be that Copenhageners’ favourite pastime was comparing their city unfavourably with other European capitals – Berlin and London in particular. They don’t do that so much any more. “Copenhageners are beautiful people,” agrees Puglisi. “There really is a great vibe here these days.”

For our film on this year’s winning city, visit monocle.com

Population: 560,000 in the city; 1.7m in the metropolitan area. International flights: 140, of which 24 are intercontinental. Crime: murders, 9; domestic break-ins, 3,748. Sunshine: annual average, 1,539 hours. Temperatures: average high, 22c; average low, minus 2c. Tolerance: one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. Same sex marriage is now legal within the Danish Church. Electric car charging points: 332. Unemployment rate: 6.6 per cent. Culture: 14 cinemas; 70 to 80 art galleries; 28 theatres; 58 music venues. Bookshops: 83. Green space: 22.6 sq km, or 42 sq m per person. Key upcoming development: a major extension of the city’s metro system is currently underway: this will be a circular line around the city centre. Street life: in recent years Copenhagen has really developed its open spaces, especially along the waterfront with the gorgeous terrace at the Skuespilhus theatre, the lawns at Islandsbrygge, Amager beach Dinner on a Sunday: the shops are allowed to open, which has really livened things up in the city centre. Last-minute reservations aren’t a problem, unless it’s Noma. Monocle fixes: Denmark’s immigration system requires a massive overhaul – both systematically and in terms of legislation. Designed to make immigration from non-Western countries virtually impossible, it means that Danish industry suffers from a chronic lack of skills which it might otherwise be able to source overseas.

After waves of reinvention in recent years, Melbourne is full to bursting with creative energy. Experimentation and risk can be seen in bold new buildings and in the streets below. Melburnians take their food seriously, doing business over elaborate breakfasts with a devotion to an innovative coffee culture. At night, a new generation of food trucks spread out over the suburbs. Its renowned laneways and small bars are stagnating due to harsher licensing restrictions that should be eased. Infrastructure hasn’t kept pace with growth; the trams are iconic but cars still choke inner-city roads. Dedicated bike and tram streets downtown and the AU$5bn (€3.7bn) Regional Rail Link will help, but greater investment in cycling and public transport, not expensive new freeways, is needed.

Population: 100,000 in the city; 4.2 million in the metropolitan area. International flights: 27 Crime: murders, 99; domestic break-ins, 19,074. Sunshine: annual average, 2,079 hours. Temperatures: average high, 26c; average low, 6c Tolerance: almost half the population was born abroad and at least 122 different languages are spoken in the city. Unemployment rate: 6.2 per cent. Electric car charging points: 20 Culture: 59 cinema screens; 58 art galleries; 34 theatres; 20 museums. Bookshops: Melbourne is home to 41 per cent of all Australian bookshops. Green space: 89, 440 hectares. Key upcoming development: the AU$5bn (€3.7bn) Regional Rail Link will disentangle regional and commuter trains in the overloaded western suburbs, with 90km of new track ready to go by 2016. Street life: the inner-city suburb of Yarraville has closed its central street to cars for the past couple of summers and put tables and vegetation in their place; there’s talk of other suburbs following suit. Dinner on a Sunday: a trend for no-reservations policies in the city’s most-talked-about restaurants makes spontaneous dining easy: just show up and queue for a bit. Monocle fixes: reversing the city’s increasingly tough licensing restrictions will help revive the once-vibrant small-bar culture.

Helsinki’s long winter and lack of sunlight don’t seem to dampen the Finns’ creative spirit. In recent years gastronomy, street life, planning and design have transformed the city. Old harbours are becoming multi-purpose housing areas and offices, and since shopping hours were liberated, the streets have become far livelier even on Sundays.

Entrepreneurship hasn’t always been encouraged in Finnish culture but a new generation is bringing lots of creativity to Helsinki, most strikingly in fashion and food. At home and abroad enthusiasm for Finland’s cultural expression is more palpable than ever. Add a world-leading school system, universal health care and closeness to nature and you’ve got a very fine city. But, we can’t help wondering, why is Finland the only Nordic country that doesn’t allow gay marriage?

Population: 600,000 in the city; 1.3 million in the metropolitan area. International flights: 120, of which 15 are intercontinental. Crime: murders, 9; domestic break-ins, 271. Sunshine: 1,858 hours a year. Temperatures: average high, 23c, average low, minus 9c. Tolerance: more gay-friendly than the rest of the country; the city is becoming more multicultural but problems remain. Electric car charging points: 6 Unemployment rate: 8.7 per cent Culture: 67 museums; 33 cinema screens; 11 theatres; two philharmonic orchestras. Bookshops: around 40 independents. Green space: a third of the city. Key upcoming development: new high-speed rail link to the airport, to be opened in 2014. The fastest journey time from Helsinki will be around 30 minutes. Street life: In the summer months, the city’s restaurants spill out onto the streets. Dinner on a Sunday: finding a nice neighbourhood restaurant at short notice isn’t a problem; if you want to do it yourself you’ll be able to find food but drink might be a problem. Monocle fixes: the city desperately needs apartments at reasonable prices. Even people with good salaries now have trouble finding a decent-sized flat in a good location.

Perhaps it’s the effect of Abenomics – as the bullish monetary policy of prime minister Shinzo Abe is known – but the Japanese capital seems to have a fresh verve these days. The things we’ve long admired about Tokyo continue to impress: the efficient public transport network, the inspiring retail, the quality of food at every level and the all-round courtesy that makes the city such a pleasure to live in.

New Tokyo governor Naoki Inose is pressing forward with Tokyo Vision 2020, a series of projects that promise to improve life for the city’s residents, including the addition of 70,000 new childcare places and 300 hectares of greenery. The city has hopes for the 2020 Olympics but the new national stadium – a ¥130bn (€992.9m) project designed by Zaha Hadid – will be built regardless.

Population: 9 million in the city; 13.2 million in the metropolitan area. International flights: 98 from Narita, 78 of which are intercontinental; 16 from Haneda, of which seven are intercontinental. Crime: murders, 91; domestic break-ins, 6,449. Sunshine: annual average, 1,881 hours. Temperatures: average high, 30c; average low, 2c. Tolerance: same-sex marriage isn’t legal in Japan but tolerance is the norm. Unemployment rate: prefecture, 4.5 per cent. Electric car charging points: 117 Culture: 587 art galleries; 342 cinema screens; 192 museums; 192 theatres. Bookshops: 1,051 Green space: 1,000 hectares of greenery. Key upcoming development: a major public-private project to revitalise central Tokyo from Shimbashi to Toranomon, with an underground road from Shiodome to Toranomon due next spring and a 1.9km bridge linking Shiodome to Harumi making the bay area more accessible to central Tokyo. Street life: fierce summer heat has most diners running for cover but outdoor events include music festivals and farmers’ markets. Dinner on a Sunday: Tsukiji fish market and some more traditional restaurants are closed but Sunday dining is no problem. Monocle fixes: we’ve said it before: freely available wi-fi would be an asset to a city keen to project itself as a smart metropolis.

Vienna keeps getting better. Airport terminal “Check-in 3” opened last year without much fanfare, making departures (and, more importantly, arrivals) infinitely more pleasant. Wien-Mitte, 20 years in the making, is a transport hub/airport shuttle terminus, mall and office space launched in April (see Europe briefing, page 76). The new central train station opens in 2015 and smart hotels, including a lush Ritz-Carlton and unique boutique properties, recently opened their doors.

The DC 1 tower, Austria’s highest building, will be complete this autumn as will the new campus of the Vienna University of Economics and Business. But the pace of life here is still human: the Viennese enjoy long summer lunches and elegant nights during winter ball season. And the city’s rich history never takes a backseat to progress.

Population: 1.7m in the city, 3.6m in the metropolitan area. International flights: 179 destinations. Crime: murders, 18; domestic break-ins, 7,768. Sunshine: annual average, 2,204 hours. Temperatures: average high, 26c; average low, minus 3c. Tolerance: gay marriage is legal but the city’s culture remains a little macho and the pay gap between men and women remains high. Electric car charging points: 35, including those for e-bikes. Unemployment rate: 9.5 per cent. Culture: more than 100 museums and some 15,000 classical music events a year. Bookshops: 113. Green space: 200 sq km. Key upcoming development: the Karlsplatz subway station – one of the city’s largest transfer stations, with 200,000 passengers per day coming through – is currently being renovated. Street life: Vienna is an outdoor city in good weather. The language may be German but the culture is more Mediterranean. Dinner on a Sunday: this is where Vienna falls down: it’s impossible to buy groceries on a Sunday and difficult to find wine. Would-be diners, however, will find most restaurants are closed. Monocle fixes: until Vienna realises that every other major city in the world is open on a Sunday it won’t top our list.

Last year's winner drops a few spots in the ranking this year. Much as we still love Zürich it’s time the city let its hair down, loosened up opening hours on Sundays and – most importantly – began to feel a bit more welcoming to foreigners. News reports about limits on migration from EU countries don’t make us feel welcome.

While the government is doing its best to tackle the housing crisis, property prices remain high. In terms of outdoor activities, however, Zürich remains a leader. Along the river on the Limmatquai, many cafés offer outdoor seats and when the sun is out Blatterwiese park is full of sunbathers, barbecues and al fresco diners. And of course, the stable economy along with lower unemployment and crime rates add to Zürich’s undeniable charms.

Population: 400,000 in the city; 1.9m in the metropolitan area. International flights: 188 destinations, of which 58 are intercontinental. Crime: murders, 11; domestic break-ins, 6,031. Sunshine: annual average, 1,693 hours. Temperatures: average high, 25c; average low, 2c. Tolerance: there is a gay mayor and same-sex partnership laws exist. The right’s rhetoric on foreigners is less appealing. Unemployment rate: 3.7 per cent. Electric car charging points: 21 Culture: 154 museums; more than 100 art galleries; 56 cinema screens. Bookshops: 325 Green space: 4,220 hectares. Key upcoming development: a former milk processing plant will be the new home of the Zürich University of the Arts. Street life: along the river on the Limmatquai, many cafés have outdoor seating and tables. On the lakeside there is a well-used promenade that offers boat rentals and swimming spots. Dinner on a Sunday: many restaurants that are open on Sunday are likely to be full and you can expect them to close early, while shopping for groceries and wine can be difficult. Monocle fixes: the city needs to make itself more welcoming to foreigners and re-think doing business on a Sunday.

Who wouldn’t fall head over heels for Stockholm, with its picture- perfect 17th-century old town, innovative culinary and fashion scenes and boats gliding on clear blue waters right in the centre of town? We love the cosy yet inventive Swedish lifestyle; Volvo, Bergman and Abba might belong in the past but a new generation of Swedish musicians, designers and filmmakers are making sure the capital stays vital and interesting.

Several new housing projects are in the pipeline and the flats are sorely needed: Stockholm is one of the most rapidly growing cities in Europe. And, as this spring’s riots in the suburb of Husby show, the capital still has some way to go when it comes to integrating all its citizens and making them feel part of the happy Swedish family.

Population: 881,000 in the city; 2.1 million in the metropolitan area. International flights: 140 destinations, of which 22 are intercontinental. Crime: murders, 64; domestic break-ins, 4,720. Sunshine: annual average, 1,821 hours. Temperatures: average high, 23c; average low, minus 5c. Tolerance: gay friendly and female friendly. Some worries about racial discrimination after police were accused of racial profiling. Electric car charging points: around 100. Unemployment rate: 6.9 per cent. Culture: more than 100 museums, including the new Abba museum that opened this year. There are also dozens of art galleries and theatres plus a national opera and national ballet. Bookshops: 35, 15 of which are independents. Green space: 40 per cent of the city is green space. Key upcoming development: Citybanan, a 6km-long tunnel for commuter trains that will run underneath the city. Street life: vibrant during the warmer months, with people sitting in public squares. Restaurants are spread across the city so you can easily spend an evening in any part of town. Dinner on a Sunday: it’s always possible to find a table in a small neighbourhood bistro. Monocle fixes: taxi drivers who know where they are meant to be going (without gps) and don’t smoke in their cars would be a plus.

Cities go through periods of progression, equilibrium and regression. Munich seems to be somewhere between the latter two. It gets many things right but maybe that’s the problem.

In other cities with similar levels of wealth, fine universities and cultural institutions there is an energetic zing in the air, a growing sophistication. Yet in Munich, there’s more of a droning traditionalism. When it isn’t traditional it skews towards mundane cash-flashing, as legions of new cars thrum down the pleasant streets. Life is good but also quiet, unless one ventures to places such as the banks of the Isar river – part of a massive new restoration project. Here, on summer nights in the heart of the city, barbecue smoke hangs in the air and anything goes. We’d like to see more new flavours in Munich.

Population: 1.4 million in the city; 5.6 million in the metropolitan area. International flights: 222 destinations, of which 57 are intercontinental. Crime: murders, 6; domestic break-ins, 979. Sunshine: annual average, 1,905 hours. Temperatures: average high, 24c; average low, minus 4c. Tolerance: civil unions are legal and there are many gay-friendly bars. Electric car charging points: 41 Unemployment rate: 4.9 per cent. Culture: Munich is one of Germany’s most important seats of high culture with excellent theatres, a superb orchestra and 169 museums. Bookshops: 307 Green space: 4,844 hectares. Street life: the city explodes into outdoor action at the first hint of spring and keeps it going well into autumn. Outdoor café seating abounds, as do beer gardens. The parks fill with people and progressive barbecue rules mean that the city turns out for weekend charcoal sessions. Dinner on a Sunday: a 40-minute trip to the airport is about the only option if you need anything other than the most basic food on a Sunday – and good luck with supermarket wine. Monocle fixes: Munich needs to remain attractive to start-ups. Berlin is gaining by offering a vibrant subculture and community settings for fledgling companies. More cheap commercial space would be a start.

Once again Australia’s most populous city keeps its place in the top 10, even if it slips a spot. That isn’t to say that Sydney is a slouch by any stretch of the imagination: fantastic weather, cutting-edge cuisine and a vibrant arts scene combine to make it a truly world-class city. The future unveiling of major new projects by architectural royalty such as Frank Gehry and Jean Nouvel will make some headlines too.

But for now the shockingly high cost of living, gear-grinding traffic jams and the worst airport in Australia are all holding Sydney back. Distance has historically been both a bane and a virtue for Australia, condemning it to isolation while also maintaining its exclusivity. But in an increasingly connected world, it is becoming that much harder to justify every au$6 (€6) latte.

Population: 183,494 in the city; 4.4 million in the metropolitan area. International flights: 47 Crime: murders, 47; domestic break-ins, 22,324. Sunshine: annual average, 2,426 hours. Temperatures: average high, 27c; average low, 8c. Tolerance: gay marriage may not be legal but Sydney would change the law if it could – its annual Mardi Gras festival is a major tourist attraction. Electric car charging points: four. Not that impressive. Unemployment rate: 5.1 per cent. Bookshops: at least 90 independents plus 50 to 70 second-hand shops. Green space: more than 400 parks and open spaces, covering over 188 hectares. Key upcoming development: University of Technology Sydney is replacing its 1970s barnacle with a Frank Gehry. Street life: nearly all restaurants of any quality have outside seating and beer gardens are a big thing, even in swanky gastro pubs. Dinner on a Sunday: ludicrously easy to get a table, buy a bottle of wine and go food shopping. Monocle fixes: the mining boom has driven the Aussie dollar into the stratosphere, making the cost of living in Sydney among the highest in the world. Something must be done soon to bring down the dollar and control inflation.

Auckland’s mayor Len Brown talks of making his city the world’s most liveable. He’s on the right track with the redevelopment of derelict industrial areas, refurbishment of the city’s historic art gallery, a revitalised restaurant scene and better public transport. More than anything, he has given residents a sense of what the city is and what it could be.

Now, Auckland must step up to the far harder task of making serious decisions around densification (the city needs to find homes for one million people over the next 30 years) and public transport. Moreover, the New Zealand government, which continues to block key infrastructure projects, must understand what it takes to build a world-class city. Auckland with two harbours and a multi-cultural population, could easily continue to rise in our rankings.

Population: 1.5 million. International flights: 37 destinations, of which 24 are intercontinental. Crime: murders, 16; domestic break-ins, 14,476. Sunshine: annual average, 2,050 hours. Temperatures: average high, 24c; average low, 17c. Tolerance: incredibly diverse – just 51 per cent of Aucklanders identify as white, the rest being Maori or from Asia, the Pacific and elsewhere. Unemployment rate: 7.2 per cent. Electric car charging points: none. Culture: museums and art galleries are free. 33 multiplexes and small independent cinemas. Bookshops: 110, of which 90 are independent. Green space: 83,164 hectares. That’s 550 sq m per person. Key upcoming development: 57 new electric trains arrive in September and will be operational by next year – quieter, faster and equipped with wi-fi. Street life: people congregate in squares in the city centre during work hours. Suburban Auckland has a lot of parks rather than squares and these are heavily used. Dinner on a Sunday: often new openings and local bistros are open on Sundays and it’s easy to find wine and ingredients. Monocle fixes: North Wharf and Wynyard Quarter are beautiful but the city needs more public spaces on the waterfront.

While much of Hong Kong life can be found inside one of the city’s myriad air-conditioned buildings, both residents and visitors can look forward to a more comfortable experience outdoors as the city starts to clean up its environmental act. With the government now leading the way in reducing air and water pollution by investing billions in incentive schemes and working across the border to help mainland China improve standards, Hong Kong’s hundreds of kilometres of hiking trails, beaches and nature parks are sure to become even more popular.

And although an ease of doing business, a burgeoning art market and tax-free shopping might be among the reasons people choose to live in Hong Kong, the city’s diverse green space offers a liveability that helps to keep them there.

Population: 7.2 million. International flights: 170 destinations, of which 120 are intercontinental. Crime: murders, 27; domestic break-ins, 4,214.
Sunshine: annual average, 1,551 hours. Temperatures: average high, 33c; average low, 13c. Tolerance: the first openly gay legislator and the biggest Pride yet, but anti-discrimination laws have been blocked. Unemployment rate: 3.5 per cent. Electric car charging points: 121 Culture: 45 cinemas, 18 museums, and 14 open-air theatres. Bookshops: 222 Green space: roughly three-quarters of Hong Kong is countryside. Key upcoming development: the new cruise terminal at the city’s former Kai Tak airport site that was unveiled this summer is only the earliest phase of what will be a far larger redevelopment project. Street life: al fresco dining and outside areas at restaurants and bars are rare, while Hong Kong’s main squares are heavily populated by tourists. Dinner on a Sunday: the restaurants have tables free, the city’s food markets are open for trading and you can buy alcohol any time you like. Monocle fixes: more needs to be done by the city’s government to rein in Hong Kong’s runaway property prices.

After years of being overshadowed by Japan’s largest cities, Fukuoka, on the southern island of Kyushu, is winning recognition as a model compact city. Its 1.5 million residents enjoy a smaller, greener, more relaxed version of what bigger urban centres offer. And because it is nearly equidistant to Tokyo, Shanghai and Seoul, it’s a convenient base for businesses eyeing an expansion into Asia.

Fukuoka has clean air, mountains and sea close by, a thriving dining and arts scene, and research centres belonging to some of the world’s top hi-tech companies. But the city has struggled to halt a brain drain of college graduates and its efforts to set up a bicycle-rental system, promote local farmers and make better use of oceanfront property have been too tentative or fallen short.

Population: 1.5 million in the city; 2.5 million in the metropolitan area. International flights: 18 destinations, of which three are intercontinental. Crime: murders, 22; domestic break-ins, 644. Sunshine: annual average, 1,799 hours. Temperatures: average high, 32c; average low, 2c. Tolerance: gay marriage is not allowed but same-sex partnerships are common, as are gay-friendly bars. Universities attract students from all over Asia. Unemployment rate: prefecture, 5.2 per cent. Electric car charging points: 52 Culture: 175 cinema screens; 60 theatres; 50 galleries; 9 museums. Bookshops: 567 Green space: 76 sq m per person. Key upcoming development: two of the city’s most important districts, Hakata and Tenjin, are to be connected via a new metro line. Street life: streets are safe, walkable and well lit. It’s rare to find cafés and restaurants with chairs and tables outdoors, though beer gardens are common in summer. Dinner on a Sunday: markets and most restaurants are closed on Sundays but this being Japan, it’s never hard to eat well. Monocle fixes: Fukuoka should more aggressively court multinational corporations that are looking for a base in Asia, and do more to tap into talent in the region.

Kyoto’s selling point is its 1,200-year history: the ancient city is a picturesque place of temples, shrines, gardens and teahouses where traditional practices – from arts to architecture – are going strong. Yet this city isn’t just dwelling on the past. While preserving its cityscape and traditions, Kyoto is trying to reinvigorate its local retail and creative sectors and attract start-ups that have the potential to be the next Nintendo, Kyocera or Sagawa Express.

Kyoto boasts clean, safe streets and is cleaning up its waterways and encouraging renovations of old machiya (wooden merchant homes) under a long-term urban beautification plan. Kyoto’s subway system is reliable and the city’s small size makes it bicycle-friendly despite an absence of cycling paths.

Population: 1.5 million. International flights: 56 destinations, of which 21 are intercontinental. Crime: murders, 13; domestic break-ins, 826. Sunshine: annual average, 1,775. Temperatures: average high, 32c; average low, 4c. Tolerance: gay marriages and civil unions are not legal but discrimination is rare. Unemployment rate: prefecture, 4.9 per cent. Electric car charging points: 41 Culture: 204 museums; 78 art galleries; 64 cinema screens; 11 theatres. Bookshops: 250 Green space: 469 sq m per person. Key upcoming development: the mayor, Daisaku Kadokawa, is leading Japan’s first-ever campaign to impose restrictions on commercial signage and ordering large, gaudy outdoor signs to be taken down. Street life: narrow alleys, cobblestoned streets and lively commercial districts make this city ideal for walking. During the summer months, shops set up terraces along the Kamo River for outdoor dining and drinking. Dinner on a Sunday: most restaurants are open on Sundays but they tend to shut earlier than in other cities. Monocle fixes: The subway and bus network need upgrading to be convenient for commuters. The city should make better use of its traditional machiya by enticing small businesses to renovate them for offices and shops.

Chic, seductive, inimitable: Paris remains a beacon for the arts, fashion and gastronomy, luring more foreign visitors each year than any other city on Earth. There are problems, of course. Neither the user-unfriendly Charles de Gaulle Airport nor the gloomy Gare du Nord station offer the warmest of welcomes. And whoever replaces Bertrand Delanoë as mayor next year should push to keep the city’s streets clean.

On the positive side, upgrades have been carried out on certain Métro and rer lines and the city’s smart tram network continues to grow. The pioneering Vélib’ and Autolib’ bike and car-sharing schemes are also expanding and some central areas, notably Place de la République and Châtelet – Les Halles, have been given long-overdue facelifts.

Population: 2.25 million; 12.2 million in the metropolitan area. International flights: 304 from Charles de Gaulle; 158 from Orly. Crime: murders, 166; domestic break-ins, 8,104. Sunshine: annual average, 1,779 hours. Temperatures: average high, 25c; average low, 1c. Tolerance: gay marriage was recently approved but not before hundreds of thousands marched through Paris in opposition. Anti-Muslim sentiment is on the rise. Electric car charging points: 4,000 Unemployment rate: 11.8 per cent. Culture: museums, 47; cinemas, 85; theatres, 139. Bookshops: 677 Green space: 480 parks and gardens, totalling nearly 3,000 hectares and over 400,000 trees. Key upcoming development: a new transport network that would link major banlieue to the capital – a key element of the “Greater Paris” scheme. Street life: every street corner seems to have chairs and tables spilling out during summer. Dinner on a Sunday: many restaurants are open on Sundays (unlike the shops) and you can always find a small bistro to pop into for a decent meal. Monocle fixes: President Hollande’s government has some work to do to slow the exodus of local talent and attract foreign investment. Bureaucracy, punitive taxation and exorbitant rents are taking away some sparkle.

Singapore is nothing if not stable. The city state prides itself on being a calm harbour in a volatile region and one of the most reliable places in the world to do business. The public transportation system runs smoothly, unemployment is virtually nonexistent and an island-wide greening campaign has created one of Asia’s most beautiful cities.

Yet Singapore is still saddled with the reputation of being boring – a tag it can’t easily shed. Yes, the government must ease the reins on its citizens but Singapore’s young people who have spent time overseas must also show more initiative to change the status quo. It’s starting to happen: university graduates are dropping out of the typical career tracks to become artists, pastry chefs, coffee shop owners and urban farmers.

Population: 5.3 million. International flights: 537 destinations, of which 303 are intercontinental. Sunshine: annual average, 2,064 hours. Temperatures: average high, 32c; average low, 24c Tolerance: it’s still illegal to be gay. The High Court recently rejected a petition to repeal the law. Unemployment rate: 1.8 per cent. Electric car charging points: 37 Culture: museums, 53; art galleries, 252; theatres, 55. Bookshops: 176 Green space: considered one of the greenest cities in Asia with over 70 sq m of green space per person. Key upcoming development: 600 new bicycle racks are due to be built in mrt stations next year. Street life: with hot weather all year round, taking a walk in the town centre is not very enjoyable. Also, it’s wise to carry an umbrella at all times in case of sudden rain. Dinner on a Sunday: there is always somewhere to eat but making a reservation is advisable and the better restaurants in town will almost certainly be full. Monocle fixes: Singapore is one of the most unequal cities in the world, a state of affairs that is preventing the city state from living up to its full potential. Its anti-gay stance is wrong.

Business as usual in Germany’s northern node: Hamburg holds as steady and cool as its people’s reserved Hanseatic temperament. That’s even in the face of uncharacteristic delays, such as the stalled Elbe Philharmonic concert hall by architects Herzog & de Meuron, which is overdue and way over budget. The HafenCity harbour expansion (a mixed-use urban scheme to expand the city centre by about 40 per cent) is progressing and the seven-year iba Hamburg International Building Exhibition project ends in 2013, leaving new infrastructure and architecture in the lower income district of Wilhelmsburg. Hamburg has never been about being fastest or sexiest but its stability is what makes it a great place to live. If only its residents were a little more open to change.

Population: 1.8 million in the city; 4.3 million in the metropolitan area. International flights: 115 destinations, of which 5 are intercontinental. Crime: murders, 12; domestic break-ins, 7,094. Sunshine: annual average, 1,493 hours. Temperatures: average high, 24c; average low, minus 2c. Tolerance: the gay scene is well integrated into the city. Electric car charging points: 28 Unemployment rate: 7.5 per cent. Culture: as the saying goes, Hamburg has “40 theatres, 60 museums and 100 clubs”. Bookshops: 354 Green space: 6,191 hectares. Key upcoming development: the new HafenCity University is set to open this year. Street life: there are some very beautiful terrace restaurants along the Elbe. Dinner on a Sunday: picking up a bottle of wine at 20.00 on a Sunday is nearly impossible unless you’re near a restaurant that will sell you one. Monocle fixes: Hamburg has historically been internationally influenced because of its harbour but its scene is very local: born Hamburgers and residents take a long time to embrace new arrivals, despite a foreign-born resident population of 13.5 per cent. A slightly more cosmopolitan attitude would serve the city well.

Hawaii’s capital city has held its place, and for good reason. If the droves of Japanese and South Korean flagged jets on the Tarmac at Honolulu International Airport aren’t proof that this mid-Pacific metropolis is on the up, look to the large-scale infrastructure projects taking shape. The conversion of a former military site into a shipping container terminal, a $32m (€24.7m) plan to improve a choked freeway and a seawater-powered air-conditioning project mean commerce, commute and keeping cool are all front of mind for city leaders. A year-round growing season and rich, volcanic soil mean high-quality food is the norm but other basics are lacking which means Honolulu is not quite there yet. The city suffers from bad traffic and difficulty in starting a business.

Population: 330,000 in the city; 950,000 in the country. International flights: 50 destinations. Crime: murders, 16; domestic break-ins, 4,533. Sunshine: annual average, 3,041 hours. Temperatures: average high, 31c; average low, 19c. Electric car charging points: 68 Unemployment rate: 4.5 per cent. Culture: museums, 45; cinemas, 15. Bookshops: 24 Green space: three-quarters of Honolulu is covered in parks, trees and greenery. Key upcoming development: $200m (€155m) transformation of the 90-acre Kapalama Military Reservation at Honolulu harbour into a new container terminal. Street life: there are plenty of places to meet outside in Honolulu. Lots of people bring picnics to parks and beaches and many restaurants take advantage of balmy weather with outdoor and beachside dining. Dinner on a Sunday: with only a handful of great restaurants in Honolulu, dining out isn’t as flexible as it is in other global cities. But with more and more local restaurants investing in good chefs and produce, it’s getting easier. On the plus side, grabbing a bottle to go and food from a local market isn’t remotely difficult. Monocle fixes: Honolulu needs to be more friendly to small businesses and deal with its growing homelessness problem.

A city’s charm is more than just the sheen of its façade – it’s an energy. Madrid has gained ground this year due to the palpable sense of change on its streets, as locals roll up their sleeves for a bit of diy fortune changing. The city council has helped by liberalising shop-opening hours and extending outdoor terrace licences all-year long. However, it’s the locals who are really improving Madrid with dynamic small business ventures. While the “EuroVegas” casino development (with construction slated to begin this year) appears vulgar, a luxury mall and hotel alongside Plaza del Sol could help spruce up the city centre. Lenient taxes for small businesses and rooftop terrace laws that utilise Madrid’s best asset – the sun – should be City Hall’s next steps.

Population: 3.2 million in the city; 6.5 million in the metropolitan area. International flights: 215 destinations, of which 86 are intercontinental. Crime: murders, 47; domestic break-ins, 14,344. Sunshine: annual average, 2,910 hours. Temperatures: average high, 33c; average low 1c. Tolerance: a gay-friendly city (same-sex marriage is legal) with a world-famous gay pride event that draws thousands of tourists. Madrid has also become increasingly multicultural. Electric car charging points: 41, with plans for another 280. Unemployment rate: 20.4 per cent. Culture: theatres, 62; galleries and museums, 91; cinemas, 273. Bookshops: 540, of which most are independent. Green space: 6,405 hectares and 290,000 trees. Key upcoming development: EuroVegas, billed as Europe’s biggest casino. Street life: the council liberalised its terrace laws last year, allowing restaurants and bars to keep outdoor seating on pavements and in plazas all year long. Dinner on a Sunday: while Sundays in Spain are traditionally sacred, the city has evolved. Restaurants generally open and it’s easy to make last-minute reservations because many Spaniards reserve the day for family time. Monocle fixes: it’s time to pedestrianise Calle Palma; doing so would provide a much-needed kickstart to the Conde Duque district.

Dynamic, comfortable and liberal-minded Vancouver is accustomed to regularly scoring high on many quality of life indexes. That it is also one of the most beautifully located cities in the world, stretched out between mountains and sea, also helps. It’s close to nature but it is innovation that Vancouver excels at – from its fast-growing video game developers and IT sectors to its superlative food scene. Vancouver has an ambitious but credible plan to become the greenest city in the world by 2020. It still struggles to address the dire conditions on the Downtown Eastside, a neighbourhood plagued by drug addiction and homelessness. But the latest effort to improve conditions is more inclusive and focused on the long term, an example of Vancouver at its best: diverse and forward-looking.

Population: 600,000 in the city; 2.3 million in the metropolitan area. International flights: 57 destinations, of which 35 are intercontinental. Crime: murders, 15; domestic break-ins, 2,673. Sunshine: annual average, 1,928 hours. **Temperatures: average high, 23c; average low, 1c. Tolerance: a multicultural city where half of students speak a language other than English at home and same-sex marriage is legal. Electric car charging points: 484 **Unemployment rate: 6.8 per cent. Culture: museums, 3; cinema screens, 30; art galleries, 33. Green space: 11 per cent of the city is made up of parks and beaches. Key upcoming development: the city is pushing for a $2.8bn (€2.1bn) subway that would serve the busy Broadway corridor, better connecting the University of British Columbia and adjacent technological and life-science clusters with the rest of the city. Street life: with great views and milder temperatures than the rest of Canada, it’s comfortable outside for much of the year. Dinner on a Sunday: shopping for dinner provisions on Sunday or getting a last-minute reservation shouldn’t present a problem. However, British Columbia – like much of Canada – has some antiquated alcohol laws. Monocle fixes: how about a high-speed rail line linking the Pacific Northwest?

Is party-hearty Berlin losing its cool? The city’s eternally-delayed airport still doesn’t have an opening date and its state opera house renovation is postponed – by years. Property prices are soaring and beginning to price out the bohemian lifestyle the city is known for. Its main train station will soon be partially closed for repairs – it only opened in 2006 – and domestic break-ins are up. Still, a good number of positive projects are either complete or well underway. Formerly sleepy West Berlin is experiencing a renaissance that was kicked off with the arrival of a new Waldorf Astoria hotel. The biotech and high-tech industries are both booming, and Berlin’s famous unemployment decreases month by month. The city just needs to get to grips with the idea that cool and smart aren’t mutually exclusive.

Population: 3.5 million in the city; 6 million in the metropolitan area. International flights: 155 destinations, of which 62 are intercontinental. Crime: murders, 55; domestic break-ins, 12,291. Sunshine: annual average, 1,720 hours. Temperatures: average high, 26c; average low, minus 3c. Tolerance: 14 per cent of Berliners have a foreign passport but while more central neighbourhoods are increasingly culturally mixed, racist incidents still occasionally occur. The city elected a gay mayor. Electric car charging points: 96 Unemployment rate: 12.3 per cent. Culture: museums, 170; cinema screens, 266; art galleries, more than 400. Bookshops: 274 Green space: 16,000 hectares, around 18 per cent of the city. Key upcoming development: the new airport (although we said that last year). Street life: plenty of people sit outside in good weather, taking advantage of several big beer gardens, restaurants overlooking canals and riverside beaches and clubs. Dinner on a Sunday: you should be able to find a mid- or low-level bistro open somewhere but most of the good restaurants will be closed on Sundays. Monocle fixes: a more reliable public transport system. The S-bahn and U-bahn seem to be permanently under construction.

Barcelona’s unchanged position reflects the reality on the ground: a sense of inertia seems to have lulled locals into waiting for the worst of the economic winter to pass. There have certainly been attempts to wake the city from its slumber. Among them, a massive theme park proposal called Barcelona World (proof that the sibling rivalry with Madrid has reached unhealthy levels), and even recent whispers of plans for a Dubai-styled artificial island resort. The question of Catalonian independence still hangs in the air though while authorities and locals are being distracted from the real challenges before them. Barcelona needs to re-energise, to address its unemployment and secure the long-standing goal of becoming a truly global capital.

Population:1.6 million in the city; 4.8 million in the metropolitan area. International flights: 168 destinations, of which 30 are intercontinental. Crime: murders, 14; domestic break-ins, 4,594. Sunshine: annual average, 2,668 hours. Temperatures: average high, 28c; average low, 5c. Tolerance: gay marriage is legal and the city hosts one of Europe’s largest gay festivals. Electric car charging points: 249 Unemployment rate: 18.2 per cent. Culture: museums, 46; theatres, 58; cinema screens, 193. Bookshops: 139 registered booksellers. Key upcoming developments: regeneration of La Diagonal shopping strip to make it more pedestrian-friendly and the transformation of the Montjuïc mountain range into one of Europe’s leading heritage spaces. Street life: the few spaces that do have outdoor dining make for a perfect night out in the open air – good luck finding a table, though. Dinner on a Sunday: not easy. Smaller restaurants are often closed on Sundays and Barcelona has yet to modernise its opening-hour regulations. **Monocle fixes: **the regional government and city council are investing too much energy in nascent nation-building, closing the city off to outsiders and distracting locals from more immediate challenges. More business-friendly laws will help Barcelona get its groove back.

Famously liberal, Amsterdam makes a welcome return to our rankings this year, thanks in part to the successful reopening of the Rijksmuseum (see issue 62). Its undeniable laissez-faire attitude, enviable amount of green space and diverse population also help, as do the seemingly endless cycling lanes. Amsterdam is a city that embraces the outdoors (when it’s not raining, of course). Aside from the Rijksmuseum, the city this year celebrates 10 major cultural milestones including the 400th anniversary of the Canal Ring. The now shelved plan to ban foreigners from buying cannabis in the Red Light District should be revisited. It may hurt tourism in the short term but reform could give the city a chance to redefine itself on its merits – as a beautiful, highly cultural urban space.

Population: 800,000 in the city; 2.3m in the metropolitan area. International flights: 317 destinations, of which 123 are intercontinental. Crime: murders, 15; domestic break-ins, 4,200. Sunshine: annual average, 1,662 hours. Temperatures: average high, 22c; average low, 1c. Tolerance: the city has a tolerant tradition and a large immigrant population but recent attacks on Muslims are cause for concern. Unemployment rate: 7.9 per cent. Electric car charging points: 550 Culture: 103 museums; 73 art galleries; 55 theatres and concert halls; 15 cinemas. Bookshops: 26 Green space: 40 parks. Key upcoming development: the Central Station refurbishment, due for completion in 2020, provides more space for pedestrians, expanded cycle routes in the area and 10,000 indoor bicycle parking spaces. Street life: parks and canals offer outdoor activities while the streets are rarely deserted, with lots of bars and bistros to dine al fresco. Dinner on a Sunday: reservations are easy to make but the better restaurants be busy. There is a cute Sunday Market that makes it easy to pick up fresh ingredients. Monocle fixes: the quality of hotels is low. If the city wants to raise its profile, boutique hotels with good customer service are needed over budget hostels aimed at backpackers.

Rain, unemployment and per-capita crime rates higher than other cities on our survey make this place an interesting proposition on paper. But peel back the statistics and the wetness and you have a city teeming with positives. Nights out were recently made easier by an expanded tramline, which gives Portlanders access to an eclectic mix of neighbourhoods with superb dining and drinking options – ripe for new builds. Planners in downtown LA have even looked to the “Rose City” for guidance on a forthcoming tram project. City commissioners can’t stop the rain but jobless figures and crime rates weigh heavily on this otherwise pleasant oasis. It’s also unclear as to how the state of Oregon has held out so long on its ban of same-sex marriage.

Population: 600,000 in the city; 2.2 million in the metropolitan area. International flights: 4 destinations, of which 2 are intercontinental. Crime: murders, 26; break-ins, 4,379. Sunshine: annual average, 2,341 hours. Temperatures: average high, 28c; average low, 1c. Tolerance: the city has an openly gay mayor but the state still bans gay marriage. Electric car charging points: 68 Unemployment rate: **8 per cent. **Culture: museums, 14; galleries, 56. Key upcoming development: the Portland Bureau of transportation hopes to secure funding for even more bike access to the urban core. The cost: US$6m (€4.6m). Street life: downtown Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square is known as “Portland’s Living Room”. It is the venue for concerts, Christmas trees, farmers’ markets, flower displays and rallies. Dinner on a Sunday: **Portland is a food city. Depending on the time of year there are numerous farmers’ markets to choose from; there are a lot of restaurants, too. Some take weeks to get into but if you are willing to eat at the bar or spend time on a waiting list you can usually get a seat. **Monocle fixes: the tax codes favour bigger business. A realignment would mean more entrepreneurs starting small businesses, which in turn would lower unemployment.

Despite some social spats – over a public nudity ban and a proposal to rename the airport after Harvey Milk – the past year has been a good one in San Francisco. Technology dollars have continued to drive a thriving restaurant and retail scene, neighbourhoods such as Outer Sunset and Mid-Market are getting a boost as new businesses move in, while the revamped eastern span of the Bay Bridge is nearing completion. Still, critics fear that the increasingly expensive cost of residing in the city is harming diversity. At least the city has a progressive view when it comes to quality of life, whether fixing traffic signals to enhance pedestrian safety or adding strips of low-water plants down the middle of streets. More trains during the morning commute would be nice, though.

Population: 800,000 in the city; 7.2m in the metropolitan area. International flights: 31 destinations, of which 20 are intercontinental. Crime: 69 murders; 5,617 break-ins (domestic and commercial). Sunshine: annual average, 3,062 hours Temperatures: average high, 23c; average low, 6c. Tolerance: home to the highest number of gay couples of any large US city. Unemployment rate: 6.3 per cent. Electric car charging points: more than 100. Culture: around 50 museums and 100 galleries. Bookshops: more than 50. Green space: 145 acres per person. Key upcoming development: the opening of the new Bay Bridge section later this summer, assuming engineering issues are resolved. Street life: outdoor tables are everywhere, often with heaters in the cooler months. A public parklet scheme means businesses can pay to convert a parking space into a mini-park with seating for passers-by. Dinner on a Sunday: there are several Sunday farmers’ markets and you have your pick of supermarkets. San Francisco is one of America’s great food cities so you’re unlikely to come across a closed restaurant – though you’ll need a reservation for a good one. Monocle fixes: more affordable housing for the young, particularly families, would make a huge difference.

“We wore Rolex, Lacoste and Tod’s before they were cool,” is a bragging right for a city that did classic affable elegance before the rest of the world caught up. Staid but not stuffy, Düsseldorf was a training ground for some of the most important German contemporary artists of the 20th century. The city understands the international architecture-culture game well – development projects such as the Medienhafen and Quartier M continue to attract big names and innovative plans in a progressive embrace. As a hub for advertising, media and conference business, Düsseldorf benefits from ever-improving excellent infrastructure. The question remains if affection for classy elegance can keep a revolving cast of ambitious newcomers in the city long enough for them to really call it home.

Population: 600,000 in the city; 900,000 in the metropolitan area. International flights: 176 destinations, of which 37 are intercontinental. Crime: murders, 10; domestic break-ins, 3,205. Sunshine: annual average, 1,496. Temperatures: average high, 25c; average low, minus 1c. Tolerance: Düsseldorf is sometimes called “Tokyo on the Rhine” because it is home to the largest population of Japanese expats outside of London and Paris. Electric car charging points: 5 Unemployment rate: 8.9 per cent. Culture: museums, 36; galleries, 38. Bookshops: 104 Key upcoming development: urban green space Kö-Bogen is almost complete, where a building by Liebeskind joins the other architectural showpieces. Street life: the culture of eating and drinking outside is pervasive. Büdchen are kiosk counters where you can buy a beer and hang out with it on the street. Dinner on a Sunday: forget about a spontaneous Sunday dinner party: supermarkets are not open. Going out is easier, though. Monocle fixes: with an art school of international standing and significant corporate funding for the arts, a way should be found to retain students and the creative classes instead of losing them to Berlin.

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