Thursday 27 June 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 27/6/2024

The Monocle Minute

Force of nature: Munich offers plenty of access to greenery, from the river Isar to lush parks

The top 20 cities in the world

Released today, Monocle’s July/August issue of the magazine includes our Quality of Life Survey, which reveals the best cities to call home and where’s on the rise. This 17th edition of our annual ranking looks at what makes a city great, from swimming spots and urban greenery to café culture and top civic leaders. Read on to see how Munich came out on top and some fresh ways to improve urban life.

Opinion / Alexis Self

Ranking the liveability of our cities is a vital conversation. So what makes the good life and where can we find it?

Since 2007, we have carried out our annual Quality of Life survey, celebrating cities across the globe that get the urban mix right. This year’s winner is Munich, Germany’s southern star. The Bavarian capital has that perfect combination of proactive governance, great culture and smart urban design (see our Olympic Park story below). Münchners live long, productive and healthy lives – and they have fun while doing it. What more could you ask for from a city? Glückwunsch München!

But just how do we make our assessment? We factor in metrics including crime rates, GDP per capita, social inequality and ambulance response times but also softer sides of city life: from the number of museums to swimming pools and independent bookshops. There are livelier ones too. Does your city trust you to have a drink after midnight and allow some space for fun after dark? Or allow for the clatter of people who actually make things?

Munich’s pillars of society: Parks, coffee culture and welcoming spaces

Image: Conny Mirbach

The Alpines Museum and urban greenery helped shade it for the Bavarian capital

Image: Conny Mirbach

Riding the wave: Surfers at Eisbachwelle

Image: Conny Mirbach

This year we decided to factor in life expectancies alongside hours of sunshine per year and the prevalence of bike lanes. Meanwhile, issues around security and inequality mean that no North American cities feature in the top 20 for the second year in a row (though urban leaders here, such as the mayor of Cincinnati below, have things to teach us).

And another shift has taken place since last year’s survey. Today many cities that have long cashed in on their clement weather are dealing with heatwaves, wildfires or water shortages. Other perennial success stories have struggled with overtourism and how to find a balance between remaining attractive for residents as well as visitors. While Munich came out on top when assessing all of the above this year, the number crunching and debates between our correspondents in cities across the globe produced a listing of other metropolises that certainly get the mix right. Here is the top 5 in full:

  1. Munich (3rd last year)
  2. Vienna (1st last year)
  3. Zürich (4th last year)
  4. Copenhagen (2nd last year)
  5. Madrid (8th last year)

So what about the rest of the top 20 and Monocle’s rundown, plus the other 300-odd pages of sunny, city-centred reporting? Well like any good city we don’t reveal all our best bits at once. Read on for a few highlights from the issue and buy a copy today on the newsstand or online.

Alexis Self is Monocle’s foreign editor. Tune in to ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio to listen to the latest in our Quality of Life series.

House news / Istanbul

The Monocle Quality of Life Conference

Monocle believes in the value of coming together to share ideas and spark debates that shape the world for the better. We want you to be part of the debate: our eagerly anticipated annual Quality of Life Conference is heading to Istanbul this autumn.

Secure your place to hear from thought leaders in business, culture, design, architecture, hospitality and retail in inspiring and surprising talks across three days of hosting from Thursday 10 to Saturday 12 October. Plus: you’ll meet more of our engaged and informed readers and our editors will make your stay a memorable one. Buy your tickets here.

Image: Chehak

Mayor to watch / Cincinnati

Why one US city official is being celebrated as an urban leader

Cincinnati could easily be overlooked as just another Midwestern city but it is seeing significant population growth for the first time in 70 years. An enviable stock of historic buildings, a lovely riverfront park and a clutch of downtown cultural institutions are drawing new residents to this affordable alternative to New York and Chicago. It is mayor Aftab Pureval’s job to make sure that this influx is accompanied by quality of life improvements.

Pureval’s office enforces an aggressive building code and isn’t afraid to take rogue property owners to court. “If you are a good-faith investor, we want you here in Cincinnati,” Pureval tells Monocle. “If you are a bad-faith investor, you are not welcome.” Since his election in 2021, the 41-year-old Democrat has also been working to expand the city’s car network, establish a bike trail connecting its 52 neighbourhoods and changing zoning rules to allow new types of housing on lots previously restricted to detached houses.

To read more about how Cincinnati and other cities’ mayors are shaping the future, pick up a copy of Monocle’s July/August issue.

City at night / Tallinn

Estonia’s capital knows how to have fun after dark. Other cities should follow suit

Fun after dark is a quality of life element that all cities should embrace. When it comes to nightlife, Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, punches way above its weight. Despite its small size – fewer than 500,000 people – its flagship techno club, Hall, hosts not only local DJs but the best from around the world, including many who usually play at Berlin behemoths Berghain and Tresor. The city’s clubbing scene is a lure for locals and tourists alike. Foreigners in particular, whether they are long-term expats or visitors looking for a night out, can find a more intimate and cheaper alternative to major European club hotspots such as Berlin and Amsterdam.

Views over the city: The best ones don’t shut at 23.00

Image: Felix Brüggemann

Hitting the decks at nighttime in Tallinn

Image: Felix Brüggemann

Tallinn is well served by its airport, which flies direct to more than 50 destinations. And currently under construction is Rail Baltica, a high-speed rail line linking the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with Poland. Due to partially open in 2028, it will invigorate travel to and from the Baltics – and allow potential clubbers from abroad to get home without having to lug their sore heads and aching limbs through airport security.

For more on Tallinn’s nightlife, pick up a copy of Monocle’s July/August issue, which is out now.

Olympic design / Munich

In the lead-up to Paris 2024, we look at why cities need to consider the legacies of urban projects

When cities splash out on infrastructure to host the Olympic Games, legacy often comes as an afterthought. The fates of the stadia and neighbourhoods built for the world’s largest sporting event range from disastrous, such as the ghost towns littering Rio de Janeiro and Turin, to just so-so. But in Munich, the winner of our 2024 Quality of Life Survey, the beloved and still functional Olympiapark, built in the city’s northwest for the 1972 Games, is one of the world’s most successful Olympic development projects.

Concrete curves and the Olympic stadium with Frei Otto’s tent-like roof

Image: Conny Mirbach

Olympia-Schwimmhalle, designed by Behnisch & Partner

Image: Conny Mirbach

Leisure for all and Terrassenhäuser at Olydorf

Image: Conny Mirbach

Within its grounds is Olydorf, the local nickname for the neighbourhood that is the former athlete’s village. From above, the site appears as three fingers of high-rises – so called Terrassenhäuser – that fork out from a central commercial area, surrounded by green public spaces and an artificial lake. “We really live in a 1970s utopia,” Stefan Niese, an architect who lives in Olydorf, tells Monocle. “Nobody leaves.” Too often host countries focus on one-upping each other with scale and spectacle instead of presenting a broader idea for the future.

For more on winning ideas, gold medal developments and plenty of sunny inspiration, buy Monocle’s out-now July/August issue and listen to ‘The Urbanist’ on Monocle Radio.


How a citizen-led initiative helped a city to breathe new life into forgotten spaces

Cities across the globe frequently have forgotten pockets of land tucked behind grand civic buildings or in former industrial areas – Miami has taken opportunity of one such parcel with The Underline, the newest phase of which is now open. Landscape architecture studio Gardner + Semler has extended the initial stretch completed in 2021, helping to transform the vacant land beneath the city’s elevated railway into what will eventually be a 16km linear park and urban trail featuring protected bike and walking lanes, basketball courts, nature and dog parks. The goal is to reclaim an otherwise abandoned space for the city’s residents.

“It’s a citizen-led movement to transform the way we live in our city,” says Meg Daly, founder of the namesake community group that conceived the project. Daly’s team prioritised community consultation to ensure that the plan serves residents. “This phase went through more single-family residential areas, so our focus became about native planting and bringing back birds, bees and butterflies.”

Having a ball: Making space for sport at The Underline

Image: Rose Marie Cromwell

Wide paths create room for runners and cyclists

Image: Rose Marie Cromwell

This brief from Daly resulted in Gardner + Semler planting 100,000 native plants and 1,000 trees, increasing canopy cover by 36 per cent; it also added a children’s playground. These outcomes highlight the opportunity that brownfield developments present in our cities, showing how forgotten pockets of urbanity can be transformed to serve the community and wider ecosystem.

For more inspiring urban projects, pick up a copy of Monocle’s July/August issue.

Monocle Films / Preview

July/August issue, 2024

We’ve crunched the numbers, canvassed the locals and hit the bars. And now Monocle’s Quality of Life Index is here: the definitive ranking of the top places to live in 2024. Where does your city rank? We also meet five mayors who are preening their patches, learn some breezy branding lessons and have a big night out in Bali – it is summer, after all. And our bumper double issue will see you through the season in style.


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