The Most Livable City on Each Continent

Global Citizen By Stefan Zechner January 5, 2017

Cities like New York and London may seem to have it all, but skyrocketing rent, high living costs and fading infrastructure don’t amount to utopia. If you put livability above all else, there are far greener pastures; you just need to know what indicators to look for.

You can start by looking at Mercer’s 2016 Quality of Life rankings, which evaluates cities using criteria like economic outlook, public services, natural environment, education, housing and culture.

But since it’s best or bust as far as we’re concerned, we narrowed our focus to the move livable city on each continent.

Most Livable City in Africa: Port Louis

Mercer Quality of Living World Ranking: 83
The island nation of Mauritius is known for luxury tourism. While only 1.3 million people call Mauritius home, the tropical climate and natural beauty draw nearly a million visitors each year. Located just 30 minutes from some of the world’s most beautiful white-sand beaches, capital Port Louis stands out for its developed infrastructure and low levels of crime. Mauritius also places emphasis on public education: Free schooling is available from primary school through university.

The cost of living might be higher than most other African cities, but the quality of life is comparable to countries with much higher expenses.


Most Livable City in Asia: Singapore

Mercer Quality of Living World Ranking: 26
The city-state of Singapore continues its reign as Asia’s most livable location for another year. With a favorable climate, low taxes and ample career opportunities, this global commerce hub is a haven for business-minded expats. English is also one of Singapore’s four official languages.

Singapore has a reputation for strict local laws (see: no gum chewing), but these policies add up to high standards of cleanliness and safety. The island’s education system, healthcare, public transportation, and housing also earn high marks. Though Singapore is expensive, residents enjoy one of the world’s highest per capita incomes helps to alleviate the high cost of living.

Most Livable City in Australia—Pacific: Auckland

Mercer Quality of Living World Ranking: 3
New Zealand is consistently ranked on lists of cities with the world’s happiest people, lowest crime rates and most effective education, so it’s a small wonder that Auckland ranks 3rd globally in quality of life. Beyond its impressive education standards and civic safety, Auckland is renowned for its great weather, natural splendor, and a laid back, friendly culture.

State healthcare facilities are held to high standards and services are either partially or completely subsidized. The cost of living in Auckland is higher than in more rural areas of New Zealand, but it’s relatively low on a worldwide scale.

Most Livable City in Europe: Vienna

Mercer Quality of Living World Ranking: 1
Vienna claims the title of world’s most livable city for the seventh year in a row. The city’s known for baroque architecture and classical music history, but Austria’s capital is focused on progress. A citywide equality charter promotes tolerance between all citizens regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation, and many civic policies are shaped with gender equality in mind. The nation’s minimum parental leave is two months for both mothers and fathers. Vienna also emphasizes environmental stewardship. About half of the city’s land area is green space.

Residents in Vienna only spend about a quarter of their income on housing on average, and it’s cheap to get around: An annual transit pass costs €1 a day. Plus, Austria is tied for the highest minimum paid annual leave in the world. Employees are entitled to five weeks of vacation each year, in addition to 13 paid holidays. And the nation’s minimum parental leave is two months for both mothers and fathers.

Most Livable City in the Middle East: Dubai

Mercer Quality of Living World Ranking: 75
Citizens of Dubai don’t pay personal income or capital gains taxes, leaving more of their paycheck in their pocket. The tradeoff is that government services aren’t quite as robust. First-rate education and healthcare are available, but they come with a hefty price tag.

Thankfully, attractive salaries help compensate for Dubai’s high cost of living. Plus, the U.A.E. is one of the world’s safest countries and Dubai features a wide range of attractions, like the world’s tallest building, an indoor ski resort and beautiful man-made islands full of restaurants and shops.

Most Livable City in North America: Vancouver

Mercer Quality of Living World Ranking: 5
Vancouver offers high-quality living less than 50 miles from the United States’ northern border. In addition to universal healthcare, the city is renowned for top-notch public education and innovative environmental conservation. Its exceptional air quality, spotless streets, and well-kept beaches place Vancouver among the cleanest cities in the world.

Surrounded by and full of natural beauty, Vancouver is a mecca for outdoorsy adventurers eager to explore the nearby mountains.

Most Livable City in South America: Montevideo

Mercer Quality of Living World Ranking: 78
Its relaxed atmosphere and southern European-style ambience make Uruguay’s capital ideal for expats in search of a more laid-back way of life. Navigating this vibrant city is safe and inexpensive: Montevideo ranks the highest in South America for personal safety and riding the clean and punctual bus system costs less than a dollar on average.

Though Latin America has faced economic hardship in recent years, Uruguay’s economy has remained stable. The country’s per capita income is among the highest in the region and its level of income inequality is among the lowest. It doesn’t translate to a rock-bottom cost of living, but a luxurious lifestyle is more accessible in Montevideo than in most U.S. cities.

Not quite ready to become an expat? Learn about the benefits of spending time abroad and plan a trip to see some of these cities for yourself.