Suffice to say, COVID has taken its toll on the tourism sector. Just two years after it was named the second most liveable city in the world, Australia’s cultural hub Melbourne has slipped to eighth. But despite ongoing health crises, border closures and lockdowns toppling the globe’s hottest destinations, some unexpected gems have been uncovered, some of them in our own backyard. In this year’s Global Liveability Index, New Zealand’s Auckland claimed top honours, but Australia wasn’t far behind. The land down under nabbed four top-10 placings, with Adelaide named our most liveable city. Turns out we are the lucky country after all.
What is the Global Liveability Index Report?
Released every year, the Global Liveability Ranking is an assessment published by the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit that ranks 140 cities for their urban quality of life. Taking into account stipulations such as stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure, the ranking quantifies the challenges you might encounter while living in a certain city. In previous years, Melbourne has come out on top, claiming the title of the world’s most liveable city as recently as 2016, however, this year proved to be different.
The ranking places emphasis on assessing the impact of news events and political decisions, alongside other key factors that may affect future development. Over the past 18 months, COVID has ravaged much of the world, leaving otherwise very liveable cities struggling to make up the points. Take, for instance, Vienna. The Austrian city was named the world’s most liveable city in 2018 and 2019, but after a difficult year with COVID, it slipped out of the top 10 entirely, landing in 12th. The good news for Aussies is that sentiment is high and even our neighbours are getting in on the action.
World’s Most Liveable Cities 2021
While no official listing was held in 2020, the Economist Intelligence Unit has revealed the top ranking for this year. No surprises, but the countries that dealt with COVID best have seen great results. Here is a list of the world’s most liveable cities for 2021.
1. Auckland, New Zealand
Thanks to New Zealand’s hard lockdown and strict COVID prevention, Auckland has been named the most liveable city in the world for 2021. But for anyone who has visited the region, it comes as no surprise. From stunning scenery to the iconic Sky Tower that has views of superyacht-laden Viaduct Harbour, Auckland has it all.
Area: 1,086 km²
Population: 1.657 million (2017) United Nations
Area code: 09
Mayor: Phil Goff
2. Osaka, Japan
The large port city on the Japanese island of Honshu is best known for its architecture, nightlife and street food. From the 16th-century shogunate Osaka Castle to the plum, peach and cherry-blossom trees that line the area, Osaka has a little something for everyone.
Area: 223 km²
Population: 2.691 million (2015) United Nations
Mayor: Ichirō Matsui
Metro population: 19,303,000 (2019, Keihanshin)
3. Adelaide, Australia
Long gone are the days where Adelaide was known as a ‘nothing’ town. The South Australian capital was named Australia’s most liveable city for 2021 thanks to its rising boho scene and impressive affordability. With massive infrastructure projects currently revitalising the city centre and the port region, expect big things from this sleepy little town in the future.
Area: 3,260 km²
Founded: 28 December 1836
Population: 1.306 million (2016) United Nations
4. Wellington, New Zealand
The capital of New Zealand may have slipped behind its cultural counterpart, but Wellington is still in the mix for liveability. Running at a slightly slower pace, Wellington houses a waterfront promenade, sandy beaches, a working harbour and colourful timber houses making it particularly Instagram-able.
Area: 444 km²
Population: 212,700 (2017) United Nations
Area code: 04
Mayor: Andy Foster
4. Tokyo, Japan
A perennial finalist in the world’s most liveable cities, Tokyo has once again performed. This time around, the city scored highly for its industry and nightlife, despite tourism in the sector dropping as a result of the pandemic. Nevertheless, the neighbourhoods of Tokyo remain some of the most well-loved anywhere in the world.
Area: 622 km²
Neighbourhoods: Gotanda, Kanda, Hibiya, Shimokitazawa, Azabu, Ōmori, Shiodome, Ura-Harajuku
Population: 13.96 million (2021)
6. Perth, Australia
While at times it feels like a country all of its own, fellow Aussies should be happy to claim to Perth this year. The sixth most liveable city in the world, Perth has emerged as a surprising tourist destination, thanks to its ultra-modern architecture and stunning beaches.
Area: 6,418 km²
Founded: 12 June 1829
Population: 1.985 million (2016) United Nations
Established: 4 June 1829
7. Zurich, Switzerland
The city of Zurich is best known for banking and finance, but the area itself offers more than meets the eye. The picturesque lanes of the central Altstadt (Old Town), on either side of the Limmat River, reflect its pre-medieval history, while the waterfront promenades have become a major tourist attraction in recent years.
Elevation: 408 m
Area: 87.88 km²
Population: 402,762 (2017) United Nations
8. Geneva, Switzerland
Located on the southern tip of the expansive Lake Geneva, the major Swiss city is a stunning and picturesque region. Geographically, the city is surrounded by the Alps and Jura mountains, giving Geneva incredible views of dramatic Mont Blanc. With boho cafes and a rich history in finance and banking, the city is one of the world’s wealthiest.
Elevation: 375 m
Area: 15.93 km²
Population: 198,979 (2017) United Nations
8. Melbourne, Australia
Once our shining star in the liveability stakes, Melbourne has slipped this year. After a difficult 12 months with COVID that saw harsh lockdowns and industry under threat, the city is recovering. It remains one of the most affordable and culturally diverse cities on earth, and as such has been rewarded.
Area: 9,992 km²
Elevation: 31 m
Population: 5.078 million (2019)
10. Brisbane, Australia
The fourth Aussie entry to crack the top 10, Brisbane has come alive in recent years. Urban development, particularly close to the Brisbane River has changed the skyline and helped to bolster the appeal of the region to international tourists. Far more affordable for housing and living than its southern counterparts, Brisbane is a welcome addition to the world’s most liveable cities list.
Area: 15,826 km²
Population: 2.28 million (2016) United Nations
What is the Global Liveability Index Report?
Released every year, the Global Liveability Ranking is an assessment published by the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit that ranks 140 cities for their urban quality of life. Taking into account stipulations such as stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure, the ranking quantifies the challenges you might encounter while living there.
What is the most liveable city in the world?
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, the world’s most liveable city for 2021 is Auckland in New Zealand. The largest city in New Zealand scored well in its approach to the pandemic alongside quality of life and affordability.
What is the most liveable city in Australia?
For the first time in years, Melbourne has slipped from Australia’s top spot in the world’s most liveable city index. In 2021, South Australian capital Adelaide achieved top honours, ranking as the third most liveable city in the world.