European Cities With the Highest Quality of Life
Each year, two global surveys, Mercer's Quality of Living Survey and The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Liveability Index, measure metrics such as crime rates, healthcare, infrastructure, quality of water, levels of corruption, culture and education, down to availability of sporting facilities and environmental concerns. They then decide which cities in the world are the best to live and thrive in.
This is all well and good if you are a roaming nomad and have the freedom to choose where you will live and work in the future. Many of us, though, at least have the option to travel and pick the best places to visit. And if a city is livable, then it is usually also visitable.
The same European city came out as the overall winner on both of the surveys. Here's a list of the most livable European and Eurasian cities, along with their rankings across the globe, and why you should visit if you can't move to one of them.
58. Baku, Azerbaijan
World ranking: 195
Population: 2.236 million
*Note: Global rankings were sourced from the 2019 Mercer's Quality of Living Survey before both the pandemic and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine started.
Bottom Line: Baku, Azerbaijan
The capital city of Azerbaijan is also the largest city on the Caspian Sea, where Europe meets Asia. In fact, it is located 92 feet below sea level, making it the lowest-lying national capital in the world.
With a reputation as the "Paris of the East," you better believe Baku is architecturally beautiful, combining styles of the Old City with modern structures that make up Baku port.
Best Things to Do in Baku
If it's history you're looking for, head to the Inner City of Baku, which (along with the Shirvanshah's Palace and Maiden Tower) is deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The city's newer side offers a playground for revelry, making it an incredible destination for urban nightlife.
Where to stay: Badam D'art Boutique Hotel
57. Minsk, Belarus
World ranking: 188
Population: 1.975 million
Bottom Line: Minsk, Belarus
"Friends" fans may only think of Minsk as the place where Phoebe's boyfriend goes to work, ending their relationship, but it's much more than a far off place for scientists to study. Apart from it being affordable and super hospitable, Minsk also has a burgeoning indie culture, with hipster cafes and underground music shows aplenty.
While, yes, there are several concrete buildings built during the city's brief Soviet past, it still has a surprising amount of old Belarusian architecture in downtown, including several beautiful cathedrals.
Sadly, Belarus has been caught in the crossfire of the Russian conflict, so it is not recommendable that travelers visit at the moment.
Best Things to Do in Minsk
Don't miss a trip to the futuristic-looking National Library of Minsk, which forms a rhombicuboctahedron and has LED lights that display colorful patterns at nighttime.
This awesome landmark is one of the most underrated attractions in Europe.
Where to stay: (Due to ongoing conflict, we are not including accommodation options in Belarus)
56. Tbilisi, Georgia
World ranking: 187
Population: 1.114 million
Bottom Line: Tbilisi, Georgia
Another country located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Georgia sits to the east of the Black Sea, and Tbilisi is its capital and largest city. A city with serious roots, founded in the fifth century A.D, Tbilisi has long been at the center of trade, especially with its close proximity to the Silk Road.
Because of its central location, it's a multicultural city with more than 100 different ethnic groups, making it a very welcoming place to all who visit. With that comes a broad mixture of various architecture types spread throughout.
Best Things to Do in Tbilisi
Visitors can check out several historic landmarks, including the Narikala fortress that was built in the fourth century as a Sasanian citadel.
Similar to Baku, Tbilisi has become known for its nightclub culture, attracting international DJs to some of its leading venues.
Where to stay: Iota Hotel Tbilisi
55. Tirana, Albania
World ranking: 175
Bottom Line: Tirana, Albania
Tirana is situated in the center of Albania, with Mount Dajt as its backdrop and close proximity to the Mediterranean Sea. Its climate makes it both one of the wettest and sunniest cities in Europe.
As the nation's capital, Tirana features several national arts and sciences museums, but it is also known for its festivals that seem to run year-round.
Best Things to Do in Tirana
The Summer Day Festival, a pagan festival, celebrates the start of spring, while there is also the Tirana International Film Festival, Tomato Festival, Tirana Jazz Festival, Albanian Wine Festival and more.
And if you're not here during one of these big events, just check out the country's coffee culture. In fact, Albania now has the most coffee shops per capita in the world.
Where to stay: Rogner Hotel Tirana
54. St. Petersburg, Russia
World ranking: 174
Population: 4.991 million
Bottom Line: St. Petersburg, Russia
The fourth-most populous city in Europe, St. Petersburg is home to about 5 million people. It also happens to have incredible museums and sites (more than 200 to be exact), including the Hermitage, one of the world's largest art museums.
The entire Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and its related monuments are considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Of course, recent conflicts in Russia have landed the country on several travel advisory lists. Only time will tell when travel will be popular here again.
Best Things to Do in St. Petersburg
With more than 50 theaters, St. Petersburg is also known for its ballet, opera and symphony — of which you must see at least one.
The Russian State Pushkin Academy Drama Theater, also known as the Alexandrinsky Theatre, is perhaps the most prestigious of these cultural institutions.
Where to stay: (Due to ongoing conflict, we are not including accommodation options in Russia)
53. Kiev, Ukraine
World ranking: 173
Population: 2.884 million
Bottom Line: Kiev, Ukraine
Despite current conflicts with Russia, Ukraine's capital city made the 2019 list because it's known as a major Eastern European hub, with several high-tech industries and higher education institutions calling Kiev home.
Like its other Eastern European counterparts, it, too, has a rich history and numerous landmarks that tourists eagerly check off their list.
The city's lush trees, two botanical gardens, and several large and small parks also make the city an inviting place for a stroll on a warm, summer day.
We hope Kiev recovers and becomes a top livable city again soon.
Best Things to Do in Kiev
The St. Sophia Cathedral and Monastery of the Caves are together recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Where to stay: Favor Park Hotel
52. Yerevan, Armenia
World ranking: 170
Population: 1.075 million
Bottom Line: Yerevan, Armenia
Yerevan happens to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. As such, you can expect to see quite a few ancient landmarks when visiting the city, starting with Erebuni Fortress, believed to be Yerevan's birthplace.
Plus, the History Museum of Armenia contains one of the world's largest depositories of ancient books and manuscripts.
Best Things to Do in Yerevan
Winemaking has been popular here for centuries, making it one of the best wine countries in the world. You'll want to check out some of the area's best wineries, and also attend one of the country's many wine festivals.
Live music fans flock here during the summer when open-air concerts featuring jazz, pop and rock music are held in various gardens and squares throughout the city.
Where to stay: Grand Hotel Yerevan
51. Skopje, North Macedonia
World ranking: 161
Bottom Line: Skopje, North Macedonia
About a quarter of North Macedonia's population lives in Skopje, which has undergone major changes since a 1963 earthquake destroyed about 80 percent of the city.
Recent reconstruction efforts have helped rebuild several of its pre-earthquake neoclassical buildings, including the national theater, government buildings and bridges.
Best Things to Do in Skopje
One major attraction in Skopje is its Old Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest marketplaces in the region.
Not only does it stand as a center of commerce, but it also houses several active mosques, churches and museums, including the Museum of Modern Art.
Where to stay: Hotel Arka
50. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
World ranking: 156
Bottom Line: Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina
While Sarajevo suffered great loss during the Yugoslav Wars in the mid-1990s, post-war reconstruction has transformed it into a lively city, rich in religious and cultural diversity.
In fact, Sarajevo is one of few European cities to have a mosque, Catholic church, Orthodox church and synagogue all located within the same neighborhood.
Best Things to Do in Sarajevo
There are several landmarks to visit in the city, including the Latin Bridge, which is near the site where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, igniting World War I. Other landmarks to visit are the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque and the Sarajevo Tunnel.
But the best way to enjoy the city is to spend time in the Bascarsija, the city's old bazaar. The 15th-century complex is still the cultural center of Sarajevo.
Meander the peaceful streets filled with mom-and-pop cafes where you can find endless variations of burek, the local-favorite pastry.
Where to stay: Tarcin Forest Resort & Spa Sarajevo - MGallery
49. Belgrade, Serbia
World ranking: 139
Population: 1.374 million
Bottom Line: Belgrade, Serbia
The charming capital of Serbia sits at the convergence of the Danube and Sava rivers.
Romans, Ottomans and Austrians have all touched upon this city now filled with historic sites and museums.
Today, guests can dine at riverfront cafes, shop along Knez Mihailove Street and enjoy a thoroughly modern nightlife scene.
Best Things to Do in Belgrade
Visit the imposing Belgrade Fortress. The structure has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times over the course of 16 centuries.
It is one of the most beloved landmarks in the city, providing beautiful scenery and plenty of great photo opportunities.
Where to stay: Hotel Majestic
48. Istanbul, Turkey
World ranking: 130
Population: 15.46 million
Bottom Line: Istanbul, Turkey
Another spot where Europe and Asia meet, you'll find the oversized and bustling city of Istanbul quite exciting.
A major player in the history of Europe, Asia and Middle East. Split into two (and two continents) by the Bosphorus Strait, Istanbul is filled with culture and works as a confluence of cuisines.
Best Things to Do in Istanbul
The most iconic sites for visitors are just the backdrop to residents: Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque (real name: Sultan Ahmed Mosque).
Constructed in 360 A.D. and 1616, respectively, these two stunning mosques are the pillars of this exotic city, which is also filled with bazaars, shopping malls, street vendors and fine international-dining establishments.
Where to stay: Renaissance Polat Istanbul Hotel
47. Bucharest, Romania
World ranking: 109
Population: 1.83 million
Bottom Line: Bucharest, Romania
The collapse of the Iron Curtain opened Eastern Europe up to Westerners, but one city is still relatively untouched by travelers.
Bucharest, the quaint capital of Romania, is a juxtaposition of ancient history (it was once ruled by the infamous Vlad the Impaler) and more recent commercial developments during the communist era.
Best Things to Do in Bucharest
Don't skip seeing the former communist parliament, which was housed in the 1,100-room Palace of Parliament. The building is quite impressive, boasting the title of the largest building in Europe. It now serves as a conference center today.
Museums showcasing the history of Romanian art are found alongside public green spaces and parks that crisscross the city.
Where to stay: Leonardo Hotel Bucharest City Center
46. Wroclaw, Poland
World ranking: 100
Bottom Line: Wroclaw, Poland
Another Eastern European gem is Western Poland's Wroclaw. Formerly called Breslau until 1945, Wroclaw is not to be confused with Warsaw.
Very near the capital, a side trip to Wroclaw means visiting a beautiful city too often overlooked and teeming with history, cafes and pretty little boutique shops.
Best Things to Do in Wroclaw
Townspeople have come together in Market Square for generations.
This Gothic city center is covered in cobblestones and features a gorgeous town hall that has been converted into an art museum.
Where to stay: The Bridge Wroclaw - MGallery
45. Zagreb, Croatia
World ranking: 98
Bottom Line: Zagreb, Croatia
The largest city in Croatia's northwest, near the Slovenia border, Zagreb was a masterpiece during its Austro-Hungarian Empire height in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Today, Zagreb retains its historic charm while operating in full modern-day mode — check out the Museum of Broken Relationships if you don't believe us.
Best Things to Do in Zagreb
Visitors to the city make a beeline to Upper Town for a ride up the funicular to take in views of the city, then hit up the neo-Gothic, 12th-century Cathedral of Zagreb.
Where to stay: Hotel Dubrovnik
44. Riga, Latvia
World ranking: 90
Bottom Line: Riga, Latvia
Along the Baltic Sea rests Latvia's capital, Riga, a maritime city with its own rich history.
Here we have yet another Eastern European capital city that's not only satisfying residents but welcoming a new influx of travelers after decades hidden behind the Iron Curtain.
But rather than stay in the past, the city has joined modernity with full force, without giving up its historic architecture and appreciation for peacefulness.
Best Things to Do in Riga
Explore the historic areas of town, including the medieval St. Peter's Church.
Don't skip the iconic landmark House of the Blackheads, which provides tours of the building that once housed the most notable, yet unmarried, men in the maritime business.
Where to stay: Grand Palace Hotel
43. Athens, Greece
World ranking: 49
Population: 3.167 million
Bottom Line: Athens, Greece
In Athens, throngs of tourists climb Acropolis to visit the ruins of the Parthenon. Yet there's more to the city than its most famous historic sights.
Athens is also Greece's largest city, capital and business center, a place where residents know how to sit back and enjoy an ancient city that extends back 3,400 years.
Best Things to Do in Athens
Of course, visiting the Parthenon and the Acropolis Museum is a must. But then join the locals and take a walk through Plaka to grab a table at one of many family-run restaurants.
Make a point to sample Greek wines and check out the local artists that Greece has always been renowned for.
Where to stay: St. George Lycabettus Hotel
41. Tallinn, Estonia (Tie)
World ranking: 86 (tie)
Bottom Line: Tallinn, Estonia
Another Baltic gem is Estonia's capital city, Tallinn, walled and cobbled from its days as a fort city guarding itself between the 13th and 15th centuries.
The colorful buildings along the blue sea make for a great backdrop during exploration of historic sites like the 19th-century Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and Gothic Tallinn Town Hall and Old Town.
Best Things to Do in Tallinn
Stroll through the gardens and then around the floors of the baroque Kadriorg Art Museum before taking in the more modern architecture of the Kumu Art Museum.
Where to stay: Savoy Boutique Hotel by TallinnHotels
41. Limassol, Cyprus (Tie)
World ranking: 86
Bottom Line: Limassol, Cyprus
The island-country of Cyprus features many seaside villages and cities, but topping the list is Limassol, located on the southern coast.
Here, a waterfront sculpture park provides a relaxing refuge after strolling along the Promenade that rests where some of the oldest villages in the world began.
Best Things to Do in Limassol
See the artifacts of Cyprus' ancient history within the Archaeological Museum, and explore remains from medieval times at the reconstructed Limassol Castle.
Still need enticements? With its warm year-round temperatures and Mediterranean Sea surroundings, the beaches of this laidback city are a favorite for locals and tourists alike.
Where to stay: S Paul Hotel
40. Warsaw, Poland
World ranking: 82
Population: 1.765 million
Bottom Line: Warsaw, Poland
Poland's capital is split in two by the Vistula river, and, as is the case with Budapest and Prague on this list, the personalities of the two halves are quite different. Generalizing, the west bank is more glamorous, whereas the eat bank is artier.
World War II saw nearly 90 percent of the city destroyed and then hastily rebuilt with whatever materials there were. Rising again, like the proverbial phoenix, the city worked hard to regain its former beauty, and has done well. Just look at the Old Town, with its stunning square surrounded by colorful buildings.
Best Things to Do in Warsaw
Over the years, Warsaw seems to have grown younger, hipper and much more approachable. Think beaches along the river, a mass of cultural events, modern skyscrapers surrounding that Soviet wedding cake building, plenty of restaurants and bars, and a thriving arts scene.
If you can't live there, at least visit.
Where to stay: Regent Warsaw Hotel
39. Vilnius, Lithuania
World ranking: 81
Bottom Line: Vilnius, Lithuania
The capital of Lithuania is still an up and coming city for visitors and, as such, is a great place to go and see before everybody hears about it.
Dominated by beautiful churches, cobbled streets and artisan shops filled with local crafts and amber found in the Baltic, you get a great overview from the Hill of Crosses or the old castle complex by the river.
Best Things to Do in Vilnius
Stroll through a self-declared separate republic, Uzupis, in the city, complete with its own flag, president and cabinet, plus a fabulous constitution displayed in many languages along the main street.
And talking about streets, don't miss Literartu Street, where more than 100 pieces of literature and art are displayed along the walls, all of which have a connection to Lithuania.
Where to stay: Narutis Hotel
38. Bratislava, Slovakia
World ranking: 80
Bottom Line: Bratislava, Slovakia
Bratislava, Slovakia, is a medieval city taken over by statues and art installations.
Look out for Cumil peeking out of a manhole, the Paparazzi taking a photograph from behind a corner, a soldier leaning on a bench and much more.
Best Things to Do in Bratislava
Fabulous views are had from the castle hill, the Old Town Hall Tower and the toilets in the UFO café in the observation tower of the New Bridge.
Yes, the views are good from the observation deck, but the toilets are more fun. Don't miss out on the hot chocolate at Schokocafe Maximilian Delicateso, and, if you can, visit in time for the lovely Christmas Market.
Where to stay: Elisabeth Old Town
37. Budapest, Hungary
World ranking: 76
Population: 1.756 million
Bottom Line: Budapest, Hungary
With two cities to choose from, no wonder Budapest, Hungary, made it into the World's top 50 most livable cities. Buda and Pest, separated by the mighty Danube, offer a superb mix of sights and things to do.
The covered market offers more varieties of salami and paprika than you ever imagined possible, and the old-fashioned cafes with their hot chocolate and cakes in Pest must surely be part of the reason for Budapest's excellent livability.
36. Ljubljana, Slovenia
World ranking: 74
Bottom Line: Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana is the much overlooked, tiny, 300,000-odd inhabitant strong capital of Slovenia.
A river runs through it, a market and many cafes sit by the river, and a little bridge adorned with little green dragons crosses it. The student population gives the city a young buzz and exploring on foot is easy.
It is easy to imagine living here, and living well, with the car-free old part of town sitting well next to the more modern parts of the city.
Best Things to Do in Ljubljana
A funicular runs up the hill and castle overlooking the city, and you can go hiking around lovely Tivoli Park.
If you are visiting over the summer months, every Friday the Open Kitchen event on Preseren square brings together stalls from city restaurants.
Where to stay: Vander Urbani Resort
35. Prague, Czech Republic
World ranking: 69
Population: 1.309 million
Bottom Line: Prague, Czech Republic
Undoubtedly one of Europe's most beautiful capital cities, Prague leaves visitors breathless with its medieval old town and the astonishing view of Prague Castle from Charles Bridge.
But don't make the mistake of thinking Prague is all looks and no soul. Even outside the historic center, where you'll find gray Soviet buildings, the city beats with rhythm and curiosity. After all, this is the city where Franz Kakfa spent most of his life, spinning social commentary in fantastical tales that have become a genre of their own.
Prague residents aren't afraid to get arty and alternative, nor do they shy away from partying hard. This is why you'll find both experimental theaters like the Black Like Theater and some of the largest night clubs in Europe.
Best Things to Do in Prague
Yes, there are cobbled streets, a castle, many beautiful churches, and even more pubs and cafes. But Prague also has a quirky side to it that is well worth exploring.
There is the Dancing House, an unusual building constructed by Vlado Milunic and Frank Gehry, and many worthwhile art installations by David Cerny, including an upside-down horse (Lucerna Passage), giant crawling babies in Kampa Park, two peeing guys in front of the Kafka Museum and Kafka's moving head on Narodni Street.
Visit the Kafa Museum and the somewhat creepy Toy Museum with its hundreds of Barbie dolls. And if you like creepy, don't miss the Sedlec Ossuary outside Prague with its chandelier made from human bones.
Where to stay: Grand Hotel Bohemia
34. Belfast, Northern Ireland
World ranking: 64
Bottom Line: Belfast, Northern Ireland
The Northern Ireland capital is quickly shedding its less-than-savory image after years of sectarian violence. Today's Belfast offers luxury, nature and history at every turn.
Modern and exciting, the city is poised to become a top tourist destination. But, more importantly, it is consistently providing residents with a high quality of life.
Best Things to Do in Belfast
The standout attraction in town is Titanic Belfast, the world's most extensive attraction focused on the doomed ship. It's here where the mega-cruiser was designed, built and launched.
A gorgeous City Hall and first-rate zoo also attract visitors (and keep locals happy). For those looking to connect with nature, Divis and Black Mountain promise paths to hike on and the city's best views.
Where to stay: The Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast
33. Leipzig, Germany
World ranking: 60
Bottom Line: Leipzig, Germany
Leipzig is perhaps best known for the important role it played in the 1989 "Peaceful Revolution" that led to Germany's post-Cold War reunification.
Beyond this intriguing history, what really makes this German city sing is its young, progressive spirit.
Visitors are catching on, and transplants are too. Between 2000 and 2018, the city added 100,000 new residents to its ranks, bringing its population to 570,000.
Best Things to Do in Leipzig
Leipzig has been dubbed "the new Berlin" for good reason.
Its hipper-than-thou attractions include a sterling Museum of Contemporary Art and the Spinnerei, a former cotton mill that now houses art galleries, shops and an art-house cinema.
Where to stay: Felix Suiten am Augustusplatz
32. Aberdeen, Scotland
World ranking: 57
Bottom Line: Aberdeen, Scotland
This city in Scotland is uber-wealthy, thanks to a booming petroleum industry. It appealingly mixes a taste of history with a touch of modernity.
Though it doesn't get as much attention as Glasgow or Edinburgh, the city's strong economy and job market provides stability to residents. This, in turn, makes it a better destination.
Best Things to Do in Aberdeen
Looking for the old? Check out the 15th-century St. Machar's Cathedral or Provost Skene's House, which dates back to medieval times.
Seeking the new? Let loose at a hip distillery or nerd out at the Aberdeen Science Centre, which debuted in a sleek new home in 2021.
Where to stay: The Aberdeen Altens Hotel
31. Rome, Italy
World ranking: 56
Population: 2.873 million
Bottom Line: Rome, Italy
Rome is home to so many extraordinary sights — from the Colosseum to St. Peter's Basilica to the Roman Forum — that it's almost hard to fathom being able to explore them regularly as a local. That may be part of the reason this city ranks so high on livability.
A superb dining scene (why not give in and eat pasta every night?) and some of the best art on earth (Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Raphael pieces abound) add to Rome's appeal as both a home base and a place to get lost in while traveling.
Best Things to Do in Rome
Where do you even begin with Rome? You could spend your entire life living here and still not see everything the city offers.
Of course, don't skip the basics (especially if it's your first time): the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and the Roman Forum. You should also visit Vatican City, or Holy See, which is officially a separate country, to see St. Peter's Basilica and tour through the Vatican Museums to see the Sistine Chapel.
But once you've done that, allow yourself to wander aimlessly around this infinitely beautiful city, getting lost in its cobblestone streets or becoming familiar with its more modern sides. Spend as much of your time as possible stuffing your face.
Where to stay: The Liberty Boutique Hotel
30. Birmingham, England
World ranking: 49
Population: 1.149 million
Bottom Line: Birmingham, England
Where's Birmingham, you ask? It's in England, and it very much deserves your attention.
This city on the rise is in the throes of massive development. In 2013, it debuted the spectacular, cutting-edge Library of Birmingham. In 2015, it debuted the refurbished New Streets Railway Station. And over the course of recent years, it's restored and spruced up its historic Victorian buildings.
Next on the docket? A slate of fresh new hotels and public spaces by 2025. Go now, before everyone else catches on.
Best Things to Do in Birmingham
Do a tour of the Black Country Living Museum, where you'll be able to see how factory workers lived during the industrial period of the city. You should also check out the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and the The Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
Those looking for something sweet should make it a point to visit Cadbury World to learn about — and eat samples of — chocolate.
Where to stay: Saint Pauls House
29. Glasgow, Scotland
World ranking: 48
Bottom Line: Glasgow, Scotland
Scotland's second city and its most populous one deserves the spotlight that is generously cast on it.
Besides an impressive amount of Victorian and Art Deco buildings, the city is home to many important Scottish institutions, including the Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet and National Theatre of Scotland.
Best Things to Do in Glasgow
Glasgow locals are famously friendly and come out in full force nightly to enjoy the city's many pubs. In this fun-filled metropolis, dancing and live music are also popular, so plan on some late nights of revelry.
A simple stroll promises a chance to see some of the planet's most striking Victorian architecture, so this is a destination well worth enjoying by day as well.
Where to stay: Carlton George Hotel
28. Madrid, Spain
World ranking: 46
Population: 3.223 million
Bottom Line: Madrid, Spain
Madrid's quality of life is undeniable, with culture and tradition and general joie de vivre appealing to locals, expats and visitors alike.
Indeed, leisure and culture were the top features that make Madrid so livable.
Best Things to Do in Madrid
When visiting Madrid, the first impression is the amazing architecture, grand boulevards and Paris-esque buildings lining them.
Start at Plaza Mayor, then take it one historic monument at a time: the Opera, theaters and Royal Palace to the left, and the Prado, other museums and Crystal palace to the right.
In between, there is the fabulous San Miguel market and countless tapas bars, churro bakeries and cafes to add to the mix.
Where to stay: Barceló Imagine
27. Edinburgh, Scotland
World ranking: 45
Bottom Line: Edinburgh, Scotland
The so-called "Athens of the North" is one of Europe's most culturally rich metropolises (and that's saying something).
As the Scottish capital, it is a center of culture and commerce. It is also home to the University of Edinburgh, a prestigious institution that brings to the city a young and curious population that keeps it interesting.
Best Things to Do in Edinburgh
Edinburgh's annual Art Festival draws over 250,000 visitors each year to explore galleries, museums, artist-run spaces and public-art installations. Some 40 exhibits span centuries of artistic creativity.
All year round, a host of excellent and unique museums explore everything from war to writing to childhood.
Where to stay: Le Monde Hotel
26. Barcelona, Spain
World ranking: 43
Population: 1.62 million
Bottom Line: Barcelona, Spain
The world is united in loving Barcelona, capital of Catalonia, Spain. Alas, people love it so much that the locals have been complaining about the sheer number of visitors turning up each year.
Still, we encourage anyone who can visit or live there to do so. The city really has it all: architecture you won't find anywhere else, great shopping, delicious cuisine, beautiful beaches, numerous parks and world-class museums.
In terms of living, Barcelona residents definitely emphasize a work-life balance, taking time to be with friends and family and to pursue interests outside of home. It's easy when you live in one of the coolest cities in the world.
Best Things to Do in Barcelona
Step away from the clogged Las Ramblas, and there are plenty of places to enjoy in this city. Gaudi's gaudy edifices nestle next to other architectural gems, tapas bars snuggle up to colorful markets, old trams take you up to Plaça Tibidabo and cable cars travel to Parc Montjuïc, both with breathtaking views.
Try to be in Barcelona for Saint Jordi, celebrated on April 23, also called the festival of roses and books. On this day, lovers give each other gifts of roses and books, with stalls springing up all across the city, creating a fabulous atmosphere.
Where to stay: Petit Palace Boquería Garden
24. London, England (Tie)
World ranking: 41
Population: 8.982 million
Bottom Line: London, England
Ask anybody, and London is usually on top of their travel to-do list.
The mix of the modern and old, the vibe and an overall buzz in the air make this a great city to live in and visit. You'll find food from around the world, some of the most prestigious history and art museums on the planet and plenty of living history in its streets.
London is also one of the most innovative cities in the world.
Best Things to Do in London
There is so much to see and do in London that it can be hard to know where to begin. But as a general first-time guideline, walk along the Thames, past Westminster, the London Eye, the Globe and Tate Modern. Eat and shop in Borough Market. Then visit the expansive British Museum (it is best to select an area and explore thoroughly).
Walk across one of the many bridges, see street art in and around Shoreditch, and explore the many pubs around St. Paul's. End the day with a show or a performance around Covent Garden.
Where to stay: Mondrian London Shoreditch
24. Milan, Italy (Tie)
World ranking: 41
Population: 1.352 million
Bottom Line: Milan, Italy
After Paris, and some might argue before Paris, Milan is a fashion capital extraordinaire. The home of Prada and Versace offers great shopping and even better window shopping, considering the prices.
If you can't resist the lure of the designer labels, try the city's vintage shops, such as Cavali e Nastri, always good for digging up treasures.
Best Things to Do in Milan
Visit La Scala (try for cheap tickets at the box office at night before a performance), queue up for the Last Supper, check out Raphael's and Rembrandt's works at the Pinacoteca, and try to capture the fabulous Galleria Vitorrio Emanuele II on camera.
Then treat yourself to some serious aperitif choices. Over an Aperol Spritz or a Negroni, there is some very glamorous people-watching to do.
Where to stay: Radisson Blu Hotel, Milan
23. Lyon, France
World ranking: 40
Bottom Line: Lyon, France
France's second-largest city and a close rival of Paris, Lyon lies at the confluence of two rivers. On the resulting peninsula, stylish Haussmannian-like (Parisian-style) buildings offer classy living and great shopping.
On the steep hills along the side, ancient higgledy-piggledy buildings and the odd Roman amphitheater nestle along cobbled streets.
Best Things to Do in Lyon
Many of the buildings on the hillsides are connected by traboules, passages and stairwells hidden from public view. Finding them is a great way to discover Lyon's ancient history.
Come to Lyon around Dec. 8 for the annual Festival of Lights. All the small bouchons, tiny but superb restaurants, are open, and mulled wine is the drink of choice.
Where to stay: Fourvière Hôtel Lyon
22. Paris, France
World ranking: 39
Population: 2.161 million
Bottom Line: Paris, France
A few years ago, after several terrorist attacks in the city, Paris fell in these rankings, but it has since recovered its position and most of its international visitors. It is still beating other major world cities such as London and New York City in the surveys.
Yes, Paris is crammed, crowded and ridiculously expensive. But it's also a really cool place to live and, of course, visit. Despite being the capital, people take time to enjoy life. Things close down on Sundays so residents can spend the day in parks and spending an entire day at a cafe is a regular past time.
Best Things to Do in Paris
After you've "done" the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, it is well worth stepping away from the well-trodden tourist path to search out hipper areas such as the 11th arrondissement with its plethora of cafes, bars and restaurants. The 5th arrondissement with its Roman history and university vibe. And the bustling, colorful Belleville area.
Visit the park of Buttes Chaumont for brunch at the Pavilion du Lac, walk down along the Seine in the 13th arrondissement and stop at one of the many houseboats converted into cafes or music venues. Then pop into the nearby Station F, a new gigantic Italian food venue set inside an old train depot.
Where to stay: Hidden Hotel
21. Lisbon, Portugal
World ranking: 37
Bottom Line: Lisbon, Portugal
Portugal's capital has everything a traveler, or local, could want: a beautiful seaside setting, super seafood dining, lots of history and a dynamic contemporary scene, including plenty of LGBT-friendly establishments.
All this, and it's among Europe's more affordable cities to boot. This is why many people come here for simultaneous work and travel, as Lisbon is one of the best cities in the world for remote work.
Best Things to Do in Lisbon
Hitch a ride on a charmingly rickety old tram to see the sights. They include the ruins of the Carmo Convent (destroyed in the infamous earthquake of 1755), the National Azulejo Museum (where you'll learn about the typical Portuguese tiles) and the São Jorge Castle.
But beyond checking things off a list, the best way to enjoy the city is to simply walk around its gorgeous colorful streets. Walk up its hilly cobblestones to get to its various lookout points, go on the hunt for the best pasteis de nata and drink some vinho verde wine by the river. (Open container laws for the win!)
Where to stay: Dom Pedro Lisboa
20. Dublin, Ireland
World ranking: 33
Bottom Line: Dublin, Ireland
Dublin has a relatively small size for a capital city, with only roughly half a million inhabitants. That plus its location, complete with sea and river proximity, make it a perfect city to explore on foot.
History is everywhere, from the grand post office to the cemetery. The libraries are the world's most amazing — if you love books, book an official tour of Trinity College, as getting into the old library is not easy otherwise.
Best Things to Do in Dublin
The home of Guinness, Dublin is as much a party city as a sightseeing venue, so make sure to keep the evenings free to enjoy a glass or two of the local brew and to listen to some live music.
In July/August, the Live Music Trail takes places, with many bands playing at a myriad of venues across the city.
Where to stay: The Morgan Hotel
19. Helsinki, Finland
World ranking: 31
Bottom line: 631,695
Bottom Line: Helsinki
Helsinki scores high in stability, something that might make the 600,000 inhabitants of the Finnish capital smile.
For centuries the country was at any given time occupied either by Sweden or Russia and in a trading rivalry with Tallinn, a mere 80 km across the Baltic.
Today Helsinki is not only a peaceful and orderly city, but also a young, hip and architecturally interesting city.
Best Things to Do in Helsinki
Start at Market Square, investigate the covered market and get some reindeer chips (surprisingly good). Then meander across the handicraft market outside, look at the ships and pop into the stunning Kappeli for a hot chocolate. Continue to the design district to browse the many interior design shops that put Helsinki on top of design capitals.
If you need further proof, pop into the utterly unique churches: the wooden Kamppi Chapel and Temppeliaukio Church, an incredible underground attraction hewn out of rock.
Where to stay: Clarion Hotel Helsinki
18. Brussels, Belgium
World ranking: 28
Population: 2.065 million
Bottom Line: Brussels
Brussels is the only Belgian city to make it onto the top European most-livable cities list, and it is a favorite with visitors as well.
A stunning old town lined with restaurants and bars, all with terraces to sit outside and enjoy some people-watching on, draws travelers and locals alike. Sights such as the Atomium and superb museums like the Magritte Museum and the Musical Instruments Museum make for a fun weekend.
Best Things to Do in Brussels
You'll already have heard of Manneken Pis, the statue of a little boy in everchanging outfits peeing in a fountain. But look out for Jaenneke Pis, a little girl peeing, crouching down, and Zinneke Pis, a dog lifting his leg at a street corner.
Maybe the obsession with everybody peeing has something to do with the 180 breweries located in Belgium.
Wash the beer down with a local fricandel (a type of sausage) and frites with mayo.
Where to stay: Hotel Le Châtelain
17. Stuttgart, Germany
World ranking: 27
Bottom Line: Stuttgart, Germany
Stuttgart is relatively little-known to travelers. But with any luck, this will soon be changing.
The city is filled with green spaces and friendly locals and, as a manufacturing hub, has some stellar attractions.
Best Things to Do in Stuttgart
The Mercedes-Benz Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the luxury car company's history, and showcases some truly dazzling vehicles.
Where to stay: Steigenberger Graf Zeppelin
16. Oslo, Norway
World ranking: 25
Bottom Line: Oslo, Norway
Oslo is the hidden gem of all these livable cities. Overlooked even by visitors to Norway, who spurn the admittedly expensive city for the beautiful fjords, Oslo is not only filled with history that differs from the rest of Europe (think Vikings), it is also filled with joie de vivre.
In summer it is especially fun, as the spectacular setting along the Oslo fjord comes into its own.
Best Things to Do in Oslo
The ferries that sail up the fjord and across to the amazing museums (do not miss the Viking Ship Museum) pass by the fabulous Aker Brygge neighborhood, which is bustling with restaurants and bars, and the end of which turns into a swimming pontoon in summer.
There is of course "The Scream" (one in the National Gallery, another in the Munch Museum) offering a perfect selfie occasion, and the stunning Vigeland Sculpture Park filled with sculptures by Gustav Vigeland, which has no rival anywhere.
Where to stay: Thon Hotel Europa
14. Stockholm, Sweden (Tie)
World ranking: 23
Bottom Line: Stockholm
Impeccably clean and incredibly safe, Stockholm is a dream place to live in and visit.
Don't miss out on the city's exemplary food scene, a mix of the comfortably traditional (meatballs, herring, cinnamon rolls) and excitingly new (the innovative Frantzen restaurant has three Michelin stars).
Best Things to Do in Stockholm
Water dominates this city, which is made up of more than 14 islands. Because of this, taking a sightseeing boat is a must-do activity, even if it's a bit cliche.
Spend some time in the old town, Gamla Stan, where you'll see medieval churches and cobblestone streets. You also should see the Kungliga Slottet Royal Palace, and see if you can get a glimpse of the royal family.
Where to stay: Hotel Gamla Stan, BW Signature Collection
14. Nuremberg, Germany (Tie)
World ranking: 23
Bottom Line: Nuremberg, Germany
Internationally, Nuremberg is recognized as the site of the Nuremberg Trials, which brought Nazi leaders and collaborators to justice in the aftermath of World War II.
To commemorate this history, the city has the Way of Human Rights, a monument dedicated to world peace that nods to the city's inclusiveness following an ugly WWII history.
Best Things to Do in Nuremberg
This Bavarian city is most well-known for its Christmas market, featuring stagecoach rides, gingerbread treats and, of course, plenty of Christmas gifts and decorations to shop for.
But if you can't make it in winter, there are still plenty of things to do. Start with the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg, one of the largest in all of Europe. You can also visit Albrecht Dürer's House to learn about the artist's life and work.
Where to stay: NH Collection Nürnberg City
13. Hamburg, Germany
World ranking: 19
Population: 1.841 million
Bottom Line: Hamburg, Germany
This city calls itself "Die schönste Stadt der Welt" (the most beautiful city in the world). And we certainly think it's a contender for the title. Due to its location on the river Elbe, Hamburg has always been a trade center and a port.
This brought with it wealth, beautiful buildings and a cosmopolitan outlook. With more bridges than Amsterdam and Venice together, the city is studded with two lakes, countless canals and a bustling harbor.
Best Things to Do in Hamburg
Must-visits include the Elbphilharmonie, an architectural marvel and fabulous music venue, the Fischmarkt (you'll have to either stay up all Saturday night, or get up at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning, but it is worth it!) and the Rathaus square, especially in December for its Christmas market.
If you can't resist, saunter down the Reeperbahn, the red-light district with its many bars.
Where to stay: NH Hamburg Altona
12. Luxembourg, Luxembourg
World ranking: 18
Bottom Line: Luxembourg, Luxembourg
A lot of people find Luxembourg lacking in the excitement department, probably because of its prim-and-properness.
Luxembourg City is still worth a look, even if it is just to walk the Wenzel Walk, and cover more than 1,000 years of history with all its nuances in a one-hour walk along the city's impressive ramparts.
Best Things to Do in Luxembourg
The compactness of this multicultural city makes it perfect for walking around, and there is a lot to see for such a small place. Don't overlook the casemates, tunnels in the rock upon which the old city sits, dating back to 1644, the time of the Spanish occupation.
After traipsing up and down along the ramparts, treat yourself to some of Luxembourg's hearty local foods. The best place to try all sorts is on the market on Place Guillaume II, held every Wednesday and Saturday.
Where to stay: Grand Hotel Cravat
11. Bern, Switzerland
World ranking: 14
Bottom Line: Bern, Switzerland
Switzerland's gorgeous capital may not be its most famous city — in fact, many people incorrectly think it's Zurich or Geneva — but it may be it's prettiest.
Bern's landscape is shaped by the Aare River, which hugs the city as if to protect it. Its Old Town so historic and breathtakingly beautiful that it's listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Best Things to Do in Bern
Spend your days here wandering around and exploring charming sights, from Parliament Square with its playful fountains, to the historic Clock Tower, to the crystal-clear Aare river.
Where to stay: Swissôtel Kursaal Bern
10. Berlin, Germany
World ranking: 13
Population: 3.645 million
Bottom Line: Berlin, Germany
Germany's capital, once divided, is now one of the hippest cities of them all. Berliners are embracing life and living it to the fullest.
Cafes, restaurants, bars, beer gardens, music and art venues are found around every corner, making this an easy spot in which to have fun.
Best Things to Do in Berlin
A little culture should be part of every visit, so don't miss the Brandenburg Gate, the fabulous old/new Reichstag, the harrowing Holocaust Memorial and the remains of the Berlin Wall.
To try and understand Berlin, and to some extent Germany, make sure you explore the east and the west sides, and notice the still existing differences.
Then, back to fun. Have a "currywurst" (sausage with spicy sauce) at a street stall, and pop into what's reportedly the oldest pub in Berlin, Alt-Berlin, for a beer (or two). Then party the night away in the districts of Mitte and Prenzlauer Park.
Where to stay: Steigenberger Hotel Am Kanzleramt
9. Amsterdam, Netherlands
World ranking: 11
Bottom Line: Amsterdam, Netherlands
High scores on culture and environment shouldn't come as a surprise with Amsterdam.
The city of canals, barges, flowers and free-thinking is a perennial favorite when it comes to living and visiting.
Best Things to Do in Amsterdam
There are enough museums, from Anne Frank to Van Gough, from the Rijksmuseum to Rembrandt's house, the Science Centre to the Museum of Bags and Purses, for you to never see the light of day. But that would be a shame.
Mix it up and enjoy a trip on the canals in a brunch boat, or shop at the Albert Cuyp Market and the flower market.
Better yet, rent a bike and do as the locals do: go and explore the parks and along the canals.
Where to stay: Pestana Amsterdam Riverside
8. Basel, Switzerland
World ranking: 10
Bottom Line: Basel, Switzerland
This Swiss-German city has everything you'd expect from a historic European destination: a pretty medieval core with a Gothic cathedral near a pretty winding river.
But what sets Basel apart is that it also has strong industries that bring jobs outside of tourism and is a cultural center. Switzerland's oldest university, eponymous with the city, is based here, as are some of the country's most important museums.
Have you ever wondered why one of the most important worldwide events in contemporary art is called "Art Basel"?
Best Things to Do in Basel
Basel is a cultural wonderland, home to no fewer than 40 museums — the highest concentration in Switzerland.
Among the most popular is the Kunstmuseum Basel fine-arts museum, home to one of the largest and oldest collections in Europe. Pretty much all the biggest names can be found here, including Picasso, Van Gogh and Warhol.
Don't leave without trying honey cake, a sweet traditional dish that originated with Basel's gingerbread makers in the 14th century.
Where to stay: Hyperion Hotel Basel
7. Geneva, Switzerland
World ranking: 9
Bottom Line: Geneva, Switzerland
Geneva is a regularly overlooked Swiss gem. Situated by Lake Geneva (also known as Lake Leman) and surrounded by the Alps, it is often only a stop for skiers heading higher up.
But it is clean, safe, rich and cultural, all bonuses when it comes not only to livability, but to hosting visitors.
The lake is one of the largest in Europe and is perfect for strolls, hikes and watersports. Its beauty has inspired many poets and authors, from Byron to Shelley, Doyle to Twain.
Best Things to Do in Geneva
The old town, with its cathedral dating back to the 1200s, is a maze of cobbled alleyways, and the variety of cafes, shops and restaurants reflect the cosmopolitan community working at the many international institutions.
Every Wednesday and Saturday, the Plain Palais square is taken over by a market, including a flea market, where good bargains can be found.
Where to stay: Warwick Geneva
6. Copenhagen, Denmark
World ranking: 8
Bottom Line: Copenhagen, Denmark
Denmark's happy population has in recent years become known in the worldwide press because of their "hygge" approach to life. Encompassing the creation of a comfortable atmosphere at home and enjoying the good things in life, "hygge" probably helped Copenhagen nab a high spot on the list.
Copenhagen also happens to rank No. 9 on the EIU Index, one of only two European cities in the EIU Index's top 10.
Best Things to Do in Copenhagen
Copenhagen is infinitely Instagram-able with its Little Mermaid sculpture, celebrating local author Hans Christian Andersen, its oriental-looking Tivoli Gardens, the world's oldest theme park, and the colorful facades along Nyhavn.
For foodies, the market at Torvehallerne is a must, as is a night out in Kødbyen, the former meatpacking district which has been given a new lease of life as a restaurant and nightclub quarter.
Where to stay: 71 Nyhavn Hotel
5. Frankfurt, Germany
World ranking: 7
Bottom Line: Frankfurt, Germany
Germany's banking center is marked by the river Main and its surrounding skyscrapers, which has given it the monikers Mainhattan and Bankfurt. With an annual bookfair, and one of Europe's busiest airports, Frankfurters play as hard as they work.
Heavily bombed during the war, the old town center has now been faithfully reconstructed and offers a great atmosphere with its cobbled pedestrianized streets, shops and bistros, and squares covered in chairs and umbrellas, inviting people to stop for food and a drink.
Best Things to Do in Frankfurt
A walk along the river Main is a must. Stop off at cafes, in summer stay on the manmade beaches, and pop into one or more of the nine museums that line the quay.
Every Saturday, a flea market takes over the Schaumainkai promenade and the area around the Osthafen docklands.
Where to stay: Radisson Blu Hotel, Frankfurt am Main
4. Düsseldorf, Germany
World ranking: 6
Bottom Line: Düsseldorf, Germany
Düsseldorf is a very livable city, but it is not on the global tourist radar. And it's better for it. The capital of the industrial hothouse county of North Rhine-Westphalia is a wealthy and chic city, despite the dorf (village) in the name.
For architecture buffs, the Rheinhafen, the modern media center along the Rhine, is a must. Some of the world's top architects have built here and Frank Gehry alone has three building complexes next to each other, making for a dramatic skyline.
Best Things to Do in Düsseldorf
Along the Rhine River lies the Altstadt, the Old Town. This is, in the local language, "die längste Theke der Welt," the longest bar in the world, with one bar bordering the next. Indulge in local Altbier, a dark beer, here.
Düsseldorf is also home to Europe's third-largest community of Japanese, so hop over to Schadowstrasse for some superb Japanese food.
Where to stay: Living Hotel De Medici
3. Munich, Germany
World ranking: 3
Population: 1.472 million
Bottom Line: Munich, Germany
After Berlin, Munich is Germany's most visited city. The annual Octoberfest alone draws some 7 million visitors to its beer tents.
But Munich is not just about beer and pretzels, even though you can see how those already improve the liveability.
Best Things to Do in Munich
The quality of the museums is outstanding. Just like in Amsterdam, they could keep you busy forever, but maybe pick the Neue Pinakothek and the Deutsches Museum, and if you are a car enthusiast, add the BMW museum for variety.
Don't miss the architecture of the Marienplatz, the Hofbräuhaus for a beer, and the Englischer Garten for a stroll, a sunbathe or a picnic.
And then there is also the surfing. Yes, despite being close to the Alps rather than the sea, Munich's Eisbach has a perfect surfing spot. So bring your board.
Where to stay: Roomers Munich, Autograph Collection
2. Zurich, Switzerland
World ranking: 2
Bottom Line: Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich has so much going for it that the only thing keeping more people from visiting is its hefty price tag.
A multicultural city with a medieval center, surrounded by mountains, with a river and a lake whose water is mineral clear, and a fabulous eating and drinking culture, makes visits in winter and summer equally enjoyable.
Best Things to Do in Zurich
Go window-shopping along the exclusive Bahnhofstrasse, get an overview of the surroundings on a short round trip on Lake Zurich, and climb up Uetliberg for spectacular views. After, enjoy some sausages in the beer garden Bauschänzli by the river, and meander the old cobbled streets in the Old Town off the Münstergasse with its many little bars and cafes.
For those who want something different, there is the FIFA Football Museum, a Zoological Museum with a stuffed version of every Swiss species in attendance, and a Money museum.
Where to stay: citizenM Zürich
1. Vienna, Austria
World ranking: 1
Population: 1.897 million
Bottom Line: Vienna, Austria
Vienna, the capital of Austria, is not only the most livable city in Europe, but the world, according to both the Mercer and EIU reports. It achieved sterling ratings in measures such as Stability, Infrastructure, Education and Healthcare.
Finding its origins as a Roman war camp, it later was the capital of the substantial and very rich Austrian Empire. This resulted in some magnificent palaces and buildings associated with the imperial family.
Best Things to Do in Vienna
Baroque buildings and cafes are famous for their sweet treats, such as Sachertorte and Kaiserschmarrn, they vie for visitors' attention. As do the Danube meadows, which bustle with festivals and concerts in summer.
When you're saturated with palaces and cakes, visit the Prater with its fabulous views off the Ferris wheel, and marvel at Vienna's answer to Gaudi: the colorful houses and art of Friedrich Stowasser, better known as Hundertwasser.
Where to stay: Leonardo Hotel Vienna