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.
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. 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. Of course, the city's newer side offers a playground for revelry, earning it recognition by Lonely Planet as one of the world's top 10 destinations for urban nightlife.
57. Minsk, Belarus
World ranking: 188
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. And 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.
56. Tbilisi, Georgia
World ranking: 187
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 fifgth century A.D, 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. Visitors can check out several historic landmarks, including the Narikala fortress that was build in the fourth century as a Sasanian citadel. And, similar to Baku, Tbilisi has become known for its nightclub culture, attracting international DJs to some of its leading venues.
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.
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.
54. St. Petersburg, Russia
World ranking: 174
Bottom Line: St. Petersburg, Russia
The fourth-most populous city in Europe, St. Petersburg is home to about 5.3 million people. That means it also happens to have some of the world's best museums and sites (more than 200 to be exact), including the Hermitage, one of the world's largest art museums. And, of course, the entire Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and its related monuments are considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With more than 50 theaters, St. Petersburg is also known for its ballet, opera and symphony — of which you must see at least one.
53. Kiev, Ukraine
World ranking: 173
Bottom Line: Kiev, Ukraine
Ukraine's capital city is 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 its St. Sophia Cathedral and Monastery of the Caves are together recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
But it's the city's lush trees, two botanical gardens, and several large and small parks that make the city an inviting place for a stroll on a warm, summer day.
52. Yerevan, Armenia
World ranking: 170
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.
Winemaking has been popular here for centuries, which means you'll not only want to check out some of the area's best wineries, but you'll also want to come for one of the country's many wine festivals. And live music fans will want to visit during the summer when open-air concerts featuring jazz, pop and rock music are held in various gardens and squares throughout the city.
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.
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.
50. Sarajevo, Bosnia-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.
Meander the peaceful streets filled with mom-and-pop cafes where you can find endless variations of burek, the local-favorite pastry.
49. Belgrade, Serbia
World ranking: 139
Bottom Line: Belgrade, Serbia
The charming capital of Serbia sits at the convergence of the Danube and Sava rivers. The Romans, Ottomans and Austrians have all touched upon this city now filled with historic sites and museums, including an imposing fortress that's been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times over the course of 16 centuries.
Today, guests can dine at riverfront cafes, shop along Knez Mihailove Street and enjoy a thoroughly modern nightlife scene.
World ranking: 130
Bottom Line: Istanbul, Turkey
Another spot where Europe and Asia meet, you'll find the oversized and bustling city of Istanbul, a major player in the history of European, Asian and Middle Eastern history. Split into two (and two continents) by the Bosphorus Strait, Istanbul is filled with culture, as well as varying cultures.
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 AD 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.
47. Bucharest, Romania
World ranking: 109
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.
The former communist parliament was housed in the 1,100-room Palace of Parliament, which 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.
46. Wroclaw, Poland
World ranking: 100
Bottom Line: Wroclaw, Poland
Another Eastern European gem is Western Poland's Wroclaw, where townspeople have come together in Market Square for generations. Formerly called Breslau until 1945, Wroclaw is not to be confused with Warsaw.
Instead, this Gothic city center is covered in cobblestones and features a gorgeous town hall that has been converted into an art museum. Very near Poland, a side trip to Wroclaw means visiting a beautiful city too often overlooked.
45. Zagreb, Croatia
World ranking: 98
Bottom Line: Zagreb, Croatia
The largest city in Croatia's northwest, near the Slovenia border, 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.)
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.
44. Riga, Latvia
World ranking: 90
Bottom Line: Riga, Latvia
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 that aforementioned Iron Curtain. Along the Baltic Sea rests Latvia's capital, Riga, a maritime city with its own rich history.
Explore the historic areas of town, including the medieval St. Peter's Church and the landmark House of the Blackheads, which provides tours of the building that once housed the most notable, yet unmarried, men in the maritime business.
43. Athens, Greece
World ranking: 49
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.
Of course, visit the Parthenon and the Acropolis Museum, 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.
42. Tallinn, Estonia
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.
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.
41. Limassol, Cyprus
World ranking: 86 (tie)
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.
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.
40. Warsaw, Poland
World ranking: 82
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.
WWII 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.
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.
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 finds out. 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.
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.
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.
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.
37. Budapest, Hungary
World ranking: 76
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.
There is a castle spread along the hill of Buda, while the hill itself is tunneled with caves. There are grand old public baths, which offer a unique way to spend the day, with locals playing chess in the (heated) outdoor pools.
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. A funicular runs up the hill and castle overlooking the city, and you can go hiking around lovely Tivoli Park. 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.
The student population gives the city a young buzz and exploring on foot is easy. If you are visiting over the summer months, every Friday the Open Kitchen event on Preseren square brings together stalls from city restaurants.
35. Prague, Czech Republic
World ranking: 69
Bottom Line: Prague, Czech Republic
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.
34. Belfast, Northern Ireland
World ranking: 64
Bottom Line: Belfast, Northern Ireland
This 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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
32. Aberdeen, Scotland
World ranking: 57
Bottom Line: Aberdeen, Scotland
This city in Scotland is uber-wealthy, thanks to a booming petroleum industry, and appealingly mixes a taste of history with a touch of modernity.
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 will be debuting in a sleek new home come 2020.
31. Rome, Italy
World ranking: 56
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.
30. Birmingham, England
World ranking: 49
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.
29. Glasgow, Scotland
World ranking: 48
Bottom Line: Glasgow, Scotland
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.
28. Madrid, Spain
World ranking: 46
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.
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.
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). Its 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.
26. Barcelona, Spain
World ranking: 43
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.
But, 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.
25. London, England
World ranking: 41 (tie)
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. There is so much to see and do, 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.
24. Milan, Italy
World ranking: 41 (tie)
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.
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.
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, while on the steep hills along the side, ancient higgledy-piggledy buildings and the odd Roman amphitheater nestle along cobbled streets.
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.
22. Paris, France
World ranking: 39
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.
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 is 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, and pop into the nearby Station F, a new gigantic Italian food venue set inside an old train depot.
21. Lisbon, Portugal
World ranking: 37
Bottom Line: Lisbon, Portugal
Portugal's capitol 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.
Hitch a ride on a charmingly rickety old tram to see the sights.
20. Dublin, Ireland
World ranking: 33
Bottom Line: Dublin, Ireland
Dublin's relatively small size for a capital city, with only roughly half a million inhabitants, and 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, and 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. The home of Guinness, Dublin is as much a party city as a sight-seeing 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.
19. Helsinki, Finland
World ranking: 31
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. Start at Market Square, investigate the covered market, get some reindeer chips (surprisingly good) and 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 the top of design capitals.
If you need further proof, pop into the utterly unique churches: the wooden Kamppi Chapel and the one hewn out of rock: Temppeliaukio Church.
Bottom Line: Helsinki
18. Brussels, Belgium
World ranking: 28
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.
You'll already have heard of Manneken Pis, the statue of a little boy in ever-changing 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.
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. The Mercedes-Benz Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the luxury car company's history, and showcases some truly dazzling vehicles.
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.
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 sculpture by Gustav Vigeland, which has no rival anywhere.
15. Stockholm, Sweden
World ranking: 23 (tie)
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).
14. Nuremburg, Germany
World ranking: 23 (tie)
Bottom Line: Nuremburg, Germany
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.
Also of note is The Way of Human Rights, a monument dedicated to world peace that nods to the city's inclusiveness following an ugly WWII history.
13. Hamburg, Germany
World ranking: 19
Bottom Line: Hamburg, Germany
This city calls itself "Die schönste Stadt der Welt" (the most beautiful city in the world). And it being my hometown, I certainly think they have a point. 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.
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.
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.
The compactness of this multi-cultural 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.
11. Bern, Switzerland
World ranking: 14
Bottom Line: Bern, Switzerland
Switzerland's gorgeous capital is home to an Old Town so historic, it's listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
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.
10. Berlin, Germany
World ranking: 13
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.
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.
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. 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.
8. Basel, Switzerland
World ranking: 10
Bottom Line: Basel, Switzerland
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.
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.
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 Plainpalais square is taken over by a market, including a flea market, where good bargains can be found.
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.
It is also one of the most Instagram-able cities 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. Copenhagen also happens to rank No. 9 on the EIU Index, one of only two European cities in the EIU Index's top 10.
5. Frankfurt, Germany
World ranking: 7
Bottom Line: Frankfurt, Germany
Living in Germany's banking center on the river Main with skyscrapers that gave it the monikers Mainhattan and Bankfurt; 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.
A walk along the river Main is a must. Stop off at cafes, in summer stay on the man-made 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.
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. And speaking of the Rhine, along the 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.
3. Munich, Germany
World ranking: 3
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.
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 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.
2. Zurich, Switzerland
World ranking: 2
Bottom Line: Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich has so much going for it that sadly only the rather substantial budget you will need takes away from it. A multicultural city with a medieval center, surrounded by mountains, with a river and a lake whose water is mineral-water clear, and a fabulous eating and drinking culture, makes visits in winter and summer equally enjoyable.
Go window-shopping along the exclusive Bahnhofstrasse, get an overview of the surroundings on a short roundtrip 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 is 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.
1. Vienna, Austria
World ranking: 1
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. Baroque buildings and cafes are famous for their sweet treats, such as Sachertorte and Kaiserschmarrn, vie for visitors' attention. As do the Danube meadows, in summer bustling with festivals and concerts.
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.