And the Best City in the World Is…

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Hong Kong is the world's best city, according to the Spatial Adjusted Liveability Index.

Want to live in the world’s best city? Better brush up on your Cantonese. According to a study released last week by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and BuzzData, a data sharing company, Hong Kong comes out on top of a new list created by combining the EIU’s famous Liveability Index with other data to create a new ranking.

For the list, called the Spatially Adjusted Liveability Index, architect Filippo Lovato looked at seven characteristics of cities, such as: green space, urban sprawl (or lack thereof), access to nature, availability of world-class cultural assets (measured by counting the number of U.N. World Heritage Sites nearby), connectivity (how easy it is to reach the rest of the world), isolation (measured by the number of other large cities nearby) and pollution.

MORE: Easy Living in Australia: The Most Livable Cities in the World)

Although Hong Kong received the lowest score for pollution among the top 10 cities, it was able to top the list because of good scores for green space, lack of urban sprawl, access to nature, and closeness to other big cities. “Hong Kong, the winner, is a very compact city that has managed to maintain its natural heritage, create a dense network of green spaces and enjoy extensive links to the rest of the world,” explained Lovato. “Hong Kong is the winner because I chose to give prominence to spatial characteristics.”

(MORE: Ranking North America’s Greenest Cities)

According to Lovato’s new index, Amsterdam and Osaka are the world’s second and third best cities, respectively, while the world’s least livable city is Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. The Economist, however, points out that the new index has several shortcomings and limitations. First of all, Hong Kong has an unfair advantage with green space because of its unique topography: much of the territory’s landmass consists of sparsely populated islands or steep, vegetation-covered mountainsides that would be difficult to build on. Second, data alone does not reflect the actual livability of city. Case in point: data suggests that Osaka is more livable than Tokyo but The Economist argues that in real life Tokyo is a better place to live in. Another limitation of the new index is that Lovato only surveyed 70 cities, compared to the 140 examined in the EIU index.

Despite its shortcomings, the purpose of the new rankings was to discover new approaches for measuring the world’s best cities, says The Economist.

MORE: Measuring Metros: Are These the World’s Best Cities for Visitors?

35 comments
batmanvs.jocker
batmanvs.jocker

Here is one useful tool in this regard - favoritewords.com. Widgets, games, words, and people, that's what i like about it.

StevenHsunLee
StevenHsunLee

Really? I appreciate the compactness and efficiency of this metropole but, would hardly consider it for long term liveability unless you are part of the 1%-10%. How about a society ruled by a chamber of commerce, no direct vote, and an institutionalised system of low wage imported labor (maid & service sector) and an exorbitantly high cost property market propped up by financial expat packages and mainland wealth? Fit that into your liveability matrix.

kjartero
kjartero

Is this some kind of joke ? Did you people actually read how this specially devised ranking was done? In order to "rig" the statistics to get Hong Kong on top, Mr. Filippo Lovato INVENTED a bizarre measurement, and dubbed it "isolation."  This weird thing actually awards more points to a city's livability the more crowded, and jammed against each other its people are.  If a city has more open spaces, and if its citizens have larger than cage sized apartments, it is penalized with a negative "isolation" rating.

I suppose I could join in the fun too. I hereby declare the new statistic, "street excitement" as a measure of a city's livability. For my rating system, if the chance of being killed, mugged, burglarized, raped, and other assaults is higher, that city has a higher street excitement rating, and is more livable.  Cities with low street excitement are given negative ratings because after, all, who doesn't want to live in a stimulating city?  So far, Baghdad and Damascus are running away with it.

blueberryicecreme
blueberryicecreme

Well, I have lived in Hong Kong for 18+ years now. Although it's true that I'm not considering immigration to anywhere else, Hong Kong does have a lot of problems. As other people have said here before, it is a very harsh place for poor people and even middle class. However, our transportation system is amazing and it's very low priced compared to say, Japan or Britain. It's easy to buy stuff you want here, and it's also easy to get to rural places for natural scenary. 

On the other hand, though communism isn't practiced here yet, China has noticeably violated quite many rules of the Sino-British joint in recent years. We are actually quite worried, because we don't know how many more they are going to violate. And since we don't have our own military forces, we pretty much have 0 defense. 

sombranegra79
sombranegra79

I am from Hong Kong, lived there for the first 16 years of my life, and couldn't disagree more. Where does housing affordability (or lack thereof) appear in this? What about air quality? Education? Other public services? Political autonomy? Get real, guys. I agree that Amsterdam should be way up there, as should Helsinki, Sydney, Munich, Zurich, Stockholm and a million other cities I haven't been to and therefore can't judge. Bottom line is, I left that dump for a reason, and I've got no plans to head back.

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D

Hong Kong is certainly one of my favorite cities. With 90 public transport rates, the world's highest life expectancy, a rich culture, an astounding location, and an unparalleled acces to nature for all citizens (even ones without a car), this shouldn't be a surprising ranking to anyone.

I would choose Tokyo based on what I know and there are many rankings that side with me. Likewise, there are many rankings that favor Paris, even though I, personally, would never consider living there for any length of time. 

Obviously, there is no objective best. If you like Vienna or Nairobi or even some small city that would never be considered for such a ranking than I have good news: this doesn't matter at all.

Paul Fox
Paul Fox

As someone who has been living in Hong Kong for about 12 years now, I found the EIU's selection to be rather odd. I earn a median income and my wife is currently not working as we are expecting our first child. I love Hong Kong, but it has a fair share of problems that have had me rethinking the 'long term' livability for my family.

Cons:

• For livability, we cannot afford to get our own place because housing is both grossly overinflated here and the banking system requires upwards of 30% down before you can be considered for financing.

• Rent likewise is skyrocketing. (For our current place the landlord just hit us with a 20% increase after a single (2 year) rent cycle. (Previous landlords in previous years were always around 5%).

• The public education system (primary and secondary) is overcrowded and there is threat of a nationalism curriculum (from the Mainland) being introduced on the horizon that has some parents nervous.

• Pollution (particularly air quality) has been of growing concern.

Pros:

• The public health care system is excellent. (Wife and I are looking at a cost of a few hundred $ (U.S.) for the entire 9 months of care (a mix of both public and private) with no insurance coverage. Estimated costs in the U.S. would be upwards of US$10,ooo (or around $2000 with an insurance policy. - Note that we are both residents and pay taxes).

• Food is relatively cheap (and fresh) here if you can learn to negotiate the public ‘wet’ markets and local shops.

• There are a number of great universities (highly ranked) here.

• There is an excellent transportation system and integration between buses, mini-buses, and train networks.

• No sales tax.

• No capital gains tax. This might be seen as ‘rich man’s benefit’ but many locals invest for retirement in the local Hang Seng Index. Gains they make are theirs. Of course the banks / firms do get their fees, and the global market crashes (and the Lehman scandal) have hit many retired folks hard.

• Safety. Hong Kong does have crime, but for the most part is a safe city even after hours.

• It is an international city. You can get around only using English…but if you plan to live here long term, the experience will be much richer if you learn Cantonese (and Mandarin).

So quite a few pros for the upper class accountant / businessman model type as proposed by @LoudRamber above. Even better if such a person is hired on with a lavish ex-pat package that includes housing. But for the average Hong Konger, the EIU ranking may leave them scratching their head.

Peter Bayuk
Peter Bayuk

Hong Kong? Flawed criteria first off. Then, Hong Kong seems to contradict all of the terms that define "best city." Of all cities, that is a city I wouldn't want to live in. Amsterdam is FAR superior. Not saying Hong Kong is not a great city.

Whole things seems fishy...someone is getting something in exchange for a high review. Just saying...

Dan Loggins
Dan Loggins

...I'm guessing the thing that makes is so desirable is related to the same reason  Harare is world’s least livable city

Karl Magnus
Karl Magnus

An Island owned and controlled by the Communist Chinese? Seriously?

Hong Kong is not only horrendously over-crowded, it's so expensive that only the wealthiest can afford to live there. I bet that the ChiCom bourgeosie just love it.

On the other hand, you can buy a "Rolex" with "Seiko works" for $25 US on any street corner. Yessir, sounds like heaven to me.  /sarc

~(Ä)~

W Frédéric Nitschke
W Frédéric Nitschke

This is a joke... right? It's great if you have a fat pay cheque... but HK is also the city with the greatest divide between rich and poor... 80% or more of the households earn less than 1500$'s a month in one of the most expensive cities, pollution is off any WHO standards and health care although great on paper is barely accessible for the normal folks... 

Try telling those cage people how livable it is.. at least CNN has the decency to report on the real issues:

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WO...

fleiter
fleiter

Lack of urban sprawl. Have you ever been to Hong Kong? It's more densely packed than Tokyo, and its suburbs spread to the mainland.

bigurn
bigurn

Hong Kong is unlivable for all but the most wealthy.  Tokyo as well.  I'm glad to see Stockholm, Toronto and Munich on the list - all wonderful places.  I'm curious that no American cities made the list, but the "UN World Heritage Sites" is a built-in constraint to America.

Where are London, Tuscon, Cincinnati, Prague, Edinburgh, Vienna, Campinas, and a host of other places that are not impossibly expensive?

Grunttgh Ogrearm
Grunttgh Ogrearm

I am in the best city in the world. Location subject to change.

Michael T Lyster
Michael T Lyster

Hong Kong? Really? Sorry; no.  

I've been to Amsterdam, and it should be fairly high on the list: but it has its share of armpit locations, as well. Last time I checked, living in HK was painfully expensive, and cramped.  Liveability?  Stuck in a 400 square foot apartment with, what, four family members?

Thanks, but I'lll take any of about 20 US cities first: and I don't even LIKE cities, anymore after 50 years in Chicago.  If I ever return to a metro location, however:  Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, London, Seattle, Phoenix, Miami:  LOTS of better choices than Hong Kong.Enjoy your matchbox apartments, though-- really. Good luck with that.

gumbojuice
gumbojuice

The median  home price in HK for a tiny 1000 sq ft concrete hole in the wall with no insulation is 10x that of the median US price for a single family home.   Best city in the world if you're a corrupt government official with real estate developer friends for sure.

HonkyFronky
HonkyFronky

Hong Kong is a great place to visit, especially for the HK 7s. But like all big cities I would have no intentions in living there.

Let's hope the mainland do not spoil it.

LoudRambler
LoudRambler

 The Economist comes up with a pretty ridiculous list because it, in my opinion, consideres cities from the point of wealthy Western accountant.

 Why I say wealthy Western accountant? Firstly, it doesn't take property prices into account when constructing this index, so it presumes that whoever is to judge the list has a pretty deep banking account to buy whatever he/she wants. Secondly, it has to be an accountant (a man who, almost by definition, has job openings everywhere), because a lot of the cities on the list have a chronic lack of well-paying jobs in real economy. Thirdly, the said accountant has to be Western, since calling Hong Kong close to any big cities is a big stretch; it implies that the said Western guy goes to fancy himself on some shows in Thailand or does exotic trips in China, while in reality the "big" cities there are only big in population but very often lack depth.

 Once you factor all these things, all of a sudden China turns into much less appealing place, and urban sprawl - and cheap housing it brings - become all that much more appealing.

jeremy.jm.joubert
jeremy.jm.joubert

@sombranegra79 im glad stupid people like you have left, no point sharing the beautiful city with people that cant appreciate. ive got to ask, did you ever leave your apartment in those 16 years? cause seriously sounds like you didn't

jeremy.jm.joubert
jeremy.jm.joubert

@Peter Bayuk hahaha the truth hurts sometimes, doesnt mean its a conspiracy. slow down on the weed toking your starting to get paranoid

IonOtter
IonOtter

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blueberryicecreme
blueberryicecreme

@Karl Magnus Hong Kong is not communist (yet) and had never been communist. 
Living cost is actually cheap with the only exclusion being rent/ property/ land. 

jeremy.jm.joubert
jeremy.jm.joubert

@Karl Magnus hahaha stupid people, good that you think that so we dont have to deal with you in paradise

D
D

@Karl Magnus I don't think Hong Kong is overcrowded. It is just dense. I prefer to live in very dense environments and if I could choose how the world would develop it would do so with near HK levels of density for the vast majority of the population. 

D
D

@fleiter Yes, its that density that makes it score high on the sprawl category.  Sprawl is considered bad in this ranking. 

D
D

@bigurn Vienna and London are not expensive? Tuscon and Cincinnati are great cities? Do you think I can't find a studio in nice area of the virtually crime-less Tokyo for 60,000 Yen a month? All questions worth asking, to me.

blueberryicecreme
blueberryicecreme

@Michael T Lyster  If you have never been to these cities, what you are relying on is basically hearsay or just the media, instead of your own experiences. 
What the media reports is rarely unbiased. Especially USA's since media there likes to defame Asia all the time, to feed the supremacy of its audiences. 
If all your top cities are from USA, then I sincerely suggest you to visit more what people call "Non-White countries". 

D
D

@Michael T Lyster If you don't like cities than how are you a reliable source on this topic? Any credibility you might have had has been eliminated by your inclusion of Phoenix, I think.

Thomas TM
Thomas TM

Paris!? RIDICULOUS!

You should've spent more time in HK, pal! I'm from Hong Kong, but no bias, ok? I've lived in France as well as the states, so I know what I'm sayin'

Karl Magnus
Karl Magnus

I like your preferences, except for Phoenix. I lived in "The Valley of the Sun" (EAST Valley: Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa) for most of my life, but Phoenix has become a filthy megalopolis. I'd move back there in a heartbeat if it weren't a dirty, crime-infested, illegal alien-harboring dump.

Give me Paris or A-Dam any day!

~(Ä)~

sombranegra79
sombranegra79

@jeremy.jm.joubert  @sombranegra79 Oh, taking things personally here, are we? Sure, we can do that. How many cities have you been to, may I ask? How many countries? Because it seriously sounds like you haven't been to many. All I'm saying here is that Hong Kong is a long shot off the majority of the cities I've traveled to. I suggest you take a look around before attacking others for asserting their opinions.

Michael T Lyster
Michael T Lyster

Thanks for your input, 'pal'. I've lived in neither; I've seen more than a few cities. Your statement simply illustrates the point that for someone, or an organization to define the 'best' city is like choosing the 'best' food, or 'best' shirt color. 

I personally despise NYC: others find it the center of the world. I rather like Paris and have been there several times. Many could not live in a smaller town; I moved to a town of <60,000 in the Southwest and find it immensely superior to Chicago. For me. Your mileage, of course, may vary.