Swiss cities top list of world's best

Zurich edged out Vancouver to take top spot Keystone

Zurich is the most desirable city to live in, according to a new survey, which put three Swiss cities in the world's top ten.

This content was published on March 11, 2002 minutes

The Swiss city beat off strong competition from last year's winner, Vancouver, to claim the coveted top spot.

The Canadian city dropped down to second place, where it was joined by the Austrian capital, Vienna.

Swiss cities dominated the poll, carried out by the human resources consultancy William M Mercer. Geneva tied with Sydney for fourth place and the federal capital, Bern, just squeezed into the top ten.

Susanne Urban, managing director of William M Mercer in Switzerland, said cities like Zurich and Geneva performed well in the survey because they offer an excellent range of facilities.

"It's a combination of the size of cities, which is rather small, but at the same time they offer you the full scope of possibilities," Urban told swissinfo.

"And I think this is generally what makes Swiss cities so attractive," she added.

Michel Bassand, a professor of architecture at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, is not surprised by the survey results. "Switzerland's metropolitan areas offer high-quality urban living because of the country's small size, the moderate growth rate of the towns, the nation's wealth and its decentralised economy and politics," he said.

Judging the best

Each city was judged according to a number of key criteria, including the availability and quality of healthcare and education facilities, housing, transport, shopping and recreation.

"The basic comforts of life, hygiene and personal safety are the main differentiators, and these are often lacking in developing countries," commented Slagin Parakatil, a senior researcher at Mercer.

"The gap between cities at the top and the bottom of the table is still large," he adds.

Urban says Zurich gained particularly high marks for its variety of recreation and entertainment facilities.

"At the same time, it combines this with a very clean it's a top quality town which basically made it number one," she explained.

Carla Bernasconi, a writer and journalist living in Switzerland's biggest city, confirms this opinion. "We have all the advantages of a large city, with many cultural activities that attract younger people," she said.

The Zurich authorities have, for example, recently made efforts to attract these young taxpayers with the "Schiffbau", a theatre complex with appartments built in a former industrial zone.

Fred Baumgartner, of the Federal Office for Spatial Development, also points some other typically Swiss advantages.

"Switzerland is packed together tightly, but in an organised fashion," he said. "There is also a sense of security, and recreational facilities are close by."

While Zurich basks in the reflective glory of life at the top of the desirability table, the city of Brazzaville in Congo receives the less welcome distinction of being voted the world's worst city in the annual survey.

by Samantha Tonkin with agencies

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Share this story

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?