While there’s no harm in living a modest lifestyle in a cheap city, you can’t deny the appeal of overlooking a grand cityscape. That’s right — we’re talking about living in the lap of luxury and everything that goes along with it: Good food, tall buildings, fast cars and even latrines made of precious metals.
With a little help from the Mercer 2017 Quality of Living Rankings and the 13th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey: 2017, we handpicked 10 cities that boast a high standard of living and luxury, then ranked them in no particular order.
Buckle your seat belts, fasten your shiny watch, and get ready to see what it’s like living where the streets are paved with metaphorical gold.
Vienna is no stranger to sitting at the top; they’ve been ranked as the city with the highest quality of life a number of times in the past and keep securing that position with ease. Living in Vienna gives you front row seats to incredible architecture ranging from the Middle Ages to the Baroque period, plus a divine array of museums, carnivals, opera houses and markets.
Plus, there’s the coffee. Coffee in Vienna is nothing short of magical and has roots in the city going back to the 1600s. Cafe Frauenhuber famously hosted Mozart during his last public performance in 1791 and is still in operation today. Living in Vienna gives you a unique blend of old and new, letting you party across centuries like a time traveler whose spaceship is fuelled by good times.
Image: Kamil Porembiński/Flickr
When your city has been dubbed the “global center for banking and finance,” it’s not out of line to assume you’ll be living large. The city sits on the north point of Lake Zurich and has most residents spending their free time either on the beaches or in the mountains. Zurich offers a window to the past with some of its oldest architecture going back to the 12th century.
If you want to feel like royalty, make sure Niederdorf is on the top of your list. This celebrated Old Town district, lovingly called Dörfli — “little village” — by the natives offers the perfect view of the Grossmünster Church, set against the picturesque mountains. While the streets aren’t paved with gold, the beautiful cobblestones will suffice.
Image: Harrison / Peppery/flickr
Auckland, New Zealand
It’s not cheap living in Auckland — the average price for rent hovers around $2800— but with residents earning 33 percent more than the average New Yorker, New Zealanders have the means to spend their hard-earned cash on the finer things. So, what do you do in Auckland? One word, two syllables: super yachts. When you’re in Auckland, you’ve got to hit up Waitemata Harbour and sail — the city’s vast number of cruising clubs will get you off the land and on the water faster than you can say “take me to the water, mate.”
Image: Achim Lammerts/Flickr
Aside from the obvious reason of Oktoberfest, there’s a lot more to do in Munich than just drink beer and wear lederhosen. It’s a friendly and open place with a small town vibe that doesn’t skimp on the big city benefits. Munich has the strongest economy of any German city and boasts a presence from myriad tech companies and BMW, which helps fuel the economy. The average rent in Munich’s city center is $1481, while a pint of beer usually goes for $5.01 — you don’t need to be a mathematician to like those numbers.
Image: Magnus Larsson/Flickr
Regularly popping up in all those “best city” guides you see all over the internet, Vancouver is Canada’s third most populated metropolitan area and one of the country’s most expensive housing markets, with an average home costing around $1,001,025. Vancouver is also one of the cleanest cities in the world and has enough outdoor activities to satisfy those who have a hard time choosing between skiing, hiking and swimming. Naturally, there’s a booming art scene in Vancouver as well – galleries like Catriona Jeffries showcase some of the city’s finest contemporary art, which you can feel free to fawn over.
Most people don’t find the inherent sexiness in discussing a city’s infrastructure, but Düsseldorf is one magnificently designed city. Their architecture has been described as “boundary-pushing.” There’s a lot to celebrate when hanging in Düsseldorf: You’ve got a flourishing fashion scene, the Rhenish Carnival and the fact that Kraftwerk came from here — Germany’s electric equivalent of the Beatles! If you happen to be an ex-pat in this diverse city, there are numerous clubs and organizations to make you feel accepted and welcome.
Even the name “Geneva” sounds fancy — like a chocolate wrapped in gold or a watch that still works when it’s frozen. In reality, this city is the second most populous city in Switzerland and typically falls within the top five most expensive cities on earth. The large number of international organizations (including the U.N.) gives Geneva the name “Peace City.” However, it’s not just the city’s rich history that draws you in — it’s the skiing: French resorts Samoëns, La Clusaz and Chamonix are only an hour away and provide some of the best slopes on earth.
Image: Barbara willi/flickr
Business Insider has named Hong Kong the most expensive place to live in the entire world, citing its “exceptionally free market practices” as the reason for its expansive growth. When living in Hong Kong, you get comically clean streets, hundreds of islands to explore and an exclusive country club that overlooks Deep Water Bay. When trouncing around Hong Kong, you need to figure out how you want to spend your time and money: Is it Lamma Island, the Tian Tan Buddha, or maybe Temple Street Night Market, where you can buy anything you’re looking for. No matter how you spend your time, Hong Kong is the place to feel like a boss.
Image: corey leopold/flickr
There will always be some semblance of appeal to living in a city where the December holidays happen during summer. Where do you even start with Sydney? The beaches? Blue skies? The coffee? How about: all of it. Sydney has one of the most expensive housing markets in Australia and even going to the movies is going to cost you. However, when you factor in the ridiculous amount of beauty at Bondi Beach or the Sydney Opera House, you start to forget that rent you pay on, say, Wolseley Road in Point Piper could buy an entire neighbourhood in Missouri.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco has the reputation of being a city that’s a little hard to afford, but that shouldn’t sway you from putting down a ridiculously large chunk of change to take part in the scene. Home prices keep going up, but you’re getting what you pay for by taking part in its numerous parks, clubs and bars. Pro-tip: Visit Anchor Brewing and sample the local suds. If you happen to secure a job in tech — the industry that’s causing San Francisco’s expansive growth — you can take part in the sites and get some fine dining and wine in before you settle down, start a family and move to Berkeley.