EU ranks Europe’s most livable cities – The winner isn’t in the EU

Brussels: Do you live in a European city? Ever wondered if the grass is greener somewhere else?

We live in gray and damp Brussels so have obviously thought long and hard about that, and helpfully the European Commission has produced a relevant report on the quality of life in European cities around the Continent.

The 112-page report is based on the results of a survey conducted between January and April 2023 with a total of 71,153 residents from 83 cities across the EU, European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries, the United Kingdom, the Western Balkans and Turkey.

It found that about 9 in 10 people are satisfied with living in their city. Not bad, right? But while the overall satisfaction remains high, last year’s results show a slight decline compared with the 2019 survey, the last time the Commission released a similar report.

But others, of course, aren’t satisfied. Residents in Istanbul, Athens and Palermo report much lower levels of satisfaction. But that’s another story for another time …

  1. Cluj-Napoca, Romania

The capital of Romania’s Transylvania region and the second-most populous city in the country is also a great place to live, apparently. In Cluj-Napoca, 94 percent of residents said they were satisfied with living in the city. Home to a booming tech sector, it also ranks second for job opportunities, with 73 percent of residents saying it is easy to find a good job in the city.

  1. Braga, Portugal

This Portuguese city was named the best European destination in 2021. But it’s not only a great spot for tourists: Residents love it too, with 94 percent of those surveyed saying they are satisfied with living in their city. Braga is also considered a safe city (84 percent of people surveyed said they feel comfortable walking alone at night) and a good place to live for immigrants, for older people and families with young children.

  1. Rostock, Germany

In the coastal city of Rostock in Germany, 94 percent of residents surveyed said they are satisfied with living there. Rostock is also a good place for older people and families with young children to live (second- and sixth-best in Europe, respectively). Eighty-five percent of people surveyed said they are satisfied with their personal job situation; the city ranks first in Europe on that metric.

  1. Geneva, Switzerland

Geneva comes in seventh, with 95 percent of people surveyed being satisfied with living there. While Geneva ranks high in a few other categories (83 percent satisfaction with job situation), it does rank last for housing affordability, with only 8 percent of people surveyed saying it is easy to find good housing at a reasonable price in their city. This should come as no surprise: Does anyone remember the viral story of the United Nations’ unpaid intern who camped on the shores of Lake Geneva because he couldn’t afford housing (on a nonexistent salary)?

  1. Stockholm, Sweden

It looks as if the unforgiving Nordic temperatures are no bother for the people of Stockholm, which ranks sixth with 95 percent of people satisfied. Stockholm is overall considered a good place for people from the LGBTQ+ community to live in (it ranks seventh in Europe). But like Geneva, not many residents think it’s easy to find affordable housing.

  1. Gdansk, Poland

A Polish city with tons of historical significance and home to one of the Baltic Sea’s largest ports, Gdansk also has a lot of satisfied people (95 percent). It is also seen as a good place for immigrants from other countries to live and 92 percent of people surveyed said they were satisfied with cultural facilities in the city.

  1. Leipzig, Germany

A surprise near the top of the list! It’s the up-and-coming Leipzig in Eastern Germany, with again 95 percent of satisfied residents. People also see Leipzig as a city suitable for families with young children and 83 percent said they are satisfied with air quality in the city.

  1. Copenhagen, Denmark

Time for the top three. You might know Copenhagen for its Little Mermaid statue — the main tourist attraction — but did you know it’s also Europe’s third-most livable city? Ninety-six percent of residents said they are happy living there. Copenhagen is also a safe city, but residents said they find it hard to find affordable housing. Fun fact: Copenhagen might just be Europe’s least corrupt city, with only 20 percent of residents saying that there is graft in the city’s local public administration.

  1. Groningen, Netherlands

Groningen is home to the largest pub in Europe (it seats over 3,700 people), which might explain the high satisfaction level: 96 percent of people say they’re happy to live there (and who wouldn’t be?). Groningen is seen as a great place for immigrants and members of the LGBTQ+ community, with lots of green and public spaces. It’s also considered to be clean and safe, with 86 percent of those surveyed saying they feel safe walking alone at night and that “most people in their city can be trusted.”

  1. Zurich, Switzerland

Are we surprised? Zurich was Europe’s most livable city in 2023, with a satisfaction rate of 97 percent. Residents of Zurich are happy with their financial situation, with their job, with public transport, with health care services, with air quality … with pretty much everything. It’s also the best European city for LGBTQ+ people and older people. Just one thing, again: Only 11 percent of people agree that it is easy to find good housing at a reasonable price.

Bonus: Brussels, Belgium

If you wondered where Brussels ranked on the list, our EU capital makes the top 10 for satisfaction with health care services (87 percent) and for some local administrative procedures (76 percent of residents said procedures used by the city’s local public administration were straightforward and easy to understand). And it’s not a lonely place: According to the survey, only 8 percent of people said they had felt lonely in the previous four weeks. But on the overall list, it came in 53rd place.