Top Ten Places to Live in the World

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be? What do you find appealing about that location when compared with all of the other amazing places in this world? We’ve put together a list of the top ten places to live for people looking for certain things in their hometowns.

Before we get to our list of our picks for the top ten places to live, let’s start by figuring out what makes a location a good choice in the first place.

What Makes for a Great Place to Call Home?

What would your ideal hometown look like? I’d bet it’s very different from my idea of the best place to live. And that’s okay. We all have different goals. We have different preferences and needs. And we’re in different places in our lives. So an area that one of us finds exciting, another might find threatening. A place one of us thinks of as tranquil and family-friendly might seem incredibly boring to another.

The key is finding the top places for you to live. It’s about figuring out what will make you happy and then finding locations that offer what you’re looking for.

If you have children, your top places to live might include towns with plenty of safe playgrounds and entertainment. — Credit: Sam Howzit (via Flickr)

Here are some of the biggest things you might consider when trying to determine the top places to live.

  • Weather — Most of us probably have climates that we like better than others. For example, I like to see the changing of the seasons with hot summers and snowy winters. Others prefer milder temperatures year-round. Some like it sunny most of the time. Others don’t mind more frequent rain. You might even prefer it to be cold all year long so you can ski whenever you’d like. Weather that makes some people happy can make others miserable. So for each of us, the best places to live likely have a climate we’d find enjoyable.
  • Schools — If you have children, school systems might play an important role in choosing the top places to live. You might want outstanding public schools. You might want a good selection of private schools. You might want schools specifically tied to your religion. Or you might want to be around schools that focus on specialized teaching methods.
  • Employment Opportunities — For some people, one of the biggest considerations is whether or not there are enough jobs available in their industry. The best place to live for them might be somewhere with abundant opportunities so they’d always have the option to move to a better job when they’re ready.
  • Nightlife / Entertainment — Whether you’re young and single and looking for a good time at nightclubs or your idea of entertainment is a good theater, the ideal place for you to live will probably include the things you like to do for fun.
  • Culture / History — Another thing to consider is how much culture or history a location has. For example, it might be important to you to have museums and a symphony nearby. Or maybe your idea of a great place to live is where you can stay in touch with your family’s history and heritage.
  • Other Considerations — The examples above are far from the only things you might consider when deciding on the best places to live. Other considerations might include crime rates, the community atmosphere, whether or not a place is pet friendly, having access to hobbies like surfing or mountain climbing, healthcare options, home prices, general cost of living, and how “green” or healthy a town seems to be (like bike lanes so you can ride to work easily).

Now let’s get to our original list of the top ten places to live. Do you know of other places people might find appealing? Leave a comment and tell us why your hometown (or your favorite place) is also potentially one of the best places to live.

There are many factors that make the place we live the place we love to call home. Environment, weather, history, politics, economy, infrastructure, social climate, and entertainment all play a part. When choosing a place to live, your decision should be based on what issues are important to you. Finding the right combination of features is the key to loving where you live.

Healthcare and Tolerance – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Meuse River, The Netherlands

In 2009 the Netherlands was named as having the best healthcare system in Europe by the Euro Health Consumer Index. Six criterion examined were patient rights and information, e-health, waiting times for treatment, outcomes, range and reach of services provided and pharmaceuticals. The Netherlands is additionally praised for its minimal bureaucracy and patient empowerment.

The Netherlands, particularly Amsterdam, has become infamous for its tolerance of the taboo. The Dutch believe that people should make moral decisions with little interference from government. Marijuana is legal. Tattoo parlors, sex shops, and the red light district draw tourists. Hostels are packed during the peak summer season.

As far as culture, there are famous museums where you can see work by Van Gogh, Vermeer, and Rembrandt. One can learn the story of Anne Frank, relax in beautiful parks and ride a bike almost anywhere. According to Claudio.Ar, “It is said that Amsterdam has more canals than Venice, more cafes than Vienna and more bridges than Paris. The tours let you discover them and other secrets of the city.”

Best Place for Singles – New York City, USA

Hudson River, New York
Hudson River, New York

In the mood for love? Although the cost of living is still high in New York, it has become slightly more affordable due to the recent economic downturn. In fact with many singles now unemployed, unmarried folks are taking advantage of their severance packages and enjoying all the city has to offer. With 35,000 restaurants, 3,800 bars, and 734 museums there is definitely plenty to do in New York City. The popular dating site,, has more active accounts in the NYC area than any other locale. Living in New York does, however require a high tolerance for crowds of people.

“The City That Never Sleeps” comes by its title easily. From piano bars to jazz lounges (and a few dozen dives of course), New York’s nightlife keeps the city hopping until early morning hours. Nightclubs like the Marquee feature world famous DJs for the partiers who love to dance. Other locals favor the Gotham Comedy Club, which Frommer’s guide declares New York’s “trendiest and most sophisticated comedy club.”

Whatever your interest, you’re sure to find it in New York City – day or night.

Mild Climate & English Speaking – Malta

Island Sunset

The island nation just 60 miles from Sicily, Republic of Malta, is a repeated winner of Quality of Life Index awards for best climate.

With a daily average of over five hours of sunshine, mild winters, and hot summers – Malta is considered ideal by many.

Diving, sailing, and colorful festivals abound. Golf and horseback riding are popular pastimes.

There are few sandy beaches and yes – sometimes it does rain on the Maltese islands.

If it’s raining you can head indoors for opera, theater, music, and ballet at the Manoel Theatre in Valletta. The Manoel is the second-oldest theater in Europe.

The government is politically stable in Malta. Cost of living is low. Crime is minimal. Locals are hospitable. Travel is not difficult, despite island status.

If you lived in Malta you could check off each item on list, 101 Things to do while on Holiday in Malta.

Family-Friendly – Virginia, USA



The state of Virginia has beautiful shorelines and beaches. Virginia is very family and community oriented, with plenty of fairs, festivals, and community events. The people are diverse and friendly. Many of the schools are highly-ranked and offer plenty of extracurricular activities and elective courses to choose from.

Virginia takes the health and safety of its children very seriously. According to the official Virginia government website, $515,405 was awarded to 17 projects that support youth substance abuse and violence prevention programs for 2010.

Check out this list of 57 Cool Places for Kids.

Low Cost of Living & Retirement – Brazil


Brazil is the largest country in South America and therefore offers a broad range of opportunities for travel and diversity. From the Amazon jungles, to famous beaches, you will find the inhabitants friendly and hospitable. Although the nightlife is well known in Brazil, few are aware that Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are among the cheapest cities to live in (according to the Economist Intelligence Unit).

Want to pay off debt? Brazil is a good place to retire. Retirement visas are available with proof of income. It is common and legal for permanent residents to apply for Brazilian passports and keep their current citizenships and passports.

Brazilian health care is very good. You do not need to be a citizen to use the national health care system. Patients pay nothing out of pocket for most care. For the highest quality health care private market providers are also available – for a fee. Even so, the fees are much less than purchasing independent health insurance in the U.S. In general, you get more for your money in Brazil.

Due to the well-developed agricultural, mining, manufacturing, and service industries, the economy of Brazil outweighs other countries in South America, and is quickly expanding its presence in international markets.

Simply Beautiful – Belize


Belize, considered one of the most beautiful countries in Central America, has it all. Belize touts great beaches, subtropical climate, diverse wildlife, and a low cost of living.

The scuba diving and snorkeling is fabulous. The gorgeous waterfalls underneath the Maya Mountains are rivaled only by the hundreds of colorful species of birds flying the skies.

Rent of a large house in Cayo district is only $300/month. Food at the local markets is very reasonably priced. The official language is English. The Retired Person’s Incentive Program starts at the ripe young age of 45 and allows tax free living.

Consider a snowbird lifestyle when it comes to living in Belize. The wet season is May to October. It rains all the time and there is a chance for hurricanes.

But I’d stay November through April in this beautiful land, which is just where I’d like to be rather than the cold snowy land I call home that time of year.

Stunning Scenery – Cape Town, South Africa


Cape Town features some of the most beautiful beaches and fascinating attractions in all of Africa. Families enjoy swimming in the warm waters along the False Bay coast, where whale watching is also popular. Kids swarm to Boulders Beach to see the penguins, and for a small fee, even swim with them. The hallmark of Cape Town is Table Mountain, a gigantic slab of sandstone with breathtaking views, trails for hiking, and paragliding for the adventurous. (Cable cars are available for the not-so-adventurous.)

The second most populated city in South Africa; Cape Town is known for being socially tolerant and culturally diverse. This coastal city is mild and rainy during the winter months, but dry and very warm the rest of the year. The bistros and restaurants offer a variety of world class cuisine to satisfy every palate, and are famous for their delicious wines. Clubs, lounges, and other entertainment venues make Cape Town ideal for the musically inclined.

Thanks to the 2010 World Cup, business is booming in Cape Town. The real estate market is also on the upswing as more people relocate to this beautiful coastal city.

Economic Opportunities – Frankfurt, Germany

Frankfurt, Germany
Frankfurt, Germany

Those looking for a certain quality of life find their high standards met in Frankfurt, the economic capital of Germany. The Frankfurt Stock Exchange is the largest in Germany, and one of the world’s most important. According to the Mercer Quality of Living survey, Frankfurt has the highest concentration of jobs in Germany, with 922 jobs per 1,000 residents.

Frankfurt inhabitants enjoy their city for more than its economic security. The museums, historical sites, and shopping districts are popular with the locals as well as tourists. Frankfurt is easy to travel in and out of, with one of the busiest airports in the world. Frankfurt Central Station is one of the biggest train stations in Europe, and few can resist the allure of the Autobahn. The views along the Main River are lovely, and Frankfurt is home to a number of beautiful landmarks such as the Imperial Cathedral, and the 50-acre Palmengarten flower garden.

The cost of living is high, but is compensated with a low unemployment rate, easy transportation for business trips, and the fact that it is an industrial and financial powerhouse.  Germany’s businesses are booming.

Most Romantic – Paris, France

Eiffel Tower, Paris
Eiffel Tower, Paris

The air in Paris simply breathes romance. Not only is the enchanting ambience the perfect setting for romance, (who can see the Eiffel Tower without thinking of L’amour?) the cozy bistros and dimly lit restaurants are ideal for couples in love.

Paris is not just for lovers; its rich heritage and stunning architecture draw millions. The Louvre, Palace of Versailles, and Notre Dame are just a few of the beautiful buildings that grace the Paris skyline. An incredible array of paintings and art are sure to please museum goers.

As the fashion capital of the world, Paris is home to some of the most popular designers. Those looking for a career in fashion couldn’t find a more fitting place to study or work. The drawback for Parisians is a high cost of living. The good news is- Paris features some of Europe’s largest corporations, and researchers expect an increase in employment opportunities in the future. So for those who can swing it, the comfort and quality of the French life is a truly unforgettable experience. Not to mention, absolutely delicious.

Sizzling and Sexy – Miami, Florida USA

Miami, Florida
Miami, Florida

Miami is known as the “Magic City” for good reason. With the sensual Latin flavor combined with its tropical location, Miami is home to an eclectic group of fun-loving people. Singles flock to Miami for the beaches and exciting nightlife, and then discover attractions and career opportunities that offer more than they were expecting.

As the “Gateway to Latin America”, Miami is a city of diverse ethnicities. This sunny city is bursting with new developments, has surprisingly low rent and taxes, and an exceptional education system at the University of Miami.

Miami ranks highly with the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network, which rates each city’s importance to the international economy. Professionals work in a number of fields including tourism, trade, and international banking. Sports and recreation enthusiasts adore Miami for the wide variety of watersports and boating activities. Everything from snorkeling to sailing, kayaking to kitesurfing; Miami’s beaches offer it all. For landlubbers, Miami features rock climbing walls, golf courses, and tennis courts. Wherever you travel, wherever you call home, remember to make the best of where you are. The people you meet, friends you make, experiences you acquire – those are the things that make life worth living.

By: Terra L. Fletcher, owner Fletcher Freelance

Note: This list was originally compiled and published on July 16, 2010. New content was added in 2013.

Join the discussion

  • Hi dear,i love ur publication.however i need ur advice, i want to travel to brazil through the sporsor of my mentor but am very comfused and worried about the type of life and business that flourish in brazil and beside am been set back by my friends on the fact that mine going there is only to go and do drug business and it very dangerous, pls help me am confused. Joe from nigeria

  • Hi Terra! First of all, I want to congratulate you for your article! I haven’t been in most of those places, but I really want to go to Amsterdam, Cape Town and Paris. I have been to NYC and Miami though, and I was born in Brazil.
    NYC is just awesome! You can never get bored there, since there is so much to do! Miami is absolutely wonderful! I know many people say that crime there is high and all, but out of all the times I’ve been there, I always enjoy much of what the city has to offer, from many different neighborhoods, day and night, and nothing ever happened to me! Plus there are amazing beaches, and a huge diversity and amazing nightlife! I’ll be moving there next week, and I couldn’t be happier! 😀
    As for Brazil, it is a wonderful country too (I know, I was born and raised there)! However, I have to disagree with a few things you said there. The health care system unfortunately isn’t that great. Although it is free, the quality is poor. And the cost of living isn’t too low either. Brazil has too many taxes over everything (for example, a car in Brazil costs over twice as much as it does in the USA).
    On the other hand, Brazil has many amazing qualities! Weather is perfect, people are friendly, it’s a very festive country with a huge diversity within its own regions (What you find on the North will be very different than what you find on the South). I am from Sao Paulo, and crime there is just like any other major city (population in SP is around 11 million people).
    In the end, it all depends on your personal opinion. That is why I liked your article so much, and hopefully, this will shut up any other negative comments.

  • MMMmm… you do not seem to have read which cities in South Africa the people were raving about – Cape Town and NOT Johannesburg. The latter is a dump!!! But one cannot compare the two since they are literally continents apart in lifestyle and crime. Please do not break all of SA down – that would be horribly unfair and ignorant.

  • Terra, Brazilian health care system is actually terrible. It’s designed to be universal and free, but the real deal is that the hospitals lack infrastructure and personnel. People only don’t get health insurance when they can’t afford it (most people, since by standard Brazilian wages, are very expensive). It’s not uncommon that people die in the lines of the public hospitals, or die waiting for a surgery or have to wait several months so they can get an exam which must be done immeadiately. When they get the exam, it’s not also uncommon that they have to wait several months to get an appointment with the doctor which requested the exam — in which case the condition evolves and the exam taken becomes worthless.

  • I lived in Amsterdam, Frankfurt and São Paulo. I agree, they are also in my top 10. These are some of the most expatriate friendly cities in the world which explains why I have lived in these cities. New York City, Paris, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town would also be in my list since I am a city kind of person. I have traveled a’lot and there are other places which I would rather go for vacation. But if I were to add more cities to live in my list I would probably include: Barcelona, Milan, Buenos Aires, Bangkok, London, Dubai, Lisbon, Shanghai, Seoul and Tokyo. Although I must say, opinions can vary greatly, I like medium or big cities that have a’lot to offer, are interesting to live in and never get boring. Thank you for sharing your opinion also.

  • I agree that Brazil is a good place to live and retire, but please get better informed about cost living in the big cities here. São Paulo and Rio are very expensive, following the country’s development prices are getting out of control.
    I live in São Paulo and I know Rio de Janeiro very well as I was born there. Both cities are very expensive, mainly for us that receive our salaries in Reais (Brazilian currency).
    All services are expensive, cars here are the most expensive in the world, real estates in middle class neighborhoods are totally expensive, more if you compare to countries as USA, Canada, Australia and other developed countries.
    Before visit Brazil do a research about prices in those 2 big cities, please don’t think it’s so cheap. As you know it’s less impacting if you receive your salaries in EURO or DOLLARS.

  • I was reading the article about Brazil – I just have to say that you have been gravely misinformed… the private health service here is very poor… so imagine the national health service – its a disgrace where people are left waiting days, weeks and months to be seen to and sometimes end up dying. There is a lot of corruption within the government and the police which is the main cause of Brazils problems.
    Also the article mentioned Brazil being cheap… that is simply NOT TRUE. The prices of products are so expensive… 2-3 times the value of those in Europe or the USA. Import taxes are about 100% and Brazilian produced products are very expensive and are very poorly produced… I am Brazilian and have lived abraod for many years so I can tell you the truth. How can you write an article that is simply incorrect – have you (the author) been bribed yourself or are you dilusional?

  • Cairns Queensland Australia and Kagoshima Japan both nice size cities plenty to do and breath taking scenery.Cairns is expensive though.Live their now dont tell anyone want to keep them small.

  • Are you kidding me? Cost of living in São Paulo and Rio are high as in New York City. Public health system is horrible. No doctors, huge lines that can take up to 12 hours if so. Violence, traffic, real state has gone up enormously. Better check your references before writing.

    Wonder if the other places shown are updated.

  • What about Turkey, :O I’ve lived in Turkey for my entire childhood and every single day there is something amazing to explore

  • i love hong kong tho..there’s fair justice in hong kong, i love the food..there’s a lot of westerners in hongkong and that made the city more civilized….but because of h0w the chinese people behaved?it gave the city the impression of being not so friendly city…but i really had a great time in hong kong…i’ve been to mainland china also…but ohhh dear!!!chinese people are just horrible!