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Europe's Most Liveable Cities

A livable city is one in which you can breathe, literally and figuratively. They’ve got to have fresh air to breathe as well as room to move. You'll find all the cities on here have pollution under control and gorgeous open spaces. As European cities, nearly all of these are on a river and have plenty of history. They also have places to be yourself besides your home, which in many cases can be somewhat compact. The city itself is an extension of your living space, so let’s explore which ones do so with the best style.


01 Berlin

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Berlin has been transforming itself since the fall of the wall in 1992.  Qualities like 'hip and funky' combine with 'business-friendly,' 'creative' and 'culturally rich' to make up one unique city. There's lots of open space, a great zoo, excellent transit, and bike mobility. Berlin is a family-friendly city and a high-energy home for young people, and a comfortable place for seniors to enjoy their retirement.


02 Vilnius

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Vilnius is affordable, business-friendly, beautiful, and even has one of the fastest public wi-fi infrastructures in the world. Lithuania hasn't been in the western consciousness as long as Western Europe has been, but they have plenty of history and heart, as well as a freshness that draws people in. The clean environment in Vilnius is a draw for health-conscious people. Though commuting around is fairly easy, traveling to other cities is a little bit challenging, but this will likely change over time. With fast, universal internet access, Vilnius is an excellent destination for mobile professionals whose work is tied to the net.


03 Bilbao

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Livable European cities like Bilbao are often ones that have received quite a radical renewal. In this case, it was once at the heart of one of Spain's most industrialized areas and is now green, livable, and setting an example for urban design. The Guggenheim Museum, built in 1997, has become the city's signature landmark in its new life as a cultural and artistic center. Bilbao is very walkable and has pedestrian bridges to provide more peaceful river crossings. Pocket parks and playgrounds along the river provide places to rest and enjoy or destinations for exercise and activity. Updated, grassy tram lines and well-designed bike lanes thread through this historic city.


04 Basel

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Life in Basel, Switzerland, proves that a small city can have big cultural offerings. Located on a broad section of the Rhine, historic buildings blend with new architecture in this vibrant Swiss town. There are major festivals to enjoy, including a spring one, which celebrates life among the mountains, museums to explore from art to history to toys, and a delightful zoo. Significant environmental policies help this city to rate among the top ten cities in the world for livability.


05 Bordeaux

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Bordeaux has plenty of vineyards and a large wine industry. While these are great tourist pulls, it also means that the quality of the air, water, and soil are vital to keeping those wines top quality. According to French surveys, life here in southwest France is top quality also. Culture and sports are keys to life here, and the public transport system is heralded as one that is excellent for students. In 2006 the government set about upgrading transportation, improving bike access, increasing walkability, and adding space for cafes as destinations for walkers. Housing costs are less than half those of Paris, taking some of the stress off of life here.


06 Ghent

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Beautiful architecture, plenty of canals throughout the city, and an ancient castle are a few of the tourist attractions of this Belgian city. Ghent is still not as well known as other Belgian destinations, but Greenpeace recently rated it as the most livable because of its very low car usage. A pedestrian-only downtown, plenty of cafes, and a university create an atmosphere that is walkable and suitable for people of all ages. It's also a great destination for those on a budget, with plenty of affordable places to eat and live, even in the city center.


07 Zurich

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Liveability lists for Switzerland, Europe, and the world all toss Zurich in the mix. Somehow it manages to mix business with pleasure, providing local financial strength and youthful energy all in one. Keep in mind that the cost of living is fairly high here. It has everything else from public transportation, arts, and culture to natural beauty in the mountains, lake, and river. The city is clean, easy to navigate, and rich in history.


08 Edinburgh

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This Scottish gem offers a low-stress life with decent pay plus affordable living, lower stress, plus plenty of cultural, historical, and social offerings make this ancient city a place where people can truly live without compromising. "A consistent all-rounder," one report called it, while another said it was the UK's most walkable city.


09 Amsterdam

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Livability in Amsterdam, Holland, is balanced against a high crime rate. Still, residents find it a perennially livable city, famous for its bicycle usage and many art museums with wonderful collections. Public transportation is robust, and Amsterdam's central train station and airport together provide quick connections with the world. Amsterdam offers a place to enthusiastically embrace life for those who appreciate the full mix of flowers, architecture, performances, and celebrations.


10 Vienna

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Vienna, Austria, keeps appearing at the top of livability lists. The major reasons for that are the stability, safety, and beauty of this classical music hub. Public transportation, bike and foot travel takes people to gardens, concert halls, even forests. The history of Vienna goes back to Roman times, giving a sense that the city has been livable since the beginning of civilization.


11 Copenhagen

Two friends cycling in Copenhagen downtown during a beautiful spring day. LeoPatrizi / Getty Images

Dripping with culture and home to colorful historical buildings, Copenhagen is considered one of the most extraordinary and adventurous cities in the world. The Danish capital is far less complicated than it seems and more easy-going than many of its global counterparts. Getting around is easy because it has a reliable transportation infrastructure. On top of being one of the safest European capitals, its top-notch health care further cements its status as an attractive place to settle down.


12 The Hague

Traditional houses beside a canal in the Hague at sunset. The Netherlands Leonid Andronov / Getty Images

The quality of life in The Hague is one of the highest in the world. Along with being one of the most tolerant cities in Europe, the Dutch capital has an enviable health care infrastructure and is considered one of the safest cities to live in. One of the best things about The Hague is its cultural diversity. Because of the numerous multinational companies and international courts, it has a natural, eclectic feel to it.


13 Eindhoven

Square Wilhelminaplein during light art festival "Glow Eindhoven" with artwork "Diving in the sea of colors" of Daniel Margraf. Elisabeth Aardema /

The Netherlands is a green country known for its excellent work-life balance. In that spirit, Eindhoven's dedication to improving its citizens' lives is leading to it becoming a nature-based smart city. The idea is to regreen the area to reduce heat stress, improve water management, and attract more business investment. With low crime and pollution, this type of proactive solution to climate change improves overall livability for decades to come.


14 Dublin

Christmas scene on Grafton St, Dublin Sean De Burca / Getty Images

Dublin is small enough that you can easily find your way around on foot. It's a curious mix of raw nature and bustling city, separated by a quick drive. Its artistic essence gave birth to poets like Yeats and Wilde, and there's live music on the streets as well as in the pubs. Dublin is one of the friendliest cities in the world, so it's no wonder locals and visitors describe it as a gem like no other.


15 Aarhus

Arhus, Midtjylland, Denmark, Scandinavia, Europe John Elk / Getty Images

As Denmark's second-largest city, Aarhus is known for its cosmopolitan atmosphere and quaint charm. The mixture of modern and historical architecture gives it a level of cultural sophistication. It has the youngest population in the country, and the cafes are great places to spot some of the country's rising musical talent. One of the best ways to enhance your appreciation of Aarhus is to learn Danish, which is free.


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