Research companies publish rankings of the best cities to live in every year. In 2021, such a review was published by Resonance Consultancy. It includes 100 cities with a population of one million, in which it is pleasant to live and work.
We tell you which countries are chosen for the sake of high living standards, safety, business opportunities or future prosperity of children.
Experts assessed cities according to six categories of parameters:
- Location: safety, attractions, number of sunny days per year and number of people with coronavirus.
- Infrastructure: interesting places and museums where you can fly from airports, how prestigious universities are located in the city.
- People: percentage of residents with higher education, accessibility for immigration.
- Prosperity: equity in income distribution, unemployment rate, gross urban product, number of Fortune 500 company headquarters.
- Cultural life: events, nightclubs, restaurants, shopping and opportunities.
- Promotion: number of searches on search engines, reviews on travel sites, and hashtags on social media.
In the top three were London, New York and Paris, which are popular with tourists. The top ten includes cities in Europe, Asia and the United States.
Top 10 cities in the world in 2021
|New York, USA|
|Los Angeles, USA|
Each of these cities were highly rated by several parameters at once. For example, the leaders of the rating — London and New York — are popular with tourists and offer many opportunities for entertainment. And Madrid was awarded high scores for cultural life, attractions and warm climate. See the full list of contributors on the Resonance Consultancy website.
The best cities with a tolerant attitude towards immigrants
Moving to the best cities to live in can be tricky due to countries’ migration policies. To obtain a residence permit, in most cases, you need to have a good reason: for example, to receive an invitation to work in the country or to marry a citizen.
Some countries offer visas, residence permits or citizenship to investors. To take part in the investment program, applicants invest a certain amount in the development of the economy of the selected state: they make a subsidy, open a business or buy real estate.
Investment programs operate in Portugal, Greece, Spain and Malta. In the United States, you can get a visa by investment. In Austria and Switzerland, cosmopolitans receive a residence permit for being financially independent: you can live with it in the country, but you cannot work and do business.
Of the top 10 cities for living, only four are available for relocation under the investment program: New York, Los Angeles, Madrid and Barcelona. We have selected a few more cities in countries where cosmopolitans can obtain a residence permit or a visa for investment. We will tell you where it is comfortable to live, relax, do business and where it is profitable to buy real estate.
The cleanest and most comfortable city
Vienna, the capital of Austria, was ranked 32nd in the ranking of the best cities. It has largely retained its historical appearance: the townspeople cherish the old buildings. Vienna is also famous for coffee shops, cultural events, museums and universities.
Vienna took first place in the ranking of cities with the best environment. There are many parks here and locals prefer public transport to private cars.
Vienna consistently ranks first in the chart of the best cities to live in. In 2018 and 2019, it was named the best by The Economist’s ‘The Global Liveability Index’ and from 2010 to 2019, Vienna ranked first place in the rating system regarding the best quality of life in cities, made by Mercer.
Austria allows wealthy people to obtain a residence permit for the financially independent. No investment is required, but it must be confirmed that the applicant and his family have enough money to live in the country. This program was created specifically for those who want to move: according to its terms, you need to spend at least 183 days a year in Austria.
The best city for quality of life
Zurich, the financial capital of Switzerland, was ranked 36th. The city is good for life, work and business.
Zurich is a well-kept and safe city. There is a high standard of living with an impressive employment rate. It also houses the offices of several companies from the Global Fortune 500, e.g. Migros, Credit Swiss, UBS Group AG.
Switzerland, like Austria, offers residence permits for financially independent individuals. To obtain and maintain status, you must pay a lump sum tax of ₣450,000 annually. Moreover, according to the rules, residents spend at least 183 days a year in Switzerland.
The best cities for business
In 2020, Startup Genome presented the Global Startup Ecosystem 2020 report, which ranks the best cities in the world for startups. The first three positions are occupied by San Francisco, New York and London.
San Francisco tops the rankings thanks to the famous Silicon Valley, an area home to many high-tech companies.
In the ranking of the best cities in the world, San Francisco is 14th. Experts praised the city’s economy and educational opportunities. Additionally, many migrants, creatives and intellectual people live here, so the city has a rather high cultural level making it easy for newcomers to integrate into society.
New York is ranked second in the ranking of the best cities to live in. It was recognized as the first in terms of cultural life and the second in terms of promotion and popularity among tourists. There are also many opportunities for work and business: the city was ranked fourth in terms of the number of offices in the Global Fortune 500.
The US offers investors two types of visas. EB-5 is a passive investor visa: you need to invest from $900,000 in an American company and it is not necessary to take part in its maintenance. The E-2 visa involves opening your own business in the country. The investment amount has not been determined, but usually, it ranges from $100,000.
Most investors can only get an EB-5 visa. This option is not suitable for everyone because of the high amount of investment and a long wait — it will only be possible to move in one and a half to two years.
To obtain an E-2 visa, one needs to be a citizen of a country that has signed an agreement to do so with the United States. For example, Grenada is a state in the Caribbean. There you can get a passport for investments in the economy from $150,000.
To obtain citizenship of Grenada and an E-2 visa in the United States, an investor needs to invest from $250,000. Applicants receive a second passport in four to six months. It takes two to five months to get a visa. It turns out faster and cheaper than the EB-5 visa.
London is ranked first in the ranking of the best cities to live in. It was ranked first in terms of popularity with tourists and second for cultural life.
London is renowned for its high standard of living and business opportunities. It is one of the business capitals of the world: the city ranks fifth in terms of the number of offices of companies from the Global Fortune 500.
Also, London became second in terms of infrastructure development: famous museums, parks and universities are located here. This makes it one of the most livable cities.
The UK issues a special Investor Visa to wealthy foreigners who invest from £2 million in the country’s business. The visa is issued for three years. It allows you to live, do business and study in the country.
In 2020, 216 investors and 375 members of their families received an investor visa. The result was 40% lower than in 2019. At the same time, the percentage of refusals according to the statements of investors has doubled.
The best city for leisure
Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, was ranked 53rd. It is a warm, safe and sunny resort town. Portugal has a low crime rate and the locals are tourist-friendly.
In 2020, Portugal was voted the best holiday destination in Europe collecting awards in the 26 World Travel Awards nominations. The experts noted not only Lisbon, but also other resorts such as Porto, the Algarve, Madeira and the Azores. Moving to Portugal is suitable for those who are laid back and prefer a life by the sea.
To settle in Portugal, cosmopolitans receive a residence permit by investment. The most popular option is the purchase of new real estate in the amount of €500,000 or more: you can immediately buy a house or an apartment for yourself and your family in order to move. But there are other options as well. The minimum investment for the program is €250,000.
The best city to buy real estate
Barcelona was ranked 8th in the top 100 cities in the world. It is popular with tourists as the sunny city has many beaches, parks and attractions. The sky is not overcast for about 260 days a year.
Barcelona regularly ranks among the top 10 most beautiful places to live. In 2019, the travel website Flight Network ranked the city 6th out of 50.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit the Spanish property market hard. Housing discounts scale up to 30% and copious ads with urgent sale stamps appear. At the end of 2020, the average cost per square meter in the country was €1,391. In the summer of the same year, prices were €1,730 per square meter.
Property prices will recover when borders open and tourist flows return. Investors will be able to make money on the rental and sale of objects or choose a profitable offer for themselves.
To move to Barcelona, you can take part in the Spanish residence by investment program. Cosmopolitans invest from €500,000. One of the options is buying real estate.
A city with high potential
Athens is ranked 29th in the ranking of the best cities for life and business. The rating compilers praised the city’s attractions, museums and nightlife.
Athens has a low cost of living compared to other European countries. According to the site Numbeo, daily expenses there are 46% lower than in Moscow. The similar figure for Barcelona is 60%, and for Vienna — 71%.
It is pleasant to live in Athens due to the warm climate and proximity to the Aegean Sea. The hottest month is July; the average daytime temperature is +32.5 ℃. In August, the sea water warms up to +26.7 ℃. It is also a very sunny city as there are around 250 clear days a year.
The Greek government is implementing economic reforms aimed at sustainable development and fighting corruption. The efforts were assessed by Moody’s: at the end of 2020, the country’s credit rating was raised to Ba3. And the European Commission predicts Greece’s GDP growth of 5% in 2021. The recovery of the country’s economy leads to an increase in the potential of the capital.
Greece issues a residence permit for investment. The minimum investment amount is €250,000. Applicants buy real estate, rent hotels or apartments in tourist complexes.
Best cities to live in Europe and the USA
A city may be suitable for a specific purpose e.g, to live in a warm place by the sea, to open a new branch of one’s company or to give children a quality education.
On the other hand, you may choose a city out of love. “We only went there once and wanted to walk along the embankment as often as possible, admire the architecture or drink coffee in that very cafe.” Both methods are justified in their own way.
When the most desired city is selected, deciding on how to move will need to be solved. In some countries, resident status can be obtained by investment. This method is good because you do not have to look for a weighty reason to move e.g, looking for a job or an invitation from an employer.
Cities for relocation under the investment program
|City, country||Advantages||How to obtain a status for relocation by investment|
|Athens, Greece||Warm climate, sea, relatively low cost of living, high potential of the city||
Residence permit in Greece:
investment from €250,000,
3 months to obtain the status
|Barcelona, Spain||Warm climate, beaches, attractions||
Residence permit in Spain:
investment from €500,000,,
2 to 3 months to obtain the status
|Lisbon, Portugal||Warm climate, beaches, low crime rate, close to the best resorts in Europe||
Residence permit in Portugal:
investment from €250,000,
6 months to obtain the status
|London, UK||Cultural life, business opportunities, quality education and medicine||
Residence permit in the UK:
investment from £2,000,000,
3 months to obtain the status
Visa-free travel for 6 months for citizens of Vanuatu, Caribbean countries and Malta
|New York, USA||Cultural life, business opportunities, quality education and medicine||
Grenadian citizenship and E-2 visa in the USA:
investments from $250,000,
6 to 11 months to obtain both statuses
|Zurich, Switzerland||Safety, high standard of living, business opportunities, quality education||
Residence permit in Switzerland:
annual tax from ₣450,000,
6 months to obtain the status
|San Francisco, USA||Opportunities for innovative startups, quality education, high living standards||
Grenadian citizenship and E-2 visa in the USA:
investments from $250,000,
6-11 months to obtain both statuses
Immigrant Invest lawyers help cosmopolitans obtain residence permits and citizenship by investment. Contact us to find the right software for your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
When choosing a city to move to, there are at least six factors to consider. For example:
- how the citizens treat immigrants;
- how much is housing, utilities and Internet;
- what the crime rate is in the city;
- are there international schools and universities in the city;
- is public transport developed in the city and is it convenient to use;
- what is the ecology and climate like in the city and if there are parks and recreational areas.
We talked about these and other criteria in the article "10 Best Places to Live: Most Comfortable Cities".
London, Vienna, Geneva, Lisbon and Athens are traditionally among the best cities to live in Europe.
Features of the best European cities:
- London attracts entrepreneurs from all over the world: the city rightfully bears the title of "business capital of Europe". At the same time, London is distinguished by good ecology — there are many parks and recreation areas in the city. Most of the parks are the legacy of the aristocratic residences located in the city.
- Vienna and Geneva are considered multicultural cities, whose residents are loyal to migrants.
- Lisbon is a large port city with a wonderful climate, where the sun shines for around 2,700 hours a year. The historical center of the city is rich in medieval sights.
- The Greek capital Athens attracts tourists with its architectural monuments and tax breaks for new residents.
Those wishing to move to any of the EU countries need to obtain a residence permit — temporary or permanent. As a confirmation of the status, the resident is issued a residence permit or permanent residence card.
A temporary residence permit has a limited duration, usually one or two years. Therefore, a resident needs to regularly confirm his status and re-issue a residence permit card.
A permanent residence permit can be issued only after a residence permit. To do this, you need to continuously live in the country for at least five years. The exception is Malta's permanent residence by investment program.
The countries of the European Union also issue a permanent residence card for a certain period. For example, a permanent residence card issued under the Malta investment program is renewed every five years.
You can read about the difference between these statuses in our article.
Several EU countries provide residence permits in exchange for investments. At the same time, each country decides what you would invest in and how much should be invested.
A residence permit in Portugal can be obtained by purchasing real estate, investing in a business, creating a deposit in a Portuguese bank, sponsoring research or cultural projects. The minimum investment for the program is €250,000.
A residence permit in Greece is issued to investors if they buy or rent property for a total amount of €250,000 or more. At the same time, the investor has a wide choice: you can buy one or several objects, rent apartments in a tourist complex, purchase a plot of land for construction and even rent a hotel.
A residence permit in Malta does not provide a choice of options. To obtain resident status, an investor must fulfill three conditions: buy or rent a house on the island, pay a fee and pay annual tax on global income. The amount of investments for all conditions will be from €220,000.
The Maltese permanent residency program also requires the fulfillment of several conditions. An investor needs to buy government bonds, purchase or rent a house, pay a fee and confirm an annual income of €100,000 or the presence of €500,000 in assets.
The practice of Immigrant Invest shows that it takes up to six months to obtain a residence permit or permanent residence for investment. 70% of this time, the program department carries out the Due Diligence check.
Immigrant Invest has its own compliance department, which conducts a preliminary Due Diligence check. This allows lawyers to prepare a comprehensive package of documents for participation in the program. As a result, the investor receives the status on time and without additional requests from the program department.
The program department may refuse an investor for several reasons:
- the applicant has a criminal record, for example in the area of financial crimes;
- there are illegal sources of income;
- the investor is mentioned in the sanctions lists, the activities of his companies are associated with prohibited organizations;
- the investor has been denied a visa, residence permit or citizenship in countries with which the state of application has a visa-free regime agreement.
Preliminary Due Diligence conducted by Immigrant Invest allows you to choose a suitable program and reduce the risk of rejection by up to 1%.