Zurich the 4th best city in the world for quality of life, new study reveals

Zurich the 4th best city in the world for quality of life, new study reveals

A new study by the magazine and lifestyle brand Monocle has ranked Zurich as the fourth-best city in the world for quality of life in 2023. Sadly, the latest Quality of Life Survey has seen the largest city in Switzerland’s score falter slightly, with the study’s authors blaming high costs and the slow pace of reform.

Quality of Life Survey by Monocle

Regarded as one of the most comprehensive surveys of its kind in the world, the Quality of Life Survey by Monocle analyses which of the world’s cities offer the most to residents. To calculate the ranking, the following categories are used:

  • Safety and crime
  • International connectivity
  • Climate / sunshine
  • Quality of architecture
  • Public transport
  • Tolerance
  • Environmental issues
  • Access to nature
  • Urban design
  • Business conditions
  • Healthcare
  • “Proactive policy developments”

Monocle rated the world's cities through these categories, using metrics from a number of surveys and studies, and collated the best results to create the top 20 city locations for quality of life.

Traditional heavyweights no longer feature in Monocle ranking

This year, the study noted that many of the cities that used to be known for having a high quality of life are suffering from “social, economic and political turmoil”, especially those in North America - which is why not a single city from the continent featured in the list. Alexis Self, the editor of Monocle, noted that “in the case of New York, its problems - wealth inequality, violent crime and poor mental health provision - are emblematic of a wide urban malaise in North America.”

The editor added that the ranking for 2023 has had to change in order to accommodate citizens’ current concerns regarding quality of life. New metrics like violent crime per capita, trust in the police, the cost of rent and child poverty rates have all been incorporated so that current concerns like the cost of living have more of a bearing on each city’s score.

Vienna the city with the highest quality of life for 2023

For 2023, much like the latest ranking from the EIU, Vienna was ranked as the city with the highest quality of life. Specifically, the city was praised for its architecture, natural beauty, museums, social housing and public transport, with Monocle adding that the Austrian capital “has an embarrassment of transport riches”.

Copenhagen in Denmark placed second in the ranking, with experts citing its low crime rates, world-beating healthcare and public transport network for its high score. After coming 11th last year, Munich, the capital of Bavaria, placed third.

Zurich rated fourth-best in world, drops out of podium places

This year, Zurich was ranked as having the fourth-best quality of life out of any city in the world. “The flourishing city on the lake” was given high praise for the availability of jobs - especially in the creative sector - the quality of the public transport network and the city’s ability to host large events like Zurich Pride, Street Parade and the long-anticipated Züri Fäscht.

However, Zurich’s position in fourth represents a decline when compared to previous years - the city placed first in the survey for 2019 and second in 2021 and 2022. In a year that saw cities like Amsterdam improve their score, why did Zurich fall off the podium?

Why is Zurich in fourth and what does it need to improve?

According to Monocle, Zurich has had a tough few months when it comes to price rises, citing the high cost of living and the housing crisis. In addition, the recent scandal and merger of Credit Suisse with UBS were seen by the magazine as the city losing “a huge part of local life” and a significant employer.

The study also took aim at the slow pace of reform in the city, noting that Zurich’s pledge to offer all children school lunches is yet to be implemented fully. What’s more, the cities’ plan to build 100 kilometres of cycle routes “sounds good on paper but has so far seen little tangible success.”

As part of the study, Monocle made some interesting and quite controversial suggestions regarding how Zurich can improve. Along with encouraging the city to adopt “a more concerted plan to clean up graffiti”, the magazine argued that working hours should be expanded by dropping “restrictive Sunday trading hours”.

10 best cities in the world for quality of life 

In all, here are the 10 best cities in the world when it comes to quality of life:

  1. Vienna, Austria
  2. Copenhagen, Denmark
  3. Munich, Germany
  4. Zurich, Switzerland
  5. Stockholm, Sweden
  6. Tokyo, Japan
  7. Helsinki, Finland
  8. Madrid, Spain
  9. Lisbon, Portugal
  10. Melbourne, Australia

To see which other cities made it into the top 20, and to see what the magazine had to say about them, pick up a copy of Monocle's July / August 2023 magazine.

Thumb image credit: WATCHARIT_KONG /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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