World's 'best' cities are often overrated -

World’s ‘best’ cities are often overrated


According to a new list of city rankings, I just visited two of the greatest cities in the world. Funny, considering how little I enjoyed myself.

By now we’re all familiar with these lists, which rate major international cities on everything from cleanliness to friendliness. The latest is the City Brands Index by data analysis firm Anholt-GfK, which measures the power and appeal of a city’s image.

Paris, formerly No. 1, has been dethroned by London and now sits in third place. Sydney came in second, Toronto eighth, and Melbourne rounds out the top 10.

I’ve long thought city-ranking lists were pointless, but having recently returned from an underwhelming Australian holiday, I’m even more indignant than usual.

Sydney and Melbourne (along with my hometown Vancouver) regularly top world’s best city lists because they’re beautiful, clean and safe. But they’re also ridiculously expensive. And dull. Prices in Sydney made me feel like I was shopping at an airport, all the time. A bottle of Coke Zero from a nondescript convenient store cost $5, and the bar tab for two cocktails was more than 10 times as much.

Since backpacking trips to Australia are a rite of passage for many North Americans, my cousin, with whom I was travelling, and I had heard of legendary parties from our friends. Imagine our surprise when we found out nearly every bar within a 10-kilometre radius of our downtown Sydney hotel on a Monday night closed at 10 or 11 p.m. Yes, it was a Monday, but in a city of 4.5 million I expected more.

It seemed, however, that beyond sightseeing and nature watching, we were destined for disappointment.

Rio de Janeiro, undoubtedly one of the most stunning and exhilarating cities on earth, scored high in friendliness on the Index but didn’t crack the top 10 because it ranked poorly on crime and “cultural fit,” defined as a place in which visitors could “easily fit in.” Oh no, it’s too exotic.

I think there’s a category missing from many of these lists: character. Some grit and quirkiness are to be expected in a big city, and actually make things a lot more interesting. Those who prefer a sterile, cookie-cutter environment are perhaps better off sticking to the suburbs.

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World’s ‘best’ cities are often overrated

  1. There’s no easy way to quantify “grit and quirkiness,” so these lists will continue to be a compilation of hard data such as crime, affordability, etc.

    Unless they started looking at stuff like closing times for bars… You might be onto something here. Compile a list of interesting stuff like that, and it might make things a bit more interesting.

  2. Rio has some terrible crime issues they need to handle before putting them on a top 10 list of best cities.. what a fluff article.

    You think Vancouver and Melbourne are boring and expensive? Maybe because Canada and Australia aren’t 3rd world countrie?.. if you’re not having fun in Vancouver and area then you’re probably the root cause of the boring factor.. And no I’m not from Vancouver.

    • Vancouver is boring. It’s beautiful. But compared to most cities, it really is dull.

  3. In my experience;

    London is the funnest (feels like the center of the world)

    Barcelona is the most beautiful/artistic/relaxing

    Rome is the most interesting

    Moscow is the Edmonton of Europe (industrial, bland and muddy)

    New York is the most overrated

    Rio was the greatest party spot

    Quito was the most naturally/organically beautiful

    All the North American cities I’ve been to, including Vancouver, Toronto, LA, Seattle, Chicago, Saint Louis, Calgary and Tampa Bay, are by and large variations on the same theme; and ultimately kinda boring.

    Their arts and culture scenes are generic and pretentious, the architecture primarily bland Internationalism, and the people nice but blasé.

    Of course the cities of the American South, Savannah, New Orleans, etcetera, being notable exceptions.

  4. You just jealous NYC didn’t make the top position?

  5. Most probably, these were the “best cities to live in.” I mean, sure, Rio is a wonderful and amazing place to be in for a vacation, but living there permanently is a totally different story.

    • Istanbul is a extremely exotic and discoverable city

  6. So this is where the Australian Tourism Commission is getting it wrong: they spend all that money advertising my country as a safe & pleasant sightseeing and nature-watching destination, when what they should be doing is highlighting the Australian locales where a visiting tourist can experience petty crime and mindless violence. (True, we don’t have the slums that are a feature of other, “grittier” rival destinations – but one can get beaten up and robbed in Australia if one really wants to.) So prepare yourselves, citizens of Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, etc – once the A.T.C. starts promoting our major cities as crime-ridden pestholes, the tourists will come flooding in like there’s no tomorrow!