I generally agree with this list; however, a fifth home of mine, San Francisco, is strangely absent. Though fans of Berlin define the root of the word, the city is rather innocuous on the world stage, and Istanbul is but a regional gem, despite being centre stage of EU debate currently. Certainly the City by the Bay must edge past them. I can see why Chicago's there in this Obamanic world, and that's good - it's been hidden in New York's shadow for too long.
Cheers from the penalpha,
Time Out's Top Ten cities in the world
A panel of judges selected their top 10 for Time Out: The World's Greatest Cities. Here the editor explains their choices
The book Time Out: The World's Greatest Cities is available now priced £25, and contains pages full of information on each of the top 75 world cities chosen by the panel
In arriving at Time Out's greatest cities, we were not looking for great holiday destinations but living, working cities.
This meant looking at all aspects of urban life, not just those one encounters on a weekend break, and what everyday life is like for people who actually live there.
Resident writers were asked to rate their cities in terms of key criteria that make up a successful city: architecture/cityscape; arts & culture; buzz; food & drink; quality of life; and world status.
Marks were then given to a panel of extraordinarily well-traveled experts, drawn form Time Out's Guides, International and Travel divisions who applied a global perspective, debating controversial areas and making comparisons between the cities. Scores were adjusted local cynicism or over-enthusiasm, and a hierarchy emerged, with the following ten scoring highest.
1 New York, USA
This was always the one to beat. New York regularly tops best-city polls and has come to symbolise the very essence of what a city should be, almost to the point of caricature. When we deliberated, in April 2009, the pillars of the old establishment tottering amid the financial crisis, there was a feeling that the Western old guard might cede its dominance to Asia and another city come up on the rails to steal New York's crown. However, when assessed in each of our headline categories – architecture, arts & culture, buzz, food & drink, quality of life, and world status – New York still proves hard to fault in any.
Its weakness is quality of life. Part of this is down to the poor public healthcare, but the rest simply the urban problems besetting any large city: high cost of living, crime (albeit falling), housing pressure, a struggling transport system. Quality of life and buzz, it seems, are to a degree naturally opposed.
2 London, England
Though its citizens may have lost some of their pre-recession swagger, culturally London is still holding the world's attention – its theatre, dance, art, heritage, literature, music, fashion and even what's left of the film industry command international respect and continue to delight audiences.
Its street styles and subcultures are still places where eccentricity and creativity thrive. Food and drink, which not so long ago would have received nul points, have surprised everyone; London now has some of the best chefs exploring new culinary avenues, and a richness of international cuisines that goes unrivalled.
Predictably London is brought down by its everyday stresses – in particular its frequently dysfunctional transport system, the bane of the Londoner's life, inadequate housing stock, and uneven educational opportunities. But the hardest-argued category was architecture, for which it was lucky to scrape a seven out of ten, compared to New York's nine. For every landmark building and elegant terrace, there's a piece of poor planning legislation or a lack of vision that has allowed mediocre architecture to flourish in and beyond the icon-studded centre.
3 Paris, France
Paris basks in the illusion of being the perfect city, but how much of this stands up to examination and how much is romantic fantasy?
Though once a city of global cultural importance – at various times leading the way in art, food, cinema, fashion, philosophy, and revolutionary tendency – contemporary Paris lacks the sense of urgency and vitality that previously meant you just had to be there. Its food and fashion are still international benchmarks of excellence, the black music scene has been vibrant, and Mitterrand's Grands Projets of the 80s and 90s did much to reestablish the city's reputation for architectural sophistication. However the racial tensions and social problems of the banlieues suggest that quality of life is not of the same high standard for all its citizens. Recent public projects such as the Vélib bike hire scheme, new arts centres and free summer activities on the Paris Plage are inspiring other cities. Paris is in the ascendant.
4 Berlin, Germany
Though it entered the millennium still reeling from a turbulent century, Berlin has rebuilt and rebranded itself as a confident new capital that is going places. The arts have been reestablished to the point where bold museums are opening alongside independent galleries with international art critics a twitter. The city hosts a prestigious annual film festival, and it is home to one of the world's best symphony orchestras.
Superficially, Berlin's flat sprawl does not have the beauty of a Paris or a Rome, but the rebuilding programme has included many new architectural landmarks. As for the imposing concrete throwbacks of East Berlin – you either love them or you hate them.
Despite Berlin's rising importance in the global political and economic arenas, it is still a relatively relaxed place to live, negotiable by bicycle, fastidious about recycling, efficient with its public services, offering a good supply of spacious apartments, creative with its public spaces, and enlivened by an eclectic streetlife.
Where it fell down? The cuisine, the local delicacy being sausage seasoned with warm ketchup and curry powder.
Architecturally it is both stunning and sophisticated, complementing the ornate Catalan modernista buildings and Antoni Gaudi's outrageous confections with some classy additions that came with its Olympics-inspired, post-Franco reinvention.
There is a work-hard, play hard attitude to Barcelona, remarkably marrying good living under the Mediterranean sun, urban beaches, vibrant street life and plentiful supplies of good food and cava with impressive modern art museums, cool bars, engaging public spaces and one of the world's most influential chefs in Ferran Adriá. Design is taken very seriously indeed, with furniture and graphic designers leading a world-class industry and helping create a distinctive 'look'. The football team dominates Europe and the atmosphere after a home win is electric.
Though it is much loved by the many who visit, and is at the heart of a fierce Catalan identity, it is hard to argue that Barcelona's global influence extends much beyond design, football and experimental cooking.
(Timesonline Travel note: but what about the state of La Rambla?! It's causing huge debate on our site)
5= Chicago, USA
Perhaps one of the more surprising entries in the Top Ten, and not always an easy city to live in. Winters are bitter, some communities still quite segregated and some areas fairly rough. In spite of the city's reputation as populated by uncultured sports nuts, Time Out editors who live in or regularly visit the city rave about its distinctive neighbourhoods and charismatic cultural scene. Where it really makes up ground on other cities is in its architecture – inventing the skyscraper and precipitating the modernist tendencies that would define 20th century urban architecture. It also gave America its first black president, may well be the next Olympic city and is generally feeling pretty pleased with itself.
5= Tokyo, Japan
The ultimate urban experience of bright lights, frenetic pace, conspicuous consumption, futuristic technology, a powerful stock exchange, street style and subcultures, tall buildings, millions of people and a relentless mass that stretches on for miles and miles. This place certainly has buzz.
But it also, when examined at a slower pace, has a respected music industry, top fashion designers, revered manga artists, innovative modern architects, and Oscar-winning film animators. It respects ancient traditions but is often first with new fads and youth obsessions.
If it is let down by a quality of life that involves high stress, impossible commutes and hardly any space, it takes pride in the fact that it has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world (more than Paris and London combined) and as such is the only city we awarded a gastronomic 10 out of 10.
8 Istanbul, Turkey
A big, business-like city, with a palpable energy found in the bazaars and coffee houses, rooftop bars and commuter ferries, Istanbul's celebrated beauty comes from a combination of geography (built on hills straddling the Bosphorus) and ancient heritage – a sea of domes and minarets, as well as the worlds most famous mosque and the greatest collection of Byzantine frescoes. Sunset, our resident experts tell us, is sublime.
Although points were lost on quality of life partly due to Turkey's questionable human rights record, a long and influential history and position on a key trade route at the juncture of Europe and Asia ensures Istanbul will always be a global player; consequently it presents an international confidence without actually being a capital.
9= Rome, Italy
From the Colosseum to Zaha Hadid's MAXXI museum, Rome has never been afraid of making a statement. Though much of the city's power and appeal comes from activities two thousand years ago, the juxtaposition of ancient and modern has its own frisson. A daily theatre of chic showmanship and pride in the pizza, is rehearsed against a backdrop of crumbling Corinthian columns, formal gardens, seminal paintings and Renaissance palazzi, set out over the undulating landscape of Rome's famous seven hills. Though pushy modern Romans thrive on the buzz, the everyday inefficiencies of an ancient city and its crazy traffic give cause for much grumbling.
For the purposed of our cities poll, Time Out included Vatican City as part of Rome – although a separate city state, its presence is inescapable for the city that surrounds it. This brings into play St Peter's Cathedral and the Sistine Chapel, its arts and culture trump cards.
Sydney wins points for being a good-time multi-cultural city with a healthy outdoors lifestyle, whose citizens enjoy early morning surfing, world-renowned beaches, good housing, excellent food and a café society. Its nightlife is colourful, if verging on the tacky, but a well-established gay community, exuberant Mardi Gras procession, and spectacular New Year fireworks displays are to be envied. For quality of life it had to be a ten out of ten.
Though it has the requisite big cultural institutions, and has exported many successful curators, actors and media moguls, Sydney's inevitably isolated arts scene, when compared with those of New York, London, Paris, or Berlin, cannot compete.
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
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