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Liveable cities are more desirable destinations

by Skye Grove on 18.09.2013

The survey and others seem to link the liveability of a city to a number of quality tangibles: Great parks, accessible transportation routes, safe neighbourhoods, historic conservation, considerate economic development, high-quality schools and medical systems, pioneering businesses, thriving creative community, sufficient art and culture and lots of good food – especially street food.

Paris Street Food - by Mariette du Toit-Helmbold

These features don’t simply drop from the sky. For a city to have these things, it must have residents with drive and pride in their surroundings to make them happen. Active citizenry, as well as a local government with the political appetite to make a city more liveable and a private sector willing to be involved in developing the city, is ultimately what distinguish cities from each other.

Two of my favourite cities, Berlin and Copenhagen, are consistently ranked high on the liveability score.

Berlin is arguably the sexiest city of Europe! Berlin’s citizens contribute to its vibrancy and eclectic culture. The city and her people continually re-invent itself as the art, and off-art, centre of Europe. Berlin has three big opera houses, hundreds of theatres and museums, thousands of galleries – both mainstream and underground.

Berlin public art - by Skye Grove

Berlin’s citizens have made sure that the city caters for everyone:  you can party 24 hours a day at all price ranges - in the latest hot spots or at the corner bar which exists in every neighbourhood. It is a family-orientated city with an abundance of lakes, forests and parks. Cycling is a foremost means of transportation - regardless of the weather. The public transport system is one of the best in the world - and yet walking is what many people prefer in this pedestrian friendly city. There is history on every corner - celebrated and not so celebrated. Citizens and visitors interact intimately with Berlin.

Public squares and spaces are always awash with people – from Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburger Gate, Alexanderplatz, Tiergarten and Museum Island - each more striking than the other.

Berlin's streets tell a story - by Mariette du Toit-Helmbold

Copenhagen frequently tops rankings of the world’s happiest, most liveable and best-designed cities.

This is likely because the city strives for sustainability in nearly all aspects of policy and ethos. The importance of liveability in Danish culture is demonstrated in the sustainable mindset of Copenhagen.

It is a pedestrian-friendly city, but maybe even more so a cycling-friendly city. Nearly 480,000 people (40% of residents) cycle in the city each day, causing many to refer to Copenhagen as the number one cycling city in the world.

Cycling Copenhagen - by Skye Grove

The city’s bike-sharing program, Bycyklen København provides bikes to locals and visitors at no charge, and Copenhagen has a network of about 350km of bicycle paths, complete with traffic lights.

One of the biggest major reasons why the city is so livable and the citizens are so happy is purely cultural. Copenhageners know how to have a good time whilst taking care of the world around them.

Copenhagen consumes more organic food than any other place in Europe and is home to more breweries per capita than anywhere in Europe. The city also has more Michelin stars than any other Scandinavian city – 14 to be precise. The benchmark for international restaurants is Noma – a local food-obsessed establishment and three-time number one restaurant in the world. 

Happy Copenhagen locals - by Skye Grove

Both Berlin and Copenhagen have active campaigns that encourage citizens to be “tourists in their own towns’. They have managed to build a widespread sense of community pride with residents understanding and engaging with the assets and attractions they already have. This makes for authentic integrated visitor experiences.

Citizen tourism programmes educate residents about a city’s history, culture and place makers. This knowledge and familiarity instill a sense of civic pride that is core to sustaining a place’s positive qualities and encouraging citizens to get involved in advocating for more.

Creating local ambassadors helps lure new residents and businesses to a city. For almost anyone assessing a place’s liveability, a place filled with people who are friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable gains an instant edge.
Marketing a city in such a way that it stands out in the crowded market place always comes down to people – it is people that makes a city more liveable and ultimately more desirable to visit.


Skye Grove is the Communications Manager of the Cape Town Partnership. She is a curious storyteller caring to make a difference in the world. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Over the next few weeks we are exploring urban tourism through a series of blog posts and thought leadership pieces by Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, Chief Destineer of Destinate, and invited guest bloggers. Read Mariette's thought leadership piece on Cities as the new Super Brands of Destination Marketing. She will be a guest speaker at the UNWTO Global Summit on City Tourism in Moscow on the 19th and 20th of September. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook as we share insights and observations on innovation in destination marketing.