Paris is well known for being a great city but it has been knocked of its pedestal by London and Sydney in a biannual study that rates the best cities to live in the world.


London tops the Anholt-GfK City Brands Index, up from second place in 2011, followed by Sydney which was third last time with Paris now in third place in 2013.

Next comes New York, Rome, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Toronto, Vienna and Melbourne. Sydney was named the safest city with the friendliest people and London deemed the top place where people from diverse cultures could easily fit in.

The index measures the power and appeal of each city’s brand image and gives a holistic perspective of each city, looking at six key dimensions: Presence in terms of each city’s international status and standing; Place as in its physical aspect; Pre-requisites such as basic requirements including affordable accommodation and the standard of public amenities; People; Pulse, as in interesting things to do; and Potential in terms of economic and educational opportunities.

In addition to Paris dropping two positions, one other notable downward movement among top cities is Tokyo which has suffered a seven position drop from tenth place in 2011 to 17th in 2013. Amsterdam, on the other hand, has moved up from 17th in 2011 to 11th in 2013.

‘The index is not just about any single aspect of a city's image, it gives the full picture that includes the city’s social and cultural environment, its physical look and feel, its public services, educational and economic opportunities and the city’s contribution to the world,’ said Simon Anholt, independent policy advisor on national identity and reputation.

He explained that while Paris still takes top place for the individual Pulse measure, its overall index ranking has been dragged down by its 13th and 14th places for the People and Pre-requisites measures. ‘Even more worrying for Paris, its Potential Index score has experienced a large decline between 2011 and 2013, which should be a warning sign to all stakeholders of the city,’ he added.

Xiaoyan Zhao, senior vice president at GfK, pointed out that looking further into the momentum of the 50 cities, Paris has shown one of the three largest declines on the Potential Index, together with two other capital cities mired in economic hard times, Madrid and Tokyo.

In contrast, the three greatest gainers in this area are Bangkok, Johannesburg and Istanbul which are cities in emerging markets. ‘Emerging market cities generally rank in the second half of the overall Index, but recent significant gains on the Potential measure by some of these rising cities suggest that they may be steadily narrowing the gap with the established metropolitan centres of the West,’ he explained.

Looking at the People index within the overall study, Sydney comes top for warm and friendly people, ahead of Toronto. Sydney also wins first place for visitors feeling safe in the city, followed by Geneva and Vienna.

Rio de Janeiro, the next city to host the World Cup and the Summer Olympics, has achieved third place for warm and friendly people, but Anholt said it should be looking hard at other aspects critical for the success of these world events. ‘For example, it currently only ranks 47 out of 50 cities for people feeling safe within the city,’ he said.

Among emerging market cities, the highest ranked city for friendly people is Singapore at 20th, Prague is 23rd for feeling safe within the city and Rio de Janeiro and Prague tied for 29 th for cultural fit.

‘Our clients come from both developed and developing countries keen on increasing their visibility and improving their reputation, one market at a time. Our research helps them monitor where their actions are starting to be recognized and where gaps exist,’ said Anholt.