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Time Out Index Reveals San Francisco as the World’s Best City

Amsterdam, Manchester, Copenhagen and New York complete the top five of the annual Time Out Index

Written by Time Out PR
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San Francisco is the world’s number one city right now according to the fourth annual Time Out Index released today. The city’s unbeatable combination of progressiveness, acceptance and sustainability earned it the coveted top spot as the best city in the world for living and social life, followed by Amsterdam, Manchester, Copenhagen and New York.

The hotly anticipated, annual Time Out Index combines the experiences and opinions of thousands of people in hundreds of cities around the world with the expertise of Time Out’s global network of local editors and city experts to capture and celebrate what makes a city great right now.

The Time Out Index 2021 had more than 27,000 global participants and worked through the challenges of Covid-19 and lockdown restrictions to represent the soul of their cities. The cities were rated for eating and drinking, culture and nightlife, with more emphasis than ever on community spirit and environmental initiatives. Respondents shared how easy it is to do things like express themselves, make new friends and even hook up with people, in addition to relaxing and discovering new things. This year, editors posed questions around activism and community projects, sustainability and the importance of green spaces to gain insight into the cities thinking about the future as well as the now. Time Out crunched the numbers along with local expert knowledge to compile this year’s definitive ranking of the world’s best cities right now for living and social life: timeout.com/bestcities.

Caroline McGinn, Global Editor-in-Chief at Time Out, said: “Time Out champions cities and culture and the projects and initiatives shaping the world we all want to see. Our annual Time Out Index lets us keep our finger on the pulse of city-dwellers around the world and find out what they really think about living and socialising in their city right now.

“This year’s list of the best cities in the world shines a spotlight on cities that adapted during a time where the key factors that make these metropolises the place to be – fun, culture and socialising – were largely off the table. You’d think a pandemic might defeat the point of living in a city, but the results show that community spirit is higher than ever, people are supporting each other as well as local business and initiatives, and many of us are even having some fun.”

Here is the full ranked list of 37 of the World’s Best Cities.

1. San Francisco 

During the pandemic, San Franciscans showed their unique and creative community spirit, from hanging sourdough starters from telephone poles to distributing $1m to small businesses via the SF New Deal so they could keep running. No wonder they were voted the most progressive city in the world, with the recent movement to ‘redistrict’ giving LGBTQ+ residents more political power.

2. Amsterdam 

It isn’t surprising that the cycling capital of the world ranks highly for its green and sustainable credentials, and 89% of Amsterdammers say it’s easy to take a walk in nature or green space. The city used last year’s lockdowns wisely, focusing on its famous beauty, history and community spirit to cement its status as a modern, environmentally-aware metropolis.

3. Manchester

According to the Index, Manchester is the easiest place to express who you are, make new friends, get to know your neighbours and meet people who are different from you – so it’s only right the city also came out as the friendliest and best for community spirit. The city’s nightlife was voted top too.

4. Copenhagen

Looking for a break? Copenhagen is officially the easiest city to relax in according to locals, who say it’s the least stressful city too. The Danish capital also came top in the sustainability category and second in the world for being green.

5. New York

According to the survey, this is the most exciting city in the world, with 85% of New Yorkers saying it’s easy to discover new and surprising things. It’s diverse, resilient and progressive – all qualities that have served the city well in the past 18 months and led to the success of its Open Restaurants initiative, transforming pavements into vibrant community hubs, and its new Key to NYC programme which promotes vaccine uptake.

6. Montreal

Montreal is famous for its non-conformist music and politics, and those differences have brought the city together more than ever recently. 73% of locals would describe Montreal as diverse, and even more say it’s easy to express who you are. 

7. Prague

Prague topped the table as the most beautiful city in the world,  82% of residents describing it as such. With 89% saying it’s easy to get around without a car, enjoying the Czech capital on foot must be why it also came out as the world’s second-most relaxing city.

8. Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv has held on to its crown as the most fun city in the world for the second year in a row, with spaces like Dizengoff Square and Park HaMesila playing host to picnics, gigs, screenings and talks after the pandemic caused the ‘city that never stops’ to take a well-needed pause. Tel Aviv also ranked as the second best place in the world for eating and drinking, behind only Shanghai.

9. Porto

Coming in second behind Manchester for friendliness and making new friends, Porto was also voted  a great place to get to know your neighbours. 73% of residents said their city was great for culture – inclusive arts space Maus Hábitos was an oasis of gigs, drag shows, poetry nights, comedy and more while most bars were closed.

10. Tokyo

An overwhelming 82% of Tokyoites said the city was great for discovering new things, even during the pandemic, with many new venues and attractions cropping up across the city over the past 18 months. Three-quarters of those polled also said the city is great for getting around without a car, with the city’s super-efficient public transport system ensuring everyone can easily enjoy all it has to offer.

11. Los Angeles

Angelenos survived the past 18 months by finding a new appreciation for the city’s best outdoor assets, with all-season farmers’ markets, beach weather in winter and exhilarating canyon trail hikes. The city came second for creativity, as entire city blocks turned into art installations, mutual aid networks sprouted on sidewalks and seemingly every parking lot became a drive-in.

12. Chicago

Chicago came second in the ‘community spirit’, ‘fun’ and ‘beautiful’ categories,  with locals coming together for weekly street parties and the return of summer festivals after a difficult few months. Community spirit went into overdrive as Chicagoans shared supplies with those in need, protested injustice and supported out-of-work musicians.

13. London

The most diverse city in the world (according to a whopping 88% of residents) and also the best place to discover new and surprising things: no wonder 63% of residents say London is an exciting city to call home as well. Yoyo-ing in and out of lockdowns, Londoners still made the most of the food and drink scene when they could with takeaways and DIY meal kits galore, with 86% rating it highly for dining out.

14. Barcelona

During the pandemic, Barcelona rallied behind the motto ‘La Cultura es Segura’ (‘Culture is Safe’), with cultural organisers finding savvy ways to put on live music, exhibitions, theatre and film screenings. Little surprise, then, that 83% of locals rated the city highly for culture – with some 85% giving it top marks for food and drink too.

15. Melbourne

As the city struggles through its sixth hard lockdown in 18 months, there is still a lot of love to be found in this fine Australian city. It’s clear Melbourne’s food and drink culture is the best in the country, with more than 94% of locals ranking the city highly for its bars and restaurants.

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