Copenhagen ranked ‘best city for quality of life’ for first time in seven years

Copenhagen has won back its place at the top of Monocle magazine's Quality of Life index, on the back of its impressive handling of Covid-19, the new Metro ring, and fewer tourists.

Copenhagen ranked 'best city for quality of life' for first time in seven years
People hanging out outside the La Banchina restaurant on Refshaleøn. Photo: Kim Wyon/Visit Denmark

Copenhagen has won the title no fewer than four times since Monocle launched the ranking back in 2007, but since 2014 it has been lagging in fourth or even 10th place, with Zurich coming tops in 2019 (the last year the ranking was produced) and Munich the year before. 

In an article explaining the decision, the magazine said that the pandemic had showcased Copenhageners’ “society-mindedness”, that “sense of pride in social cohesion”, which made the city a place where children can roam free, which is accessible to those on low incomes, and where the harbour is so clean that you can swim in it. 

“Copenhagen is one of those cities where there is a real ambition to deliver a better quality of life for everyone,” says Monocle’s editor in chief, Andrew Tuck, in a press release. 

“The ambitions around creating a cleaner environment are best in class and the city is reaping the rewards of years of urban investment.”

In the  article also praised the testing system and coronapas, which had allowed restaurant and cultural life to bounce back,  and gave special praise to the hip Refsahaleøn area, with its new Copenhagen Contemporary Art Museum, and wealth of interesting places to eat. 

Copenhageners, it added, were falling back in love with the beautiful cobbled squares in the city centre, not that they are no longer crawling with tourists. 

You can see the full list here: 

  1. Copenhagen, Denmark)
  2. Zurich (Switzerland)
  3. Helsinki (Finland)
  4. Stockholm (Sweden)
  5. Tokyo (Japan)
  6. Vienna (Austria)
  7. Lisbon (Portugal)
  8. Auckland (New Zealand)
  9. Taipei, Taiwan
  10. Sydney (Australia)
  11. Seoul (South Korea)
  12. Vancouver (Canada)
  13. Munich (Germany)
  14. Berlin (Germany)
  15. Amsterdam (Holland)
  16. Madrid (Spain)
  17. Melbourne (Australia)
  18. Kyoto (Japan)
  19. Brisbane (Australia)
  20. Los Angeles (USA)

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Copenhagen to miss 2025 zero emissions target

Copenhagen will not reach its longstanding target of becoming CO2 emissions neutral by 2025.

Cyclists on Copenhagen's
Cyclists on Copenhagen's "Lille Langebro" bridge. The Danish capital has admitted to errors in emissions calculations and says it won't be climate neutral in 2025, a long-standing target. Photo by Febiyan on Unsplash

A city councillor told newspaper Jyllands-Posten that the city, which has long stated its aim of becoming the world’s first CO2-neutral capital, would not meet that target as scheduled.

“I won’t need to stand there in 2025 and say ‘hurrah, we’re CO2 neutral’, because I know that CO2 will still be emitted (then),” elected representative Ninna Hedeager Olsen of the Copenhagen Municipality environment section told Jyllands-Posten.

Tourist board Visit Denmark has previously used the emissions goal to market the city, while Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen named the target during the C40 climate summit when it was hosted by Copenhagen in 2019.

But the municipality has included wind energy produced in other municipalities in its calculations on energy sustainability, according to the newspaper report.

This means it effectively still emits CO2 overall.

The company which supplies energy to the city, Hofor, has erected windmills in a number of municipalities outside of Copenhagen. But the electricity produced by these windmills has been used in calculations of CO2 emissions in both Copenhagen and in the municipalities in which the windmills are actually located.

The replication of the energy production in data for different locations can “rightly” be said to be “cheating the scales”, according to Hedeager Olsen.

But that is not the only problem in calculations of the city’s emissions, she also admitted.

“There are loads of things that haven’t been counted,” she said.

The goal to become climate neutral by 2025 was first set by the city in 2012 in a climate plan adopted by the city government.

Copenhagen was the following year awarded the Cities Climate Leadership award for the plan.