Forget New York City and Paris: These are the 11 best small cities to move to in 2020

Monocle magazine named Bergen, Norway, one of the world's best small cities.

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Monocle magazine named Bergen, Norway, one of the world’s best small cities.
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Marius Dobilas / Shutterstock

Global affairs and lifestyle magazine Monocle predicts that 2020 will be the “decade of the small city.”

The magazine assembled a list of the 20 best small cities around the world to live in based on quality of life – places where finances go further, professional opportunities abound, commutes aren’t a nightmare, and the social life is vibrant and diverse yet community-focused.

To compile its shortlist, Monocle enlisted a team of global correspondents who reviewed each city based on a combination of statistics and intangible qualities. Those included life expectancy, crime rates, coffee shop hours, and natural beauty. As a last step, they visited top cities to ask locals what they enjoy – and don’t enjoy – about their hometowns, as well as what type of interests each city most suits.

From a vineyard-encircled city in Italy to a surfing spot in Japan, keep reading for a countdown of the 11 best small cities to move to in 2020.


11. Reykjavik, Iceland

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BBandSIRI / Shutterstock

Biggest perks: Clean air; rare traffic jams; a burgeoning start-up scene; direct flights from the US and Europe; the world’s northernmost music festival; and nature galore (read: hot springs and waterfalls).

Biggest drawbacks: Overtourism and rising living costs.

Who it’s best for: Architects. “The city requires new buildings – and fast,” says Monocle. Source: Monocle


10. Aachen, Germany

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yotily / Shutterstock

Biggest perks: Many spas and pubs; proximity to the Netherlands and Belgium; well-connected on all transportation fronts; a newly renovated airport; historic landmarks and museums; youthful vibe with four colleges and universities; start-up scene; nature galore (read: forests, fields and hot springs).

Biggest drawbacks: Housing prices on the rise.

Who it’s best for: Start-ups. “Well connected and loaded with talented students, it’s a fine launching point for business,” says Monocle.

Source: Monocle


9. Porto, Portugal

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Shutterstock

Biggest perks: Historic center in the process of being restored; hub for fashion designers; creative melting pot; buzzy food scene; sunshine; growing expat community.

Biggest drawbacks: Slow pace of restoration.

Who it’s best for: Beach lovers.

Source: Monocle


8. Innsbruck, Austria

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Shutterstock/Madrugada Verde

Biggest perks: Picturesque old town and historic destinations; Alpine scenery for days; vibrant restaurant and going-out scene; Munich and Bolzano are a two-hour drive away; university town; world-class hiking and skiing.

Biggest drawbacks: Not many expats yet.

Who it’s best for: Skiers and snowboarders.

Source: Monocle


7. Bordeaux, France

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Shutterstock

Biggest perks: World-renowned wine region; neoclassical architecture; more affordable and relaxed than Paris; tech scene; new cultural hub featuring contemporary art; bike-friendly city.

Biggest drawbacks: History of traffic jams and abandoned warehouses; an outgoing mayor.

Who it’s best for: Cyclists. “Besides the city, they can enjoy the vineyard-laden routes,” says Monocle.

Source: Monocle


6. Bolzano, Italy

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pixelshop / Shutterstock

Biggest perks: Top-tier wine region; wealthy autonomous region; tech start-ups supported by healthy grant system; reliable transport; network of bike paths; surrounded by scenic resorts and ski slopes.

Biggest drawbacks: No passenger flights to nearby airport.

Who it’s best for: Wine-lovers. “Alto Adige white wine is among the best in Italy – and that’s saying something,” says Monocle.

Source: Monocle


5. Chigasaki, Japan

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Sakarin Sawasdinaka / Shutterstock

Biggest perks: Quieter than Tokyo and just an hour away by train; proximity to the mountains and ocean; easy to bike on streets and to the beach; famous for its surfing; restaurants throughout the whole city; wide range of international cuisine; mild temperatures; safe.

Biggest drawbacks: Reasonably priced coworking spaces and offices.

Who it’s best for: Young families. “The council has introduced initiatives for working mothers and it’s a very safe city,” says Monocle.

Source: Monocle


4. Hobart, Australia

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Janelle Lugge / Shutterstock

Biggest perks: Views of Mount Wellington; dramatically lit port city; mild temperatures; affordable; relaxed suburban atmosphere. Tasmania’s economy is the second-best in Australia, and Australians are moving to work here.

Biggest drawbacks: Transportation has a ways to go, especially when it comes to biking; lack of medium-density housing.

Who it’s best for: Students and researchers. “The University of Tasmania is a leader in marine and Antarctic science,” says Monocle.

Source: Monocle


3. Bergen, Norway

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Marius Dobilas / Shutterstock

Biggest perks: Gateway to western Norway’s fjords; an abundance of outdoor activities (swimming in seawater pools, hiking, winter train journeys, nearby ski resorts); new hotels and restaurants to escape to when the rain comes; biker-friendly; a blossoming creative and cultural scene; studio spaces in converted warehouses.

Biggest drawbacks: Not many shopping options or coffee shops that open early. Rain is common.

Who it’s best for: Culture lovers. “Bergenfest is a world-leading summer music festival, while Kode and the recently renovated Natural History Museum don’t disappoint on the cultural venue front,” says Monocle.

Source: Monocle


2. Boulder, USA

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Boulder, Colorado
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Jeff Zehnder/Shutterstock

Biggest perks: Early-opening coffee shops; rugged Rocky Mountains scenery; 300-plus days of sunshine; Beat generation history; work-to-live mindset; strong sense of community; university town with 17 federally funded labs; over 44,400 acres of parkland; home to well-known advertising and design firms.

Biggest drawbacks: Road congestion during commuting hours.

Who it’s best for: Media. “Boulder is served by Denver television and radio stations, newspapers and other media,” says Monocle.

Source: Monocle


1. Lausanne, Switzerland

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Mihai-Bogdan Lazar / Shutterstock

Biggest perks: Esteemed universities in science and engineering as well as hotel management; relaxed atmosphere; elegant city design; close to Lake Geneva and the mountains; home to the International Olympic Committee; abundant professional opportunities; new subway line opening in 2026; train connections to Milan and Paris.

Biggest drawbacks: Lack of affordable housing.

Who it’s best for: Those looking for a diverse city. “Lausanne is an international city, despite its size, and you’ll hear French, German and Italian spoken, plus English in accents from Australian to Canadian,” says Monocle.

Source: Monocle