Let’s be real, some cities are just better-looking than others. But where are the cleanest cities in the world? Based on statistics gathered by the World Health Organization and other health experts, combining air quality with overall cleanliness, we have our answer — and it rather defies expectations. Join us as we closely follow the cleanliness ratings established by Best Life Online magazine, and see where and why cities are taking initiative to clean up their act.
25. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Cleanliness Score: 47.7
One of the most touted destinations for travelers of South America, Rio de Janeiro offers more than just iconic natural landscapes and lavish hotels. Despite being one of the largest cities in the Americas, Rio itself is actually surprisingly clean, with an air pollution rating of 49, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
After combining that with an Environmental Performance Score of 60 (according to the World Economic Forum), Best Life Online gave them an overall cleanliness Score of 47.7. Sure, it’s not the highest on this list, but making the top 25 is still a fair accomplishment. It’s good to know that while lounging on those legendary beaches, the air will be fresher than average.
24. Seoul, South Korea – Cleanliness Score: 48.2
As busy of a metropolis as Seoul is, it’s impressive it managed to snag a spot on this list. South Korea is implementing many of the most cutting-edge methods to keep things clean, bizarre yet useful inventions that have yet to reach American shores.
Universities such as Yale and Columbia, who helped the World Economic Forum to assess Seoul’s Environmental Performance Score, concluded it should get a score of 62. Ultimately, Best Life Online landed on Seoul’s modest but impressive cleanliness Score of 48.2. This just goes to show that with the right policies in place, even a massive city can still give its residents a clean way to live.
23. Caracas, Venezuela – Cleanliness Score: 49.4
The capital of Venezuela has the wonderful quality of being warm and sunny year-round, with little changes between the seasons. Its population level isn’t even close to as high as some of the other cities on this list. This may or may not have heavily contrived to the Quality of Living ranking that was given to them by global consultancy company Mercer.
It’s important to note that this tropical city was taken down a few notches due to its air pollution and Environmental Performance Score being lower than the others. That being said, not many of the cities on this list can boast such lovely natural surroundings as Caracas can, nestled in a mountain valley not far from the balmy waters of the Caribbean Sea.
22. São Paulo, Brazil – Cleanliness Score: 49.9
Yet another hotspot destination in South America, São Paulo’s air has always been relatively clean despite its massive population. Naturally, like all massive cities, it’s bound to have some less tidy parts. But when you add proportion into the mix, and consider how staggeringly populated it is, it’s astounding it managed to pull off the score that it did.
According to Best Life Online, São Paulo deserves a score of 49.9, placing it neatly in the 22 slot. This score was based on the air pollution rating of 35 given to them by the World Health Organization, mixed in with a few other factors. Ultimately it still remains to be one of the more beautiful cities out there.
21. Buenos Aires, Argentina – Cleanliness Score: 51.2
Buenos Aires, the cultured and esteemed capital of Argentina, has a magical quality to it that only those who have been there can really understand. Although its cleanliness isn’t its main appeal, it’s still an underrated current of positivity that allows tourists and locals alike to revel in its perks.
With an air pollution rating as low as 26 (according to the WHO), it certainly got the attention of Best Life Online, who ultimately gave them a cleanliness score of 51.2. It’s safe to say that Buenos Aires is also one of the more fun (not to mention romantic) travel destinations out there, and its placement here can’t hurt that.
20. Budapest, Hungary – Cleanliness Score: 54.2
Budapest is a beautiful destination for travelers of Europe, a great place for aesthetically pleasing views and plenty of landmarks and rich culture to appreciate. But all of the polish and shine of this Central European gem wouldn’t stand out if it wasn’t for how clean everything was kept.
It was given a 54.2 cleanliness score by Best Life Online, landing it in the highly coveted top 20 on this list. However, it should be noted that while Budapest is kept in tip-top shape, it’s not much cleaner than the cities underneath it on this list. As you’ll soon see, the cleanliness scores are about to spike into some eye-popping territory.
19. Chicago, United States – Cleanliness Score: 64.3
You may be surprised to find that the Windy City has found a spot for itself on this list. Even more shocking is the considerable jump in cleanliness score, with Chicago surpassing the last city (Budapest) by a whopping 10 points. So what is it about one of the largest cities in North America that keeps it so clean?
Well, it turns out that they’ve created strong initiatives to improve the city’s air quality, including over 2 million square feet of rooftop gardens. Perhaps this is why the WHO gave them an air pollution rating of 22, which contributed to their ultimate cleanliness score of 64.3.
18. Los Angeles, United States – Cleanliness Score: 64.9
Los Angeles goes by many names, from The City of Angels to Tinsel Town, and we’re not surprised it made the list. While some will harp on about dirtier neighborhoods that exist in the Southern California city, it doesn’t negate how clean the rest of the city is.
From natural hikes like Runyon Canyon to the endless greenery of Rancho Park, the city’s ecosystem is better than some realize. When it gets hot in the summer, it never manages to get very humid, and the infamous smog the city suffered from has decreased dramatically over the past few years. Perhaps that’s why the WHO gave Los Angeles an air pollution rating of 20.
17. Houston, United States – Cleanliness Score: 65.3
With NASA rockets nearby thundering their way out of Earth’s atmosphere, it may come as a tad surprising that Houston’s air quality is relatively good. According to the World Health Organization, they have an air pollution rating of 19, which isn’t a far cry away from some of the big cities even higher up on this list.
In addition, Houston was given an Environmental Performance Score of 71 on behalf of research teams from leading universities such as Yale and Columbia. Combining everything together, this Texas population hub was given a cleanliness score of 65.3, earning it a comfortable spot on this list. It may be time for a visit!
16. Philadelphia, United States – Cleanliness Score: 65.5
Perhaps the generous placement of the city of Brotherly Love on this list can be properly explained by the popular FXX comedy sitcom, aptly named It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. But despite the satirical nature of the show’s title, the following stats prove that the home of the Liberty Bell truly does have a quality environment for living.
For the great city’s million and a half residents, the World Economic Forum bestowed an Environmental Performance Score of 71, and Best Life Online awarded them with a 65.5 cleanliness rating. Rich in history and culture, it’s nice that Philadelphia can boast that they’re a clean city as well.
15. Phoenix, United States – Cleanliness Score: 66.1
In the midst of the steaming heat of the American Southwest’s deserts sits a thriving city of 1.6 million. They too passed enough boxes on the checklist to make it onto this list, which likely won’t be surprising to people who have been there.
While it’s not as big a tourist destination as New York, Los Angeles, or Miami, Phoenix is still the primary hub of Arizona, and a frequently visited location. It’s a great base from which to experience the surrounding natural wonders. This is certainly helped by their basic maintenance of sanitary living standards, which has a cleanliness score of 66.1.
14. Montreal, Canada – Cleanliness Score: 67
Way up north is a city bursting at the seams with fine culture and art, the bilingual charming hub or Montreal. This quirky corner of Quebec can boast an air pollution level of 16 according to the World Health Organization. While Mercer doesn’t list its Quality of Living score as particularly high, the city makes up for it in how it’s cleaned up its act.
Thanks to Montreal’s strong quality of air and high environmental performance score (72), they were given a relatively high ranking on this list. Ultimately, not only is Leonard Cohen’s hometown a beautiful city with memorable places to visit, but the basic level of cleanliness around the city gives it a solid edge.
13. Toronto, Canada – Cleanliness Score: 67.6
Canada’s largest city, home of the NBA’s Raptors and NHL’s Maple Leafs, also happens to be doing quite well when it comes to going green. Although it’s a massive city, initiatives were put in place that allowed it to achieve a quality of cleanliness high enough to set it apart from the rest.
For instance, Toronto has a thriving public transportation system, one that gets used often in place of cars, leading to relatively minor levels of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, city planners have been very eco-conscious over the years, which naturally improved the overall air quality of the area. Best Life Online ultimately gave Toronto a cleanliness score of 67.6, placing it relatively high in rankings.
12. Rome, Italy – Cleanliness Score: 67.9
From the Trevi Fountain to the Colosseum, Rome is filled to the brim with ancient landmarks and medieval marvels. For this reason, it’s also one of the most tourist-filled cities in all of Europe. The extra-concentrated areas may or may not have contributed to Rome’s less-than-impressive air pollution rating, which, according to the WHO, is at a 28.
With all that being said, how did Rome manage to snag such a high-ranking in terms of its cleanliness as compared to other world cities, particularly given how choked with humans it often finds itself? The score was actually thanks to Rome’s especially high Environmental Performance Score of 77, given to it by the World Economic Forum.
11. Melbourne, Australia – Cleanliness Score: 68.8
Boasting a large population of 4.9 million people, Melbourne is one of the biggest cities in Oceania, as well as a considerably large tourist attraction. It’s regularly referred to as Australia’s cultural capital, and its food scene is hot, hot, hot. The locals from down under know how special their city is. Apparently, the World Economic Forum was impressed by it too, giving Melbourne an Environmental Performance Score of 74.
After mulling through all the available stats, Best Life Online assessed that Melbourne deserves a cleanliness rating of 68.8. That means they’ve got their larger neighbor to the east, Sydney, beat by a long shot. Keep on leading the way, Melbourne!
10. Tokyo, Japan – Cleanliness Score: 70
Tokyo is the most populated city on this list. At 13.5 million people not counting the rest of the metropolitan area, it’s actually a tad surprising that they’re on this list at all, let alone in the top 10. The influx of locals surely adds to an ever-flowing presence of waste, and a poor air pollution level that was rated at 28 by the World Health Organization.
And yet despite all of these setbacks, Japan’s bustling capital received its spot for two main reasons. First of all, Tokyo received a high Environmental Performance Score, and second, they have an excellent Quality of Living rating. With that in mind, it’s all the more apparent why people from both Japan and the outside world keep flocking to this metropolis.
9. Vienna, Austria – Cleanliness Score: 70.1
Another culturally rich European hotspot that manages to keep its act squeaky clean is Vienna, Austria. Separated into districts, Vienna has a handful of iconic neighborhoods, from the ancient city center to the more progressive, hip areas like Mariahilf and Neubau.
From a cleanliness perspective, it has a remarkably high Environmental Performance Score of 79, courtesy of studies carried out by Yale and Columbia. More specifically, Vienna has a garbage disposal system that manages to recycle the city’s waste at an extremely efficient pace. This undoubtedly contributed to its cleanliness score of 70.1, given to it by Best Life Online.
8. Berlin, Germany – Cleanliness Score: 70.2
Not so far ahead of Vienna is neighbor Germany’s capital, Berlin. This historical city is known for its cleanliness and the innovative technologies it employs to maintain its air quality. For instance, Berlin’s scientific minds developed an efficient strategy to moderate high pollution emitters, something that plagues many other cities of a similar size.
That being said, Berlin’s large population means that it’s still hard for them to regulate the air quality completely, which is why it’s not higher on this list. Nevertheless, Berlin was given a 78.3 Environmental Performance score by the World Economic Forum, ultimately earning it a cleanliness score of 70.2.
7. Barcelona, Spain – Cleanliness Score: 70.4
Anyone who’s ever visited Barcelona probably has never worried about the air quality. Who has time to worry about such things when there are just so many things to visit? From the endless displays of art by the famed Antoni Gaudí, to the bright nightclub lights of La Rambla, there’s plenty of ways to find enjoyment.
Beyond all the sights and sounds, if tourists or locals were to be asked about how clean the city is, they’d probably be hard-pressed to find negative things to say about the wonderful city. With an Environmental Performance Score of 78, and a Quality of Living rating of 42, Barcelona has been ranked as one of the cleanest cities in the world.
6. Hamburg, Germany – Cleanliness Score: 71.3
As we edge closer towards the top 5, we’re starting to get into some extra-clean territory. It’s also important to note that some people differ in their opinions; which is relevant because some many people feel that Hamburg actually ought to be even higher on this list!
However, Hamburg’s placement is impressive no matter which way anyone slices it — and everyone agrees it’s one of the most green-conscious cities in the world. In fact, Hamburg’s local government has even set a long-term goal to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Whether or not they reach it, their earnest attempts at perfection justify their high placement here.
5. Auckland, New Zealand – Cleanliness Score: 71.9
We’ve officially cracked the top 5, and kudos to the cities who have managed to make it! In the fifth slot is Auckland, New Zealand, yet another city which has gained a prominent reputation for its uncharacteristically strict attention to air quality.
Located in a naturally subtropical climate, it’s fair to say that health experts had their work cut out for them. However, they’ve managed to turn this city into the impressive eco-friendly model it is today. An absurdly low air pollution level of 14 is just the icing on top of an already beautiful cake that is New Zealand. As if we didn’t already have enough reasons to want to visit!
4. Madrid, Spain – Cleanliness Score: 72.6
Anyone who thought Barcelona was clean will be even more impressed by the Spanish capital, Madrid. Whether or not it’s the more popular city is debatable, but according to the various stats we’re following, it certainly has a better environment. The World Health Organization gave it an air pollution score of 19, which is solid — but there was more at play.
It was Madrid’s exceptional Environmental Performance Score of 78 that put it over the top. Ultimately, Best Life Online couldn’t help but grant Madrid a whopping 72.6 for their cleanliness score. The question is, can you predict which cities will make the top three? You may yet be in for a surprise.
3. New York City, United States – Cleanliness Score: 74.8
We know what you’re thinking: “Seriously?” “That New York City?” “The one with grimy subways, humid summers, and a wildly high population of 8.3 million?” Well, yes. According to the statistics we’ve been gathering, New York City received a surprisingly high placement on this list, prompting us to reassess certain details about the city we may have not considered before.
Considering everything we just brought up, we were shocked to learn that the World Health Organization gave New York City an impressive air pollution score of 16. NYC also received one of the highest Environmental Performance Scores on this list at 79.8, making it a shoe-in for the third spot.
2. Paris, France – Cleanliness Score: 74.9
Known as the City of Love, Paris drips with romantic undertones and picturesque landscapes. But whether or not you’ve been to the Eiffel Tower, it’s possible that you were surprised by this magnanimous number two ranking in terms of Parisian cleanliness. With an air pollution rating of 28 according to the WHO, it’s no small wonder.
The World Economic Forum gave Paris the highest Environmental Performance score of any city on the planet, at 84. This could be due to Paris’ commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in a multitude of ways. Regardless, it was enough for Best Life Online to give it a cleanliness rating of 74.9, landing Paris in second place. But which city takes the number one crown?
1. London, United Kingdom – Cleanliness Score: 74.95
Without further ado, the number one slot on this ranking is…London! Yes indeed, London, the epicenter of Europe and one of the most popular cities in the world, managed to snag the top spot on this list. So how is this possible? Well, it was really the fact that they maintained a consistent bill of cleanliness across the board.
London’s air pollution is relatively low (a score of 16, according to the WHO), while their Environmental Performance Score is super high (79.8, second to Paris on this list). These are all impressive feats, considering London has a population of 8.9 million people. Ultimately, Best Life Online accumulated this data and gave the esteemed British city a cleanliness rating of 74.9, beating out all other cities.
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