The world’s best cities for millennials

From affordable housing and transport to flourishing job markets and cultural activities, heres our picking of the hottest spots for a good life


Millennials are a boomerang generation. The number of 20 – to 34 -year-olds living at home with their parents increased by 25% between 1996 and 2013 in the UK. Last year, 58% of 20- to 24 -year-olds, 21% of 25 – to 29 -year-olds, and 8% of 30- to 34 -year-olds in the UK lived with mothers. Its a similar story in the United States, where one in five people in their 20 s and early 30 s live their lives their parents.

But when the family home is not an option, where should millennials head to make their money go further? YouthfulCities, a global index founded by consultancy firm Decode, ranked 55 cities on their affordability in 2015, employing a range of statistics including, memorably, the number of hours needed to work at the local minimum wage to buy a dozen eggs( Detroit is top for egg affordability ).

When it comes to rent, Berlin ranks no 1 among the 55 cities despite a 28% rise between 2007 and 2014, and the efforts of some landowners to beat recent rent cap legislation. Even so, according to living index Numbeo, a one-bed apartment in Berlins city centre will, on average, define you back 510 a month, compared with 1,680 in London.

Berlin is the best city for rent. Photo: Matthias Haker/ Getty Images/ Flickr RF

In the US, a one-bed apartment in Dallass city centre expenses an average of 860 a month; in New York, it is 2,070. Millennials take note: Dallas is now the third fastest growing city in the US, and has a vibrant young community, with 25% of its population in the millennial age bracket, which is unusually high for American cities.

On the other side of the world, Japan is astonishingly cheap: Osakas low city-centre rental fees of 410 a month may explain why Airbnb has assured such astronomical interest. The YouthfulCities index preserves it is less affordable than Tokyo, but that appears to be because of higher median expenses when dining out, going to the cinema and paying for standing taxi fares.

Johannesburg is one of the most affordable of the sub-saharan African cities on the index: the average cost of renting a one-bed apartment is less than 263 a month. Despite moving 12 places up on Mercers latest cost of living ranking, Johannesburg is still the worlds 16 th cheapest city to live in and its wider province, Gauteng, is one of the powerhouses that helped South Africa avoid economic collapse last year.


With fees for three-year undergraduate degrees expensing up to 27,000 and maintenance support grants axed, one third of UK-based students aged 16 to 30 now consider undertaking some kind of overseas analyze. But where should they run?

Higher education experts QS have compiled a listing of the worlds top cities to be a student. The 2016 winner is Paris, which retains its place at the top for the fourth year operating thanks to a high concentration of internationally recognised institutions, low tuition fees and strong employer activity.

Students at UCLA. Photograph: Richard T Nowitz/ Corbis

In the student mixture category, four Australian cities Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide are in the top 10, on the basis of their high undergraduate populations and high levels of tolerance and social inclusion for their share of the 272, 000 international students enrolled in higher education in the country.

Perhaps surpisingly, Tokyo pips both Boston and London for employer activity and Japans capital also scored well in terms of desirability for students. This is partly because of its reputation as the safest city in the world. Tokyos quality of living is also extremely high, and housing prices relatively low in comparison with the average income.

Another report by the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked 35 cities on their education and training prospects. Hong Kong took the top spot as a result of the abundance of financial assistance offered to higher education students, and prevalence of world-class educational institutions. Five US cities( Chicago, LA, Miami, New York and Washington DC) ranked joint second, thanks to a number of city-led youth programs aimed at on-the-job training, internship opportunities and networks for additional educational development.

Hong Kong is a good place for students as has an abundance of financial assistance on offer. Photo: Jonas Gratzer/ LightRocket via Getty Images

For those millennials with European citizenship, a free university education awaits in the Nordic countries. Throughout Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, students from the EU may enrol in a degree without paying a penny, at undergraduate, masters and PhD level, they can be dealt with the language challenge many undergraduate courses are taught only in the native tongue. In Denmark , non-Danish EU students are also eligible for study awards if they run 10 to 12 hours a week alongside their studies.

There is a slight catch, however. The cost of living in these Nordic cities is among the highest in the world and international students often struggle to find affordable accommodation.


Cities such as New York, London and San Francisco are frequently cited as the most desirable places for recent graduates, offering exciting job prospects and a chance to work for some of the worlds biggest companies.

But according to the Accelerating Pathways survey, which ranks 35 cities on their available employment opportunities, considering factors such as employment growth, quality of jobs available and the ease of starting a new business, Singapore scores the highest.

Millennials studying there have the added benefits of public healthcare, scholarships and educational loans. However, the high cost of living the Economist ranks Singapore as the worlds most expensive city entails more than 60% of young people surveyed there have considered moving abroad in matters of employment or education. Toronto is second in its reporting, thanks to a number of city-led programmes aimed at improving employment opportunities, with Hong Kong third.

Traversing the Thames to the City, Londons fiscal district. Photo: Bloomberg/ Bloomberg via Getty Images

Research by the job search engine Adzuna ranks cities based on the number of people applying for each available stance. In the UK, Cambridge leads the route with a staggering 10 vacancies for every applicant, followed by Reading, Oxford and Exeter.

For those attempting big bucks, Europe boasts seven of the 12 cities with the worlds highest wages, according to Swiss bank UBS. In Zurich, the average resident takes home more than $41 an hour before tax, with Geneva close behind. But high wages dont is cheap: the Swiss cities are also among the most expensive to live in.

If your key fear is being your own boss, data analytics company CrunchBase has ranked the development of startup culture in global cities. Not astonishingly, San Francisco remains the top picking in a US-dominated list but it is diversifying. Tel Aviv comes in at fifth place, thanks to innovative ideas such as The Library. The startup scene is also growing in urban Africa, with initiatives including VC4Africa, PitchForLagos and StartUpGrind nurturing small businesses across the continent.

Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo: Maremagnum/ Getty Images

This startup industry would be nothing without a pool of versatile and fluid employees. In the US alone, 53 million people more than a third of the workforce are freelance, with 43% of these being millennials. You could even forget setting up life in one place and do as a growing band of digital nomads do: opt your next urban destination based on free Wi-Fi and flat whites.


Culture is disproportionately important to millennials. In 2014, those aged 15 -3 4 made up almost half of all cinema admission in the UK, while in the US, 18 -2 4-year-olds represent almost 20 % of regular cinemagoers, despite inducing up only 10% of the population. Traditionally, millennials have more time to go out and fewer fiscal responsibilities but, as the cost of living increases, new, cheaper cultural hotspots have emerged.

Lisbon, Portugal. Photograph: Alamy

In Europe, Lisbon has been attracting millennials for some time. Historically, it is one of the cheaper European capital cities( you pay an average of 345 a month for a one-bed there ). But it is the burgeoning arts scene thats been the real pull for creative millennials. Principe, the Lisbon-based record label, has played a large part in resuscitating the dance scene in the capital, while its street art was thriving long before Banksy came along.

The music scene in Montreal is another a hub of creativity, according to the latest report by the World City Cultural Forum( WCCF ). The Canadian city has the second highest proportion of people employed in the creative industries( behind London) and the third highest proportion of bars, behind Buenos Aires and Madrid. Another millennial draw is the tax rebates offered by the Quebec Film and Television Council, which has induced it a hotspot for Hollywood films including Life of Pi and the blockbuster X-Men, Days of Future Past.

Union Lane in Melbourne, one of the citys best-known street art sites. Photo: Julian Smith/ AAP

Melbourne has 81 theatres, 256 celebrations a year, and 1,448 heritage and historical sites behind only Istanbul and Moscow in the latter category( impressive, considering Melbourne is at least 1,400 years younger than the Turkish city ). And if thats not sufficient, the committee is also possesses the most indoor recreation space per capita, according to the World Council on City Data.

Bogot, the Colombian capital, rules the cultural roost in South America with at the least 243 cinema screens, three major concert hall and 77 museums. There are more than 17.5 m cinema admissions to the citys film screens every year.( To set that into context: the citys population is half of Istanbuls and yet the Turkish city cinema admission figures trail behind at 16.3 m .) The music scene in Bogot also has much to offer: DJs such as Alex Jockey have helped create a hip underground hardcore techno scene.

Sometimes, however, the capital isnt the place to be. Shenzhen city in south-eastern Chinas Guangdong province is another unexpected culture hub, having scored highly in a number of categories in the WCCFs report: 45% of the city is green space, second only to Sydney and Vienna. It has a vibrant nightlife scene that includes the famous Pepper Club, punk rock club Brown Sugar Jar and lesbian-friendly Xuan Cafe and Bar. And, millennial bookworms take note: it boasts the most public libraries of all the cities mentioned in the report.


In the US, the number of 21 – to 34 -year-olds buying cars has fell by 11% since its peak in the mid-1 980 s, while the UK has considered a 12% decline in the proportion of 17 – to 20 -year-olds trying for a driving licence since the mid-1 990 s.

So, which cities offer the best alternative for green-minded and technologically connected but cash-strapped millennials?

When it comes to public transport, Hong Kong tops the Urban Mobility Index thanks to its efficient transit network, which is used for 55% of all journeys. Stockholm is in second place because of its extensive and eye-catching metro system. Students in Stockholm receive discounts on travel cards, but the Swedish capital still has the most expensive public transport system in the world, based on the price of a ticket for a single 10 km journey.

A tram ride in Tallinn, Estonia. Photo: Bloomberg/ Bloomberg via Getty Images

In 2013, Estonias capital, Tallinn, became the first city of its size to construct public transport free for all residents, while in Boston students have been riding free of charge since the 1970 s. Its Five College Bus System ferries students and faculty faculty between organizations, residential areas and stores without a single cent changing hands. As one ex-rider points out, the bus have no way to charge passengers, so the wider populace can also grab a complimentary ride.

When it comes to cycling, Amsterdam and Copenhagen predictably received gold stars for provision and performance, with around half of journeys in both cities made by motorcycle. At 29.7 minutes, the dense Danish capital also has one of the shortest commute times of the top 10 cities a breeze compared with the average 44.1 minute slog make use of Londoners every weekday.

Bikes in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo: Marco Cristofori/ Alamy/ Alamy

University towns tend to be cycling hub. In the US, where the share of journeys made by bicycle is about 2% in most cities, the university city of Davis, California, bucks the trend with cycling accounting for 20% of trip-ups. Cambridge, where students account for more than one-third of the population, boasts the highest levels of cycling in the UK, with one in three residents riding to work.

When it comes to car sharing, Helsinki is a contender. The city has ambitious plans to transform transportation by 2025 through a system of mobility on demand that pools access to bus, bikes, car-shares and taxis through a smartphone app.

In New York there are car-share pick-up points in no fewer than 716 places. Youre also in luck if youre a smartphone-owning millennial in Cape Town or Johannesburg, thanks to the launch of Africas first car-sharing network Locomute. You may, however, are working to get out of city borders New York is the fourth most congested city in the US, and both South African cities top their countrys list for traffic jam.


For all their faults, millennials are more open-minded and accepting of diversity than their forebears. And “its good for” cities. In his seminal newspaper, which created a bohemian-gay indicator to measure the relationship between diverse, sexually tolerant cities and economic prosperity, urban analyzes doyen Richard Florida was contended that the more tolerant a city was, the more its technological industry and economy thrived.

Sweden has long been known as a champ of female equality( last year, it was announced that every 16 -year-old in the country would be given a copy of We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ). But its cities are pioneering on many fronts: in 2014 Gothenburg received the European commissions Access City award for its provision, including providing audio buses, travel guidebooks for all disabled residents, and a transport service for people with severe disabilities. It also has a live, public database recording accessibility to the citys 3,000 public buildings and spaces.

An region known as homosexual beach in Dolores Park, San Francisco. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

The 2015 Social Progress Index, which measures a nations progressive positions, ranked Sweden second behind only Norway in terms of personal freedom, selection, tolerance and inclusion. Sweden was also rated best on discrimination and violence against minorities, although women inclusive position seems to have dulled in recent months.

San Francisco has been home to a bustling lesbian scene since the end of the second world war, when many lesbian soldiers chose to stay in the city rather than go home after their discharge from military service. Last year, data-driven consultancy firm Gallup reported that the San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward area in California had the greatest proportion( 6.2%) of LGBT residents out of all of the metro areas in the US.

When it comes to racial diversity, more than half of Torontos 1.3 million residents were born outside Canada, according to the citys most recent National Household Survey. Toronto also topped the WCCFs 2015 listing of largest foreign-born urban populations. The city has one of the most celebrated Chinatowns in the world, and is home to the annual Mabuhay Philippines festival and Toronto black film festival.

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