Not Paris, not Zurich, not Singapore. Not even Hong Kong, the Chinese oasis of opulence where the median house price is already over a million euros and the mansions on the slopes of Mount Austin are selling for more than five. The most expensive city on the planet is Tel Aviv right now. It has just been certified by the journal’s statistical studies department The Economist with a ranking that takes into account both the cost of housing as well as that of food and transport.
In 2020, in the midst of the debate on whether to update the interprofessional minimum wage in France, Parisians were shocked to see that their city was considered the most expensive in relative terms, the place where it cost the most to settle down and pay daily expenses . No longer. Tel Aviv, a city where McDonald’s hamburgers are paid for at white truffle prices and living on less than 4,000 euros a month is little less than an adventure, this year made the leap from fifth to the top.
In this order, the aforementioned Paris, Singapore and Hong Kong together with common suspects such as New York, Geneva, Copenhagen, Los Angeles and Osaka complete a top ten in which three of the five continents are represented. A city at war, Damascus, another shattered, Tripoli, Libya’s capital, and a third located in a failed state, Tashkent, in Uzbekistan, are now the cheapest. Among the cities that moderate their prices and consequently lose positions in the ranking of the frankly prohibitive, Moscow, Istanbul, Sydney, Melbourne or even London stand out, although the authors of the study warn that many of these striking changes are due to factors such as currency fluctuation.
The ranking varies greatly depending on which specific indicators are taken into account and how they are weighted. If we speak exclusively of the average price of high-end housing, of neighborhoods full of real estate only suitable for billionaires, Monaco is unbeatable, in the opinion of reference magazines such as Luxury Estates International. The principality’s luxury mansions and apartments cost real fortunes, up to a million dollars per 16 square meters, vastly outnumbering Hong Kong, New York, London and Singapore. Translated into conventional language, a super luxury home in the Larvotto area of Monte Carlo, the most exclusive area of the Monegasque principality, today costs more than double that in the London neighborhoods of Knightsbridge and West Brompton or in the New Yorkers of Hudson Yards or TriBeCa.
If we give priority to the average price per square meter, regardless of the range of housing, the Provençal fiefdom of the Grimaldi family falls off the podium, surpassed, among many other cities, by Hong Kong, London, New York, Tel Aviv , Geneva, Paris, Singapore, Beijing or Vienna. By rental price, London maintains an average monthly rent of more than 5,000 euros for an apartment of more than 120 square meters, exceeding the average of Tel Aviv by 1,200, but without the possibility of sharing with the more than 7,000 that it would cost rent a house with similar characteristics in Hong Kong. The comparison between sale and rental prices leads to curious conclusions: renting in Vienna, Beijing, Taipei, Prague or Mumbai is an almost affordable option, while buying is little less than a utopia. In places like Bermuda, Amsterdam and Dubai the opposite is true: buying is reasonable, renting, eccentric and almost suicidal. Luanda, the capital of Angola, which became in 2017, surprisingly and apparently temporary, the most expensive in the world for expatriates, is no longer even considered the most expensive on the African continent. That honor now falls to emerging cities such as Ethiopian Addis Ababa and Ivorian coast Abidjan.
In most of these indicators, Tel Aviv remains in the high band, among the ten most expensive cities on the planet according to different criteria, but often far from the podium. In what is little less than intractable is in the price of alcohol and food, which in 2021 have been at the level of the three Scandinavian cities that led this ranking in the last five years, Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm. Analysts attribute this data to the relative strength of the shekel, the local currency, which continues to appreciate against the euro, the dollar and the rest of the international reference currencies. This translates, according to Rachel Elbaum, Israel correspondent for the US network NBC, “in that little less than insane prices are being reached in upscale neighborhoods like Park Tzameret or Neve Tzedek, but go buy fruit, vegetables, meat or clothing to the popular Carmelo market remains, for the moment, an affordable option for the local population who receives their salary in shekels”.
In defense of Tel Aviv, it should also be said that the city has virtues that compensate for the unbridled boom in its prices. Time Out considers it the eighth most attractive city, the most fun, the most tolerant, inclusive and diverse and the second, after Shanghai, in quality and variety of its gastronomic offer. The famous urban guide has for several years already drawn up a list of ten cities in which it is worth living or to which it is advisable to travel, and for this he takes into account variables as heterogeneous as the cultural offer, the monumental park, the friendliness of the city. local population, gastronomy, natural environment, quality of housing, infrastructure and services or nightlife. In 2021, they bet on, in addition to Tel Aviv, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Manchester, Copenhagen, New York, Montreal, Prague, Porto and Tokyo. That is to say, five European cities, three North American and two Asian, showing that urban excellence is distributed in an increasingly equanimous way throughout the planet.
Another ranking, this one prepared by the BBC, points out that the safest large cities in the world are this year Copenhagen, Toronto, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo. The healthiest, according to The Economist, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Melbourne and Osaka, because they are suffering to a lesser extent than northern Europe from the rigors of the health crisis. The most sustainable, according to Lux Magazine, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Berlin, Portland and, once again, Copenhagen (although The Economist provides an alternative ranking, environmental safety, which especially takes into account air quality and the relative degree of protection against the rigors of climate change, including Medellín, Toronto and the New Zealand city of Wellington). Finally, the most attractive urban environments right now for the so-called digital nomads, the emerging tribe of those fleeing both the pandemic and abusive rents and looking for friendly corners from which to work remotely, are Lisbon, Istanbul, Medellín, Montpellier or Buenos Aires.
Crossing some indicators with others (and considering, above all, health, fun and tolerance), one can reach conclusions as suggestive and adventurous as that Copenhagen and Tel Aviv are, in this order, the closest thing to urban paradise in the earth. For those who can afford it, of course.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.