VIENNA Vienna, Austria's opulent capital, offers the best quality of life of any city in the world and Baghdad the worst, according to the latest global survey from the consulting firm Mercer.
German and Swiss cities also performed especially well in the annual quality of living rankings. Zurich, Munich, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt made the top 10.
Mercer's survey helps companies and organizations determine compensation and hardship allowances for international staff. It uses 39 criteria, such as political stability, health care, education, crime, recreation and transport.
With a population of 1.7 million, Vienna topped the survey for the fifth year in a row, boasting a vibrant cultural scene alongside comprehensive health care and moderate housing costs.
The Austrian capital's extensive public transport system costs just 1 euro a day for an annual pass. Its Habsburg-era coffee houses, architecture, palaces, operas and other cultural institutions makes it a prime tourist destination.
Europe has seven of the world's top 10 cities in the 2014 survey. New Zealand, Australia and Canada each have a city in the top 10.
"European cities enjoy a high overall quality of living compared to those in other regions. Health care, infrastructure, and recreational facilities are generally of a very high standard," said Slagin Parakatil, a senior researcher at Mercer.
Canadian cities have the highest rankings in the Americas. Vancouver kept the top spot, at number five, followed by Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal. San Francisco was the premier urban center in the United States at 27.
Singapore at number 25 led the Asia Pacific region. Dubai at 73 again topped the charts in the Middle East and Africa.
That region has five of the bottom six cities, including Bangui, Central African Republic; N'Djamena, Chad; Sana'a, Yemen; and Brazzaville, Congo.
Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, was again ranked lowest in the world. Waves of sectarian violence have swept through the city since the American-led invasion in 2003, and another wave seems to be building. Last year was the bloodiest since the previous wave began to ebb, in 2008. On Tuesday, bombings in Baghdad and another Iraqi city killed at least 49 people.
"The Middle East and especially Africa remain one of the most challenging regions for multinational organizations and expatriates," Parakatil said.
"Regional instability and disruptive political events, including civil unrest, lack of infrastructure and natural disasters such as flooding keep the quality of living from improving in many of its cities."
(Reporting By Derek Brooks; Editing by Larry King)