Why Bern is ranked Europe’s third ‘healthiest’ capital city

Swiss capital Bern was this week announced as number three on the list of Europe’s healthiest capital cities. Here’s why.

Why Bern is ranked Europe's third 'healthiest' capital city
Bridges in the centre of Bern. Photo: Depositphotos

From Switzerland and its cities are frequently found at the top of ‘best country’ lists for a variety of metrics. From public transport options to stability, Switzerland is not so neutral when it comes to topping all kinds of rankings. 

READ: Why Zurich is ranked the best city in Europe for public transport

A list released this week by online healthcare service Treated has put Swiss capital Bern at third on the list when it comes to healthy capitals. 

From clean air and water to having low CO2 emissions and the highest quality of life of any city surveyed, Bern has earned its spot on the list. 

A total of 46 capital cities were considered, with Bern beaten out by only Copenhagen (first) and Vienna (second). Baku in Azerbaijan snared the dubious honour of coming last on the list, followed closely by Moscow and Bucharest. 

READ MORE: Why Switzerland has been ranked 'best country' in the world… again

The study looked at a variety of factors from international sources such as the World Bank and the World Population Review to put together the list. 

In total, ten metrics were considered.

These were the cost of a gym membership, life expectancy, air quality, water quality, quality of life, health expenditure, cost of vegetables, CO2 emissions, ease of walking or cycling and the availability of green spaces. 

READ MORE: Why Switzerland always ranks as one of the best places in the world to live

Bern topped the list when it came to air quality, quality of life, percentage of GDP spent on healthcare and having the highest life expectancy.

Bern ranked poorly for costs of fitness clubs and was the second most expensive city in Europe to buy fruits and vegetables. 

In fact, the only disqualifying feature for the Swiss capital could be the fact that it’s not a capital at all – Bern is instead known in Switzerland as the ‘federal city’ – but that quirk of historical fate doesn’t make it any less healthy.   


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Why have Swiss cities become ‘more liveable’ during the pandemic?

While European cities have fallen in the liveability rankings, those in Switzerland have climbed. Why?

Why have Swiss cities become 'more liveable' during the pandemic?
Zurich is among the most 'livabke' cities in the world. Photo by

Switzerland’s largest municipalities, Zurich and Geneva, are the only European cities ranked in the top 10 best places to live.

Zurich and Geneva placed in the seventh and eighth place, respectively, in the Global Liveability Index 2021 released on Thursday by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)

The study surveyed 140 cities around the world based on 30 factors in five broad categories: stability (25 percent), health care (20 percent), culture and environment (25 percent), education (10 percent), and infrastructure (20 percent).

The two Swiss cities got the highest score, 100, in the healthcare category, 96.4 in infrastructure and 95 in stability. They fared slightly less well in culture and environment (85.9 for Zurich and 84.5 for Geneva) and in education (83.3).

Interestingly, while in 2018 and 2019 Vienna topped the charts, this year the Austrian capital slipped into the 12th place, while Zurich and Geneva climbed up to the top 10 from the 11th and 14th place previously.

Why have Zurich and Geneva done better than other European cities?

They are higher in the rankings “largely because the Swiss lockdown was less stringent than in most of Europe”, Ana Nicholls, the EIU’s Industry Director told The Local.

“Restrictions in these cities began to be lifted on March 1st, opening up sports, cultural and leisure facilities, especially for under-18s, as well as allowing small private outdoor events”, she added.  

READ MORE: Cost of living: The most – and least – expensive cantons in Switzerland

Vienna and other European cities like Frankfurt, Hamburg and Dusseldorf have fallen down the rankings “largely due to the course of the pandemic and the timing of our survey”, Nicholls  said.

“We conducted the research between February 22nd March 21st  this year, when Europe was battling a new wave of coronavirus cases and many cities were in lockdown. As a result, the index for “Culture and the environment” fell, because many museums, shops and restaurants were shut. Healthcare systems also came under strain as they dealt with Covid cases”, she noted.

Overall, cities in New Zealand, Australia and Japan got the highest scores in the survey.

Auckland ranks in the first place, followed by Osaka (2), Adelaide (3), Wellington (4) , Tokyo (5), Perth (6), Melbourne (9) and Brisbane (10).

It is not the first time that Swiss cities rank high in international studies. Zurich, Geneva and Basel often rate among the world’s 10 best cities in terms of quality of life.