It’s been a challenging 18 months as the global pandemic took hold and changed our lives forever. 

Not only that but it has changed how we view our cities

Cities used to be bustling with people travelling to and from work, socialising or just interacting with others. 

But the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdowns and social distancing left thousands of cities all over the world empty, eerie and listless. 

But it’s not all bad news - in the face of adversity many of the world’s cities adapted, communities rallied like never before and we fought to help our businesses survive.  

And this is especially the case for two of Australia’s major cities. 

Melbourne and Sydney have just been ranked as the 15th and 16th best cities in the world, respectively, according to the latest Time Out index. 

And the duo aren’t strangers to these types of lists - Melbourne has also recently been named the world’s best city to work from home, while both Sydney and Melbourne ranked among the top 10 safest cities in the world just last month. 

From food and culture to community projects, green space and sustainability, Time Out has polled 27,000 city-dwellers to reveal each city's nightlife, restaurants and cultural highlights were considered, as well as the city's sense of community, which in the wake of Covid-19 is perhaps more important than ever. 

Cities' environmental initiatives were also examined, as well as their commitment to activism, and general friendliness. 

“It hasn’t exactly been a glorious year for cities and the people who call them home.  We’ve looked on through our windows and our screens as all the things that make city life brilliant were put on hold,” Time Out said. 

“Restaurants, bars, clubs, live music, theatre, art, friendship, dating, even public transport: in all but a handful of countries, it’s all been damaged, dented and, in some places, totally destroyed. And wow, have we missed it.” 

The 37 best cities in the world for 2021

Time Out says San Francisco's "unbeatable combination of progressiveness, acceptance and sustainability" clinched it the top spot for this year’s list. 

In particular, this year’s winner was found to be leading the way in progressive politics.  

This former hippie enclave came first in the ‘progressive’ category – with 73% of respondents describing it as such – and second in ‘sustainability’. It was also the most likely to be called ‘accepting’. 

And the Aussie cities? 

What was it that secured them a spot on the list? 

Melbourne has struggled through its sixth hard lockdown in only 18 months but there is still a lot of love to be found in this fine Australian city.  

According to the Time Out index, it’s clear Melbourne’s food and drink culture is the best in the country, with more than 94% of locals ranking the city highly for its bars and restaurants.  

“Even in the depths of lockdown, Melburnians can still get their fix of top-notch lasagne, incredible Indonesian staples or sticky-sweet desserts delivered to their doors – and it’s great to see the community supporting each other with such zeal,” Time Out said. 

But it’s Melbourne’s equality which is making the city lead the way. 

“A measly 10 percent of respondents called Melbourne ‘unequal’ – the lowest of any city in the world,” said Rebecca Russo, Time Out Melbourne

Meanwhile, Sydney made the list mainly for its beauty. 

Whether you’re in one of Sydney’s national parks, sunbathing on one of the 100-plus beaches or enjoying a harbourside sundowner at the Opera Bar, there’s barely a corner of this town that isn’t drop-dead gorgeous.  

But she’s not just a pretty city.  

“Sydney has one of the most diverse, multicultural populations in Australia, particularly in the western suburbs, where life is especially tough right now under lockdown,” Time Out said. 

And the good news? 

 Vaccination rates in Sydney are the highest in the country, so as we approach summer, we’re getting ready for the revival of the city as lockdown lifts. 

37 best cities in the world - here’s the full list: 

  1. San Francisco 
  2. Amsterdam 
  3. Manchester 
  4. Copenhagen 
  5. New York 
  6. Montreal 
  7. Prague 
  8. Tel Aviv 
  9. Porto 
  10. Tokyo 
  11. Los Angeles 
  12. Chicago 
  13. London 
  14. Barcelona 
  15. Melbourne 
  16. Sydney 
  17. Shanghai 
  18. Madrid 
  19. Mexico City 
  20. Hong Kong 
  21. Lisbon 
  22. Boston 
  23. Milan 
  24. Singapore 
  25. Miami 
  26. Dubai 
  27. Beijing 
  28. Paris 
  29. Budapest 
  30. Abu Dhabi 
  31. São Paulo 
  32. Johannesburg 
  33. Rome 
  34. Moscow 
  35. Buenos Aires 
  36. Istanbul 
  37. Bangkok 

The importance of the ‘20-minute neighbourhood’ 

This is why, as our cities grapple with what a post-Covid world looks like, the 20-minute neighbourhood is more important than ever. 

Over the past 18 months, offices have been shut, lockdowns put in place and now people are likely to continue working flexible rosters and working at home more than ever. 

This means gone are the days where our ‘home’ was simply the place we rest our heads and enjoy some downtime between work and our social lives — the coronavirus social distancing has put an end to life as we once knew it. 

If social distancing and the Covid-19 environment has taught us anything, it has taught us the importance of the neighbourhood we live in. 

If you can leave your home and be within walking distance of, or a short trip to, a great shopping strip, your favourite coffee shop, amenities, the beach, a great park, the recently implemented coronavirus restrictions might seem a little more palatable than if you had none of that on your doorstep. 

And as a result, these are the type of neighbourhoods that investors and wannabe homeowners are flocking to. 


Kate Forbes is a National Director at Metropole Property Strategists. She has  over 20 years of investment experience in financial markets in two continents, is qualified in multiple disciplines and is also a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).

She is a regular commentator for Michael Yardney’s Property Update    


Read more Expert Advice from Kate here!

Disclaimer: while due care is taken, the viewpoints expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Your Investment Property.