World's best and worst cities

Dancers crowd the dance floor during the traditional Viennese Opera Ball at the State Opera House in Vienna, Austria. AP

Europe may be in the throes of an economic crisis, but when it comes to quality of life, it's the hands-down world leader, according to the latest quality of life survey by Mercer, a global human resource consulting firm.

Mercer conducts the annual survey to help corporate clients determine whether they need to provide hardship pay for employees who get stationed in the world's worst cities - this year that would be Baghdad and Bangui in the Central African Republic. But in the process, it also compiles a list of the best places in the world to live, based on a variety of factors including personal safety, political stability, schools, public services, recreation, housing and climate.

This year, cities in Austria, Switzerland and Germany dominated the top of the list, accounting for seven of the top 10 cities. No U.S. city even breaks into the top 25. However, Honolulu ranks just below Stuttgart, Germany, as the 29th best city; and San Francisco ties with Paris as the city with the 30th best quality of life. Boston ranks 36th, just after Helsinki, Finland, but slightly ahead of Milan, Italy.

Among cities with the worst quality of life, the biggest issue was safety.

"The recent wave of violent protests across North Africa and the Middle East has temporarily lowered living standards in the region," said Slagin Parakatil, Mercer's senior researcher. "Expatriates and locals need to exercise extreme caution."

So what are the best cities based on Mercer's ranking of quality of life?

1. Vienna, Austria

2. Zurich, Switzerland

3. Auckland, New Zealand

4. Munich, Germany

5. Dusseldorf, Germany

6. Vancouver, Canada

7. Frankfurt, Germany

8. Geneva, Switzerland

9. Bern, Switzerland

10. Copenhagen, Denmark.

The 10 worst cities in the world:

1. Baghdad, Iraq

2. Bangui, Central African Republic

3. N'Djamena, Chad

4. Port-au-Prince, Haiti

5. Khartoum, Sudan

6. Sana'a, Yemen

7. Tbilisi, Georgia

8. Brazzaville, Congo

9. Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

10. Nouakchott, Mauritania

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