10 Best Cities for Young People (Ultimate Guide)
Even in an age where more young adults are living with their parents for longer than ever before, moving out and establishing an independent lifestyle is still one of the biggest landmarks of adulthood. In addition, members of younger generations are frequently observed as having less interest in the traditional definitions of career and success, and as placing more emphasis on creating lifelong memories instead, indicating a shift in values from the material to the experiential. As a means of accomplishing that goal, many young people want to travel. But where to go? With unprecedented levels of globalization, ease of communication, and access to information, the options are far less limited than in past years. To some extent, technology is even making short work of language barriers, although in this list we did tend to stick to cities where the main language is English.
In compiling this list of the top ten cities for young people, we looked for cities based on a combination of many factors, with particular emphasis on opportunities for young adults in education, employment, and recreation, as well as safety, diversity, and overall quality of life. Of course, any such list is, to a large degree, an exercise in subjectivity, but we think these cities tend to speak for themselves. With that said, let’s jump right in with a look at the world’s tenth best destination for young people:
Portland, Oregon holds a lot of potential appeal for young adults – professionals, students, and slackers all included. Actually, it holds quite a bit of appeal for all kinds of people, and based on polls of where people would like to live, ranks among the ten most popular cities in America. Specifically, though, there is a lot to like about Portland for up and coming generations.
It’s one of the world’s most environmentally friendly cities, where walking and cycling are the norm for transportation, farm-to-table meals are the trend, public transit is both efficient and popular, and public parks take up more than 10,000 acres. It’s routinely called the world’s best “food cart” city, with more than 600 licensed, and what better to wash those mobile meals down with than a brew from one of the 58 and counting breweries in city limits (or one of the over 70 that call the metro area home). Yeah, there’s a lot of beer in Portland, so much that it’s considered America’s best beer destination for many people, and one of the top in the world. Of course, if beer isn’t your thing, don’t discount Portland just yet; it’s also well-known as a pioneer in the specialty coffee scene.
Young people are increasingly identifying as outside the boundaries of traditional religions, so they are likely to appreciate that Portland is billed as America’s least religious city. It’s also noted for a very vibrant community of activists, especially in regard to that greatest of American ideals, free speech. Every year there is even an annual nude bike ride with thousands of participants, which is both an expression of free speech and a protest against the unnecessary use of automobiles. If all that sounds a little “out there,” well, just know that “Keep Portland Weird” is the city’s unofficial motto.
Calgary is the largest city in the Canadian province of Alberta, and is consistently ranked among the world’s most liveable cities. It has a bustling economy that is especially indebted to the energy sector, but also to finance, technology, logistics, manufacturing, retail, and tourism. A wide range of economic activity is one of the most attractive aspects of any potential residence for young adults, as along with it comes a certain degree of job safety, especially for those who are open-minded about expanding their education, working in new fields, or going into business for themselves. Speaking of which, Calgary’s number of small businesses and self-employed individuals are among the highest in all of Canada.
Calgary is also a hub for arts and community organizations of all kinds, as well as home to a litany of colleges and technical schools, giving young people (and people of all ages, really) plenty of opportunities for discovering new passions, making new relationships, and pursuing their areas of interest. In addition to numerous bands, choral groups, dance companies, and sports clubs, Calgary features a number of arts related gatherings on a yearly basis, including annual festivals for folk music, comedy, engineering, and film. Actually, entertainment is a booming industry in Calgary, which makes it an ideal place for young people who want to be involved with filmmaking. The Assassination of Jesse James, Dances With Wolves, Inception, The Revenant, and Brokeback Mountain are a few of the famous movies that have been filmed in or nearby Calgary.
The fastest growing metropolis in the United States is also home to the University of Texas, one of America’s premier public schools, and a hub for tech research and development. In a state that is known for conservative values, Austin stands out as an icon of progressivism. An impressive grassroots environmental movement has taken hold there in the past few decades, represented by the major accomplishment of the banning of sales of plastic bags. Austin also abounds with cultural events and opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Residents of the area refer to themselves as “Austinites,” and includes a large population of college students, musical artists, blue-collar employees, and government workers. Music is a huge part of Austin’s identity, with the city’s slogan identifying it as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” Austin is often considered one of the safest major cities in the U.S., and in 2017, U.S. News & World Report credited Austin as the best place to live in America.
Perth, the capital city of Western Australia, is likely one of the most beautiful cities you will ever visit. Here, urbanization hasn’t eclipsed the natural beauty of the area, but added to it seamlessly. For an example, look to Kings Park, which sits right in the middle of the city and is one of the biggest city parks in the world, even bigger than New York City’s Central Park. Portside paths and coastal roads take you right up against some of the most gorgeous beaches on the planet, with white sand and water so clear you can see your toes.
Perth has a lot to offer the scene crowds, too, with hip neighborhoods featuring eccentric boutiques and cafes, bistros, fusion restaurants, pubs, and farmer’s markets. Of course, just because a city is hip and beautiful doesn’t necessarily make it a logical choice for young adults looking for somewhere to settle down. What about opportunities to go to school and get a job? Well, Perth has those as well, in spades. For starters, the city is home to four public unis, including the University of Western Australia, which is arguably the continent’s foremost location for research. It also has the biggest and strongest economy in the state, featuring a growing number of service and retail jobs, as well as opportunities in tech, transportation, sales, and healthcare, among other areas.
Finland’s largest city, Helsinki, is also its capital, and there’s really no city like it in the world. Helsinki is home to nearly one million residents, and yet while living there, it’s impossible to escape the sensation that you’re living in a city that is a tenth that size. Traditionally, Finland, among others of its Nordic counterparts, has attracted young foreigners due to its system of free post-secondary education. College is no longer free for non-Finns, but it’s still one of the top places in the world to study; the tuition is cheap, students are paid a stipend (so living expenses are basically covered), and the University of Helsinki is one of the world’s most respected research institutions.
Helsinki has a lot to offer outside of going to school, as well. This “city of design” features an excellent integration of urban spaces with natural areas, a highly efficient public transportation system, numerous beaches, plenty of diversity, and opportunities galore to explore the renowned Finnish culture. The best part? Everybody (okay, almost everybody) in Helsinki speaks English. It still helps to learn some Finnish, as well, and there’s no shortage of ways to go about it, as Finns are eager to share their unique, if somewhat perplexing, language. If there’s one downside to living in Helsinki, it’s that you’ll likely need to update your winter wardrobe to include items that can keep you snug even when it’s ten degrees below zero, and that intense coastal wind comes gnawing. But hey, there’s always next summer to look forward to!
5San Francisco, California
What to say about the City by the Bay that hasn’t already been said a thousand times over? Of course it’s one of the best cities for young people, in all its progressive self-awareness, scenic majesty, and architectural splendor! Okay, true, those qualities make it ideal for people of all ages. So what sets it apart as optimal for the younger crowd? How about its history as a counter-culture hot spot? How about its strong activist communities? How about its crowded beaches and thriving night life?
If those aren’t enough, consider San Francisco’s booming economy with strong footholds in the service and technology sectors. In fact, the combined areas of San Fran, San Jose, and Oakland boast a GDP that is higher than all but 16 of the world’s countries. Finance and tourism have long been bastions of the city’s economy, but lately there has been a trend toward jobs in high technology and medical research, fields that are inherently predisposed to taking on young professionals. Start-ups in San Francisco have a reputation for attracting angel investors, so it’s also a good place to go for those looking to become self-employed.
The Golden City is no slouch in terms of opportunities for education and culture, either. In fact, its long-standing reputation as an epicenter for activism and equality make it an optimal landing zone for young adults who are in search of a community to which they can really belong. And one of the best parts? It’s the perfect city for those that don’t particularly like cities, with its close proximity to incredible national park lands, coastal getaways, and natural attractions.
Adelaide is another Australian capital city, this time of the state known as Southern Australia. It is the country’s fifth biggest city, with over 1.7 million residents. Like the rest of the cities on this list, it’s not just one thing that makes Adelaide ideal for young professionals, but a number. First of all, there is the large population itself, meaning the chance to meet and network with plenty of other young people. Then there is the education aspect, with Adelaide marketing itself as a “learning city,” featuring a long list of public universities and research institutions in addition to an increasing number of foreign students living in the city. Of course, there’s also the economy and job market to consider, and Adelaide’s is nothing to sneeze at, particularly in the health care, retail, manufacturing, and media sectors.
Adelaide is a planned city, meaning that it was designed with efficiency and liveability in mind, and it’s easy to tell that those goals were accomplished when you experience its grid layout with wide roads, sidewalks, green spaces, and easy navigability. It’s got a warm climate, sunny white beaches, and is famous for its many cultural fairs, international festivals, and sports events. That’s not to mention the incredible food and wine scene and its endearing architecture. Then there is the general attitude and political undertone of Adelaide, which can be called nothing if not progressive. Overall, Adelaide is a beautiful city, and it’s not at all difficult to understand why it is consistently ranked among the most liveable cities in both Australia and the world.
We’re back to Canada again, this time in Toronto, the capital of Ontario and the country’s biggest city. Only three cities in all of North America are more populous than Toronto, making it one of the top spots for opportunities of all kinds, including in the realms of education, careers, networking, personal relationships, cultural experiences, and even hobbies. Even saying that doesn’t do justice to the fact that Toronto is widely considered one of the planet’s most diverse, multicultural, and cosmopolitan cities. For young people looking to expand their cultural horizons, moving to Toronto represents what is possibly the most efficient way of going about that task, as it is home to over 200 ethnic groups, with 50% of its residents belonging to a minority of some kind and over 160 languages snaking their way through the city’s corridors (no reason to be intimidated, though, as the majority of residents also speak English).
Toronto is nothing short of a global epicenter for all kinds of economical activity, with a large focus on art-related enterprises such as music, filmmaking, television production, theatre, and journalism. It’s also got plenty of professional sports events, festivals, and fairs, in addition to one of the lowest crime rates of all major cities on the continent. As far as education, the city is home to the University of Toronto, Canada’s largest post-secondary school, as well as eight additional colleges and universities. Finally, excellent infrastructure and an enviable array of public services contribute to making Toronto so high on this list of great places for young professionals to settle down.
With three of ten cities on this list located on the continent, Australia is clearly a contender for the world’s most desirable destination. Once again, we have a look at what young adults are offered “down under,” this time in Australia’s most populous city, and the capital of Victoria, Melbourne. Melbourne is a global hub for culture, entertainment, and economy, and has earned the honor of being considered the country’s “cultural capital.” You can’t live there without bumping into examples of its amazing architecture, music scene, street art, theater, or sports events. Finance, technology, film, television, health care, manufacturing, logistics, transportation, tourism, education, sports, and research all contribute to Melbourne’s thriving economy, and its seaside locale, many festivals, and natural beauty make it one of the world’s favorite getaways.
It’s also an education hot spot, featuring a number of prominent learning institutions and a growing number of international students. Just a few years back, Melbourne was billed as the world’s number four “university city,” just behind London, Boston, and Tokyo. All this combines to make Melbourne a great place to pursue schooling, job opportunities, and more, evidenced by the fact that 2016 was the sixth consecutive year in which the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked it the world’s “most liveable city.”
1New York, New York
Gotham. The Big Apple. The City That Never Sleeps. The City So Nice They Named It Twice. The Baseball Capital. The Fashion Capital. The Cultural Capital of the World. The Financial Capital of the World.
NYC, along with London, is considered one of the two most important cities in the world in terms of global economy, commerce, and culture. It wields a substantial influence over not only these, but also finance, international diplomacy, media, fashion, research, education, entertainment, and technology. If you’re reading this, you’ll also know that it’s considered by some to be the best place for young people to make a new home. How does New York accomplish all this?
For starters, it’s diverse, and diversity breeds creativity and cooperation. “Diverse” doesn’t even do it justice: NYC has the largest population of foreign-born residents of any city on the planet. It also has roughly 60 million visitors a year (half of whom are from outside the U.S.), 2,000 cultural organizations, and over 500 art galleries. It has over 15 world-famous tourist attractions, 7 state parks, and 14 miles of public beaches. It’s home to the offices of more than 200 newspapers and 350 magazines, ABC, CBS, NBC, HBO, MTV, AMC, Showtime, Bravo, Comedy Central, Food Network, and Fox.
How about education? It has more than 120 colleges, technical schools, and other post-secondary institutions, more than any other U.S. city. It also has the most post-graduate science degrees awarded every year, and 127 Nobel laureates have studied in the city. Oh, and more than half a million students pursuing tertiary degrees and diplomas. By many measures, there just isn’t any other city in the world that offers the sheer volume of possibilities – in all areas of life – as does New York.
There is no straightforward criteria to selecting the best cities in the world for young adults, and it certainly isn’t easy to say with any confidence that there aren’t some deserving cities that got left off this list. For instance, Barcelona, Boston, Vancouver, Zurich, Amsterdam, Minneapolis, Denver, Tokyo, and Taipei were all close contenders. Narrowing it down definitely wasn’t easy. Clearly, English as a dominant language was a big factor in our choices, with Helsinki being the only choice outside of native-English speaking countries (and even there, about 80% of residents can hold a conversation in English, and a large number of the available career and educational tracks are in English).
What do you think? Did we miss any obvious choices? What factors would you consider to be most important if you were looking for a new city to move to, and how would you make your final choice? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!