The Top 20 Good Cities

Good Magazine and their almost daily e-mail blasts are inspiring and always enlightening sources for understanding what office tenants, retail customers/shoppers, young (and old) people, and communities are wanting from places they live, work, and play…and where these cities are headed. 

Last year, Good Magazine published the Good City Index.
Here are my highlights from their "20 Cities that embody the spirit of Possibility” (and what Gen Y-ers love about their cities around the world):

1 – Mexico City

Hub for progress:  El Museo del Juguete Antiguo Mexico is more than a museum – it’s an inspiring social experiment. The museum is largely responsible for the nascent revitalization of the down-at-the-heels Colonia Doctures neighborhood, hosting events that bring people together to celebrate often overlooked aspects of modern Mexican culture.

Civic Engagement:  Corredor, a twice-yearly event helps revitalize entire neighborhoods by inviting people onto the streets to see just how much creativity surrounds them.

Signature Moment:  Who needs TEDx when there’s homegrown TagDF?  The event is a hugely ambitious, two-day digital festival dedicated to exploring creative processes.  TagDF was held for the first time in 2013, but with heavy hitters like renowned Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron and Apple’s Steve Wozniak inspiring attendees at a variety of events, workshops, and exhibits, future iterations are likely to be even grander in scale and scope.

Work/Life Balance:  When the Muevete in Bici (More by Bike) program launched in 2007, it was a radical idea.  Would car-loving Chlangos really be interested in experiencing the capital’s busiest avenue, Paseo de la Reforma, on two wheels instead of four?  Now, nearly seven years later, "Muevete en Bici” is an entrenched Sunday tradition whose disappearance would likely provoke protest.

2 – Singapore

Hub for Progress:  Artistry is a gallery and café, nestled in a cozy, century-old shophouse, which hosts weekly events after dark that range from public performances by local bands to poetry recitals.  Local thinkers drop by to enjoy coffee and draw inspiration from the monthly rotating art of photo exhibitions.

Green Space:  The 183-acre Botanic Gardens are an impressive example of that, boasting a virgin rainforest and National Orchid Garden.

3 – Budapest, Hungary

Hub for Progress:  Fogas Haz is a "cultural reception space” with a gallery and theater space for contemporary artists, concerts, and film screenings.  R33, an abandoned factory, is poised to become an underground artistic hub.

Civic Engagement:  Bike workshops are popping up around the city, like Cyclonomia in the 13th District, where in exchange for a small yearly donation, members can come for tools, tips, and a community environment in which to fix their bikes.

4 – Nairobi, Kenya

Hub for Progress:  Programmers, designers, and entrepreneurs hang out at the many co-working and incubator spaces to share ideas and launch projects.  The most active for the tech crowd is iHub, with countless parties, conferences, and networking events, while creatives flock to Pawa 254 and The Nest.

Local Vibes:  The Parklands area is a hub of Nairobi’s ethnic Indian community and also the best place to experience the rich culinary culture they bring to the city.  At Diamond Plaza, a local shopping arcade, one can find the city’s best-tasting samosas, chapattis, fresh juices, and countless other Indian treats for a minimal price.

Signature Moment:  One Sunday a month, Nairobi’s young and creative gather for Blankets and Wine, a leisurely afternoon spent listening to the region’s best Afro-fusion, soul, jazz, and R&B bands while enjoying a glass of wine or a local Tusker beer/

5 – Seoul, South Korea

Hub for Progress:  Daehakro ("College way”) serves as the hub for progressive thought that is shaping modern Korea, and is also a home base for the artists responsible for the culture of the internationally acclaimed performance art known as the "Korean Wave.”  Nearby is Marronnier Park, where civic-minded collaboration and spontaneous displays of art are very much in vogue.

Signature Moment:  Burning Man Korea is a decidedly more free-flowing, much smaller, and far more internationally colorful baby to the original Burning Man festival.  Held on a beach outside Seoul at the end of every summer, this offshoot boasts a mix of Korean and English speakers and lures thousands of city dwellers, who meet up in the weeks leading up to the festival to plan themed camps and make the journey together.

6 – Johannesburg, South Africa

Local Vibes:  On the doorstep of the Nelson Mandela Bridge, is the Braamfontein area, which has become a breeding ground for small independent restaurants, bars, cafes and coffee brewers.  During Saturday’s Neighbourgoods Market, you can lazily while away the hours with the best food and drink vendors in the city.

Work/Life Balance:  The new trend of late-night running and cycling events in the Central Business District are just some of the ways that Joburgers fit it all in.

8 – New Orleans

Hub for Progress:  Dedicated to cultivating social entrepreneurship, Propeller recently opened a dynamic workspace that augments its increasingly popular fellowship program for those who wish to tackle environmental, economic, and social problems in New Orleans.  By being part of Propeller’s network, organizations like Birthmark Doula Collective and BreakOUT! Have the opportunity to collaborate with other innovators and increase their overall impact.

Transportation:  Thanks to civic investments and numerous and outspoken community bike organizations like Plan B, New Orleans’ bike ridership has increased by 54% since 2010.

9 – Beirut, Lebanon
Local Vibes:  Tawlet on Naher Street is where every day a new cook prepares typical food from his/her region.  The Souk el Tayeb farmers market launched the restaurant after people fell in love with the local produce and producers.  The best way to greet a vendor?  "Shou tabkha el mama lyom?” or "What’s cooking today, Mom?”

10- Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro’s character – unhurried, casual, and creative – is shaped by its cariocas, or native inhabitants of the city.

Local Vibes:  Open – air markets, or feiras, are a daily occurrence and are where locals come to shop for fresh produce, seafood, meats, and spices while snacking on a pastel, a deep-fried pastry filled with cheese, shrimp, hearts of palm or shredded beef, and cold sugar cane juice.

11 – Buenos Aires, Argentina
Hub for Progress:  Ciudad Cultural Konex is the Abasto neighborhood of Buenos Aires hosts La Bomba de Tiempo, an amped-up percussion explosion, every Monday night.  The cultural center in Barrio Once (Neighborhood 11) uses its massive open-air space and theaters for music, plays, festivals, and contemporary fine art.

Local Vibes:  The Buenos Aires Market is a movable feast.   One weekend per month, the feria brings local and organic foods from Argentina’s top producers and growers to different neighborhoods.  As a result, more than 60 food booths, workshops in healthy cooking, and free samples are broadening the palates of the traditionally meat and pasta-fed porteños.

 Signature Moment:  The San Telmo Street Fair attracts all walks of life to the city’s oldest neighborhood each Sunday.  Ebullient, percussive marches and dancing overtake the streets, and vendor booths line Calle Defensa down to Parque Lezama.

12 – Montreal, Canada

Hub for Progress:  As Montreal neighborhoods fill up with creative types of mingling in the multitude of cafés, a blog called "Montreal Coworking” has cropped up to point out the best places to collaborate.

13 – Paris, France
The Vélib’ bike-share system, instituted in 2007, has spurred growth in Parisian bike culture, and environmental efforts can be seen everywhere – from L’Oasis de’ Aboukir, a vertical green wall in the 2nd arrondissement, to the small co-op gardens dotting the city.

Hub for Progress:  Part of a new wave of socially and environmentally conscious businesses in La Ruche, a space located in the diverse 10th arrondissement that brings social innovator and startups together for projects like @Wiserlocal, an informal meeting where innovators share the tools they’re using to spur change. 

Green Space:  Paris is famously a city of parks and gardens, but there is also a growing culture of jardins partagés, or communal, co-op style garden spaces.  At the Jardins du Ruisseau, just a short walk away from Porte de Clignacourt, raised beds with local blooms and vegetables lie adjacent to abandoned railway tracks.

14 – Perth, Australia 
New spaces are emerging for people to create and collaborate; the small bar scene has exploded; and there’s a greater focus on what’s happening locally as people look for opportunities beyond the mining boom, rather than looking to their east coast rivals.

Hub for Progress:  In the center of the Central Business District, Spacecubed’s two co-working spaces are a place where entrepreneurs and change-makers can share ideas and collaborate.  The community is a mix of the social, technology, and creative industries, and is credited with igniting Perth’s fledging startup scene.

Local Vibes:  Urban Locavore sources the best food with its curated monthly tasting boxes and shops. The company’s aim is to support smaller growers and producers, and to encourage consumers to eat seasonally and locally.

Signature Moment:  Fringe World Festival that attracts the most diverse audience.  Pop-up venues, edgier acts, cheaper tickets, and hour-long shows mean there’s something to suit the artistic taste of every resident.

15 – Tel Aviv, Israel
Hub for Progress:  Owned by two 20-something craft fanatics, Hastudia is an open DIY workshop that offers hands-on lessons teaching everything from how to make your own vertical garden to woodworking and silk screening. 

Transportation:  Tel Aviv boasts 75 miles of bike paths and 300 sunny days a year, so it’s no surprise that Tel Avivians have a special affinity for the bicycle.  Between 2010 and 2012, there was a 54 percent increase in bike riders in Tel Aviv.  While locals generally own their own wheels, the city’s rentable Tel-O-Fun green bikes are found across the city.

16 – Santiago, Chile
Santiago is on an expansive trajectory, finally welcoming international cuisine, connecting with local design, and conducting vibrant discussions about human rights – most notably free education.

Civic Engagement:  Cycling for transportation is big in Santiago, and it’s getting bigger every year.  Critical mass bike rides (cicletadas) show the collective cycling consciousness with a ride departing from Plaza Italia on the first Tuesday of every month that’s usually packed with several thousand participants.  Local tour operator La Bicicleta Verde lends bikes for this ride to visitors.

17 – Kuala Lumpur, Maylasia 

Hub for Progress:  Creative hub Map KL consists of two spaces: a 6,000 square-foot White Box gallery and a 250-seat Black Box new media space.  Both are used for workshops, talks, exhibitions, film screenings, and art installations that bring KL’s creative community together.

Signature Moment:  More than just a concert, Urbanscapes is a two-day annual creative arts festival that engages the community with a mashup of indie artists, stand-up comedy, local food vendors, fashion retailers, art installations, and international acts such as Franz Ferdinand and Sigur Rós.

18 – Accra, Ghana

Hub for Progress:  The buzzing neighborhood of Osu is where it’s at for connecting in person, particularly at the much-lauded Republic Bar & Grill, which is a mecca for Accra’s creative professionals.  Other hot spots include the shared workspace Goba Hub or Accra(dot)Alt, an organization that calls itself "subversively African” and hosts "Talk Parties” to engage creative minds on important local issues.

19 – Atlanta
With schools like The Creative Circus, Portfolio Center, and Savannah College of Art & Design’s Atlanta campus, the city is also nurturing some of the country’s most creative minds, evidenced by the world-class design spilling outside of its classrooms.

Hub for Progress:  The Goat Farm Arts Center located in Atlanta’s Westside neighborhood, is an urban farm that connects creative types with performing arts, design, and technology.  The Goat Farm hosts not only a performing arts center, but also a community space and coffee shop, making it one of the city’s most unique and vibrant spots.

Green Space:  Winter brings the Garden Lights event, where all 30 acres are brightened by 1.5 million energy-efficient lights, in one of the city’s most anticipated holiday events.

20- Wellington (NZ)

Hub for Progress:  When it comes to bright ideas and Wellington’s emerging tech scene, organizations like BizDojo Enspiral, and Lighting Lab are connecting big thinkers with one another, as well as providing space, mentoring, and even seed money to help get innovation off the ground.

Local Vibes:  Each Sunday, purveyors of fresh produce and food stalls gather in Wellington’s waterfront, while the nearby Chaffers Dock Building boasts bacon sandwiches, or "butties” as they’re known here, made by one of the city’s best-known chefs, Martin Bosley.


Russ Parker