Is Philly the 11th-Best City on the Planet?

A business school in Spain seems to think so.

Folks who have embraced our city’s lovable inferiority complex are going to have a hard time making sense of this: Philadelphia has been named the 11th-best city on the planet by IESE Business School in Spain, part of its annual Cities in Motion Index (ICIM)

Seriously. We’re better than Amsterdam. We’re the second-best American city on the list. Here’s the Top 20 list:

  1. Tokyo
  2. London
  3. New York
  4. Zürich
  5. Paris
  6. Geneva
  7. Basel
  8. Osaka
  9. Seoul
  10. Oslo
  11. Philadelphia
  12. Los Angeles
  13. Dallas
  14. Copenhagen
  15. Eindhoven
  16. Amsterdam
  17. Sydney
  18. Stockholm
  19. Chicago
  20. Baltimore

Megan Willet at Business Insider explains:

To establish the ranking, researchers studied 135 cities across 55 countries, and based their results on over 50 indicators along 10 different dimensions including governance, public management, urban planning, technology, environment, international outreach, social cohesion, mobility and transportation, human capital (ability to attract talent), and economy.

Well, um….

Before you get too skeptical, consider the auspicious timing of a new column from Deborah Diamond of Campus Philly and Steve Wray  of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia. Philly, they say in the Philadelphia Business Journal, is becoming a “brain magnet.” It’s mostly a celebration of Campus Philly’s 10th anniversary, but it offers reasons to think we’re awesome:

The future for Philadelphia is exciting. We are now a net population winner over New York City (more people move from there to here than from here to there). Enrollment is growing at our regional colleges and universities, providing even more opportunity for Philadelphia to add young, educated residents.

So maybe we are all that.

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  • MetalDog

    Philly has so much going for it, but the thing that can really make it a great city is fixing the schools. I’m not a parent so I have no personal stake in this, but it’s a problem that so many people feel like they need to pack up and move to get to better schools on the other side of the border.

    • NateFried

      the crime rate is down… big unions are loosing control of every development project… talks are underway for fixing the business tax to attract more companies. Imagine if all this happens AND we are able to fix our schools. Wow. I wouldn’t be suprised if Philly bump up to top five.

      • Yes_General

        Its called generational change. The city was never the problem it was the people. I moved because of the people. Never had a problem finding a job but after i left work what did i come home to was always the question. In 10 years with a re-developed Market street with a Times Square look all the way down to the water front and going in the opposite direction towards university city. I can picture it now.

        • Josh Lev

          An unqualified YES to development and growth. No to a Times Square the length of Market Street. No thanks. Times Square is the worst part of New York City. Keep it confined to Market East area, please. Between 6th and 11th.

    • joeg

      but the real problem for all of us are uneducated kids roaming the streets with nothing but time on their hands. schools must indeed be funded better or just build the prisons.

      • DTurner

        I think we already made our choice there…

      • PJ

        i’m good with more prisons

  • Lex Luthor

    Get rid of the democratic influence, fix the schools, and shut down the unions..Philly would be #1.

  • Emma

    I’ll take Philadelphia over New York any day!

    • George Lee

      New York is just an overrated corporate town with decaying infrastructure and a mayor with messed-up priorities. In fact New York shouldn’t be on this list.

  • DTurner

    The real new story here is that Baltimore is #20.

    • NotFromPhilly

      Yeah, I adore Baltimore, but …..

    • Ken Shuttleworth

      have u been to the inner harbor lately. at least a third of the space is occupied by governmental tenants, a sure sign of desperation.

      • DTurner

        Yeah, Bmore has sort of been stagnate over the past decade, although the growth in areas like Fells Point and Canton has been pretty impressive. Downtown is pretty awful, but it seems to be (slowly) getting better, but it’s at a slower pace than here even.

  • NotFromPhilly

    Wow, Philly and Baltimore are on this list. Boston, Atlanta, D.C. and Seattle are not. I like this list.

  • positivethinkingisagoodthing

    Get over it – Philadelphia IS a great city!

    • George Lee

      That’s an understatement.
      Philadelphia is THE GREATEST CITY IN AMERICA!! That’s more accurate.

  • Poytszi

    Are you serious? Who makes these determinations? With poverty and violent crime hitting new highs in many cities on this list, including philly, it makes one believe that wealthy interests are playing this game.

    • John Nathan Mininger

      Well … I agree BUT … I don’t think your characterization of violent crime hitting new highs is accurate. The late 80’s / early 90’s was really the zenith for violent crime in Philly and other major cities.

  • PJ

    so baltimore…BALTIMORE…is the 20th best city in the world? ahead of barcelona, rome, munich, cologne, prague, tallinn? proof that these clowns don’t know a thing.

  • jibjab

    People who think that Philly should even be on this list have clearly never been to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, or any other European city. Get out of Philly and travel, Philly would have a hard time making the top 100…

    • Jude Buffum

      Well the people that made this list are from a European university. So your argument kinda falls apart there…

      • Jibjab

        I was talking about the people in the comment area that say that Philly is one of the top cities in the world. Now you look silly and you have no argument.

        • Jude Buffum

          Oh I thought the comments section was to discuss the article, my mistake. Continue on with your petty, judgmental attitudes big man.

          • Jibjab

            I’m sorry that you have an issue with reading comprehension. I also don’t see how I was being judgmental or petty with advising people to travel. I’m going to help you out; I’m going to send you a dictionary because I don’t believe you understand what petty or judgmental mean. Once you’re done with the vocabulary lesson, try leaving Philadelphia. There’s an amazing world out there.

          • Jude Buffum

            The reading comprehension problem is yours little buddy, but since you’re too busy looking up simple words in a dictionary, I’ll give you the Cliffs Notes: the study ranked cities based on 50 indicators across 10 different categories, and Philadelphia ranked #11 within those parameters.
            But instead of intelligently discussing those findings you chose to insult people that agree with that ranking (or even its inclusion on that list) and judge them (myself included) as untraveled ignoramuses who need to get out and see the world. Traveling (which contrary to your ignorance I have done a bit of) is a noble pursuit, although it tends to make a small percentage of people judgmental blowhards…

          • Jibjab

            Let’s test the water here… Do you believe Philadelphia should be ranked as the 11th best city in the world?

          • Josh Lev

            I’ve lived in Paris, New York, Chicago, Sydney and Philadelphia. Philadelphia is a great city. Maybe not 11. But it certainly cracks the top 20. Perhaps you should get out more in Philly (Philly in 2014 is an entirely different city than it was in 2000) and live in and not just visit some other cities.

        • DTurner

          Having lived in Europe, I kinda have to disagree.

    • mhb1014

      visiting a city as a tourist is quite different than living there. and this study included many factors the casual observer would miss. So while i love visiting the cities you listed, I can believe there is more to life than making tourists happy.

      • Jibjab

        I highly doubt the people that made this list have lived in all 20 cities. My brother lives in Copenhagen and I visit him several times a year. Is it better than Philadelphia? By a long shot…

  • Veillantif

    Sofia, Bulgaria: #90

    La Paz, Bolivia: #135

    Boston, Seattle, San Francisco/San Jose, San Diego, Miami, Austin: unranked


  • jonjct

    there is NO WAY philadelphia is even on this list.

    • George Lee

      Huh??? Philadelphia is #1 in the U.S. for young people, night life, food, arts and culture, start-ups, bike riding, science, hospitals, walkability, and not to mention the largest 4th of July celebrations and the BEST New Year’s parade.

  • This sentence at the beginning of the abstract for the IESE Business School report on the IESE Cities In Motion Index of the world’s “smartest” cities – which is where these rankings come from – might help you put some of your incredulity on hold:

    A city’s reputation does not always correspond to its reality. Florence, for example, is the sixth “most valued” city in the world. However, it ranks 57th when each of its dimensions is measured objectively.

    Those dimensions are listed in that Business Insider snippet cited above. Note that none of them have to do with those “quality of life” factors that appeal to so-called “creative class” types that usually factor into those rankings of “valued” cities.

    Keep in mind before you snort out your coffee on the “governance” part that the index is measured by weighing all of these factors together.

  • Helen Azar


  • Helen Azar

    Honestly, I think Philly should be higher than NYC and Tokyo, but since Dallas and LA on this list, all bets are off, I am not buying it at all!

    • George Lee

      Philly IS better than NYC for everything. Most people just don’t want to admit it.

      • Helen Azar

        I admit it gladly! :D

  • Donald Sterling

    Joel Mathis and Victor Fiorillo do very little to help that score.
    Those two are the biggest frauds in journalism

  • Oliver

    It’s a very curious list. I can only imagine that the indicators are so quirky, this seemingly incongruous list somehow makes sense. I adore Philadelphia. But what makes it great is a whole other dimension from what makes Tokyo great.

    Given that American cities comprise more than 20% of the list, I suspect this is another case of Europeans’ love affair with all things American. I live in Europe; I’m flattered…and baffled…just as I am walking down the streets here and seeing more American flags on T-shirts than I do in River City, USA. I do not pretend that our culture deserves the adulation it receives…just as I think Philly is best as its gritty, neighborhoody self without need to compete with the likes of London.

  • George Lee

    Philly is #1 in the U.S. New York is a corporation, Chicago is a decaying crime-ridden hellhole, and Baltimore shouldn’t even be on this list. Philly outclasses New York in EVERYTHING New Yorkers like to brag about. At least we don’t label our city “the greatest city in the world!” If you live in Philly or have moved here, there is no reason to go to New York.

  • TAK

    It’s an interesting study and it’s great to see Philly on the list. However, there are a few things to keep in mind before everyone gets too worked up about it: 1) The study only included eight cities from the US. Boston, Atlanta, Miami, San Francisco, Dan Diego and Seattle were not even ranked (not saying, of course, that they are any better than Philly!). 2) Philly’s economy was ranked very highly, which might seem a bit strange unless you compare it to a place like Barcelona, which is in the tank right now (despite it’s knock-out urban beauty). 3) Philly gets the worst scores for the Environment and Public Management, which means we’ve got a long way to go. It’s worth taking a look at this link:

  • christopher cager

    I’m from Baltimore and find its ranking laughable! The city is still stagnate and the politicos want this stagnation to be maintained and have progress come slowly to Baltimore. The city’s officials lack vision to thrust open new climate and ideas about how the city should be ran. The cronies in Annapolis, still want Baltimore to remain a bastion of Hillbilly politics and consciousness. That is my take.

  • christopher cager

    I would put Houston above Baltimore!!!

  • christopher cager

    For those of you who are disrespecting New York (don’t know why unless it’s personal), New York (whether you like it or not), is a world megalopolis full of multi-ethnic, multi-generational and many other dynamics that make one smartass city by default.