They say it takes a village to raise a child, so pick your village wisely.
Looking for some of the best cities in the world to raise a family? Well, it’s not always that easy. Factors such as safety, infrastructure and quality of life enable both children and adults to thrive, but kids have some special requirements. First of all, for those whose kids haven’t arrived in the world yet, a location with generous paid parental leave and widely available subsidised childcare is ideal.
As the kids grow, an education system that enables a child to thrive, expand his or her mind and exercise creativity while still maintaining high academic standards is preferable to one that simply does not impart sufficient skills and knowledge, or one that does but through a soul-crushing emphasis on grades and standardised testing.
Child-friendly cities also give kids the space to, well, be kids. This means ample opportunities for play and recreation, safe and secure surroundings with plenty of green spaces, and the chance to connect and enjoy time with other children.
Based on these considerations, here are some of the best cities to raise a family.
1. Copenhagen, Denmark
Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world, which bodes well for parents looking for a delightful place for their kids to grow up in. The capital Copenhagen is an exceedingly eco-friendly and sustainable city with plenty of green spaces for families to enjoy.
The Danish education system, while of a high standard, famously allows children a high degree of freedom and prioritises social development, which is ideal for parents who wish to raise happy and well-adjusted children – and who doesn’t?
2. Stockholm, Sweden
UNICEF named Sweden the best place in the world to raise a family, and it’s easy to see why thanks to the Nordic nation’s famously generous paid parental leave policies, which allow 480 days of paid leave per child.
Stockholm is extremely child-friendly, with a pleasant and scenic environment, access to nature and outdoor areas, and lots of kids’ attractions and museums. Many restaurants are child-friendly and accommodate strollers. Sweden also has one of the best education systems in the world and maintains an emphasis on nurturing individual strengths and allowing personal liberty.
3. Oslo, Norway
In 2020, Norway was named the second best country in which to raise a child by Asher & Lyric. Other than the usual Nordic perks like affordable childcare and copious paid parental leave, Norway also has some of the lowest kindergarten prices in Europe.
School and higher education in Norway are free and of a high standard, while retaining the latitude that is typical of Scandinavian education systems. After school, kids can enjoy the multitude of parks and natural attractions in and around Oslo.
4. Ottawa, Canada
It can be hard to pick a city in the vastness that is Canada, but capital Ottawa is a good bet for families. It is a diverse and multicultural city with a high sense of belonging compared to Canada’s other major cities, which can make the move easier for both parents and kids.
Canada is also one of the best destinations for education in the world, with free public schooling and good universities. According to BBC, the Canadian education system ranks highly and migrant children appear to integrate quickly and perform as well as their native-born classmates.
5. Utrecht, Netherlands
A child’s happiness is the number one priority of many parents, and UNICEF has ranked the Netherlands as the best country in the world for child wellbeing. With a well-rounded education system that is respectful to individual freedom and a generally safe and pleasant living environment, the Netherlands is able to provide kids with the tools to feel satisfied about their lives.
Utrecht, the fourth largest city in the Netherlands, is home to charming tree-lined canals, kid-friendly facilities and Utrecht University, the Netherlands’ largest university and one of it’s oldest, all of which might be of interest to children at some point in their lives.
The tiny nation of Luxembourg is a hodgepodge of cultures thanks to the large expat community who are either resident there or travel daily from France, Belgium and Germany. Moving there can offer the opportunity to immerse your kids in a multicultural and multilingual environment.
Children at local public schools are taught in German and later learn French and English. Compared to other countries in the EU, Luxembourg has the highest proportion of students who do not speak the language of instruction at home, as well as the highest number of foreign languages learnt per person, so your child’s experiences will be shared by many others. The tiny, wealthy country is also exceedingly safe, enabling your kids to enjoy the city without worrying you.
7. Helsinki, Finland
Finland’s schools have become world famous for maintaining high standards while requiring few contact hours, minimal homework and no mandated standardised tests, which will surely delight your kids. Finnish schools prioritise children’s wellbeing through a system that is now the envy of other countries.
Thanks to the relatively short school hours, your kids will have ample time for play. Finnish capital Helsinki is compact and the city centre filled with kid-friendly spots all within walking distance, including lots of parks, pools and an amusement park.
8. Raykjavik, Iceland
Iceland’s otherworldly landscapes are the stuff of fairy tales, but it’s also a fantastic place to raise kids. Icelandic society values being able to spend time in nature and as a family, and that is reflected in capital Reykjavik’s layout and facilities, which include plenty of outdoor heated pools, sprawling parks and gardens and an ice skating rink.
The kids will be alright at school, too, since Iceland’s education system is considered to be not just of a high standard but also progressive, and no tuition fees are charged for compulsory education and higher education at public universities.
By Joanne Poh