Just Breathe – 20 Cities Around the World With the Highest Air Quality

August 16, 2011 Environment Travel

You know that what you breathe in can make a big difference in your health. You don’t have to have a public health degree to know that breathing in dirty air can be detrimental. Indeed, your lungs can be coated — much as if you were a smoker — by the air you breathe in.

Plenty of cities in the world are known for their poor air quality. Los Angeles, New York City, Mexico City, and Beijing often come to mind almost immediately when you think of poor air quality. But what about those cities with better air quality? There are some cities that are known as the cities with the cleanest air. Clarity2010 references a list of the top cities with the cleanest air in the world. If you are looking for a place to breathe easier, here are the top 20 cities around the world with the highest air quality:

  1. Dublin, Ireland: At #20 on this list, Dublin, Ireland features plenty to do — and plenty of appeal. It’s the capital of Ireland, and the heart of Irish culture. There are plenty of educational institutions (think Trinity College), as well as high technology. Air quality is helped along by light rail, and a pedestrian friendly atmosphere.
  2. Wellington, New Zealand: The public transit system in Wellington helps keep air pollution down, consisting of buses, trains and ferries. Plus, it helps when you live in a country with more sheep than people.
  3. Auckland, New Zealand: Another city from Down Under! For a city with the headquarters of several international corporations, this city has remarkably good air quality. It is a transportation hub, but still manages to keep its air fairly clean.
  4. Geneva, Switzerland: It probably isn’t much of a surprise that one of the cities with the cleanest air in the world is Geneva — although some might be surprised that the environmentally conscious Swiss aren’t a little higher on the list. Trolleys and trams, as well as bus and rail, help make Geneva a city with relatively low air pollution.
  5. Nuremberg, Germany: Known for the famous trials following World War II, this city is looking for another reputation. Germany is known as a country at the forefront of embracing alternative energy technologies, so it is little surprise that this German city made the list — especially since it is a research hub boasting excellent public transportation.
  6. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States: I expect that many people will be surprised by the inclusion of Pittsburgh on this list. Many people don’t think about Pittsburgh as an environmental haven. However, this former steel capital has shifted to a services oriented economy, and there is a great deal of good mass transit to help cut down on air pollution.
  7. Lexington, Kentucky, United States: Another U.S. city to make the list. Known for horse racing, this city is also known for its clean air. This is interesting, since the extensive highway system might lead many to believe that the city would actually be quite dirty. However, the high end industry in the city, along with the mass transit system, help keep the pollution down.
  8. Boston, Massachusetts, United States: This city tied with Lexington and Pittsburgh as one of the cities with the cleanest air in the world. Boston has a light rail system that helps out, and is known as an environmentally friendly place, with green businesses. So, there is plenty of clean air to be enjoyed as you explore this historical city.
  9. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: Most people won’t be surprised to find that Vancouver made the list of cities with the cleanest air. Vancouver is known as an environmentally friendly city full of air-cleaning trees. Even though it is a major port, its public transportation resources help limit the pollution staining the city.
  10. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Enjoy the epitome of culture in Montreal — and breathe easy while you do it. This city features extensive public transportation to help cut down on pollution. The city is also a hub for commerce and world affairs, with presences from other high end industries that are known for being a little bit cleaner.
  11. Bern, Switzerland: It appears that we’ve returned to Switzerland for another look at good air quality. Bern is known for its pristine beauty. It is a modern city able to retain historic features. Walking and biking is encouraged, and that helps keep the air clean.
  12. Katsuyama, Japan: This is a small city, but it is known as one of the cleanest in the world. Not only is Katsuyama known for its air quality, but also for its sanitation.
  13. Zurich, Switzerland: Tied with several other cities for #6 on the list of the top cities with cleanest air, Zurich isn’t much of a surprise. A global city with a high quality of life, it only makes sense that there would be clean air.
  14. Stockholm, Sweden: This Nordic city boasts a booming financial sector, and has almost no heavy industry. This feature means that it is easier to keep the air cleaner. Citizens are encouraged to take public transportation, or use modes of transportation they power, such as walking or biking.
  15. Oslo, Norway: As we get closer to the cleanest city in the world, it is little surprise that another Nordic city is on the list. Air quality is high in many of these northern countries. Oslo is a major shipping center, so the air quality is quite good, considering.
  16. Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States: This U.S. city has a number of good bike lanes, encouraging personal transportation that is a little bit cleaner. Light rail helps with mass transit. Cleaner air, and plenty of culture to go around.
  17. Ottowa, Ontario, Canada: The capital of Canada offers relatively clean public transport options, and has a number of government services and high tech companies, which means not a lot of pollution.
  18. Helsinki, Finland: This business and cultural center has very little manufacturing and heavy industry to pollute the air. Clean air is further encouraged by a pedestrian friendly atmosphere that includes a great light rail system.
  19. Honolulu, Hawaii, United States: This city has the second-cleanest air in the world. Since its main source of revenue is tourism, the little light manufacturing does little to sully the clean and refreshing island air. The excellent public transit also helps.
  20. Calgary, Alberta, Canada: And the #1 city in the world for air quality is Calgary. This city is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada, so it is a little surprising that its air quality is so good. It is a leading city to live in globally, and features a great public transit system.