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Dubai
It is not the greatness of Dubai’s architecture that makes the list, but that the city has so much of it. Although the recession put a halt to some of the construction, such as Rem Koolhaas’ Waterfront City and the solar-and-wind powered Lighthouse Tower, which have been indefinitely suspended, plenty of other mind-boggling structures have been built. Top of the list is the current title holder of the world’s tallest building, the 160-floor, 830m-high Burj Khalifa, which opened in 2010. The manmade Palm Jumeirah islands, created by dredging the seabed, can be seen from space, while the towers of the Dubai Marina district and structures like the black pyramid of the Raffles hotel were all constructed at a blinding pace that stunned the world. Now that the economy is stabilising, Dubai is gearing back up with massive new projects like the Dubai Modern Art Museum and Opera House District announced in 2012, though a completion date is yet unknown. But nothing has yet surpassed the wind-stiffened, bellied-out sail of the Burj Al Arab hotel, which opened in 1999 and is arguably still the most famous silhouette on the Dubai skyline.

Some of the most desirable locations to live are in close proximity to these city landmarks and have a high-impact visual quality of their own, such as the curving, 80-storey Infinity Tower in Dubai Marina and the low villas of the Arabian Ranches community. “People look at the proximity to work, access to main roads, public transport, public facilities and schools,” said David Lawes, senior residential consultant for Better Homes realtors. “They want the best location and quality for their budget.” Average house prices in Dubai Marina are 1.8 million dirhams and rentals are 120,000 dirhams per year.

Copenhagen
Although this Scandinavian city is currently in vogue for New Nordic cuisine at the likes of Noma, the world’s best restaurant, and its highly popular television series such as Forbryldeson (The Killing), Danish architecture and urban planning are a perennial draw. A number of new public and private buildings have rejuvenated the waterfront and undeveloped parts of the city. The Black Diamond that gleams darkly on the harbourfront is a stunning addition to the Royal Library that houses exhibition spaces and a concert hall, while the Royal Danish Playhouse adds its lustre to the same area. Home-grown wunderkind Bjarke Ingels’ award-winning 8TALLET and VM residential buildings in the new development of Ørestad City on the island of Amager, south of the city centre, have reinvented the modern apartment block by giving every flat a view of the surroundings. “The few residential buildings designed by him are very popular,” said Torben Andersen, co-founder of RobinHus, a web real-estate firm. “They have helped draw interest to a part of Copenhagen that was basically barren land on the outskirts of the city.” The new district is also home to Jean Nouvel’s blue cube of a concert hall DR Koncerthuset.

The recession has affected Copenhagen’s housing market, but in 2012 prices increased more than 7% from 2011. However, restrictions still apply to non-EU citizens looking to purchase property unless you get a permit that states you are going to be a permanent resident. With the average purchasing price at 21,000 Danish kroner per square metre, a two-bedroom flat costs around 1.3 to 1.5 million Danish kroner, while large apartments can cost up to 4.5 million Danish kroner. Average rent for a two-bed flat in an older building costs around 5,000 Danish kroner per month, while those in new construction can cost double that.

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