Living in: The world’s happiest places
On the east side of town across the Akerselva river, hip Grünerløkka is also very desirable. A former working class area, it is home to many students, creative types and young families. The square metre price of a property in Frogner ranges from 40,000 to 120,000 Norwegian krone, while in Grünerløkka the price ranges from 35,000 to 80,000 NOK. Rent for three-bedroom apartment in the city centre is around 15,000 to 20,000 NOK a month. Typically, the busiest times are in December/January and July/August when students are starting school and university.
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Geneva sits on the southwestern end of long Lake Geneva, backed by the Alps and the Jura Mountains, close to the French border. While the Swiss city’s official language and air of sophistication is French, Geneva is a global financial centre and one of the United Nation’s main headquarters, home to dozens of UN offices including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Health Organization, as well as the International Red Cross and European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). As a result, nearly half the city’s residents are foreign nationals.
The Rhone River divides the city into the Rive Gauche, home to the Old Town, the University of Geneva and the Cathédrale St-Pierre, and the Rive Droite with its many parks, international organisations and NGOs. In the summer, beaches such as Baby Plage and Bains des Paquis on the banks of the lake provide residents with opportunities for swimming and sunning. In winter, many flock to ski resorts in the nearby Mont Blanc massif, such as Chamonix and Courmayeur.
The Old Town is one of the most expensive places to live, but suburbs along the lake, such as affluent, pricey Cologny, are also in high demand. South of the city centre, Carouge is an arty district with a large outdoor market, a thriving cultural scene and great restaurants. Many expats commute from nearby French towns where housing is less expensive, such as Saint-Julien south of the city and Ferney-Voltaire to the north. Many apartments and most houses are rented unfurnished which adds to the expense, and non-Swiss citizens will usually need a government permit to buy property.
“Property in Geneva is very sought after, but in short supply in prime locations,” said Peter Frigo, managing partner of Engel & Völkers Switzerland. “Prices have fallen slightly, but are still some of the highest in the world, comparable to St Moritz [in Switzerland] and the Hamptons [in New York].” In the city centre, two-bedroom apartments start around 2.5 million Swiss francs, and a three-bedroom apartment rents for between 3,000 and 4,500 CHF a month. A two-bedroom property in Colony averages around 3.5 million CHF, and the average rental price is 2,000 CHF a month.
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Utrecht, just 40km south of Amsterdam, is a compact city filled with delightful cafes and restaurants, thousands of students who attend the venerable Utrecht University, and many artists and musicians. Along the Oudegracht, the central canal, cellar-level bars and pubs line the towpath, which is a charming place to watch the boats and birds go by. The Domtoren, or cathedral tower, is the tallest in the country, and from the top visitors can see the entire city below. Spring and summer bring the festival season, including the national Nederlands Film Festival in September, and every Saturday the Oudegracht blooms with the weekly flower market. “Utrecht has all the big city amenities with a small town atmosphere and is much more relaxed than Amsterdam or Rotterdam,” said Roald de Waard, a local estate agent. “It has an excellent public transport system and a young and well-educated populace.”