Urbanists, geographers and sociologists alike know that a success of a city doesn’t rely solely on bricks and mortar, nor economics and investments. Instead, the lifestyle of urban dwellers and the access they have to arts and culture that creates the quality of life most cities are striving to achieve.  Looking at the World Cities Cultural Forum’s latest report, which starts with an ubiquitous quote by Albert Einstein – ‘Logic gets you from A to B. Imagination gets you everywhere,’ – we analyze 15 global cities to decipher which provide the richest arts and culture experiences.

Looking at Amsterdam, Istanbul, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Moscow, Mumbai, New York, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Seoul, Shanghai, Tokyo and Toronto, there are perhaps few surprises if we look holistically at the four indicators we’ve whittled down to succinctly analyze the availability of cultural experiences in these cities. Looking at the number of live music venues, museums and art galleries, as well as festivals and celebrations per annum as a total, it shouldn’t shock anyone that European cities Paris and London top the list. However, looking at the breakdown of cultural assets, the two cities ranking first do so because of an abundance of art galleries – and as most urbanites know, those are often inaccessible to large swathes of most societies.

Though New York comes in third overall, it overwhelmingly beats the rest of the pack when it comes to live music venues – a legacy that continues until this day. With what some would consider a shockingly low number of art galleries – the lowest in the cities analyzed in fact – Moscow sees a decent ranking thanks to its high number of annual festivals and celebrations. Meanwhile, Los Angeles leads the way in terms of live music venues, but is knocked down by its lack of museums. Despites its famous festivals, Rio de Janeiro ranks poorly for two reasons – the informality of development has meant that data on the amount of live music venues is unavailable, and its number of museums and art galleries, while not the worst, are lacking.

art culture