I have a keen interest in learning about the economics and how cities can attract talent and capital. First, I started off by reading this Wikipedia article — Global city.
A global city (also called world city or sometimes alpha city or world center) is a city generally considered to be an important node in the global economic system. The concept comes from geography and urban studies and rests on the idea that globalization can be understood as largely created, facilitated, and enacted in strategic geographic locales according to a hierarchy of importance to the operation of the global system of finance and trade.
There are some different indexes but the latest I could find was this one — Global Power City Index 2011 (in pdf). The top 20 global cities are below:
1) New York 320.）[1 (322.6)]
2) London（320.6）[2 (313.6)]
3) Paris（308.7）[3 (303.1)]
4) Tokyo（304.3）[4 (300.3)]
5) Singapore（255.3）[5 (244.2)]
6) Berlin（234.8）[6 (232.9)]
7) Seoul（233.4）[8 (228.5)]
8) Hong Kong（231.1）[9 (223.8)]
10) Amsterdam（226.6）[7 (230.8)]
11) Frankfurt（225.1）[13 (212.3)]
12) Sydney（215.8）[10 (219)]
13) Vienna（215.3）[11 (217.4)]
14) Los Angeles（212.2）[14 (210.7)]
15) Zurich（211.4）[12 (215)]
16) Osaka（205.8）[18 (205.6)]
17) Boston（205.7）[20 (203.3)]
18) Geneva（205.2）[19 (205.4)]
19) Beijing（204.2）[24 (199.2)]
20) Copenhagen（203.2）[17 (206.3)]
I’ve gone to 13 of the 20 cities. Here are my short thoughts:
1) New York – I’ve gone there four times during my college days. One of my friends worked in the Financial district there and we did some sightseeing including the Empire State building and took on some ferry boats. I suppose it’s a financial powerhouse due to banks like American Express and JP Morgan. Central Park, museums, and the subway system pretty much define this city!
2) London – this is the reason why I was excited to type this post because I just visited London! It’s a close call between NYC and London but I’m afraid that London got the call in my own book. I can’t really summarize London in a single sentence since it’s got much history to it–the British museum, National Gallery, Westminister Palace, and so on. One thing that impressed me the most is the sense of regulation/security in this city. Your baggage get thoroughly inspected at the airports, rules are posted constantly everywhere, and there are people to help you along to get to your destinations. Trains, the Tube, taxis, London buses, etc. On the last day, I was able to return my Oyster card, which I got my deposit fee, and its remaining amount left, as I walked back into the airport. That’s efficient.
3) Paris – not visited
4) Tokyo – visited! I visited there two times. It’s got everything and more. Its subway system is the best in the world. Proof was when my ticket card got stuck into the machine. There was a Japanese lady right there, standing, and she walked forward, unlatched the machine and retracted the stuck card and handed it back to me. She said please try again and my card got all the way through out. It’s also got the best fish market in the world, and ofc, sushi is the best. Service is best too. I think you get what I mean.
5) Singapore – visited! I went there with my friend as part of the 17 days Southeast Asia trip which included five different countries. Both my friend and I had a great time there — weather really warm and tropical. Subway was tops. We stayed at a nice hotel and service was great. Could feel the city was thriving, diverse, however, its land is extremely small, so it depends on tourism a lot. Development is similar to Tokyo.
6) Berlin – not visited yet
7) Seoul – well, Seoul! I had the privilege of living in Seoul for one year where I worked for Google. And that’s in the Gangnam district! For sure, the city is competitive, carrying four million passengers everyday in subway. Koreans like to drive too, with cars in a traffic jam endlessly and not just that, there are motorcycle bikers who are eager to take your delivery to wherever you want it to be. It’s also the city where people consume most alcohol per capita, so as soon as you get there, expect to drink some soju! Many beautiful women too. It’s a city that is caught in the frenzy of modernization, competition, and transformation from the old city.
8) Hong Kong – visited! in my opinion, I think it has the best airport in the world. Express train is right there at the airport, walkable only by few hundred steps and in just 25 minutes, you’d be right there in the Hong Kong downtown. Lots of skyscrapers, since land is tight. It was colonized by the British, so no surprise there. My friend and I stayed at the Langham hotel, one of the best in the world.
10) Amsterdam- not visited yet
11) Frankfurt – visited! that was during my trip to Zurich as my co-worker has a sister in law who lives there. Seems like a nice quiet city but not as populous as in the Asian cities. Got a beautiful landscape around it and rivers. Despite that, I think it’s on the declining trend tho.
12) Sydney – not visited yet
13) Vienna – not visited yet
14) Los Angeles – visited! – that’s one big sprawling city, which can take 4 hours or longer to get from the west to the east. It’s home to Hollywood, the beaches, surfing, bodybuilders (Arnold Schwarzenegger), skateboarders, the porn industry, drugs, the Lakers basketball team. Don’t think I need to say more.
15) Zurich – visited! it’s got one word and that’s called Zurich. Really nice city, seems like everyone is smart and rich. Everything is just in place, like the Swiss clock and it’s got the best public transportation (trams, buses) in the world. Swiss Army knifes, Swiss watches, and the Alps mountains. That’s Swiss.
16) Osaka – yet
17) Boston – visited, although I’ve only gone there twice and for a really short time. I did cruise around the Fenway park, which was smaller than I’d expected. Saw some universities like Harvard and MIT. A college town, that’s for sure. Other than that, didn’t see much, need to visit again. :/
18) Geneva – yet, although I visited Zurich
19) Beijing – visited. I visited this city way back in 2001. I think it’s changed a lot since then, maybe less polluted this time. It recently hosted the 2008 Olympics and I’ve been hearing some good things about the city. I’m not too sure about the high population and public transportation system though.
20) Copenhagen – yet, high on my list to visit, along with Amsterdam and Paris.
So, there you have it, some short bursts of my thoughts on the Top 20 Global Cities. I intend to visit the remaining cities and will be sure to share my thoughts. :)