READER REPORT:

Is Wellington really that great?

DAVID LIM
Last updated 11:07 29/10/2012
CAPITAL SPOT: Wellington.

CAPITAL SPOT: Wellington.

Bern, Switzerland
OLD MAGIC: Stalls crowd the square in front of Switzerland's federal parliament building in Bern.

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Wellington, according to the Lonely Planet, is the best/coolest little capital city in the world.

I have lived here for nearly five years, and love it. There's not too much to dislike - apart from the expensive parking fees, cost of living, being on a fault line and of course, the weather.

But is it really the best little capital city in the world? Having recently gone on a round the world trip, I beg to differ.

Keep in mind that a city can't have more than 500,000 residents if it's to meet the ''little'' criteria.

So, what city can lay claim to Wellington's proud title?

It is hard to believe that Bern, with less people than (yikes) Hamilton, is the capital of Switzerland, that country smack in the middle of Europe where people like to hide their money.

By the cold and fast flowing River Aare, with 125,681 people, it is a rather fine place. It's also Switzerland's best value city. In the old part of the city (Altstadt), you will find a huge range of shops - from your H&Ms to little eccentric art and antique merchants located in cellars below street level. You will also find delightful cafes and of course, like anywhere in Europe, very old churches.

You are also quite likely to find a government ministry's office next to a shop selling marionettes along one of the many claustrophobic alleys.

A bit like Wellington then - just with 500 years of history as its trump card. And just like Wellington does with Auckland, Bern has to play second fiddle to its bigger brother  Zurich.

To get to Bern you often have to fly to Zurich and then catch a connecting train or plane - just as you often have to fly to Auckland first to get to Wellington. Zurich, like Auckland, also contains most of its country's money and jobs. Most people who work in Bern probably work in the state sector, just like Wellington.

On that note, a city should not only be considered the best just for its sights and characters; is Bern more livable than Wellington?

According to Mercer's 2011 quality of living survey, Bern was a joint 9th with Copenhagen, while Wellington was 13th (Vienna was 1st, Zurich 2nd, and Auckland 3rd).

And for those considering a move to Australia, Sydney was 11th, Melbourne 18th, Perth 21st and Brisbane 37th.

According to Mercer's 2012 cost of living survey, Bern was the 14th costliest (having been 16th the year before) while Wellington was 74th.
The survey measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including transport, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. The cost of housing is also included and, as it is often the biggest expense for expatriates, it plays an important part in determining where cities are ranked.

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In a nutshell, while Bern is clearly the better city for living than Wellington it is also a lot more costly.

If value for money was key, then Wellington is still clearly the best little capital. But if history and quality of living were key to handing out accolades, Bern is the winner.


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