I grew up in New York, went to high school in Paris, worked in London for two years after college, and have been living in SF for three years.I cannot speak to Montreal.Esme hit the nail on the head — it depends on what you want in a city.
New York is the fastest-paced, has a great bar scene, and offers tons of good options for restaurants.I found that people were the most social there in terms of spending time outside their homes.It is pretty career-centric… sometimes to a fault, In some professions.
In my opinion, London is the most similar to NY out of the other three.Its primary advantages over NY for me: Even more multi-cultured, more attractive architecture, ease of travel around Western Europe, and the dry humor / banter of the people I knew there.Its primary drawbacks: Expensive public transportation, the weather, and the food isn’t as consistently good.
Paris was an amazing city as a teenager.It remains my favorite city for wandering.I’ve heard that, as a foreigner, it can be more difficult from a career perspective.
I try to visit regularly and find quality of life as a semi-tourist to be great.But I could not see myself living there again until after I retire.I find San Francisco very different from the others.
It has the best access to nature, which is great if you love the outdoors.The Northern part of the city has many single-family homes — it feels like a hybrid between a big city and the suburbs.The nightlife is quieter (there are busy pockets, but they end earlier).
People seem more health-conscious, less fashion-conscious, and less likely to travel across town (neighborhood “cliques” are pretty common.)The tech scene is also a huge part of the culture.My personal view:NY is great for a socially energetic, career-focused lifestyle.
London is great for exploring many cultures.Paris is great for its beauty.And SF is great for a physically active lifestyle.
I completely agree that it depends on what you’re looking for.I would echo almost everything Kevin said (except for the bit about London – haven’t made it there yet), but I would add a thing or two about Montreal.Montreal most certainly has the lowest cost of living of the five cities you mentioned.
The others are among the most expensive places on earth to live; Montreal is much more reasonable.Montreal has a few more things going for it too, namely, a brilliant art and music scene, decent public transit, and a large number of high quality public spaces.The bilingual thing can be both an advantage or a disadvantage, again, depending on what you’re looking for.
Most people in Montreal can speak both English and French, and you can certainly get by with just one or the other.But to fully experience everything the city has to offer, being at least reasonably competent in both languages is a must.There is a endless stream of cultural offerings from films, concerts, art exhibitions, museums, theater, you name it – if you can’t speak both languages, you may not be able to enjoy the full spectrum of what Montreal has to offer.
That said, I’ve always had a wonderful time visiting, and my French is nothing to write home about.One last thing about Montreal that might swing you back in favor of your other options: the weather.Winter in Montreal is absolutely brutal.
Having grown up in Upstate New York, I feel I can say this without any hesitation.We’re talking temperatures well below 0 Fahrenheit (-18 Celsius) for much of the year.The average high temperature in January is just 22 Fahrenheit (-5.4 Celsius), and although it varies year to year, it often doesn’t warm up for good until Spring is well underway (the record low temperature in June is 34 Fahrenheit [1.1 Celsius]).
In my own personal experience, the people in Montreal are a friendly, open-minded, progressive, and artistically minded bunch with a lot to offer a newcomer.Nightlife is abundant, so you’ll never run out of things to do and warm places to hang out.
For me London wins on just variety of everything.People, cultures, activities, scenery etc.I’ve lived there many years but have only visited NY, Montreal, SF and Paris.
But if you really want to rank the big 3 (NY, London, Paris) score and weight the factors like shows, restaurants, scenery/architecture, museums/galleries, weather etc.Somymu poll here allows you to do that interactively.
Here is my ranking:San Francisco, Montreal, New-York, Paris, London