If you have asthma, you'll know that where you live has a big impact on your condition. Smog, high pollution, and poor air quality are all becoming an increasing concern in many cities, with dire consequences for our health and well-being. Fortunately, it's not something you have to put up with. Look hard enough, and you'll find plenty of places where you can breathe easily. Without further ado, here are the 10 best places to live with asthma in Europe.
20. Uppsala, Sweden
Scandis have a lot to be thankful for. Their governments are progressive, their healthcare systems are among the best in the world, crime is low, and the scenery is out of this world. On top of that, the air quality ranks as the best in Europe.
Take Uppsala in Sweden as an example. Pollution barely registers on the scale, the cold weather keeps any pollen problems at bay, smog is unheard of, and you'll rarely hear a rasp or a wheeze from any of its residents. If all that wasn't enough, it's also a stunning city in its own right, with history, charm, and culture to spare.
19. Tampere, Finland
If you can put up with the freezing winter temperatures, the long hours of darkness, and the high cost of living, Finland makes a great place to live. In fact, it ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world. At least part of that is down to the stunningly pure air, the low pollution, and the outstanding healthcare.
If you have asthma, you'll struggle to find many places that can compete with Tampere, a medium-sized city of 334,112 residents in the western part of Finland that ranks as one of the greenest, cleanest, and downright healthiest places to live in Europe. Even without the health benefits, it's still a great place to live thanks to a lively atmosphere, a fine selection of attractions, a high standard of living, and a welcoming, diverse community.
18. Alytus, Lithuania
Residents of Alytus in Lithuania can breathe easily in the knowledge that their city has some of the cleanest air in Europe. So low is the pollution and so high is the air quality, the city has one of the lowest mortality rates attributable to pollution in Europe. Small, pretty, and surrounded by miles of pristine scenery, it's unquestionably a beautiful (not to mention healthy) place to live.
17. Lahti, Finland
Where better for people with asthma to head than the European Green Capital? As lahti.fi writes, the European Commission has chosen Lahti in Finland as the European Green Capital of 2021, a mark of the great strides the city has taking in reducing its carbon footprint and improving environmental standards for its residents.
As a way to encourage people to ditch their cars and embrace a healthy lifestyle, the city has launched the world’s first urban ski-sharing program: City Skis. The program operates in a similar way to bike-sharing programs, albeit with skis instead of bikes. As you'd expect of Finland's greenest city, the air quality is second to none.
16. Galway, Ireland
Low pollution, great air quality, an absence of heavy industry, and optimal weather conditions all combine to make Galway one of Ireland's top destinations for people with asthma. A small, charming city blessed with a unique culture, gorgeous architecture, and a friendly, welcoming community, Galway has all the hallmarks of a great place to live.
15. Pula, Croatia
Pula is the largest city in Istria County, Croatia. In fairness, that's not saying much - with a population of just 90,000 residents, it's still relatively small by most standards. What makes it such a haven for people with asthma? Take your pick.
The air quality is outstanding (so outstanding, in fact, the city has one of the lowest mortality rates attributable to pollutants in the world), there's very little industry (hello, low pollution!), most people get around by foot or bike, and what little pollution there is gets quickly swept away by the sea breeze.
14. Umea, Sweden
According to Cosmos Magazine, Umea in Sweden has one of the lowest mortality burdens attributable to poor air quality in Europe. As the largest metropolis in the region, it's often referred to as "the capital of Northern Sweden."
It certainly has the feel of a capital, with a lively atmosphere, a great nightlife, and the full complement of shops, bars, restaurants, and cafes. If you want to live in a buzzing city without your health suffering the consequences, it makes a great choice.
13. Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon is a city of hills... not necessarily the best setting for people with asthma, but the low pollution levels, smog-free atmosphere, and crystal clear air more than makes up for it. Even if we leave the great air quality aside, there's a lot to love about Lisbon, including a relaxed vibe, charming buildings, and a food scene that's guaranteed to blow your mind.
12. Tallinn, Estonia
If you want to enjoy the benefits of living in a capital city without having to put up with the smog, pollution, and other unmentionables that usually entails, you might want to set your sights on Tallinn.
Estonia's capital city is blessed with a brisk sea breeze that sweeps any pollution clean away, an absence of major industry, and the kind of weather that will keep people with asthma breathing easy. Although it can get a little gloomy in winter (expect around 6 hours of sunlight per day), the extended period of darkness does at least give you a very good chance of witnessing the glorious Northern lights.
11. Santana, Portugal
The city of Santana on the Portuguese island of Madeira has the kind of air you wish you could bottle up and take home with you. As Maderia is a largely car-free island, the pollution levels are next to none.
What little there is gets swept away by the brisk sea breeze. Even leaving aside the clean air, this would still be a great place to call home. With spectacular scenery, abundant homegrown produce, and some of the best seafood in the world, it has a magical quality that's guaranteed to get under your skin.
10. Dublin, Ireland
A few decades ago, the last place on Earth you'd want to live as an asthma sufferer was Dublin. As liveandinvestoverseas.com notes, Ireland's capital used to have a smog problem on a par with London.
The fault lay with the coal fires that residents used to heat their homes. Since the city authorities issued a ban on coal fires in the 1990s, the city's air quality has improved immensely... so much so, in fact, it now has some of the lowest pollution levels and cleanest air of any city in Europe.
9. Stockholm, Sweden
Sweden is a progressive country with a progressive attitude to health. In recent years, it's begun to impose an additional charge on car owners driving in the center of the capital during rush hour.
As a result, Stockholm's pollution levels have been slashed to a minute 16.27 on the index scale. Combined with an average annual temperature of 44.5 degrees Fahrenheit, an exemplary healthcare system, and wonderfully clean air, it's clear to see what makes it such a great destination for people with asthma.
8. Belfast, United Kingdom
Belfast probably isn't the first place that springs to mind when you think of good places to live for people with asthma... or, indeed, anyone else. The capital and biggest city in Northern Ireland is a sprawling metropolis that, until recently, had a very rough and ready reputation.
As the epicenter of the 'Troubles' during the 1970s and 1980s, it was widely considered to be one of the world's most dangerous cities, with a homicide rate that stood at a frightening 31 per 100,000 residents.
But times move on, and these days, Belfast is a very different proposition than it was 30 years ago. With a vibrant center, great job opportunities, and a lively atmosphere, it's now a great place to call home... including for those with asthma. Along with a very appealing pollution index of 16.84, the Asthma Organization has done a great job of improving awareness and helping those in need of advice in the city.
7. Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Edinburgh might be Scotland's capital, but it's far from what most people would consider 'big.' Around 1,339,380 people are spread over the wider city region, which encompasses both rural and urban areas.
The relatively small population combines with an excellent public transportation system to keep traffic levels (and by extension, pollution levels) low and air quality high. In addition, the University of Edinburgh and Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research have recently joined forces to improve the level of asthma care in the city.
6. Zurich, Switzerland
Like the rest of Switzerland, Zurich is clean, orderly, and picture-perfect. If you spot a stray piece of garbage, consider it the exception, not the rule. The air is just as squeaky-clean, with a low pollution index of just 14.06, minimal pollen, and high air quality. Should you ever find yourself in need of a doctor or a new inhaler, you'll find the healthcare service second to none.
5. Reykjavik, Iceland
There's one thing you need to know about Reykjavik before anything else: it's expensive. Really, really expensive. If you come here expecting to pick up a house, a car, or even just a loaf of bread for the same kind of prices you'd pay elsewhere in Europe, you're going to be disappointed .... and hungry.
But if you can get over the stupendous cost of living, there's a lot to love about Iceland's capital, from the gorgeous architecture to the heavenly scenery to the crystal clear air. The pollution count is a tiny 11.96, while the cold weather does a fine job of keeping any pesky pollen in check. For asthma sufferers with big credit card limits or even bigger trust funds, it's a dream.
4. Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Luxembourg is a tiny little country that lies smack at the center of Western Europe. Its most populous commune is Luxembourg City, a charming place that manages to combine the old and the new to stunning effect.
As home to the headquarters of numerous major European institutions, the standard of living in the city is high, with plenty of job opportunities and high salaries. If all that wasn't enough, its low population density, strict regulations, and numerous wildlife reserves contribute to what TripHobo describes as some of the cleanest air in Europe.
3. Outer Hebrides, Scotland
The Outer Hebrides is a chain of over 100 islands located just over 40 miles off the Scottish mainland. Not all of its islands are inhabited, and even those that are populated are so blissfully quiet, you'd struggle to notice.
In fairness, there's not a whole lot going on around the islands. If you can't imagine life without coffee chains and nightclubs, you're going to hate it. If, on the other hand, you're happy to sacrifice urban pleasures for sublime landscapes, negligible pollution levels, and the cleanest, most bracing air you'll ever take a breath of, you're going to love it.
2. Helsinki, Finland
Finland is cold (perfect for keeping pollen counts down), ruggedly beautiful, and possessed of some of the cleanest air in the world. As an added bonus, it's also come first in the World Happiness Report from Gallup for three years on the trot.
Although you won't struggle to find places that keep your asthma symptoms at bay, the star attraction (at least for those who prefer city living over rural bliss) is the capital city of Helsinki, a vibrant center that combines stunning architecture with a superb nightlife, excellent health care, outstanding shopping, world-class dining, and a lively vibe that's positively infectious.
1. Trondheim, Norway
According to Insider Monkey, Trondheim in Norway ranks as one of the very best places in Europe for people with asthma. With a pollution index of just 10.11, it's not hard to see why. The average temperature is a frosty 40.9 degrees Fahrenheit - while that means you'll need to layer up if you want to avoid frostbite, the cold weather does a magical job of cutting down on troublesome pollen. If that wasn't enough to tempt you, Norway's superb health care system just might.
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Written by Liz Flynn
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