Remote & Async Work 12 min

The best cities for remote working and quality of life

Written by Rachel Mantock
May 13, 2024
Rachel Mantock


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If you’re fully invested in the remote worker lifestyle, or you’re a dabbler, you might be thinking about moving to another city, state, country, or continent. This could be the case if you’re already an employee at a remote-first (or a remote-sometimes) company. Or a digital nomad in your gig economy era, free to work wherever and whenever you like. You may just be curious about a better way to do work and play, because you’re done with the living-to-work, rinse-and-repeat cycle. Either way, our Best Destinations for Remote Work tool is a must-try, and the report itself, a must-read.

We’ve run a variety of scenarios using this tool, pulling insights from it, and the report itself, to bring you a series of chart-topping cities for remote workers. Plus, we’ve sneaked in some anecdotes from Remote’s very own — because who better to hear from than those who live the remote, async, flex mantra?

The top five cities for remote workers and quality of life

Quality of life is often a top, founding priority. It’s usually the one that other major priorities stem from. And it’s probably no surprise that four Nordic cities have grabbed the top spots here. They’ve consistently ranked within the top ten across the World Happiness Report (WHR) for over a decade. Within our report, Finland’s Helsinki, Norway’s Oslo and Iceland’s Reykjavík were the top three remote worker cities, for quality of life (in that order). While Stockholm, Sweden sits in fourth place.

1. Helsinki, Finland 

The capital of Finland is up first. Helsinki seamlessly blends modern living, with vibrant natural beauty and a rich historical heritage, making it a haven for digital nomads seeking an ideal work-life balance. No car? No problem. Helsinki came out on top for public transportation too — including for affordability — in the fifth Urban Mobility Readiness Index (with Amsterdam, Stockholm, San Francisco, and Munich also making the top five, out of the 65 cities ranked). It was also named the ‘Best City for Urban Transportation’ by Bloomberg in 2023. As a city, they’re also aiming to “eliminate 69% of greenhouse gas emissions from traffic by the year 2035.”


Beyond transportation, the general cost of living in Helsinki is generally lower than in other European and Nordic capitals too, from housing to groceries and daily essentials. Plus, you’ve got your pick of museums, parks, and beaches, and a busy timetable of cultural activities city-wide for entertainment, especially in the contemporary Design District. A huge scale transformation of the Hanasaari Power Plant (an architectural landmark and former coal-fired plant, now decommissioned) into a hub of arts, culture and technology, is also underway — pegged to be “the next Tate Modern,” with the area around the plant already hosting the boutique Flow Festival annually.


Most remarkably, Helsinki is its own archipelago, with over 300 islands (Seurasaari Island’s Open-Air Museum is a must-visit on that note), and 40 parks — including the iconic Nuuksio National Park, and the largest, Central Park, that hosts concerts, markets, and festivals all year round — mostly all within easy reach of the city center. You could be kayaking, hiking across a vast mix of lakesides, forests, and hills, or skiing, 10 minutes after you close your laptop for the day. 

Helsinki’s coastline speaks for itself, and you can make the most of it across all seasons. Hit the popular Hietaniemi Beach or the secluded Uunisaari Beach for panoramic summer views of the Baltic Sea. Or dip into the icy waters of a traditional Finnish sauna in winter, beachside (Löyly is a local and expat favorite for this). 


Finding community among other, likeminded remote workers is made easier with regular meetups taking place across the city. These create a sense of belonging and collaboration, offering opportunities to connect, share ideas, and build meaningful relationships beyond just work. Helsinki’s affordable cost of living and progressive social policies fuel the high quality of life experienced by many who call it home. Finland’s capital city isn’t just a destination, but also an invitation to a lifestyle that seamlessly blends work, leisure, and the pursuit of freedom and flexibility.

2. Oslo, Norway

This Nordic city's high standard of living, strong social safety net, and emphasis on work-life balance make it an obvious front-runner. Directly linked with quality of life, the cost of living in Oslo is about 20% lower than in Copenhagen and Stockholm and about 30% lower than in London. Like Helsinki, it has robust, affordable public transport and a loaded cultural and outdoor activity offering.


Oslo is also home to a string of architectural marvels, including the renowned Oslo Opera House — a futuristically carved waterfront structure, resembling an iceberg emerging from water. Plus Vigeland Sculpture Park, the world's largest sculpture park made by a single artist, featuring over 100 sculptures by Norwegian sculptor, Gustav Vigeland, showcasing the human form at different stages of life.

For those of us big into combining cafe culture with setting up for the day with our work laptops, Oslo’s Fuglen and Tim Wendelboe (for great coffee, this is the spot) are said to have good wi-fi, relatively comfy seats, and even better food.


Beyond its cultural attractions, Oslo has a mystical meets futuristic collection of natural wonders. Take the Oslofjord, a visually striking inlet that surrounds the equally captivating Oslo Opera House (which sits at the head), stretching over 100 kilometers. It’s the ideal location for simply taking in the scenery or for outdoor activities, like fishing and kayaking. Beyond this landmark attraction, Oslo isn’t lacking elsewhere for lush, dense forests, glittered lakes, and scenic mountains. 


To surround yourself with others who work remotely, flexibly, and in asynchronous ways — from remote employees, to freelancers, to startup founders — it would be worth getting familiar with one of Oslo’s most popular co-working spaces, Mesh, even if just for the networking credentials (but hotdesking is available too, if you need a change of scenery from your home or cafe set up). Mesh also doubles as an event space, with a curated series of connection activities, from brunches to founders forums. 

3. Reykjavík, Iceland

With a thriving economy, Reykjavík has a wide, and diverse scope of job opportunities across tech, finance, and tourism, with a comprehensive healthcare service, accessible to all residents. Though, its biggest pull is its dramatic landscape of supersized mountains and waterfalls. The city's powerful digital infrastructure puts remote workers at ease, with a power supply that’s entirely from renewable energy sources.


Iceland’s climate credentials are both unrivaled and unusual — for those of us used to being told that renewable technology can’t produce the majority of a nation’s power, let alone all of it — powered by 70% hydro power, and 30% geothermal power. It’s something they’ve been working towards since the 70s, largely, though not entirely, made possible by its landscape, with over 200 volcanoes that form the basis for their geothermal power culture.

Reykjavík’s geothermal springs are a sightseeing pull too, alongside its lava fields. The famed Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa based in a lava field, is encased by movie-worthy scenery, full of beneficial minerals, and could become your frequent spot for a wellness dip in warm, revitalizing waters.

The city attracts volcanic tourists from all over the world. While an active volcanic eruption is happening, vivid, red glows are seen in and around Reykjavík, especially from the Perlan Observation Deck (from here, you can also get an uninterrupted view of the northern lights — also known as the “aurora borealis”). For explorers and the adrenaline driven among us, hiking up Reykjavík’s Mount Esja, the area’s highest mountain, rewards you with 360 views of the cityscape and countryside beyond for breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding countryside.


Rich in both contemporary and classical arts, multiple art festivals take place across the city every year, including Reykjavík Art Festival and the Iceland Airwaves Music Festival. The city boasts an architectural gem in its Harpa Concert Hall, which houses both the Icelandic Opera and the Symphony Orchestra. The hall's shape and intricate design — inspired by basalt columns, a signature feature of the Reykjavík landscape — enhance the acoustics, bouncing notes off surfaces with crystal clear clarity.  

Delving deep into the country’s Viking past, the National Museum of Iceland is located in Reykjavík, with an extensive collection of artifacts, from Viking weapons and jewelry to traditional Icelandic costumes. 

4. Stockholm, Sweden

With a scene always at the forefront of art, fashion, culture and creativity, a thriving tech ecosystem, and a government that’s lifetimes ahead (by comparison elsewhere) on its approach to work-life balance, Stockholm is the place to reach new productivity heights as a remote worker while elevating your personal wellbeing.

The Swedish philosophical concept of "lagom," meaning "just right" or "in moderation," stresses the importance of striking a harmonious balance between work and personal life. It’s something that permeates the Swedish work culture, bolstering an approach of flexibility, supported by government policies, union negotiations, and a prevailing sense of balance. The city’s 1,000-island-strong archipelago, each accessible by ferry, creates moments for private, intimate, and secluded escapes, where you can truly unplug. 

5. Auckland, New Zealand

New Zealand’s largest city, perched on the North Island, Auckland has a notable cultural scene, strong business community, and a refined cityscape circled by bold, blue ocean and dense, leafy greens. It’s all city hustle and bustle meets laid-back charm here.

Culture and nature

With a population of over 1.6 million people, Auckland is a melting pot of cultures, with an eclectic natural landscape that spans giant volcanoes and native rainforests that back on to vast beaches, sat under bright, big, blue skies (like the Waitakere Ranges, which is set to reopen later in 2024, including the Karekare Falls, and apparently houses a hidden train line).

Generous visa options

In Auckland, remote workers from elsewhere can benefit from New Zealand’s generous visa options too. From the Working Holiday Visa, valid for 12 months, to the Entrepreneur Visa, for those starting their own business in New Zealand, valid for up to three years, and the Talent (Accredited Employer) Visa route. 

Auckland is not only an excellent place for remote workers once they get there. It’s supportive of those all about remote, flexible, and even asynchronous working, before they city hop and arrive.

Honorable city mention for best quality of life

Honolulu, Hawaii

It might not have made the top five, but coming in sixth place means Honolulu is still a top 10 city for quality of life and remote working. That’s according to both our Best Destinations Report and one of Remote’s Global Payroll Customer Lifecycle Managers. A mom of two who’s wrapped in our flexible, remote, and async culture, Mika Koatsuzaki can’t get enough of the culture her kids get to be a part of, the natural beauty all around her, and the strong sense of community.


“Honolulu offers a unique blend of beautiful beaches, mountains, and vibrant city life,” says Mika. “Contrary to the common perception of a remote island, it’s a busy and fun city, with a great city life."

Mika continues, “Everything from restaurants, bars, and concerts, to workout studios, and some other cool activities. Everything is contained, so you don’t need a long drive to get to places, which is really important to me as a full-time, working mom of two.”

“I’ve got no time to waste sitting in a car.”


“After or before a work day, or during lunchtime, it’s easy to step out and refresh with the beautiful nature or yummy foods at your fingertips in Honolulu,” says Mika. “Especially in winter, we get so many rainbows, alongside light showers, that light my days up, even if I only work and don’t do anything special that day."

“There are so many beautiful spots to see, but I love having Diamond Head in sight, in particular wherever I go and drive in the Honolulu area. Plus, the sunset by the Gold Coast never gets old.”


“I love the strong communities here. Families try to help each other with their kids. I love having this culture for my kids personally — something that would have been hard to cultivate, if we were in big cities for our jobs, like we used to be.

I’ve been enjoying outrigger canoe paddling (six-seater canoe paddling), and it’s in doing this that I found an especially great community for myself and family. This, combined with the balance of working remotely means I get to do what I’m passionate about (unlocking more great work opportunities for people wherever they are) and have a community to engage with, in real life, after work.”

Methodology and the best cities for remote work

The dataset used for Remote’s global destination rankings pulled from a 25 series of information, across countries globally, and from individual U.S states, using eight categories. When measuring for “quality of life”, data was analyzed for key objectives, like the happiness of residents, relying on self-reporting. These results were then combined with data from a closely linked topic, like pollution, to give more all-rounded final results on quality of life and remote worker cities.

Discover more best destinations for remote work

Use our Best Destinations for Remote Work tool to find the cities that meet your top priorities. You can choose from openness, attractiveness, quality of life, internet, safety, cost of living, inflation and incentives. It’s easy to use, with a toggle feature to set the level of importance for each element. Once you’ve done this part, that’s it, just let it do its magic.

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