A new report from Swiss bank Julius Baer names the world’s most expensive cities for things like fine dining, property, wine, luxury cars and lawyers. Asia was the most expensive region overall, particularly for residential property, and is home to five of the 10 most expensive cities globally
Wealthy bargain hunters should be wary of getting married in New York, hiring lawyers in Hong Kong or buying fine wines in Rio de Janeiro. That is according to research from Julius Baer, which named the world’s most expensive cities for a variety of luxury goods and services – from houses to personal trainers to whisky.
High local tax rates make Rio de Janeiro – Brazil’s second-largest city – the world’s most expensive metropolis in five of 18 categories in the Swiss bank’s “Global Wealth and Lifestyle Report 2020”.
Still, Hong Kong is the world’s priciest city overall, with the former British colony cited frequently in the top 10 most expensive municipalities for categories such as fine dining and luxury cars.
Rajesh Manwani, Baer’s head of markets and advisory solutions for Asia, said the research had found that a number of luxury items were more affordable in Europe than they were in Asia. “This is largely due to higher taxes in Asia and more affordable prime real estate in some European cities such as Frankfurt and Barcelona,” he explained.
The research compared prices of 20 premium goods and services surveyed in 28 cities around the world: 10 in Asia-Pacific, 12 in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), and six in the Americas.
Asia was the most expensive region, particularly for residential property, and is home to five of the 10 most expensive cities globally. Similarly, for luxury cars, eight of the 10 most expensive cities in the index are found in Asia. However, for smaller items, Asia provides better value.
Shanghai is the runner-up in the region and globally. While cheaper than Hong Kong for property and hotels, it is an expensive destination for portable goods such as watches and ladies’ handbags, as well as for services such as lawyers and personal training.
Mumbai offers exceptional value across almost all items with several services priced at or close to the bottom quartile.
European cities offer the best value. The continent’s best-valued cities for luxurious living are Barcelona and Frankfurt. Barcelona’s prime property market remains relatively inexpensive compared to European peers, while Frankfurt is cost-effective, particularly for portable high-end goods and hotel suites.
On the other hand, London is the priciest city in the continent, while Zurich is a close second, driven by high service charges, as well as more costly hotels and dining.
North America is particularly costly for services due to high labour costs, while high tax rates elevate the price of premium items in Latin America.
In South America, prime residential property is a bargain in Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City, but this is counterbalanced by higher-priced goods and services.
“The idea of luxury once stood for fancy goods, such as handbags or sports cars,” Nicolas de Skowronski, head of wealth management solutions at Julius Baer, said in the report. “Now it has morphed into a broad category that includes services and experiences, from fine dining to new lifestyle trends such as wellness.”
While Hong Kong may drop in future rankings after months of protests take their toll on the economy, other Asian cities are well represented in the firm’s ranking of most expensive, with Shanghai, Tokyo, Singapore, Taipei and Bangkok all in the top half.
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