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Geneva offers great quality of life

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Home to lots of international organizations, Geneva is also a great place to life when it comes to quality of life.

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GENEVA, Switzerland (CNN) -- When it comes to the world's best cities, Geneva and Zurich come up trumps.

The Swiss cities were jointly awarded the number one spot in this year's world-wide quality of life survey by human resources consulting firm Mercer.

Following in third place were Vancouver, Canada and Vienna, Austria, with three German cities -- Munich, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf -- sharing fifth position.

Switzerland's political and social stability -- key criteria for this study -- helped give its cities such a high score.

But beyond its crime-free streets, what makes a city like Geneva really tick?

It's a place that prides itself on precision -- and the 150 public clocks in the city stand as testament to this.

Life is ordered here: traffic flows, public transport is on time and everybody seems to get along with each other.

But scratch beneath the surface and there's a lot more to this city.

In fact, if you go underground -- literally -- one of the world's biggest and most controversial science experiments is taking place beneath Geneva's streets.

It is the work of CERN, a physics research center made famous by "The Da Vinci Code" author Dan Brown in his earlier book, "Angels and Demons."

The modest CERN buildings stand above almost 30 kilometers of tunnels crossing country borders, between Switzerland and France.

It is a place where anti-matter is created, or at least it will be in 2007 when its giant particle accelerator is completed.

James Gillies, one of the curiosity-driven scientists at a CERN, told CNN Geneva was the logical home for the 50-year-old organization.

The British national, like most workers at CERN, was recruited from abroad, and is one of the many expats who have made Geneva their home.

"It's very easy to become established here. In fact, one of the biggest difficulties in coming here as a foreigner is learning French. Unless you speak (the language) very well already, the locals will just speak to you in fluent English ... it's a very welcoming city," he said.

"Geneva itself prides itself on its international organizations, it does make things very easy, it does go out of its way to help international organizations."

Such organizations have a presence in the city on almost every corner, from the United Nations, to the Red Cross.

Slagin Parakatil helped compile the report for Mercer -- he told CNN that the city's greatest draw is that nothing ever happens.

"The crime rate is very low. You can send your kids to the schools without any problem. You can roam around at night," he said.

"There are no issues as such for expatriates and their family life, so that's the main reason why Switzerland and its cities like Geneva and Zurich rank very high."

Mercer's study look at 10 categories, each with a different weighting.

Geneva scores highest on the safety and stability front. Medical facilities and education also came in strong, with banking and public transport also giving it a distinct lead.

CNN's Richard Quest contributed to this report

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