Vancouverites have always known their city is one of the most beautiful on the planet and now the world agrees.

The City of Glass ranked fourth of 215 cities in Mercer's 2009 quality of living survey. The survey is intended to help multinational companies and governments place workers on international assignments. It also calculates "hardship" or living allowances.

Mayor Gregor Robertson agrees the city is a perfect place to live.

"Being a beautiful place to live, being a vibrant city, lots of cultural activity, and being a great place for doing business," Robertson said.

Vancouver is behind Vienna, Zurich and Geneva, and tied with Auckland as one of the most livable cities worldwide.

Baghdad is rated last in the survey.

Vancouver, although dropping from its 3rd place spot in 2007, still ranks highest among North American cities, Other results include:

  • Toronto - 15th spot (no change)
  • Ottawa - 16th spot (up from 19)
  • Montreal - 22nd spot (no change)
  • Calgary - 26th spot (down from 25)

Recent violence and drug activity has sullied Vancouver's once pristine reputation. A bloody gang war plaguing B.C.'s Lower Mainland has seen more than 100 shootings in recent years and almost four dozen since mid-January, more than 20 of them fatal.

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan told CTV News in March that Vancouver had the distinction of being the crime capital of Canada.

"Vancouver has the highest proportion of gangs anywhere in the country," Van Loan said.

That sentiment was argued in an April 5 article in Britain's Sunday Independent that read: "From heaven to hell: 18 die as drugs war rages on streets of Vancouver."

The story was a scathing look at Vancouver's slide from the best place to live to one of "blood-spattered streets littered with shell casings and corpses."

But Vancouverites say lots of things tarnish the city's reputation.

"I don't like how it's developing and evolving, especially with gang violence," one man told CTV News. "And the day to day cost of living if very frustrating. I don't like to pay $8 to park my truck for two hours."

"You'll always have crime to deal with and the reason we have a problem with housing is because everybody wants to live here, so it's a challenge," another woman said.

Still, there are redeeming qualities.

"I think our economic climate here has improved significantly," Robertson said. "We have a diverse and growing economy here that's attracted business from around the world."

While there's no denying Vancouver has its share of big city problems its still a place to call home

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Rob McKee