How can we measure culture in urban areas? Which empirical metrics best serve this purpose, taking into account available official statistics at city level but also the ‘data deluge’ coming from alternative data sources? This paper presents and discusses the methodological effort underpinning the Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor, a novel monitoring and benchmarking tool developed by the European Commission to measure the performance of nearly 200 cities in 30 European countries using 29 culture-related indicators. In particular, it focuses on the way this work creatively but rigorously combines different data sources and methods to come up with novel metrics of urban cultural vitality. It also discusses the way multiple city rankings aim to reflect and respect the diversity of European urban settings and to facilitate peer learning.