The proliferation of cities has brought numerous challenges, contributing to a deterioration of its inhabitants’ quality of life and liveability. To address these challenges, this paper advocates for a planning approach that prioritises inhabitants’ concerns. It introduces the concept of liveability as a philosophy to tackle urban challenges and proposes identifying priority factors for urban development and investment. This study is focused on Colombo, Sri Lanka, an economic capital in South Asia, investigating all of its nine local authorities through a questionnaire survey and document reviews. The Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) facilitated data collection and pairwise comparisons of liveability factors. This study identifies six liveability characteristics, 25 attributes, and 71 indicators for prioritisation. The study finds that a balanced socio-economic environment is the most important characteristic, and safety is the most prioritised attribute. In terms of implications, the participatory approach employed in this study enables government authorities to efficiently formulate policies that enhance urban services and liveability. The study pioneers a context-specific approach to measuring liveability in urban settings, particularly in the South Asian region, offering invaluable guidance to urban planners and decision-makers grappling with the challenges of urbanisation and striving to improve liveability in similar settings.