Visit These European Happy Cities

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Are you planning a trip or a weekend break from all the hustle and stress in the city? Check out these cities in Europe that have ranked as one of the happiest places in the continent.

Let’s start in UK. According to the recent survey of the Office of National Statistics the northern towns of Fermanagh and Omagh are the happiest places in UK. The latest report released last September 2015 in Measuring National Well-being: Personal Well-being in the UK, 2014 to 2015, indicated that these towns in County Tyrone have the highest average “rating in life satisfaction”.

Kenneth Allen [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Omagh in Winter. Image by K. Allen [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
The survey had over 300,000 adult participants from all of UK, and measured life factors on personal well-being like; life satisfaction, feeling that life is worthwhile, happiness and anxiety. This program started in 2012. You can view that details and summary of the report online, and it showed that the first three of these variables increased compared to previous reports, and anxiety decreased. The difference from the previous data was minute but there are significant numbers in each of the measures. For example, since the survey started, their data revealed that ratings for personal well-being increased every year, and there are improvements on anxiety levels.

The survey also showed uneven changes in the ratings for each well-being factors.

London still has the lowest ratings in well-being for the past years compared to other regions, but data showed that the city is improving. Are you a Londoner? What do you think? London though is not at the bottom when it comes to happiness. Bolsover, Cannock Chase and Dundee City are among the places which sit at the bottom ranks in terms of happiness.

How about Europe?

If there’s one contagion that’s worth catching to getaway from negative vibes and stress, it’s happiness. And if you’re planning to travel to Europe, take a look at happiest cities in the region. According to United Nation’s survey, Europe’s happiest city is Oslo, Norway. In fact, Norway is still the top rank in the world for the past 12 years.

Yes, that’s right. In addition, for 12 years in a row, they’ve bagged the coveted crown as the happiest place to be.

And let’s also mention that Norway also tops the list in 2015 Prosperity Index. This means that among the 142 countries studied for criteria in personal freedom, education, and economics, Norway has the highest positive ratings.

Now, before you hustle and move in to Norway, know that it’s also one of the priciest countries to live in. Zurich, Switzerland sits in the first place, followed by Oslo, and then Stockholm. If you’re a budget traveler by heart, note that one hotel night among these cities can cost around £150. I’ve checked Agoda for Oslo hotels and you can probably get discount if you book in advance, months ahead.

However, this high cost of living is compensated by Norway’s beautiful and gorgeous nature landscapes. If you search online for travel blogs on Oslo or Norway, and you’ll notice two common themes: architecture and nature. The Scandinavian city is a quiet one, but look closer and you’ll that the people have high regards on culture and arts. You’ll see modern and world-class architecture, museums and high-end restaurants and cafes with cuisines all over the world. After Oslo’s notable and futuristic architecture and modern cosmopolitan lifestyle, go beyond and explore the surrounding countryside.

What’s beyond this happy?

Norway is known for fjords, and Oslo itself sits at the north end of one the majestic fjords in the country. Fjords are narrow bodies of water, often surrounded by mountains and cliffs. These are formed by glaciers that have melted, and carved its way through a valley. Many travellers who have stayed in Norway often say one common observation. That Norway has one of the rawest landscapes of nature.

Preikestolen in Norway
Preikestolen in Norway

Is this the reason why Norwegian’s are happy? Perhaps yes. There’s one study in 2014 from the University of Exeter that showed improvements in mental health and happiness when people live around greener surroundings, even on urban areas. Oslo itself looks like a city that sprouted around a forest. You’ll be surprised that the country’s capital isn’t all about concrete. Green spaces, trees, and huge parks are scattered around the map.

There’s also a law called allemannsrett in Norway, which translates “freedom to roam”. It gives permission to all men to access or pass to any public or private uncultivated land for recreation. This is great news for everyone, as it promotes better connection and access for citizens to nature, especially those who love trekking and outdoor adventures.

Why is Norway among the Happiest Place on Earth?

There are a lot of factors that can play on this and studies on well-being can show government leaders that success doesn’t only lie in economics and GDP. In our recent article about UAE’s first minister of happiness, it shows that many leaders of wealthy countries and major cities around the globe are considering well-being and happiness of their citizens as an important factor for success and stability.

In OECD’s guide in measuring happiness and wellbeing, they’ve listed 6 measurable factors: GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption, generosity and social support. The last two factors, generosity and social support can be considered as independent from political systems.

Generosity and social support are actions decided by each individual. However for the case of Norway, despite the high cost of living, the country has one of the most elaborate, generous welfare benefits for its citizens, along with high quality public facilities and services. Social support, friends and happy relationships can also act as emotional vitamins that help us feel better each day. This may be the reason why other developing countries still shave high ratings in happiness, despite struggles in economic progress.

We can say that Norway perhaps is an all-rounder, with all the fjords, majestic landscapes, green urban areas, high prosperity index, strong social support and other cultural contributors.