Happiness comes in many different forms. From pleasure to purpose to pride, elements of lasting joy come together to form some of the happiest people in Europe. These people just so happen to live in countries that encourage those elements. So what’s the secret? Why do some countries smile more than others?
The World Happiness Report 2018 takes a string of variables into consideration: social freedom, generosity, absence of corruption, GDP per capita, social support and healthy life expectancy. Unsurprisingly, many of the happiest countries in Europe fall in the Nordic regions, where fresh fjords, cosy cabins and a sense of community all play their part in pleasure and merriment.
To celebrate Europe Day 2018, we’re hunting down those positive vibes and exploring some of the best spots to experience the good life. Satisfaction guaranteed.
Norwegians knocked the crown, but not the smiles, from the heads of the Danish, as Norway rolled in as the happiest country in Europe (and the planet) in the World Happiness Report 2017. One thing the two countries share is the concept of hygge – a quality of cosiness and contentment. This means they cherish spending time with friends and family, whether skiing in the mountains, hiking through fjords or berry-picking in forests. It’s impossible to be unhappy in a log cabin, after all. Toss in the midnight sun and northern lights and you have a natural Shangri-La. One weekend among the wonderland that surrounds historic gem Fredriksten Hotell and you’ll soon discover why smiling is simpler here.
Rolling in as the world’s happiest country in 2015, Switzerland trumped 158 nations for the joy factor. It’s not just the achingly dreamy chocolate and mountaintop tipples that make it an idyllic country, community is at the core of Swiss life. Public transport ensures no one in the country has to walk more than 10 minutes to catch a ride – not to mention the scenic beauty on said rail journeys. Hop aboard the Glacier or Bernina Express and you’ll see what we mean. The list goes on: health and welfare programmes are generous, the country is very democratic, and physical activity is encouraged as soon as youngsters can walk. Cities are often situated beside lakes: it’s not unusual to dive into a swan-addled waters for a lunch-hour dip in the summer here. Swiss dining is an absolute treat – experience the joy for yourself with a trip to the medieval city of Basel and make Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois your luxurious, life-restoring base.
In the Netherlands, a country which has consistently sat high on the happiness ranks for decades, society has evolved to make it simple to live an interesting and convivial life. The Dutch really have have wellness nailed: life satisfaction, work-life balance, generosity and social support all ranked highly in the factors that determined the country’s ranking. Live the Dutch life for yourself by making Kasteel Maurick your home-away-from home. The 15th-century castle is nestled into a woodland on an island in the River Dommel, with an enchanting garden and dreamy wine-and-cheese tastings.
Thanks to its strong social support, affluence and understanding of common good, Sweden is one of the happiest countries in Europe. Alongside idyllic mountain regions, cool urban hotspots, quaint Baltic ports and lake-dotted forests, Sweden is home to arguably one of the most spectacular cities in the world – Stockholm. There’s no better place to dip into the joyful life of Swedes than a visit to this storybook archipelago, hopping the capital’s 14 islands filled with eateries, museums, hotels and funky shops. Soothe the soul with a stay at Villa Källhagen – a four-star boutique hotel just 10 minutes from the buzzy heart of the city.