Evidently, Northern Europe is the happiest place on Earth, according to a poll taken in 2013 by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. So how do you measure happiness? Apparently, these are the six key factors: GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption, and generosity. The poll was given to residents of various cities in over 150 countries out of a possible highest score of 10. Here are the five happiest cities on earth:
1. Aarhus, Denmark
150km west of Copenhagen, on the east coast of the mainland, lies the Danish gem Aarhus. The large natural harbor provides for an inevitably industrialized waterfront, but not without a recreational marina near the city center for leisure watersports. Thousands of students at the universities and colleges keep the oldest large city in Scandinavia one of the youngest demographically, and museums, music festivals and outdoor theatres keep the city culturally vibrant.
2. Oslo, Norway
Quiet and close to nature, Olso is probably the calmest of Scandinavian capitals. But that doesn’t mean there’s any shortage of entertainment and action. Downtown is buzzing with new restaurants, bars, clubs and shops, and the city hosts more than a few festivals throughout the year. Lately, the refurbished Ekeberg Park is big news, a public sculpture park that opened in September 2013 containing works by Louise Bourgeois, Rodin, and Renoir.
3. Geneva, Switzerland
Geneva rests on the southwest end of Lake Geneva, against a backdrop of the Swiss Alp and the Juro Mountains. The Rhone River divides the city into the Rive Gauche and the Rive Droite; the former is home to the Old Town, the University of Geneva and the Cathédrale St-Pierre while the latter holds many parks and forests. In the summer, beaches Baby Plage and Bains des Paquis are in full swing, and in the winter, the skiing on Mont Blanc massif is unparalleled.
4. Utrecht, Netherlands
Utrecht has all the big city amenities with a small town atmosphere, sitting just 40km south of Amsterdam. Along the Oudegracht, the central canal, basement bars and pubs line the path. The waterfront walk offers beautiful views of boats and bird. The Domtoren cathedral tower is the tallest in the country, and the views from the top are breathtaking.
5. Malmo, Sweden
Technically, for the past decade or so, Malmo has been considered part of the metropolitan Copenhagen area, as they are connected by the Oresund Bridge. Most importantly, Malmo is Sweden’s first entirely fair trade city; workplaces serve fair trade tea and coffee and all stores promote ethical consumption. While the Old Town and its squares retain classic charm, new development, architecture, transport and sustainability projects attract business and commerce.