This overlooked European city is officially the world’s happiest

Thousands of factors were analysed by the Happy City Index to assess residents’ quality of life, and the results are in

Liv Kelly
Written by
Liv Kelly
Contributing Writer
Cityscape of Aarhus in Denmark
Photograph: Shutterstock

What is it about your city that makes you happy? Some adore plenty of green space, others crave a lively nightlife, and many would like a harmonious balance of both. But there are loads more things to consider, too. 

The Happy City Index has assessed thousands of different factors to understand the quality of life and sense of happiness among each city’s residents, and they can be grouped into five categories: citizens, governance, environment, economy and mobility. 

Europe completely dominated the top 20 this year, claiming 19 out of the top 20 spots, but it was Aarhus, the second-largest city in Denmark, which came out on top. This place might not be as well known as Copenhagen (which claimed eighth place), but coincidentally it’s already known as the ‘city of smiles’, largely thanks to the joy people feel towards its unique hillside location. 

Zurich claimed second place, Berlin claimed third, Gothenburg claimed fourth and Amsterdam fifth. However, there was one non-European entry: Minneapolis in the USA, known for its art scene, claimed eighteenth place. 

These are the 20 happiest cities in the world 

  1. Aarhus
  2. Zurich
  3. Berlin
  4. Gothenburg
  5. Amsterdam
  6. Helsinki
  7. Bristol
  8. Copenhagen
  9. Geneva
  10. Munich
  11. Stockholm
  12. Rotterdam
  13. Oulu
  14. Vienna
  15. Edinburgh
  16. Reykjavik
  17. Aalborg
  18. Minneapolis
  19. Basel
  20. Ålesund

For other recent city rankings, why not take a look at the most expensive cities, the best destinations for students or the locations with the highest density of Michelin restaurants?

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Plus: This European country is about to get its first ever Michelin Guide

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