The World Happiness Report 2019 has been released and it ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be. The report was produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and produced in partnership with the Ernesto Illy Foundation, and it found that, yet again, Finland is the happiest place to live, according to its residents. If you would like to go on vacation where you will see plenty of happy faces, here are the top ten happiest countries and what they have to offer.
Finland’s fusion of wild beauty, contemporary design and culinary excellence is a beguiling mix, and its people are fortunate to be living in the happiest country in the world. It attributes its happiness levels to nature, and there’s something pure in the Finnish air and spirit that’s vital and exciting. A fabulous network of national parks has well-marked routes, and you can observe bears and elk deep in the forests on nature-watching trips. The capital, Helsinki, is an electrifying urban space with world-renowned design and music scenes.
You won’t have to search hard to find the much-prized hygge in Denmark, a trait that has a profound influence on the locals’ inestimable happiness. There’s a sense of cosiness, camaraderie and contentment in the country, and its egalitarian spirit allows the best of the arts, architecture, eating and entertainment to be within easy reach of everyone. Denmark captures global imagination as the epitome of a civilised society, and it punches above its weight on many fronts: progressive politics, urban planning, sustainability, work-life balance, design and architecture.
Enjoying nature in Norway is very much an active pursuit, and this is one of Europe’s most exciting and varied adventure-tourism destinations. While some of the activities on offer are geared towards the young, energetic and fearless, most can be enjoyed by anyone of reasonable fitness. You can also enjoy the soul-stirring Northern Lights in winter. The counterpoint to Norway’s ever-present natural beauty is found in its vibrant cultural life. Its cities are cosmopolitan and they showcase the famous Scandinavian flair for design through the ages.
The inhabitants of Iceland are known for their disarming warmth and industriousness. Here you’ll find some of the world’s highest concentrations of dreamers, authors, artists and musicians, all fuelled by their surroundings. Iceland’s supercharged splendour is designed to remind visitors of their utter insignificance in the greater scheme of things, and it works a treat: some crisp clean air, an eyeful of the cinematic landscapes, and everyone is transfixed. The counterpoint to so much natural beauty is found in Iceland’s cultural life, which celebrates a literary legacy that stretches from medieval sagas to contemporary thrillers by way of Nobel Prize winners. Live music is everywhere, as is visual art, handicrafts and locavore cuisine.
5. The Netherlands
The Netherlands is known for its artistic masterpieces, centuries-old windmills, tulip fields and romantic candlelit cafés, which coexist with visionary architecture, cutting-edge design and phenomenal nightlife. Cycling in the Netherlands is one of Dutch life’s greatest pleasures, and it’s a country that values socialising and conversation more than drinking. Cafés are places for go-slow contemplation and camaraderie, over dusk-time drinks with bar snacks or a fabulous meal any time of day. One gorgeous sight that brings happiness is the beautiful rainbow fields of crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips that burst into flower each year between March and May.
Living in Switzerland means enjoying its ravishing landscapes, because while skiing and snowboarding are winter choices, when pastures turn green, hiking and biking trails abound. The perfect antidote to rural beauty is Switzerland’s urban edge, because you’ll find castles and craft beer, gigs and new-wave restaurants in Swiss cities. Then there’s the food: a hearty and flavoursome gastronomic celebration of gooey cheese and velvety chocolate. Ever innovative, the Swiss have always embraced the new and the experimental. Capturing the zeitgeist up and down the country are cultural venues, attention-grabbing architecture and avant-garde galleries.
Sweden offers everything from deep-blue archipelagos and Northern Lights, to killer fashion, food and design, so it’s no wonder its residents are happy living there. Swedish style is rarely ostentatious, and form and function are tightly linked in a society that reveres moderation, simplicity and practicality. Sweden claims one of the lowest population densities on the continent, and one of the best things about it are its natural assets. While you’re there, prepare to celebrate all things beautiful and democratic.
8. New Zealand
New Zealand can be mellow or action-packed, but it’s always epic. Get ready for mammoth national parks, and world-class surfing and skiing. There are just 4.8 million New Zealanders, scattered across 268,021 square kilometres, and you will find sublime forests, mountains, lakes, beaches and fjords that have made the country one of the best hiking destinations on the planet. Māori culture impresses itself on contemporary Kiwi life, so you can expect to hear Māori language, join in a hāngi (Māori feast) or catch a cultural performance with song, dance and a haka (war dance).
Canada was rated highly by its residents, and it has an endless variety of landscapes, including sky-high mountains, glinting glaciers, spectral rainforests and remote beaches, spread across six time zones. The arts are an integral part of Canada’s cultural landscape, and it is also the home of extraordinary meals and cool culture. It is incredibly diverse across its breadth and within its cities, so there is something for everyone. You’ll hear it in the music, see it in the arts and taste it in the cuisine.
No country waltzes so effortlessly between the urban and the outdoors as Austria. A fresh breath of architectural air and a feel of new-found cool is sweeping through the cities, bringing with it a happy marriage of the contemporary and historic. When it comes to food, the country has come on in culinary leaps and bounds recently, while staying true to its ethos of careful local sourcing. Whether you’re at a farmers’ market, a retro-style deli, a cool new brunch spot or a Michelin-starred restaurant, the love of the land shines through time and again. In winter, the slopes hum with skiers and boarders, while summer beckons white-water rafters and canyoners to glacial rivers and lakes that sparkle like gemstones.
To read the full World Happiness Report, see here.