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The top 10 happiest cities in the world
Destinations & Inspiration

The top 10 happiest cities in the world

Suzie Dalton
By Suzie Dalton - 25 minute read

The 10th happiest city in the world is Brisbane in Australia

Brisbane

With Bris­bane res­i­dents report­ing a 93% qual­i­ty-of-life rat­ing, it’s no sur­prise that this glo­ri­ous city is num­ber 10 in the list – with many argu­ing that the stun­ning weath­er is a big com­po­nent. Boast­ing an aver­age of 8 hours of sun­shine every day, Brisbane’s sub­trop­i­cal cli­mate makes it the ide­al place to vis­it for an Aus­tralian home swap at any time of the year. So what are the best things to see and do in Bris­bane? Trav­el blog­ger Miss Tourist says chill­ing on the South Bank should be top of everyone’s list – and with 17 hectares of park­land in which to relax, mul­ti­ple free swim­ming pools, cycling and walk­ing routes, it’s hard to argue with her sen­ti­ment. The Col­lec­tive Mar­kets are a great way to enjoy some street food, while you’re bound to feel hap­py (and maybe a bit ter­ri­fied) if you climb the Sto­ry Bridge. In need of an instant dose of the feel-goods? Then hand-feed a koala at Lone Pine Koala Sanc­tu­ary, or admire the CBD from the water with a riv­er cruise.

The 9th happiest city in the world is Stockholm in Sweden

Stockholm

Stock­holm has been described as the loveli­est city in Scan­di­navia, so it’s no won­der that it’s a huge­ly pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion with trav­ellers. First of all, it’s unde­ni­ably on the pricey side to stay in Stock­holm, so make your pen­nies go fur­ther with a gor­geous home exchange. As soon as you arrive, take a free guid­ed walk­ing tour, then head for Gam­la Stan – the old town, and one of the pret­ti­est places imag­in­able. Pose up a storm by the colour­ful hous­es – then share your pics with us via Insta­gram using the hash­tag #welove­home­swap! Next up, swing by Abba The Muse­um, Fotografiska (pho­tog­ra­phy exhi­bi­tion), the impres­sive Vasa Muse­um or the Mod­eer­na Museet to feast your eyes on works of art by Dali and Picas­so. Ready for one final dose of cul­ture? Then hop on the Metro to explore incred­i­ble street art in the sta­tions. Hand Lug­gage Only’s guide to the 8 best metro sta­tions in Stock­holm is real­ly use­ful if you want to find the high­lights. After all that sight­see­ing you’ll be hun­gry, so browse The Blonde Abroad’s guide to where to eat in Stock­holm for loads of tasty inspiration.


The 8th happiest city in the world is Tel Aviv in Israel

Tel Aviv

The vibrant city of Tel Aviv sim­ply hums with ener­gy. This is a unique loca­tion in which you can hit the beach, explore the old town of Jaf­fa, indulge in a seri­ous culi­nary treat at Carmel Mar­ket and let loose with a 24-hour dose of nightlife. Amidst all this glo­ri­ous chaos, make sure you find some time to take a step back, absorb the joys of the city and sim­ply breathe. So where can you find those moments of calm? Accord­ing to The Cul­ture Trip’s round-up of Tel Aviv’s hap­pi­est spots, Park HaYarkon is the Cen­tral Park of Tel Aviv’, and is a favourite hang­out with the locals. Hire a bike and cycle around the Rock Gar­den and Trop­i­cal Gar­den, before drop­ping in at the huge water park. Alter­na­tive­ly, head to the beach and take a dip in the Mediter­ranean – with over 14km of coast­line, the beach lure in this city is unde­ni­able. Bograshov Beach is reg­u­lar­ly list­ed as one of the best beach­es in Tel Aviv. For more ideas on the best things to do in Tel Aviv, then trav­el blog­ger Pom­mie Trav­els has some great sug­ges­tions – and don’t for­get to arrange a home swap!

The 7th happiest city in the world is Oslo in Norway

Oslo

Nor­way con­sis­tent­ly ranks as one of the hap­pi­est coun­tries in the world, so it’s no sur­prise that two of the country’s cities have made the top 10. Many Nor­we­gians say that their incred­i­ble nat­ur­al sur­round­ings are cen­tral to their sense of well­be­ing – and with cross-coun­try ski­ing, hik­ing, fish­ing, kayak­ing and cycling being pop­u­lar across the coun­try, they’ve got plen­ty to enjoy. Oslo is cen­tral to this, as it’s ide­al­ly locat­ed to com­bine the best of urban liv­ing with out­door pur­suits (as it’s sur­round­ed by the Oslofjord and dense forests). The Oslo Opera House (pic­tured above) is a gor­geous loca­tion – locals sun­bathe here in the sum­mer, and it’s mag­i­cal in the win­ter. Take a float­ing sauna at Kok (fol­lowed by an icy dip if you’re brave!), and treat your­self to some amaz­ing local del­i­ca­cies at one of the places men­tioned in Scan­di­navia Standard’s help­ful list of the best places to eat and drink in Oslo. For lots more ideas on how to fill your days, then Hand Lug­gage Only’s arti­cle on the best things to do in Oslo is essen­tial reading.


The 6th happiest city in the world is Bergen in Norway

Bergen

If you’ve made it to Nor­way to check out Oslo (which is the 7th hap­pi­est place on earth), then it would be a shame to not vis­it num­ber 6 on the list – the gor­geous city of Bergen! To get here, you might want to hop on the train which runs on the Bergens­ba­nen (or Bergen Line). Boast­ing stun­ning scenery, it’s hard­ly sur­pris­ing that Time Out ques­tioned whether it might be Europe’s best train jour­ney. Once you’ve arrived, con­sid­er stay­ing some­where like this stun­ning home swap on the tiny island of Bjorøy which is just a 20-minute dri­ve to Bergen. Con­nect­ed to the main­land by a sub­sea road tun­nel – and with a bridge to the equal­ly tiny island of Tyssøy – the home enjoys unfor­get­table views, with the chance to dip into the sea if you’re feel­ing brave! Hik­ing options in this region are also spec­tac­u­lar, though cen­tral Bergen is the real lure. Head to Bryggen (which fea­tures on UNESCO’s World Her­itage List), and explore a mul­ti­tude of hid­den pas­sages, bou­tiques, gal­leries and artist stu­dios. For incred­i­ble views of the city, hop on the Floiba­nen Funic­u­lar to the top of Mount Fløyen, and don’t for­get to dine in Bergen’s old­est restau­rant where you should try the spec­tac­u­lar fish soup and rein­deer with veni­son sauce.

The 5th happiest city in the world is Copenhagen in Denmark

Copenhagen

With a har­bour that is clean enough for swim­ming, a pas­sion for cycling as a quick and eco-friend­ly way to get around the city and a dynam­ic food scene, it’s no won­der that this fam­i­ly-friend­ly city is one of the hap­pi­est places in the world! Most tourists head straight for Nhyavn to admire the icon­ic pas­tel-coloured hous­es, or Jægers­borggade for bou­tiques and a great cof­fee scene. If you’re trav­el­ling with chil­dren (or you’re just a big kid at heart!) then Tivoli Gar­dens and amuse­ment park is great fun, while the Rosen­borg Cas­tle will offer a fan­tas­tic dol­lop of cul­ture. Described by Time Out as Copenhagen’s buzzi­est neigh­bour­hood’, Ref­shaleøen should also be top of your to-do list – par­tic­u­lar­ly if you want to explore the Copen­hagen Con­tem­po­rary (an impres­sive art gallery) – before enjoy­ing street food at Ref­fen. Final­ly, book a per­for­mance at the Roy­al Dan­ish Opera House – or see it from the water on a GoB­oat – then head home to a love­ly home swap.

The 4th happiest city in the world is Zurich in Switzerland

Zurich

For many trav­el-lovers, a city break only begins when you find the old town. Zurich’s beau­ti­ful Alt­stadt, with pret­ty cob­bled streets is no excep­tion. Explore the mul­ti­ple water foun­tains, and make sure you walk up to the Lin­den­hof city park for excep­tion­al views over the city. Got a sweet tooth? Then head to Lindt’s Home of Choco­late fac­to­ry for a Willy Won­ka-esque tour, or head to fam­i­ly-run Café Hon­old for an indul­gent treat, then relax with a spot of sight­see­ing on Limmat’s riv­er cruise. It should take just under an hour – leav­ing you with plen­ty of time to explore the impres­sive Zurich Zoo. Make sure you vis­it the under­wa­ter view­ing area at the ele­phant park to spot the ele­phants tak­ing a dip (guar­an­teed to bring a smile to even the grump­i­est face!), then head back to your home swap.

The 3rd happiest city in the world is Wellington in New Zealand

Wellington

New Zealan­ders are quite right­ly proud of this glo­ri­ous city, and with plen­ty to see and do, there’s some­thing for every taste. Speak­ing of taste, locals are proud to say that Welling­ton is the craft beer cap­i­tal of New Zealand, and the food scene is impres­sive too – head to the Boul­cott Street Bistro for an ele­gant din­ing expe­ri­ence. A vis­it to the city wouldn’t be com­plete until you’ve vis­it­ed The Muse­um of New Zealand Te Papa Ton­gare­wa (which is both a muse­um and an art gallery), and the Welling­ton Botan­ic Gar­dens are love­ly. Hop on the cable car for stun­ning views of the city, and you’ll quick­ly see why this is one of the hap­pi­est places on earth. If you’re feel­ing ener­getic, then Cul­ture Trip’s round-up of the best hik­ing trails in Welling­ton is jam-packed with routes for every lev­el of abil­i­ty – then retreat home to a gor­geous home swap! If you’re look­ing for a real­ly great over­sight of the top things to do in Welling­ton, then check out blog­gers Two Wan­der­ing Soles. They’ve also got lots of tips on explor­ing New Zealand on a budget.

The 2nd happiest city in the world is Aarhus in Denmark

Aarhus

You might not have heard of Aarhus, but it’s one of those cities that you real­ly don’t want oth­er tourists to find! Arguably one of Europe’s best undis­cov­ered gems, this per­fect loca­tion com­bines city, beach and forests – mak­ing it the ide­al spot for a relaxed break. Exchange homes with one of our com­mu­ni­ty (some­where like this recent­ly ren­o­vat­ed prop­er­ty would be ide­al), then head into the city to explore its many charms. You’d strug­gle to not feel hap­py while walk­ing the glass rain­bow view­ing deck and walk­way that sits on top of the Aarhus Art Muse­um (which also hap­pens to be the most vis­it­ed art muse­um in Scan­di­navia). Next, take a stroll through the Latin Quar­ter and explore the bou­tiques and fan­tas­tic café scene, then walk laps of the gor­geous wood­en cir­cu­lar Infi­nite Bridge and get a 360 degree view of Aarhus and the sea (just don’t expect it to be there in the win­ter when it’s tak­en down). For loads more ideas, take a look at The Crazy Tourist’s blog on the best things to do in Aarhus.

The happiest city in the world is Helsinki in Finland

Helsinki

And in our top spot, is Helsin­ki – which is locat­ed in Fin­land, the hap­pi­est coun­try in the world. So first things first, book your­self some­where stun­ning to stay – hap­pi­ly our mem­bers have loads of great home swaps in Helsin­ki. Next, draw up an itin­er­ary – if you want a cheat’s guide to the best expe­ri­ences in Helsin­ki, then trav­el blog­ger Where’s Mol­lie? has some great ideas. Hop on a canal sight­see­ing tour, and make time for a sauna at Loy­ly before tak­ing a dip in the sea or an ice hole (depend­ing on what time of year you’re vis­it­ing). Fan­cy a dose of cul­ture? Then vis­it Helsin­ki Cathe­dral or expe­ri­ence the Suomen­lin­na Sea Fortress for an unfor­get­table expe­ri­ence. If you’re short on time but you want to pack in all of the top sights, then the tram is a great way to see the city, or hire a bike and pick one of these great cycling routes. Last­ly, enjoy a fan­tas­tic eat­ing and drink­ing expe­ri­ence. From cosy wine bars that the locals love, through to drinks with a view at the Sky­room Helsin­ki, this is an effort­less­ly cool city that both trav­ellers and locals adore.

Let’s not for­get that the top 10 list changes all the time – and what you deem to be a hap­py city is entire­ly down to taste! Love Home Swap’s head office is in Lon­don – and we’d argue that we should def­i­nite­ly be list­ed as one of the hap­pi­est places on earth (though appar­ent­ly, we only scraped in at 36th place!) And when we first cov­ered this sub­ject back in 2013 (which you can see in the info­graph­ic below), the top spot was held by Rio de Janeiro, close­ly fol­lowed by Syd­ney, Barcelona, Ams­ter­dam, Mel­bourne, Madrid, San Fran­cis­co, Rome, Paris and Buenos Aires. So tell us Love Home Swap­pers – what’s your per­son­al hap­pi­est city? Share your thoughts in our Face­book groups and on our social media chan­nels using #welove­home­swap.

From then to now, this was the top 10 in 2013:

309074 top 10 happiest cities infographic