Happy places

Active couple lying on grassWe’re often told that money can’t buy you happiness – but it turns out that moving to another country might just work instead. The World Happiness Report, published by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, used six criteria to rate the happiness of people in over 150 countries, including GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy and generosity. The fascinating results place five northern European countries in the top spots, indicating that it might be time for us all to think about heading north for the winter. 

Stockholm, Sweden

The capital of Sweden is one of the world’s leading economic centres and has a population of just 1.3 million. Spread over 14 islands, Stockholm is well known for the beauty of its Old Town, Gamla Stan, which dates back to the 13th century, as well as for the innovative and elegant modern architecture in the city centre.

The country is also celebrated for its equal attitude to maternity and paternity leave and an excellent free education system, making this a particularly tempting option for families. A strong real estate market has seen prices for luxurious apartments in the centre of Stockholm shooting up, with even the suburbs witnessing a steady increase in value.

Zürich, Switzerland

Switzerland’s largest city sits at the northwestern tip of Lake Zürich and is home to two million people, most of whom speak at least one foreign language. The country placed third in the World Happiness Report and it seems that visitors from all over the world agree – the Mercer Quality of Life Survey has ranked the city second out of 200 expatriate hotspots for the last four years.

The city’s idyllic location with gives its residents plenty of choice when it comes to selecting a property, with riverside villas, hilltop chalets and central apartment blocks all situated within easy reach of Zürich’s amenities. The lakeside district of Seefeld is one of the city’s most desirable areas, while the Old Town is also popular with affluent buyers looking for historic properties.

Utrecht, Netherlands

Located just 40km south of Amsterdam, Utrecht’s 310,000 population is made up of over 170 nationalities. Once voted the Netherlands’ most vibrant city, it’s seen as an excellent area for both families bringing up children and young professionals studying and working. An ever-expanding population makes property increasingly hard to come by, but innovative new expansion projects such as the Leidsche Rijn aim to provide thousands of additional high-quality homes in the next ten years.

As the home of the historic Utrecht University and the Dom Tower, the city boasts beautifully preserved mediaeval architecture as well as a reputation for hosting popular events like the Festival of Old Music and the Dutch Film Festival. It’s even been suggested that the Netherlands’ well-documented liberal attitude to a number of ‘vices’ is a critical factor in the happiness of its residents, as it gives them little to rebel against and removes the damaging stigmas that still prevail across much of the west.


Although it’s hard to find one key factor that explains the happiness of these country’s residents, it’s clear that a beautiful city to live in certainly doesn’t hurt. If you’re interested in finding a property in one of these perfectly positive places, just visit the Engel & Völkers website for more information.