How, exactly, do you measure happiness? The Institute for Quality of Life thinks it’s got the math down — and has even named a few of the happiest cities in Europe. 

Every year, the organization creates its index of the happiest cities, though the way it forms that list is rather complex. 

“The ranking was created on the basis of thousands of indicators thoroughly developed by our researchers that directly relate to the quality of life and the sense of happiness of its residents,” the organization explains on its methodology page. “Importantly, we do not analyze the happiness of an imaginary individual in every location in the world, but people actually living in these cities.” 

So, every year, it makes “every effort to objectively and reliably assess what is most important for city dwellers and on this basis assess the sense of happiness” through open data and interviews with residents for what’s known as a mixed-methods approach combining both qualitative and quantitative information. Quantitative data includes information on diversity and inclusion, education opportunities, the political involvement of citizens, the health of the environment, the local economy, and access to public transportation. (It includes much more, so read the full methodology here.) 

After looking at all the data, it gave the city of Aarhus, Denmark, the highest total score thanks to its high environmental score, government involvement by citizens, and its ease of mobility. 

In case you’re unfamiliar with it, Aarhus is the second-largest city in Denmark and is located along the waters of the Bay of Aarhus. It’s a destination Visit Denmark proudly proclaims is filled with culture thanks to spots like the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, natural beauty with the bay, and plenty of ways to unwind with the Harbour Baths, designed by some of the nation’s best architects. It’s also a spot that, indeed, loves the environment. “You can take a green kayak out for free, as long as you bring back some trash from your trip,” Visit Denmark added. 

Joining Aarhus on the Gold Ranked cities list are Zurich; Berlin; Gothenburg, Sweden; Amsterdam; Helsinki; Bristol, United Kingdom; one more Danish city, Copenhagen; Geneva, Switzerland; and Munich, Germany. But again, these cities are all unranked, so really, they can all be considered the happiest in their own right.

See the complete list of Gold cities in Europe, and more ranked cities, at

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