Beat Blue Monday: These Are The Happiest Countries In Europe
Today is Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year according to some. Even though Blue Monday is not based on any scientific research (the day was in fact created by a British holiday company), we can all use some good vibes in this dark time of the year.
As a traveler, all of Europe is one happy place. There’s really no better way to feel free and at peace than by boarding a scenic train and cruising through beautiful destinations. But if you need a kick of good vibes, some places are happier than others. Do you want to know the happiest countries you can reach on your Europe trip?
Measuring a country’s happiness
Happiness might seem like a fairly bogus thing to measure. However, several organizations are doing their best to pinpoint what makes a country’s citizens happy.
The most consistent and reliable of these studies appears to be the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. They’ve produced the World Happiness Report since 2012. They use 6 key indicators, which you’ll see a lot of in many European countries. These are:
- social support
- trustworthy governance.
The logic is that these filter down to the country’s population, and also to you – the temporary visitor experiencing the country.
The happiest countries in Europe you can reach by train
It’s no surprise that Norway tops the global list of happiest countries. The country has seen sustained economic growth over recent years. It also has a solid social support program. Combine that with mountains, glaciers, fjords, and a fascinating history, and it’s no wonder that many consider them the happiest nation on earth.
Happiest train ride: The happiest train ride in Norway has to be the Bergen Line between Oslo and Bergen. If the fact that you’re arriving at one of the highest stations in Europe doesn’t get you smiling, then the views of mountains, fjords, lakes, forests, and quaint villages should.
Denmark follows closely behind Norway at number 2 on the list. Although several factors play a role in keeping it at the top of the list, fresh Danish pastries must surely be what sets it apart. The quality of life here is almost unsurpassed. You’ll feel this anywhere you venture in this remarkable country.
Happiest train ride: The train journey from Germany to the Danish capital is an enjoyable trip that includes a ride aboard a ferry, without needing to leave the train.
The Swiss just seem to understand the secret to the good life. With all that fresh mountain air and beautiful scenery, it’s easy to see why. Throw into the mix their economic achievements, and icons like Swiss Army Knives, fondues, and immaculate timepieces, and there’s a good chance you’ll be smiling ear to ear from the moment you arrive until the day you leave.
Happiest train ride: The Golden Pass train from Lucerne to Montreux packs in all the Swiss highlights.
Finland is a consistently happy country that often floats under the radar of international travelers. In spite of the cold weather, the people are a friendly, welcoming bunch. And what’s a bit of snow and ice when there are an estimated 3 million saunas to keep you warm?
Happiest train ride: The train from Rovaniemi to Kemijärvi and back again is a delightful journey, particularly in summer.
Contrary to popular belief, happiness in the Netherlands isn’t driven by its marijuana policies. In fact, its happiness is most likely due to the country’s impressive economic and social development. It’s clear that the tulip fields, quaint canals, and laidback way of life also helps.
Happiest train ride: A train ride north from Amsterdam to Zwolle will give you cheerful views of windmills, rivers, canals, and pastures.
Sweden just scrapes into the top 10 on the global index. But don’t let that deceive you – Swedes have a zest for life that’s thoroughly infectious. You’ll enjoy all aspects of this remarkable country regardless of the season – even in the winter cold!
Happiest train ride: The Inlandsbanan scenic train ride is a staggering 807 miles long, and the Swedish countryside is bound to keep you smiling for much of the lengthy journey. It’s only open from June to August.
Austria often sails below the mainstream tourism radar. As such, you’ll get a kick out of discovering a new lake, mountain top, or quaint Austrian village. Much of Austria’s success as one of the happiest countries has to do with its financial security, but its beautiful architectural and natural beauty no doubt play a role.
Happiest train ride: The Semmering railway will have you grinning in sheer engineering brilliance of this early Alpine route.
It’s been said that the Irish have a song in their voice. There are also few accents easier to listen to than that of the Irish. Of course, there’s more to the country’s high ranking than vocals alone. It may well have a lot to do with the green pastures and copious amounts of Guinness available on tap.
Happiest train ride: The train ride between Derry and Coleraine is one of the most beautiful journeys in the world, with sublime coastline and Irish countryside views throughout.
Don’t believe the Germans are happy? Just visit a Munich beer garden or a late night party in Berlin, and you’ll see just how pleasant and engaging the country’s people really are. Although beer and various German delicacies probably play a role in national happiness, Germany seems to have found a balance that makes it a joy to visit.
Happiest train ride: The Rhine Valley Line scenic train between Mainz and Cologne feels like you’re floating through a fairytale, with castles, rivers, and steep valley sides. This should be enough to excite even the most cynical among us.
There are few things in the world that elicit more happiness than beer and chocolate. Belgium is an expert at both. Add this to a thriving economy and fascinating historical sites, and it’s no wonder that it rounds up the top 10 of Europe’s happiest countries.
Happiest train ride: The Eurostar from London to Brussels may not be the most scenic, but the sheer spectacle of cruising deep beneath the ocean between two capitals should be enough to draw a smile.
You might be tempted to visit these countries for their happiness rankings alone. But the truth is that a lengthy rail trip through Europe is one of the happiest things you’ll do. Find your own ticket to happiness when you buy a Eurail Global Pass!