Best cities to live in Europe: Dreaming of a better work-life balance? These Scandinavian countries could hold the answer

Posted by
Megan Murray
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

Scandinavian cities dominate a new list of the best places to live in Europe, perhaps unsurprisingly. Warning: after reading, you may begin planning a move.

Although talk of resolutions may feel like eons ago, we’re not quite over the promise of a new year. The idea of starting fresh and exploring somewhere different makes us dream wistfully of moving to a new place, and ticking living in a different country off our bucket lists.

And, although the charms of cities like Paris or Lisbon are certainly seductive, Scandinavia is so often heralded for having the happiest population it’s hard to ignore its appeal.

So, it’s no real surprise, then, that in a recent study determining the most liveable city, Scandinavia has not only come out on top – but completely dominated the list.

The findings are part of an annual Location Ratings Report from global mobility expert, ECA International (ECA) in which 490 cities worldwide are assessed on factors such as health services; housing and utilities; isolation; access to a social network and leisure facilities; infrastructure; climate; personal safety; political tensions and air quality. 

You may also like

“How embracing the Danish lifestyle made me happier (and why it can for you, too)”

Using the data, the cities are ordered into a top 10 list. An overwhelming percentage of these are in Scandinavia or very close by in the Netherlands, a country which shares a similar ethos when it comes to caring for its population.

Of course, the top spot has been awarded to Copenhagen in Denmark. This makes sense considering how the Danish lifestyle has been praised again and again for ensuring its inhabitants are some of the happiest in the world.

Recently congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrated the country’s progressive system, tweeting: “Spending the day in Denmark after C40, enjoying this social democracy that treats healthcare and education as rights, zero-carbon as priority, and infrastructure as a key public good.”

Denmark is famed for its extensive system of welfare support: Danes pay some of the world’s highest taxes in order to access free healthcare and university education, along with comprehensive systems of maternity, childcare and unemployment support.

This, in turn, fuels a strong sense of community and high levels of social cohesion and trust often credited with making Denmark one of the happiest countries on earth.

Amsterdam also appears on the top 10 list.

“The Danes hand over a large proportion of their personal income in taxes, trusting that those resources will be spent for the benefit of all,” reads this explainer on the Danish government’s website.

British journalist Helen Russell even wrote a book on how living Danishly for a year made her a happier human, telling “As well as obscenely short working weeks – just 33 hours according to the latest figures – Danes are some of the most outdoorsy people in the world. Their obsession with the environment is rewarded with clean air and crystal clear seas.

“As someone whose only experience of living Danishly before moving here was watching Sarah Lund schlep through murky forests on The Killing, it’s been quite the eye opener.”

But if Copenhagen isn’t the place for you, you might be interested to know that joint first on the list is Bern in Switzerland. Bern already has some impressive titles under its belt, such as second greenest capital city in Europe according to a 2019 study, and second best city in Europe to buy as first time homeowner.

Combined with medieval architecture, plenty of greenery and a beautiful, centrally-located river, we wouldn’t mind checking out what Bern has to offer. 

You may also like

Weekend in Amsterdam: Our city break guide for the best things to do

The full list, as previously mentioned, is mainly made up of Northern European cities with 50% located in Scandinavia. Another 20% are in the Netherlands, which is known for holding very similar principles as close by countries like Denmark. It’s also worth noting that not one UK city made it into the top 10. Oh dear…

You can see the full top 10 list below:

  1. Copenhagen, Denmark and Bern, Switzerland
    3. The Hague, Netherlands
    4. Geneva, Switzerland
    5. Eindhoven, Netherlands
    6. Stavanger, Norway
    7. Amsterdam, Netherlands
    8. Basel, Switzerland
    9. Dublin, Irish Republic
    10. Luxembourg City, Luxembourg 

Sign up for the latest news and must-read features from Stylist, so you don't miss out on the conversation.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy

Images: Nick Karvounis - Unsplash / Colton Jones - Unsplash 


Share this article


Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a senior digital writer for, who enjoys writing about homeware (particularly candles), travel, food trends, restaurants and all the wonderful things London has to offer.

Recommended by Megan Murray


Amsterdam calling: Eurostar launches direct route from London

Wanderlusters get set for the "Amsterdam route"

Posted by
Anna Brech

Weekend in Amsterdam: Our city break guide for the best things to do

There's a lot more to this beautiful city than stag dos and coffee shops

Posted by
Megan Murray

A Danish MP has reignited the debate about bringing babies into parliament

"A chamber that represents mothers, fathers and babies ought to be open to mothers, fathers and babies."

Posted by
Sarah Shaffi

“How embracing the Danish lifestyle made me happier”

Why a move to Denmark just might be the best decision you’ll ever make.

Posted by
Helen Russell