Psychology & Wellbeing, Travel & Outings

What makes Copenhagen so happy?!

I just got back from a weekend in Copenhagen / North Denmark. As we were travelling I said to my husband “isn’t this supposed to be the happiest city in the world?” he agreed but neither of us was sure why. So, as we touched down in a cold and dark Denmark, we made it our mission to discover what makes Danes so cheery.

So, is it the food?

The Danes love their food.

On our trip, we were very lucky to have the opportunity to not only visit the trendy bars and restaurants of Copenhagen, but we also visited some friends in the beautiful town of Helsingoer.

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We visited their beautiful home right in the centre of town and we were fed traditional Danish food. To start we had rye bread covered with an array of toppings; my favourite being sild (or picked herring) with what I described as the sauce we get with coronation chicken! Delicious!

The main was a dish of pork (with the best crackling I’ve ever tasted), red cabbage with a vinegar dressing, potatoes and a Danish version of parsley sauce. It was comfort food at its best.

We also went to the trendy Christianshavn canals, and every restaurant was packed to the rafters.

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We had to skip a couple of places because you can still smoke in some pubs and we had small children with us. Their attitude to smoking surprised us in the happiest city in the world, but then maybe the freedom of choice adds to their happiness ratings.

We found a trendy American style place where we managed to squeeze in with tightly arranged tables and bar stools. The food was quirky but fabulous! This was my spaghetti and meatballs – it was the first time I’ve ever had it with bean sprouts and finely grated red cabbage but it worked!


For those who have a penchant for sweet and milky, they had very tasty milkshakes too!

The Danes also love their coffee and Danish pastries of course! Lagkagehuset – which translates to Layercake House – was our guide’s favourite coffee haunt, and you can find them dotted all over the city. I tried one of these (the cake on the right-hand side of the below picture). It’s made of rye bread and chocolate and is covered in toasted hazelnuts; to die for.

Choc danish

image source

Is it the open spaces?

I didn’t get to see them, but I was told just outside of Copenhagen – within a 10 minutes drive – there are vast open parks with a whole array of wildlife. Apparently, the Danes chase the sun as soon as it peeks out from the clouds; as it comes out so do they.

I didn’t see beaches per se, but Copenhagen is right on the coast, so they are a plenty. Sadly, being a northern city it doesn’t get the great weather us Europeans crave (certainly the English anyway), but that doesn’t seem to bother the Danes! I was chatting to one Danish friend, and she said she grew up in what she called ‘the windy city’ in Denmark and so she was used the weather. She said it made her feel comforted and safe.

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There is also a real arty and cultural feel to the place.   2015-04-11 15.47.12

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Perhaps it’s the personality of Danes?

From trust to openness, all of which are shown to make people happier, the Danes have it all.

One of the things that surprised me most about Denmark is the level of trust people have in each other. Parents are quite happy to leave their tiny babies outside in prams – even if they can’t see them (although being able to see is preferred) – or outside in the backyard when they live. They do this because apparently the fresh air is best for the baby and helps them to sleep soundly. Perhaps we need to take heed!

It seems this trusting nature certainly does not spread easily outside of Denmark though. I was told another story of a Danish woman who tried to adopt her same cultural values in NYC – as you can imagine, the cops didn’t see it in such a positive light!

Is it the outdoor lifestyle?

Cycling is a given in Copenhagen – bicycles are everywhere but, despite crime across the capital being surprisingly low (something else which could add to the happiness rating), I found out that bikes are fair game. I was told that when people get drunk they are happy to steal someone’s bike to ride to the station, and then they dump it there. Then, because there are so many bicycles in the city, the council have a clear out once a week of any cycles that have been there longer than that period.

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It’s not just cycling the Danes love. We saw more runners, walkers and outdoor gym bunnies than we’ve ever seen on Saturday and Sunday mornings in cities that are famed for food, beer and having a good time!


So what is it that makes the Copenhagener’s so happy?

My conclusion?

It’s a mix of the outdoor lifestyle, good food and the trusting nature of the Danes that makes Copenhagen the happy city.

Why do you think Copenhagen is the happiest City in the world? Or perhaps you think another city is happier? Share your thoughts, I’d love to read them!

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