Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Want to meet happy Europeans? You won't find them in capital cities

While there are more job opportunities and amenities in capital cities, these are often viewed as offering less affordable housing and poorer-quality public services

Published: Dec 19, 2023 03:46:25 PM IST
Updated: Dec 19, 2023 03:56:23 PM IST

Want to meet happy Europeans? You won't find them in capital citiesZurich, Switzerland, is the European city with the most satisfied residents in Europe. Image: Shutterstock

While they often promise more job opportunities and a vibrant cultural life, Europe's capitals are not the cities where people living on the Old Continent feel most satisfied with their lives. If you want to meet happy Europeans, you might need to look further afield than these major urban centers.

During the pandemic, there was much talk of an urban exodus, with population categories from remote workers to families to retired couples leaving big cities for the countryside. Those who didn't opt for a country lifestyle headed to small or medium-sized cities in search of a different pace of life or more affordable living.

Now, research from the European Commission suggests that this may have been a wise move when it comes to life satisfaction. The recently published report analyzes the cities offering the best quality of life in Europe. No fewer than 83 cities were analyzed, and over 70,000 people were questioned. Overall, Europeans report feeling more satisfied with their lives when they live in smaller cities. Generally speaking, those surveyed tend to feel safer in these smaller cities, which are also perceived as cleaner and quieter. According to the report, smaller cities are considered better places to live for older people and families. Moreover, while there are more job opportunities and amenities in capital cities, these are often viewed as offering less affordable housing and poorer-quality public services.

Where are people most satisfied with living?

This is reflected in the top 10 cities where people report the highest levels of satisfaction with living in that city. With the exception of Copenhagen (Denmark), which boasts the second-highest overall satisfaction rating (96%), and Stockholm (Sweden) (95%) -- which are both capital cities -- the list also includes smaller, non-capital cities such as Groningen in the Netherlands (96%), Gdańsk in Poland and Leipzig in Germany.

Also read: Zurich, Singapore world's most expensive cities: The Economist rankings

These destinations cannot necessarily be described as "small" cities, since they all have more than 200,000 inhabitants, and even more than 415,000 for the first-place winner Zurich (Switzerland), and up to almost 500,000 for Gdańsk. So while size may be a relative concept, living outside of a capital city also appears to play a role in how satisfied Europeans feel with living in a city.

People satisfied with living in their city, top 10:


1. Zurich (Switzerland) (97%)

2. Copenhagen (Denmark) (96%)

3. Groningen (Netherlands) (96%)

4. Gdańsk (Poland) (95%)

5. Leipzig (Germany) (95%)

6. Stockholm (Sweden) (95%)

7. Geneva (Switzerland) (95%)

8. Rostock (Germany (94%)

9. Cluj-Napoca (Romania) (94%)

10. Braga (Portugal) (94%)