Copenhagen typically runs away with the lion’s share of international praise, whether it’s for being the world’s greenest city, the best city in the world for cyclists or the most gay-friendly destination, to name just a few of the titles the city has claimed over the years.
But could Denmark’s real gem not its capital but rather the northern industrial city of Aalborg? Its residents would surely say so, as a new study from the European Commission shows that Aalborg is home to the happiest people in all of Europe.
According to the study, a full 72 percent of Aalborg residents are ‘very satisfied’ with their lives while another 24 percent are ‘fairly satisfied’. Those numbers were good enough to top the second ‘most satisfied’ city – which was yes, you guessed it, Copenhagen. In the capital, 67 percent of residents are ‘very satisfied’ and 24 percent are ‘fairly satisfied’.
Aalborgians are also among those who feel the safest in Europe, with 96 percent saying they feel safe in the city. Copenhageners weren’t far behind at 95 percent. In Aalborg, 91 percent of respondents also said that most people in the city could be trusted, putting it behind only Oulu, Finland as Europe’s most trusting city.
With just over 110,000 people, Aalborg is Denmark’s fourth largest city. Aalborg Municipality encompasses some 207,805 people, making it the nation’s third biggest.
Although it’s not as well known outside of Denmark as Copenhagen, Aalborg resident Narcis George Matache told The Local that he fell in love with the city when he came to the University of Aalborg from his native Romania six years ago.
"Even though Aalborg has 200,000 people, it doesn’t feel like it. It has a small-city feel and you can really breath here," he said.
Matache said that the city's smaller size also makes it easier to get involved politically, as he has with the group Europaeisk Ungdom Nordjylland.
"I ended up staying here because you can really have a lot of influence. It's easy to get involved and there is a very high level of acceptance and inclusion," he said.
With its report on the European Commission study, Aalborg might just start receiving the attention it deserves. Business Insider UK, for example, wrote that despite its low international profile, there are clearly plenty of reasons for Aalborgians to be happy with their city.
“The industrial city in the north of Denmark isn't exactly world famous, but utilities like a symphony orchestra, a world class university, and a beautiful waterfront make it not surprising that Aalborg's citizens are the most satisfied in Europe,” the website wrote.
Following Aalborg and Copenhagen as the five most satisfied cities in Europe were Reykjavik, Zurich and Graz.
The European Commission’s full ‘Quality of Life in European Cities’ study can be found here.