Utrecht is one of the finest places to stay, according to the BBC.
The BBC’s findings are bassed on a report by the United Nations earlier this year, that the Dutch are the world’s fourth happiest people.
Utrecht, just 40km south of Amsterdam, is a compact city filled with delightful cafes and restaurants, thousands of students who attend the venerable Utrecht University, and many artists and musicians.
Along the Oudegracht, the central canal, cellar-level bars and pubs line the towpath, which is a charming place to watch the boats and birds go by. The Domtoren, or cathedral tower, is the tallest in the country, and from the top visitors can see the entire city below. Spring and summer bring the festival season, including the national Nederlands Film Festival in September, and every Saturday the Oudegracht blooms with the weekly flower market.
“Utrecht has all the big city amenities with a small town atmosphere and is much more relaxed than Amsterdam or Rotterdam,” said Roald de Waard, a local estate agent. “It has an excellent public transport system and a young and well-educated populace.”
Utrecht’s centre, near the two main squares Janskerkhof and Neude, and close to the Domplein, the cathedral square, is popular for its walkability and access to nightlife and restaurants. “The best areas are in the eastern part of town, such as expensive Wilhelminapark which has mansions and brownstones from the 1900s,” said de Waard. Also popular is neighbouring Oudwijk where the housing stock is being modernised, as is lowrise Wittevrouwen in the northeast of the city, with its family houses built in the 1920s and ‘30s. West of Centraal Station, Lombok is ethnically diverse with a Turkish and Middle Eastern population, and attracts a liberal crowd and young families. Further west, outside the city, a modern district called Leidsche Rijn has been developed over the last decade with large business parks and more than 10,000 homes, and it currently houses nearly 30,000 residents.
The other ‘happy’ cities in the world according to the BBC are Aarhus in Denmark, Oslo in Norway, Geneva in Switzerland and Malmo in Sweden.