Netherlands

The Netherlands! The canals, the cyclists, the parks, the museums, the bridges, the nightlife – and the people, ranked in the Top 10 happiest nations in the 2016 World Happiness Report. This flat, floral country in the north-west of Europe, with its thousands of areas of "polder" land reclaimed from the sea and the marshes by a system of dikes, is certainly low-lying; but its geography is the only thing about the Netherlands that’s "low". This diverse, friendly nation, which brims with hiking and cycling routes and picturesque, canal-lined towns full of markets, pavement restaurants and old city walls where (legal) cannabis cafés rub shoulders with medieval churches, is sure to leave you on a high.

Soak in the unique atmosphere of the capital city Amsterdam, home to the tranquil Vondelpark and the saucy Red Light District, as well as vibrant Dam Square and the world-famous "Secret Annex" where teenage diarist Anne Frank and her family lived in hiding from the Nazis from 1942-44. Visit the university towns of Maastricht and Groningen, whose twisty streets whir with cyclists in the daytime and buzz with pubs, restaurants and dance clubs at night. Try canal-surfing in Rotterdam amidst some of the world's craziest architecture, buy traditional blue-and-white pottery in Delft, or tour the Peace Palace of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Or for a proper seaside getaway, take a ferry around the Dutch Frisian Islands, where you can mix wildlife watching, mudflat-walking and sunbathing. With a culture as unique as its landscape, and contentment as high as its altitude is low, the Netherlands won't fail to lift your spirits, and deliver all the excitement or relaxation – or a combination of both! – that you could wish for.

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