What is the key to happiness, and where can we find it? A recent academic study has suggested lasting happiness is to be found in experiences, like travel, rather than material objects. With this in mind, which joyous, soul-enriching experiences should we be investing in this coming year?
The Dutch capital is loved for its charming canals, parks and prize-winning galleries, and its residents routinely poll as some of the happiest in Europe, thanks in part to the laid-back lifestyle and the city's tolerant attitudes.
Experience: feel the breeze on a bike
Long the bicycle capital of the world, visitors can steer themselves around Amsterdam’s extensive grid of well-labelled lanes that criss-cross the canals of the Old Town. Pedal through Vondelpark and along the banks of the Amstel River, before stopping for lunch at Nieuwmarkt Square's daily food market. This is the perfect way to feed the mind, the body and the soul.
A city of grand juxtapositions and proud people, Edinburgh has boldly claimed the title of Scottish capital since the 14th century. Its Old Town, with its iconic medieval fortress, and the neoclassical New Town have both made a unique contribution to the fascinating and welcoming character of the great European city we see today.
Experience: climb Arthur’s Seat
Not just a May Day tradition, locals will tell you climbing the mountain is a life-affirming experience anytime. Pack a picnic, sturdy footwear and a spirit of adventure as you scale Edinburgh's most famous extinct volcano; the views over Holyrood, Edinburgh Castle and the Firth of the Forth are definitely worth the effort.
A centre for fashion, finance and football, Milan is perhaps best loved for its heritage in high culture but that doesn’t mean it’s a city without a sense of fun. Trendy bars and boutique hotels abound, the nightlife buzzes into the early hours and café culture thrives here.
Experience: a night at the opera
Built in 1778, the Teatro alla Scala [www.teatroallascala.org] has a special place in the heart of opera fans. The neoclassical building exudes history and legendary composers, conductors and singers have debuted here through the centuries. Splash out on tickets to the opera or ballet and have a night to always remember.
Just over an hour from Aarhus - a European Capital of Culture in 2017 - the town of Billund is the ideal European destination for reconnecting with your inner child. It has, after all, been the home of Lego since 1934.
Experience: building bricks of youth
The original and still very much the best, Legoland Billund [www.legoland.dk] stretches out over 45 acres, with nine themed areas, an aquarium, 4D cinema, and rides for all ages. Its most iconic attraction, however, is its model village, ‘Miniland’, where more than 25 million bricks come together to create a miniature world of wonders with sights from Demark, Europe and around the world. This is the perfect place rediscover a childlike sense of awe and glee.