Top 10 Student-Friendly Cities in Europe

By Kaitlin Hurtado on August 15, 2018

Depending on where you are in your study abroad experience, you may be just starting out, without a definite destination in mind. Regardless of the place you pick, studying abroad is a great and enriching experience, but you definitely want to pick a destination that you can envision yourself spending an extensive amount of time in. You want to be able to both learn the culture of the place you are studying abroad in and learn to appreciate it even more when you come out of your study abroad experience. Europe is a popular destination for many college students looking to fulfill their long-awaited study abroad experience because of the many cultures and sights it has to offer.

There are plenty of factors that will go into your final decision on where to study abroad: total cost, available academic programs, term length, and even what part of the year you would ideally want to spend abroad. If you are looking to study abroad in Europe, but are not sure which city in Europe you want to call home during your study abroad experience, here are some of the top ten student-friendly cities in Europe that can provide the study abroad experience of your dreams depending on the various factors you are looking for.

finger pointing to small globe

Image via Pexels

1) Barcelona, Spain

Looking for a place that you can stroll the streets between study sessions and grub out on paella (the classic rice and seafood dish) and then hit the night scene with the friends you make while study abroad? Then look no further than the city of Barcelona in Spain. Like many cities in Europe, rich with culture and history, Barcelona offers plenty of sights for students see during their time studying abroad. You can always go on paid tours like any other travel destinations, but if you are calling your Barcelona your home during your study abroad experience – you can get to know one of the most beautiful cities in Europe for free. Friendly to a college student budget, go sightseeing for free with your friends; visit La Sagrada Familia (a large Roman Catholic Church) or walk the Gothic Quarter (a popular street) in the morning before class.

Have your very own “Cheetah Girls” experience and strut the streets as you enjoy all that Barcelona has to offer during your study abroad experience. Spend your meals grubbing out on popular local dishes: paella, tapas, cheap beer, and much more. Go bar-hopping with your friends at night to dance the night away like you don’t have class the next day.

Studying abroad in Barcelona will also give you the opportunity to practice your Spanish skills in different areas of your study abroad experience. Depending on the academic program you select, you may be taking all your studies in the Spanish language. Take advantage of the opportunity to practice your Spanish when you converse with and befriend locals – it will allow you to experience the culture in a different way when you go one step further to immerse yourself in it. Studying abroad in Barcelona opens the door for you to experience a brand new culture, all while earning college credits.

2) Paris, France 

Like other cities in Europe, Paris is a student-friendly city because of all it offers to students looking to spend their study abroad experience there. The famous City of Light has much to offer for its international students. What better place to learn French than in one of the most iconic and romantic travel destinations in the world? You can count the minutes down in your college classroom and see the Eiffel tower with your very own eyes, all in the same day if you choose Paris as your study abroad destination.

Indulge your inner foodie on the daily. Hit up a cafe close to campus or your housing for a breakfast of coffee and butter croissants. See beautiful architecture and other art forms you were only able to see in pictures before by visiting sites like Sainte-Chapelle. Channel your inner Beyonce and Jay-Z by walking the exhibits of the famous Louvre, which is free after 4:30 p.m. on Fridays. With such beautiful landmarks to visit, your time abroad will never be a bore when you can engage with locals in French while strolling the streets with your favorite pastry in hand.

3) Rome, Italy

Have you ever watched “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” and been envious of Lizzie throwing her own coin into the Trevi Fountain – the largest Baroque fountain in Rome – and proceed to have one of the wildest adventures while in Rome on a class trip? If that’s the case, try studying abroad in Rome for your own chance to take part in the tradition of throwing a coin over your shoulder and into the fountain for an ensured future return to the city and see where the rest of your study abroad experience takes you. Like so many cities in Europe, Rome is enriched with history and picking it as your study abroad experience will give you the knowledge that your previous World and European history classes could not.

Eat to your little foodie heart’s content on the classic Italian dishes that Rome’s vendors have to offer. Pick up a new language by dedicating your time abroad to engaging with locals and fellow students in Italian. From ordering your new favorite dish of pasta to asking directions to specific landmarks – do not be afraid to practice in Italian while studying abroad in Rome. Rome can be your outdoor classroom while studying abroad and there are plenty of guides to help you during your time abroad.

4) Dublin, Ireland

Do you have yet to grasp an understanding of a language other than English? No problem. Studying abroad in Dublin will eliminate the language barrier you may come across in other cities in Europe, as most locals speak English. You will not be intimated by the fact that you aren’t fluent in the local language, nor too scared to do tasks as simple as asking for directions to where you need to be. If you are one to appreciate nightlife, then look no further than Dublin. In Dublin, it won’t be hard to find a pub to settle in after a particularly hard day, or a club to dance the night away to celebrate your time abroad. What better way to spend St. Patrick’s Day than in Dublin – where the celebrations run throughout the whole city, the whole day?

In addition to the city life that Dublin has to offer, you can easily access other cities of Ireland when you want to take a day-trip for a new experience.

student-friendly cities in europe infographic

Infographic by Kaitlin Hurtado, via Canva

5) Berlin, Germany

As one of the many cities in Europe that you can actively practice speaking a language other than English, the capital of Germany can be your perfect idea of a study abroad experience. You can practice your German skills by studying in a country full of culture, festivals, amazing landscapes, and tons of history. If you are one to appreciate arts and culture, Berlin is the perfect place with plenty of theaters, symphony halls, and 150 museums that will generally be student-friendly when it comes to budget at little-to-no cost.

Take your studying outside by taking advantage of Berlin’s landscape. Besides being a bustling city, it is surrounded by greenery and rivers. Indulge your inner history junkie by studying in the place that was the heart of World War II and the Cold War – there are plenty of historical tours, landmarks, and memorials to help you learn even more about the city’s extensive history. Plus, getting around will not be a bother with the city’s well-connected public transportation so you can travel to your heart’s content.

6) Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is one of the more popular cities in Europe that college students pick as their study abroad destination with three universities to choose from and its large student population, both local and international. Like the rest of the country, Amsterdam reflects an outlook of being open-minded and accepting. The multicultural city makes it even more welcoming to students looking to call the city their home while studying abroad, regardless of your background.

Scared that you are not going to be able to get around as easily as you would back home? Think again. Amsterdam focuses heavily on its cycling culture and for its inhabitants, their two wheels are their main modes of transportation. Maintain your fitness while also skipping out on heftier public transportation fees by cycling to where you want to be instead of resorting to the bus. While you can’t cycle your way to other countries and cities in Europe, studying Amsterdam allows you to take a bus or cheap flight to neighboring countries like Germany whenever you want to venture out.

7) Madrid, Spain 

Maybe your program of choice isn’t offered in Barcelona, but you still want to be able to appreciate and live in Spanish culture while studying abroad. Look no further than Madrid, the capital of Spain.

You can the best of both worlds while you spend your study abroad experience in Madrid. The modernity of high-rise apartments and commercial areas you can find in other cities in Europe, but still have access to traditional landscapes of local neighborhoods, small cafes, royal palaces, and world-famous art museums. The city’s access to cultural diversity, art, and nightlife will be enough to attract students looking for an opportunity to enjoy their time abroad while outside of the classroom. You do not need to worry about the number of Spanish skills you have when universities offer programs that cater to students at all levels of Spanish proficiency.

8) Lisbon, Portugal

Need a city in Europe that boasts an affordable cost of living for college students, friendly locals, and the necessary sightseeing spots? Lisbon in Portugal may be the destination of your dreams then.

Lisbon is a university city, where you can choose from a qualified list of public and private universities and you can definitely pick and choose from plenty of programs to see what is the perfect fit for your study abroad experience. Hosting a widely diverse international student population, courses in Lisbon universities are taught in English, but you can always take advantage of the opportunity to learn Portuguese both in and out of the classroom. It is the fifth most spoken language in the world, after all.

9)  Edinburgh, Scotland

While one of the smaller of the popular student-friendly cities in Europe, Edinburgh remains to be at hearts of many students that have spent their study abroad experience there. You can feel safe in Edinburgh, as its safe for local and international students with a low-crime rank. In fact, they were ranked first in Scotland when it came to the International Student Barometer survey in 2016.

Edinburgh is a place that hosts year-round fun for its international student, with a line-up of 12 festivals each year. Regardless of the season you choose to study abroad in Edinburgh, you will surely find your own favorite form of entertainment between its festivals, museums, and theatres before and after classes.

city of london

London, England. (Image via Pexels).

10) London, England 

With world-famous universities and many famous landmarks, it is no wonder that London remains at the top of the list of cities in Europe that students want to go during their study abroad experience. London gives you the modern city living you can find across the world, but also provides the opportunity for you to visit places holding historical and cultural significance, like Westminster Abbey or St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Like many other cities in Europe, efficient public transportation makes the city student-friendly when you do not need to take getting a car on your list of expenses. You can walk through markets to browse and find something to munch on, or take a bus to popular parks like Regent’s Park.

Regardless of where you end up landing during your study abroad experience, it will surely be a great one when you have so many student-friendly cities in Europe to choose from.

By Kaitlin Hurtado

Uloop Writer
Hello! I'm Kaitlin, a second year Literary Journalism major at UC Irvine. I'm a writer on Uloop's national team and a campus editor for UCI.

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