Spring may have begun recently, but now is the time to start planning your summer holidays! It’s the best time to enjoy other great European student cities.
To many of Europe’s largest student cities, the end of the academic year means a loss of a huge part of its young population. Destinations where the nightlife is as big as its university traditions reveal their calmer side, without losing any of their historical and cultural charm. From the World Heritage sites of Coimbra and Bamberg, to the medieval streets of Padua, here are 8 student cities across Europe for you to visit this summer:
1. Salamanca, Spain
The city with the oldest university in Spain is usually brimming with students in its historic centre. Home to illustrious figures such as Antonio de Nebrija, Calderon de la Barca, and Miguel de Unamuno, the city is a beacon of knowledge, yet it also has one of the country’s best university atmospheres.
Summertime in Salamanca offers the perfect environment to visit the university’s buildings, the Plaza Mayor, and the famous Casa de las Conchas. It’s also a great opportunity to visit the city’s beautiful cathedrals, or walk along the riverbank of the Tormes.
2. Coimbra, Portugal
Known as the “city of knowledge”, Coimbra has one of the world’s oldest universities and is a World Heritage site. The city maintains peculiar traditions called the praxe, among which students have to wear a long black cloak called the traje as part of their official uniform. Coimbra’s university atmosphere dominates the city so much that its main attraction is the Queima das Fitas: a festival in May that marks the end of the academic year, full of concerts, beer and cultural activities.
From June on, Coimbra is practically empty. This opens the city up for tourists to explore the university’s buildings, as well as its impressive Joanina library, one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. The cathedral is a must-see attraction, as well as the city’s botanical gardens. Don’t miss the chance to sit down for a coffee by the riverside whilst watching the sunset!
3. Padua, Italy
The city with the second oldest university in Italy attracts thousands of students eager to follow in the footsteps of previous alumni such as Galileo, Dante, and Petrarch. A quarter of the city’s inhabitants are students, so the young vibe throughout the academic year is exceptional.
However, the summer exodus of students allows you to calmly enjoy Padua’s architectural and artistic monuments without the never-ending queues. The Scrovegni chapel with its Giotto frescoes, the Palazzo della Ragione, and the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua, are essential places to visit. The warm summer temperatures also warrant a visit to the huge Prato della Valle square, the botanical garden, or a boat ride on the river — with a delicious italian gelato, of course!
4. Nottingham, United Kingdom
Famous for the legend of Robin Hood, Nottingham is also one of the UK’s major student cities. The fact that it has two very important universities, as well as thousands of students, makes it a very dynamic city with a resounding nightlife. This is where you’ll find the “Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem”, a legendary pub that claims to be England’s oldest, serving pints since 1189.
In the summer, Nottingham becomes somewhat of a ghost town — and not just because it was elected the UK’s most haunted city in 2013. Even if it is half empty, the city has several landmarks worth visiting. Nottingham’s castle, underground caves, Galleries of Justice museum, and Wollaton Park and Hall will leave no room for boredom! This summer, even dinosaurs are coming to town.
5. Leuven, Belgium
The main university destination of the Flemish region has the oldest Catholic University in the world, and can boast about having had a certain Erasmus of Rotterdam as one of its teachers. Come September, Leuven’s population increases by 20%, giving the city a young breath of fresh air.
Leuven has plenty of events going on during the summer. Every Friday of July, during the Beleuvenissen Festival, the streets are filled with music. In August, Leuven hosts Marktrock, one of Europe’s largest urban music festivals. The buildings of the main square, such as the City Hall and St. Peter’s Church, as well as the university’s majestic library, are perfect for visiting during the Summer. Follow this up by sitting down to savour a Stella Artois, the world-renowned beer native to Leuven.
6. Bamberg, Germany
Walking through the medieval streets and steep red roofs of Bamberg will feel like you’re part of a fairy tale adventure. Despite its small size, the university’s student population has recently increased dramatically and now accounts for a sixth of the city’s inhabitants. Why the recent surge? We’re not sure if it’s the university’s improved reputation, or the fact that Bamberg is in the region where you will find most breweries in the world — 200 to be exact, ten of which are in the city!
After all the students have left for their summer vacations, Bamberg offers a quiet environment for exploring the city. Here, you can visit architectural gems such as the old town hall, the late Romanesque cathedral, and the Michaelsberg Abbey.
7. Maastricht, Netherlands
Vibrant and dynamic, Maastricht is one of the Netherlands’ most international campuses. Attracted by the young and multicultural vibe, almost half of the city’s student population comes from abroad to study and enjoy the epic nightlife.
However, it’s more than just a city for students. Maastricht is a great culinary destination, with numerous cafés and several restaurants boasting Michelin stars. In August, the city hosts the Preuvenemint, the country’s largest food festival. Apart from the food, Maastricht also has a dispute with Nijmegen for the title of oldest city in the country. This means that during the summer you can explore the city’s historic landmarks with less people around. Make sure you visit Maastricht’s medieval walls, Fort Sint Pieter, and the Basilica of Saint Servatius, as well as the city’s underground bunkers and the market square.
8. Rennes, France
Home to two very renowned universities in France, Rennes is a city with a large student population and a famous nightlife. There are so many bars on the historic Rue St. Michel, that it has earned the nickname of “The Thirst Street” by its locals. The vibrant nightlife perfectly coexists with other more bohemian and cultural facets, with plenty of cafés and museums to visit.
When summer arrives, and most locals head to the coast and students leave, the atmosphere becomes perfect for a quiet stroll through the city. Walk through the medieval streets and admire its countless historic buildings, among which are the Basilica Saint Sauveur, the City Hall square, and the Mordelaises doors with its turrets. You can also enjoy a walk along the river, crossing its drawbridge in the process, and then head for Parc du Thabor, to breathe in some fresh air.
Pack your bags and head over to as many of these cities as you can! Now is the time to visit them in peace.
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What other European cities are worth exploring in the summer? Let us know in the comments. And remember: if you need student accommodation, you’ll find the student home you’re looking for on Uniplaces.