Boasting some 4,000 universities, of which 40% rank among the best in the world, it’s no wonder why a casual couple of million students from all over the world call Europe home during their time at university. An expanse of 50 sovereign states, each rich with their own history, culture, language, food, and fashion, Europe is a treasure trove of adventure begging to be explored by wide-eyed, wanderlusting undergrads.
With so many options to choose from, narrowing down your choices can be a tiring decision. After all, where do you start? Do you compare the cost of living or the nightlife, the tuition fees or transport fees? All of these things make up your whole university experience and choosing where you’ll spend the next three or four of your formative years is not a decision to be taken lightly.
Without further ado, your friends at Uniplaces have done the hard work for you! We present the ten best European cities for being a student based on their best value:
1. Best for Tuition Fees — Berlin
The world’s third most popular study destination after the US and the UK, Germany’s capital city offers students just as much of an educational experience on her historical streets as in the classroom — and best of all, both are free (well, almost: you only pay ~€300 per semester in registration fees and it includes a transportation pass). Not only that, but Berlin is also one of the most affordable European capitals to live in according to the Mercer Cost of Living Survey.
For students looking to research abroad, Berlin is once again a fabulous option as academic institutions and companies alike regularly sponsor talented young minds. Finally, dubbed the “Silicon Valley of Europe” thanks to its thriving tech startup scene, Berlin is booming with opportunity for you.
Low cost of living, low tuition fees, plenty of career opportunities, and a plethora of cheap places to eat. What more could you really ask for?
2. Best for Cost of Living — Warsaw
Topping the Mercer Cost of Living Survey, the capital of Poland takes the title as the Most Affordable European Student City. In her acceptance speech for the honour, the Phoenix City would not only brag affordability, but also a tenacious spirit, being a proud city rebuilt from rubble after its devastation during WWII. Given her history, the cultural retreats of royal residences and multiple museums invite all undergrads to discover more about the city on their days off.
3. Best for Nightlife — Barcelona
A city for night owls, whether you’re a tourist or a local here. One thing you have to remember is that nothing happens until 2am — so you have plenty of time to study up, take a siesta and spend the night bailando! With €1 shot bars, world-class clubs, a city beach and late-night eateries, Barcelona is where you’ll live for the night. And the best part? Spend your hungover mornings admiring Gaudí’s beautiful architectural masterpieces peppered throughout the city. It’ll soothe your soul and bring some peace to that pounding headache!
4. Best for Arts & Culture — Florence
For the sophisticated souls, there can be no better pick than the Cradle of the Renaissance: Florence. As a student in Firenze, you’ll have the privilege of strutting the same streets as some of the world’s most pioneering minds: Dante, Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Machiavelli, and Galileo, to name a few. Talk about inspiration.
Home to world-class attractions such as: the magnificent Uffizi gallery, considered by many to be the world’s greatest art museum; the majestic Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as the Duomo; and countless other sights, the city is a living museum and the perfect place for any culture vulture. Her reputation isn’t limited to just classical art, though, as the birthplace of Gucci and Roberto Cavalli, there’s undoubtedly something in the water that will bring to life the creative beast inside every one of us.
If that’s not enough, the location alone is worth the tuition fee. Located in the picturesque region of Tuscany — one of the world’s most popular wine producing destinations — a free period in this city means scrumptious eating and many wine-tasting sessions that are guaranteed to transform any novice drinker into a well-rounded vino connoisseur in no time.
5. Best for Beer — Munich
While it projected to fame as the origin of Oktoberfest, Munich isn’t just a seasonal city, but offers year-round attractions for all Bavarian beverage enthusiasts. The perfect post-exam refuge for any student, Munich’s plentiful beer halls are an urban retreat offering the exact comfort you’ll need after an afternoon with the crazy characters you’ve undoubtedly met in the exam hall — and with a litre of beer to buy for just under €7, you can’t complain too much.
6. Best for Prestige — Oxford
Topping the Times World University Rankings, the prestigious University of Oxford is what the next Tolkien, C.S. Lewis or Oscar Wilde should call their Alma Mater. Not really one that needs much of an introduction, as a world-renowned institute, the beautiful British city is also a gateway to explore much of the UK’s glorious green and pleasant lands. With frequent connections to world-class attractions like Stonehenge, Lake District, and even the lavish capital London, any soon to be Oxonian will soon become familiar to all the doors studying at Oxford will open to them.
7. Best for the Gourmand — San Sebastian
Called Donastia by its local Basque residents, San Sebastian is regarded as the Foodie Capital of Europe by culinary experts around the world. Offering more Michelin stars per square mile than almost anywhere else in the world, anyone can eat like a king in this city — even on an average student’s budget. The city’s many charming pintxos bars offer local specialties including slow-cooked veal cheeks, pimientos de padron (small peppers), and fresh bacalao (codfish). As each joint has its own specialty, spend your semester’s student loan touring each and every one to graduate with honours in both your degree and a refined palate.
8. Best for Employability — Cambridge
While Oxonian’s will vehemently oppose the suggestion, the likes of Newton, Stephen Fry or David Attenborough will argue that if you want an institution that can almost guarantee employability from top firms, Cambridge is the place to go.
In my opinion, if during your years at Cambridge you never try punting down the River Cam, you’ve wasted your student life. It’s a right of passage for any resident.
9. Best for Liveability — Vienna
Taking into account both qualitative and quantitative factors such as stability, healthcare, culture, environment, education, and infrastructure, the comfort of living in a particular destination can be measured and assigned a liveability score. According to the Economist’s Liveability Ranking, Vienna is the best Europe has to offer.
The alluring Austrian capital can be overwhelming to first-time visitors. Packed with imperial nostalgia and opera houses, it’s quite easy to spend your days admiring the architecture and history of the city without taking the time to appreciate another aspect of its beauty: the exquisite bakeries! No trip to Austria should be completed without a lazy afternoon lapping up the very finest of Europe’s coffee culture with a creamy coffee and artisanal pastry in one of the city’s many hobo-chic coffeehouses. Sure, you may leave a few pounds heavier and a few pounds poorer, but according to The Economist, your quality of life improved with every lick of that latte.
10. Best for Transport — London
As a student, you’re guaranteed to be rushing off somewhere to be in a lecture, an exam, in your part time job, or with that hot Tinder date. It’s going to happen, so it’s imperative that you have a host of transportation options to choose from.
With a choice of river ferries, taxis, buses, a 24-hour Tube, trains, bikes and even a cable car system, it’s fair to say that London is easily the best city for transport. Get yourself an Oyster Card, the official travel card from Transport for London, and get exploring. If you’re getting a little tired of the UK, remember that mainland Europe is just a train ride away from St. Pancras station. With Belgium a little over 1hr 51mins hours, and Paris only 2hrs and 20mins, you’d be crazy not to take advantage of the student fares!
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Which European city appeals to you the most? Let us know in the comments. And remember: if you need student accommodation, you’ll find the perfect student home on Uniplaces.