If you happen to be a social butterfly, then some of Europe’s more obscure universities aren’t quite for you. This post will deal with the ten largest student party cities in Europe, on a country by country basis, especially as party destinations.
To rate their size, we’re looking at the only thing that matters to Erasmus students: the number of students actually living on a particular campus.
This means that Anadolu University in Turkey, with its 2 million distance learners, doesn’t make the list, neither does the University of London, which is, realistically, 17 separate universities.
UK – University of Manchester – 39,700 (2017)
With a student population of around 80,000 across all of its universities, Manchester is the UK’s premier student city and party destination. Any anglophile should know the impact Manchester has had on popular music. From The Smiths to Oasis to The Happy Mondays, Madchester has for decades been at music’s forefront.
Manchester Uni is the largest non-collegiate university in the country. Their student union is also the biggest, which runs the Manchester Academy’s four venues, attracting the best acts in the world.
The city is cheaper than many in the south and is filled with bars and nightclubs. Why go anywhere else?
Strengths: Excellent sports teams and university clubs, great music, vibrant LGBT scene.
Spain – University of Granada – 60,000 (2017)
The student population of Granada is over 60,000, according to the University of Granada. Expect the nights out to start around midnight and last until the very early hours of the morning. Thankfully most bars offer small tapas with each €2-beer to keep you going.
Granada receives the most Erasmus students of any university, over 2,150 students every year, and sends more than 2,100 of them around Europe. It also has a massive amount of cheap accommodation. It’s not hard to imagine yourself here.
Strengths: Low cost of living, great summer weather, excellent nightlife.
France – Aix-Marseille University – 75,000 (2016)
Welcome to the largest university in the French-speaking world. Founded as far back as 1409, Aix-Marseille also has the largest research endowment of any of its French-speaking compatriots.
Like Granada, there are around 10,000 international students studying here. Marseille also has the same continental café culture feel, being rammed with bars and a few great nightclubs. It’s also going to be a lot cheaper than Paris.
Strengths: Great beaches nearby, very multicultural, great academic reputation.
Greece – National and Kapodistrian University of Athens – 126,118 (2016)
Greece isn’t an obvious choice for your Erasmus year, but the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens should be a serious consideration. Conflicting reports regarding the size of The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (40-80,000 students), mean Athens, as Greece’s largest student city, is probably a better candidate for the nation’s biggest.
The university has sent more than 10,000 students to partner universities and has received more than 4,400 incoming Erasmus students.
The city’s nightlife is made up of small bars and mega clubs that often spill out onto the city’s streets. The cost of living is of course low, and the access to culture incredible.
Strengths: Ancient historic capital, cheap, all-night drinking scene
Germany – Cologne & Munich – 50,000 (2016)
Germany is a tough one to gauge. Both the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the University of Cologne have huge student populations of around 50,000. Frankly, the Goethe University of Frankfurt isn’t even far behind either.
Munich of course, is known for Oktoberfest. The city is rammed with bierkellers and other drinking options. Munich is also a hub of publishing, so expect books to be easy to come by.
Cologne too has a huge student community, a strong alternative vibe and some great brewhouses serving local kölsch beer. The university has over 6,000 foreign students and a huge social scene, a bit better than studying in Gibraltar, you could say.
Strengths: Great beer, great clubs, no tuition fees for undergrads.
Italy – University of Bologna – 78,224 (2016)
The world’s oldest continuously operating university, Bologna is also Italy’s biggest. With a student population larger than some European countries, it shouldn’t be hard to make friends. It’s one of the best cities to eat incredible pizza and research weird things like ancient Roman birthing rituals.
Strengths: Food, history, prestige and the food (again)
Poland – Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań – ~40,000 (2016)
Just like Germany, Poland has three huge universities competing for the title of biggest. Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań just beats Jagiellonian in Krakow and Łódź in terms of numbers, but any of these cities would be epic for parties and for meeting new people.
Poznań is rammed with bars and clubs and can guarantee rents of around €200 a month. There couldn’t be a better option than Poland for something a little out of the ordinary, and also for the incredible selection of alcohol.
Strengths: Low cost of living, excellent drinks, simple cheap food.
Ireland – University College Dublin – 33,460 (2016)
Dublin might be an expensive city to study in, with a pint of Guinness at around €6 these days, and rents being much higher. But as a party destination and as a university city, it’s hard to beat. With over 60,000 students in its two major universities, Dublin is a perfect place to study, as long as you can afford rent upwards of €600 a month.
Strengths: Very sociable locals, strong drinking culture, great local sense of humour
The Netherlands – University of Amsterdam – 31,505 (2014)
Amsterdam has the biggest student population in all of The Netherlands. Famous as a party city, it actually has a much more honest and bohemian vibe compared to the tourist stereotype. There’s a lot of do-it-yourself attitude, especially in the northern suburbs.
Of course, it is a city where you can cycle almost everywhere and Dutch student life is efficient but relaxed. Travelling to other cities in and around Europe is cheap and easy too.
Strengths: Accessible culture, party capital, frighteningly strong English
Sweden – Lund University – 41,000 students (2015)
Lund, in Sweden, has a small population of only 110,000, but contains a massive 42,000 students. Not all live in the city, but Lund is a great example of a traditional university town. So if you’re looking to meet students, it helps if there’s no pesky locals getting in the way.
Lund University is 600 years old, one of the oldest in Northern Europe. Sweden also isn’t quite as expensive as you would imagine, most of the time. Realistically, it’s on par with places like Dublin.
Strengths: Large but tight university community, close to Malmö and Copenhagen, historic student “nations” (societies).
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Which one of these student cities would you love to study and party in? Let us know in the comments. And remember: if you need student accommodation in Europe, you’ll find the student home you’re looking for on Uniplaces.