Europe is by far one of the most popular study abroad regions in the world. It can be quite difficult to decide what country, let alone city, to decide to live and study in; each country has its own unique culture and appeal, and the options seem limitless.
All of this can be incredibly overwhelming. To ease the decision-making process, we have compiled a list of the ten best cities in Europe to study abroad in. This is a compilation of the most popularly ranked and truly exciting places to experience throughout Europe. Many great cities are not listed below, but this is the best place to start in your research finding the perfect European destination to study abroad.
1. Lisbon, Portugal
Portugal may be one of Europe’s smallest countries, but it is loaded with character and the capital, Lisbon, is the best place to experience it. Lisbon is home to half a million residents, making it small enough to explore by foot, but large enough to never run out of things to do.
Many international students from Europe are attracted to the pleasant weather and the relaxed vibe of Portugal's capital, making it a great place to study abroad and meet new friends from around the world.
Walking down the cobblestone streets of Lisbon's tree-lined avenues is sure to transport you through Portugal's rich historical past. There is art around every corner in this river-side city, from the colorful street art to the vibrant candy-colored tiled facades of the buildings in the city’s center.
The sonorous sound of Portugal’s traditional Fado music and the scent of delicious foods like Piri Piri chicken and freshly baked pastéis de nata (custard tarts) loft through the streets. Lisbon is a great option to study if you’re on a budget as well, the cost of living here is much lower than many other capital cities in Europe.
Popular Study Abroad Programs in Lisbon:
2. Berlin, Germany
As the capital of Europe’s most powerful economy, Berlin holds great importance in the region. Well-known for its historical past, there are plenty of places throughout the city to immerse oneself in the rich history of Germany and Europe at large.
History has shaped Berlin into the unique and indescribably cool city it is today -- Berlin very much embodies the “hipster aesthetic” without sacrificing genuine character. It’s a great place for international students due to its diversity and wide range of sights and activities -- Berlin has something for every type of person to enjoy.
Home to over 3.5 million residents, the city is a bit too large to navigate by foot, but there is an amazing public transportation system that will allow you to explore every corner of this buzzing city. As the capital, Berlin is home to many of Germany’s top universities which are some of the best in Europe and the world. Notoriously affordable, education is a key pillar of German society.
Daily expenses in the city can be a bit more expensive than other cities in Europe, but there are plenty of ways to enjoy everything Berlin has to offer on a budget – if you’re looking for a cheap snack be sure to try out currywurst, the delicious cultural mashup of German sausage and rich South Asian curry sauce.
Whether you enjoy the nightlife, historical sights, or interesting cafes, you'll never run out of things to do in Berlin.
Berlin is not the only great city in Germany, be sure to explore all of the other amazing cities to study in Germany.
Popular Study Abroad Programs in Berlin:
3. Milan, Italy
When students picture studying in Italy, the old splendor of Florence or Rome come to mind. However, Milan outranks them both as the best city in Italy to study abroad. Though a bit smaller with only 1.4 million inhabitants, Milan packs a punch full of beauty, charm, and excitement.
As the fashion capital of Italy, you’ll be sure to see extravagant designer stores and people, especially around the famed mall, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. You’re sure to get lost in the splendor of the highly-decorative architecture of many of Milan’s famous sights, like the iconic Duomo.
Like any city in Italy, there are ancient Roman ruins speckled throughout, but Milan is a rather modern city. Many tech companies and startups are based in Milan making the scene an interesting combo of young intellectuals and old-world classical charm.
Milan is also a hub for academics as it is home to Italy's highest-ranked university, Politecnico di Milano. You'll find a sizable student population in the city, making it an excellent place to meet other international students.
If you’re unsure about Milan, but keen on Italy, explore more options with our list of the best cities to study abroad in Italy.
Popular Study Abroad Programs in Milan:
4. Paris, France
Thousands before me have tried to encapsulate Paris and its essence into just a few short words but it is almost impossible to do so. Paris may seem like a city plagued by expectations and false realities, however, it really is as enchanting as they say – but I do admit it took me a few trips for me to really enjoy the charm of the City of Lights.
There’s no denying Paris is huge – it can be a bit overwhelming, but also thrilling. People from all over the world flock to the aesthetic streets – tourists and students alike. As a large capital city, Paris is home to many foreigners and international students from all over Europe and beyond. You won’t have trouble meeting new people while studying abroad there.
Brimming with priceless troves of art, decadent cuisine, rich history, and magic – Paris has it all and more. There are literally endless things to do and you’ll never run out of ideas for what to do outside of the classroom.
As one of the most popular study-abroad destinations in Europe, Paris has many well-established companies and programs that offer courses to international students making it not only a beautiful place to study but also an academically enriching one.
If you’re unsure about Paris, check out the other best cities to study abroad in France.
Popular Study Abroad Programs in Paris:
5. Prague, Czech Republic
This city of a hundred spires and orange tiled rooftops is sure to enchant you. Prague really does look and feel like some kind of Disney fairytale – especially in the snow-flecked months of winter. Prague is absolutely thrilling – it’s a great place to work, live, and especially to study.
Prague is home to the oldest and one of the best universities in Central Europe, Univerzita Karlova. Since most people in the capital speak some English, many universities and programs offer a large breadth of subjects to international students.
Outside of academics, there is a vibrant nightlife and music scene in Prague. – You’ll find many unique places to go out and to experience Czech culture, but many of the best places are hidden away, literally underground or away from the city center in outlying neighborhoods like Žižkov.
The sights in Prague are truly awe-inspiring, with such stunning architecture unique to central Europe. The food is surprisingly delicious as well -- and the beer, you can’t forget the beer --the Czech Republic is the birthplace of pilsner after all.
Popular Study Abroad Programs in Prague:
6. Amsterdam, Netherlands
A short walk down the shaded canals of Amsterdam is sure to steal the heart of just about anyone. This city has a lot to offer -- much more than the stereotypes you may have heard of the nightlife and the famed red-light district. Amsterdam -- like the rest of the Netherlands -- has a relaxed way of life. The city is not too large and is easily accessible by foot -- or if you want to live like a local -- by bike.
There is a vibrant culture of music, making it a great place to go out as an international student. If nightlife is not your priority there are a plethora of cozy cafes and relaxing parks like the beautifully lush Vondelpark to pass the time. Strolling the canals will give you a great view of the city’s historic architecture and past.
It’s a truly international city, as many students from around Europe, and the world, are attracted by the friendly nature of the Netherlands. Dutch is the national language but nearly everyone speaks English, so don’t worry too much about any language barriers. This is especially helpful if you’re looking to study in English as the courses offered at the top universities will have a wide range of subjects suitable for almost any student.
Popular Study Abroad Programs in Amsterdam:
7. Dublin, Ireland
Rolling green hills, rugged cliffs, and warm people are all images that invoke the essence of Ireland. Nestled around the River Liffey, Dublin has the gritty aesthetic of any port city - while also boasting stunning, modern buildings and historical buildings dating back hundreds of years.
It’s not a particularly large city, with just over half a million people, it is easily navigable by foot. Wandering the streets of Dublin you’ll never be short of entertainment, the city has numerous places to hit the town -- and the best access to a creamy pint of Guinness in the world.
Pssst! Check out our scholarship to study in Ireland, open through December 2020!
You’re sure to love the coziness of the old-timey pubs and cable-knit sweaters which are so abundant in Dublin. However, if you need a quiet respite you can always stroll through Phoenix Park, one of the largest parks in all of Europe.
The Emerald Isle is an exceptional place for any international student especially if you want to learn English and have an unforgettable experience overseas. Better yet if English is your native tongue, you’ll be able to study any academic discipline at one of Dublin’s many renowned universities.
Popular Study Abroad Programs in Dublin:
8. London, England
The U.K. remains one of the most popular study-abroad locations in Europe with about half of all U.S. international students flocking there. London, the capital, holds not only 13% of the United Kingdom’s total population but also a large number of international students from the rest of Europe.
As the largest city in Europe, London is by far the most culturally diverse. You can find any food or activity you can possibly imagine in this massive metropolis. Each borough has a unique culture and feel – no one person could explore everything there is to experience in London.
Academically there is a multitude of high-ranking universities to choose from with wide ranges of course offerings in English -- it’s any academic’s dream.
Boasting a large international community, London is a great place to meet other international students from across the globe. Known for its incredible nightlife, delicious food, lush parks, and world-class museums, London could never bore you.
The rest of the U.K. has a lot to offer as well, be sure to see all the options with our list of the best cities to study abroad in the U.K.
Popular Study Abroad Programs in London:
9. Barcelona, Spain
If you’re a person who believes in “good vibes,” Barcelona is chock full of them -- if you’re like the rest of us it’s clear to see the appeal of the city’s relaxed and effortlessly cool lifestyle.
This coastal city is the capital of the Catalan people, making it quite different from the rest of Spain. People speak a different language and live a different culture than what you might think of when you envision life in Spain.
Among Barcelona’s tree-shaded avenidas you’ll find endless museums, galleries, and airy cafes. Barcelona is a gastronomic hub within Spain, as well as a hub for international students.
Between classes, you can enjoy the stunning views of Parque Güell, one of the works of famed architect, Antoni Gaudí, the busy bustle of Las Ramblas, or the refreshing embrace of the sparkling Mediterranean sea.
It may be one of the most popular destinations to study abroad, but the hype is real – Barcelona is such a refreshing place to live and study abroad.
Popular Study Abroad Programs in Barcelona:
10. Madrid, Spain
Spain is one of the top study abroad destinations in Europe, especially for American students. Madrid, the sprawling and bustling capital, attracts most of them. As a result, you’ll find a thriving international community there -- you’ll never be at a loss for friends.
Not only are there plenty of people to meet, but there is also every sort of activity to experience, as you would expect from any large metropolitan city.
As a large city, Madrid has endless ways to spend your time -- when you’re not busy studying of course. Experience the true culture of Spain by taking a siesta in the Parque del Retiro, Madrid’s largest park, by browsing the numerous fine art museums, or by eating your heart out at one of the city’s thousands of restaurants.
Academically Madrid is a great choice for any student as it's home to some of the country’s top universities as well as many long-standing study abroad programs. Don't be afraid if you have a low level of Spanish as there are programs offered to students at all levels.
If you’re on the fence about where to study in Spain be sure to read through our list of the best cities to study abroad in Spain.
Popular Study Abroad Programs in Madrid:separator_solid
Europe is a fantastic place to learn about history, culture, and yourself – and no matter where you end up studying abroad you'll be sure to make lasting memories and leave with a wider perspective of the world!
Hopefully, this list has helped you to narrow down your options, but it is best to keep in mind that every city has something amazing to offer, and usually the path less traveled has a greater opportunity to make your study abroad experience one to cherish for a lifetime.
This post was originally written in April 2018, and was updated in October 2019 and November 2020.