- Whether you're looking to immerse yourself in art, culture, music, architecture, or a little bit of everything, these iconic European cities have something for you.
- Cities with a low cost of living include Madrid and Lisbon.
- If you want to live the cosmopolitan city life, check out Paris or London.
- Bohemian vibes abound in Galway and Berlin.
- Students seeking a laid-back, upbeat lifestyle will be at home in Barcelona or Amsterdam.
- Have an eye for architecture? Florence and Prague will captivate you as you wander their streets.
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.
How did we pick these locations?
To determine the locations for this article, we looked at various factors, such as the location’s history, cost of living/average salaries, things to do, and the number of programs offered in the location.
Lastly, we used our own industry knowledge to ensure we're recommending locations that are vetted both by you, the community members, and us, the experts, so that we feel confident the locations included are the best of the best!
Best for high standard of living: 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. Not to mention, its low cost of living doesn't mean a low standard of living. You get more bang for your euro in Lisbon with no shortage of gourmet food, nice accommodations, and reliable transit.
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:
Best for international student scene: 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:
Best for thriving art scene: Florence, Italy
When students picture studying in Italy, the old splendor of Rome or the glamor of Milan may come to mind. However, Florence surpasses them both as the best city in Italy to study abroad. Though a bit smaller with only a little more than 382,000 inhabitants, Florence packs a punch full of beauty, charm, and history.
As the art capital of Italy, you’ll be sure to see extravagant paintings, sculptures, and architecture. You’re sure to get lost in the splendor of Florence's famous sights like the iconic Duomo or the Basilica of San Lorenzo. Florence is also a hub for academics as it is home to numerous universities. You'll find a sizable student population in the city, making it an excellent place to meet other international students.
Nestled in the heart of Tuscany, Florence is just a train ride away from other exciting cities like Bologna, Milan, Rome, and Naples. Italy's well-connected rail system and relatively small size allow you to take countless day and weekend trips -- that is if you ever want to leave Florence!
If you’re unsure about Florence, but keen on Italy, explore more options with our list of the best cities to study abroad in Italy.
Popular study abroad programs in Florence:
Best for cosmopolitan living: 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:
Best for low cost of living: 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. Students love Prague for its wallet-friendly cost of living. Food, housing, and entertainment can all be found for prices any budget-conscious student would appreciate.
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:
Best for access to travel: 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. Also, with an airport that is a major international hub, the rest of Europe is on your doorstep.
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:
Best for small city vibes: Galway, Ireland
Rolling green hills, rugged cliffs, and warm people are all images that invoke the essence of Ireland. And while the capital Dublin gets most of the attention, Galway is loved by both locals and international students. It boasts an eclectic music and arts scene and is regarded as a bohemian city. Located only 2 hours from Dublin, Galway is a great choice for study abroad hopefuls.
It’s not a particularly large city, with a little under 80,000 inhabitants, which makes it is easily navigable by foot or bike. Galway is small enough to not feel lost in the crowd but large enough to never get bored. Wandering the streets of Galway you’ll never be short of entertainment, the city has numerous places to hit the town. Here, it's easy to become a local at your favorite pub or cafe.
If you love the great outdoors, the beauty of the Irish countryside is easily accessible from Galway. Connemara National Park, Croagh Patrick, the Aran Islands, and the Wild Atlantic Way are at your doorstep. What's better than a revitalizing hike in the hills after a hard week of hitting the books?
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 the National University of Ireland Galway.
Popular study abroad programs in Galway:
Best for top academics: 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:
Best for cultural immersion: 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. This crossroad of Spanish and Catalan influences makes it a truly culturally immersive experience.
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:
Best for language learning: 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. Due to the large population of international students, English teachers, au pairs, and professionals in Madrid, language exchanges are particularly popular. Called intercambios and held at bars are cafes, these events are generally free. Compared to the rest of Europe, Spain has a lower level of English proficiency so even in Madrid you'll have plenty of opportunities to practice your Spanish.
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
Make lasting memories in Europe in 2022
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 2021.