Europe has an allure few other places in the world can claim. With the past and the present blended brilliantly in magical cities of old bustling with modern commerce, ideas, and movements, it can capture just about anyone's imagination and wanderlust.
For history buffs, fashionistas, artists, political idealists, and food lovers, Europe offers much more than you can explore in a two-week vacation. If spending an extended time traveling this small yet incredibly diverse continent sounds appealing, then a gap year in Europe is just the thing for you.
Whether you travel with a gap year program provider or independently, there are no set rules as to how you should execute your gap year in Europe, so get creative!
You'll want to start your planning by picking a European destination to start your gap year. Whether you already have a few in mind or are just beginning your brainstorming, we'll help you by giving you our top gap year destinations for taking a gap year in Europe!
1. Best for working holiday visa: Ireland
Ah, Ireland. Éire. The Emerald Isle. The land of 50 Shades of Green -- corny jokes aside, Ireland offers gap year opportunities for a wide array of interests. Whether you're interested in buzzing city life, a slower-paced countryside with some sheep, or a bit of both, Ireland can provide that. If you're organizing your gap year independently, Ireland also has an excellent working holiday program. Citizens of participating nations can easily apply for this one-year working visa. A year in Ireland is bound to be great craic, so maybe we should start calling it your gap year destination?
Popular Gap Year Programs in Ireland:
2. Best for Spanish language learning: Spain
With its varied landscape and diverse cities, Spain is the perfect spot for anyone hoping to experience a little bit of everything: beaches, sunshine, Mediterranean waters, arid deserts, bustling cities, or small towns. From the beautiful, artful city of Barcelona to Madrid, the urban capital, and all the cultural variations in between, you'll feel like you're in a completely different country as you roam from one Spanish city to another.
If you're hoping to utilize your gap year as a chance to practice a language, Spain will offer the perfect opportunity to brush up on your Spanish skills -- though you will want to consider regional dialects when choosing a Spanish language program in Spain. Compared to many other countries in Western Europe, Spain is also generally more affordable. Oh, and did we mention the food and nightlife yet?
Popular Gap Year Programs in Spain:
3. Best for affordability: Czech Republic
The Czech Republic has emerged as a travel hot spot over the past few decades, but this European country has maintained its old-world feel and fairytale-esque charm tucked away into each cobblestoned street. The Czech Republic didn't just make it on our list for its charm, though. The Czech Republic is one of Europe's most affordable countries and has a relatively generous visa program for American travelers.
Popular Gap Year Programs in the Czech Republic:
4. Best for foodies: Italy
Italy needs little introduction. We've all heard of its beautiful Tuscan landscapes, the gorgeous Amalfi Coast, its rich history, and ancient wonders waiting around every corner. So why not take a gap year here and learn about Italy on a more in-depth level. Experience Italian culture by taking art history or language classes in Rome, study fashion in Milan, harvest grapes in the countryside, or live and work with an Italian family as their au pair. The opportunities to travel, learn, and eat are abundant in Italy, making it a great gap year destination.
Popular Gap Year Programs in Italy:
5. Best for history buffs: Greece
Keeping with the Mediterranean theme, Greece has long lived on our radar for European gap year destinations. Greece packs history with mythology, and you'll quickly experience that it is hard to wander the streets of Athens without stumbling on an ancient site or monument. Not so keen on spending your gap year trekking from one historical place to the next? Well, don't write Greece off just yet -- you could learn how to sail around the Greek Isles, join in on an archeological dig, teach English, become an au pair, or volunteer in environmental conservation.
Greece is similar to Spain in terms of affordability, being cheaper than many other European countries. For any foodies out there, Greece should be on your list of most delicious countries. You can survive off of cheap gyros and spanakopita!
Popular Gap Year Programs in Greece:
6. Best for unique experiences: Hungary
For those looking for a more off the beaten path gap year destination, consider Hungary. Though growing in popularity, it remains one of Europe's hidden gems. Gappers will find numerous opportunities to travel on a shoestring, learn about Hungary's incredible history, intern, or teach while exploring Hungary. Budapest is especially worth considering if you want to work during your gap year.
Hungary also comes with a low price tag, as one of the most affordable destinations on this list for those travelers on a tight budget! Hungary provides the opportunity to visit a country that boasts fewer tourists, so go out and make friends with the locals!
Popular Gap Year Programs in Hungry:
7. Best for specialized internships: Germany
Germany has numerous opportunities for those looking to work during their gap year, from to work exchanges to more specialized internships. Germany has one of the world's largest economies, making it an excellent place to search for a job.
For those who prefer to travel more and work less, Deutschland also boasts beautiful landscapes and thriving cities. If you are interested in a modern city and great nightlife, check out Berlin. Those who would love to explore the countryside and visit historic castles and gorgeous vistas, head south to Bavaria. And of course, Germany is an excellent spot for anyone of legal age interested in beer -- be sure to hang out in Munich and enjoy some time in the city's many biergartens!
Popular Gap Year Programs in Germany:
8. Best for rugged nature: Scotland
One of the most significant aspects of traveling is experiencing other perspectives and cultures from the locals you meet. Scotland is notorious for the pride and passion its residents have for their country and culture.
Spend your gap year exploring the majestic city of Edinburgh or the gothic architecture in Glasgow, and venture into the Highlands to explore the fantastic lochs and castles hidden among the mountains. If you are interested in music or dancing, take Highland Dance classes or learn to play everyone's favorite instrument: the bagpipes! For any Harry Potter fans out there, you can visit the birthplace of Harry itself, The Elephant House, in Edinburgh.
Popular Gap Year Programs in Scotland:separator_solid
Where will you travel to in 2023?
However you decide to spend your gap year, the possibilities are endless! A gap year in Europe provides ample opportunities to travel, try new foods, learn new languages, and forge friendships. Whether you decide to take our advice or not, we hope we've at least inspired you to buckle down and start planning your European gap year. Ultimately, you'll find the best gap year destinations in Europe are the ones you decide to visit!
Are you considering your gap year options? Don't miss USA Gap Year Fairs. These free (currently online) events provide a broad exposure to gap year options and connect prospective gap year students, parents, gap year organizations, educators, experts, and alumni.
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