Studying abroad in Europe is the perfect chance to explore nearby cities and neighboring countries. College students typically plan weekend trips for whenever they can get a break from their studies, but students should remember to keep their spending in mind. Visit the destinations below for a great budget-friendly introduction to the rest of the continent!
European Cities Exchange Students Should Visit
Prague is a college student’s dream destination, with cheaper prices than much of Western Europe but just as much fascinating history and opportunities for fun. Inexpensive activities can be found all over the city—in good weather, take a ride on one of the paddle boats on the Vltava River for stunning views. Stroll around the Old Town Square, one of the central hubs of activity in the city, and make sure to look out for stands selling Trdelník, a delicious sweet pastry of cylindrical dough covered in sugar.
Best time to visit: Late summer or early fall, after the summer tourist crowds
Traditionally one of the most popular cities with young people in Europe, Barcelona remains a top choice for many travelers. College students will find that the relaxed atmosphere and gorgeous scenery provide a welcome break from their studies. Spanish Architect Antoni Gaudí’s influence can be seen all over the city—for inexpensive panoramic views of Barcelona, visit his iconic and enchanting Park Güell. Make sure to also fit in a visit to Sagrada Família, Gaudi’s spectacular unfinished church that began construction in the 1880’s.
Best time to visit: Summer, for the best beach weather
Munich is full of fun for college students—from Oktoberfest and the city’s legendary beer halls to a quick stop at the city’s “Milka World” of chocolate. Climb the steps of St. Peter’s Church for a great view of Marienplatz below, and side-trip to Neuschwanstein Castle (which is said to have inspired Walt Disney’s fairytale creations in the theme parks).
Best time to visit: Late September to early October, during Oktoberfest
Copenhagen is known for its world-famous dining and cultural scene, and college students will find plenty to do to occupy themselves. Students can relive their childhoods at one of the world’s most famous theme parks, Tivoli Gardens, located within the city. Make sure to also check out the 100-year-old statue of the Little Mermaid by the waterfront.
Best time to visit: Winter, for the holiday markets, ice skating, and cozy atmosphere
Kraków is an up-and-coming destination with a ton of important historical and tourist sights. Kraków is remains relatively inexpensive, and college students will find that this off-the-beaten path destination is also close to several of the most interesting sights in Poland (such as the Wieliczka Salt Mine), making for great day trip opportunities. Make sure to check out the area around Wawel Hill by the river while in the city to enjoy Kraków like a local.
Best time to visit: Summer, to best enjoy the parks and city squares
While Paris is one of Europe’s most expensive cities and entry prices to museums can add up, there are plenty of ways to keep spending to a minimum in this must-see city. Visit one of the famous markets like Marché des Enfants Rouges to buy a fresh baguette and cheese, and have a picnic at the park in front of the Eiffel Tower. Paris’ parks are the way to go to enjoy the city’s magical atmosphere for free—also try the popular Jardin du Luxembourg or the lesser known but stunning Parc des Buttes-Chaumont for some of the best people-watching Paris has to offer.
Best time to visit: Spring, when the flowers are starting to bloom
Amsterdam, known for its party culture and beautiful canals in the city center, is another must-see for college students. The Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum art museum are must-sees, but buy tickets beforehand to partially avoid long lines. Also, check out the Amsterdam Cheese Museum for free tastings and more information about the history of Dutch cheese (and fun photo opportunities!).
Best time to visit: Spring, during tulip season
London is known for its free museums (the Victoria & Albert, the British Museum, and the Natural History Museum are some of the best), making it particularly appealing to college students. Take a walk along the south bank of the Thames for great free views of Parliament, Big Ben, and the skyline. Visit the area around Brick Lane for authentic and inexpensive curry.
Best time to visit: Winter, for the holiday lights on Oxford Street
Slovenia may be somewhat off the beaten path for college students studying abroad, but as a thriving university town, Ljubljana is perfect for American students looking to meet European peers. Spend some time enjoying a meal at a café and people-watching along the city’s scenic streets and bridges. Plus, Lake Bled (one of the most scenic places in all of Europe) is a short 40-minute drive away.
Best time to visit: Summer, to best enjoy the city’s outdoor spaces
10. Athens, Greece
One of the great historic cities in Europe, Athens offers delicious food, beautiful scenery, and a handy jumping-off point to visit the Greek islands. Particularly for college students interested in ancient history, Athens is a great place to learn more about the past. Devote a significant amount of time to exploring the Acropolis, where some of the most significant historical ruins still stand today.
Best time to visit: Spring, for the best weather
Waffles, chocolate, and quirky tourist attractions are just a few of the qualities that attract college students to Brussels. Make sure to visit the famous “Mannekin Pis” statue, the Atomium building and the Mini-Europe attraction. Every two years the Grand Place is carpeted with flowers, making the square even more beautiful than usual. If there’s enough time, take a quick side trip to Bruges, a medieval town laced with scenic canals and architecture.
Best time to visit: Mid-August, to coordinate with the flowers in the Grand Place
12. Rome, Italy
Rome conjures up images of riding around town on a Vespa, eating gelato, and throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain. Walking around less touristy areas of Rome, like Trastevere, is a great way to see another part of town in addition to all the major attractions like the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. As for food, try the honey gelato at San Crispini, the coffee at Café Sant’ Eustachio, and the pizza at Pinsere for a taste of some of the best that Rome has to offer.
Best time to visit: Spring or fall, when the tourist crowds diminish
Iceland is quickly becoming a major bucket-list destination, and the capital of Reykjavik is a great home base to explore the rest of the country. Eat lamb hot dogs, go to the top of the Hallgrímskirkja church, and stop by the Blue Lagoon. If visiting during the winter, try to sign up for a Northern Lights tour that takes visitors out to the countryside for the best chance of seeing the light show.
Best time to visit: Summer, for the chance to experience a night with sunlight
14. Dublin, Ireland
Dublin’s pub culture appeals to college students, and there is no shortage of fun to be had in Ireland’s capital. Must-dos include a tour of the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Castle, and Christ Church Cathedral. Cap off your visit with a visit to a nearby castle, such as Malahide Castle (only 9 miles north of the city).
Best time to visit: Summer, for the festivals and the weather
This article was written by Kaitlyn Lannan.