international students europe
Soak up rich history and culture when you study in these European cities. Source: John MacDougall/AFP

International students in Europe have a pretty special thing going on. Several good things, in fact. Not only do you get a top-notch education, you are in a continent that packs some serious travel punches. Experience famous world capitals, walk through ancient wonders, soak up the infectious personalities of tiny towns — Europe’s 50 countries are where you can do all these and more.

International students can choose from countries from all corners of the world’s second-smallest continent, depending on their academic and personal goals. There are universities with more forgiving price tags than the UK and US, with no compromise on quality. Thriving start-up scenes and innovative working cultures offer a range of intriguing career opportunities and pathways to explore after graduation.

Which are the continent’s top cities for international students? These are our pick:

Copenhagen, Denmark

international students europe

Graabroedre square in Copenhagen, Denmark. Source: Thibault Savary/AFP

It’s frequently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world and the national way of living “Hygge” (pronounced hu-gar), often translated to “cosy,” to pursue warmth, safety and community.

Denmark is cold, but with these, you’re set up to feel good while studying in its capital Copenhagen.

One of the oldest cities in Denmark and a former Viking fishing village, Copenhagen offers an unmatched experience for international students keen on architecture, history, and arts and culture.

The top university in Denmark and one of the largest research-intensive universities in the Nordic countries — the University of Copenhagen — is also located here.

Forget about spending the whole weekend watching Netflix while here.  There are plenty of places to visit and things to do in this city of 1.2 million people. Rent a bike and head to the Rosenburg castle and the King’s Garden, Tivoli Gardens amusement park, and the Langelinie pier which houses the Little Mermaid statues.

When tired, grab a bite or drink at the many hip bars and restaurants — Café Atelier September at the city centre is highly recommended for its open-faced sandwich of thinly sliced avocado on rye.

Dublin, Ireland

international students europe

Spectators line the route during the annual St Patricks Day parade through the city centre of Dublin on March 17, 2019. Source: Paul Faith/AFP

The perfect combination of traditional and modern, Dublin is a great choice for students looking for unique and rewarding experiences such as visiting the iconic Cliffs of Moher, Rock of Cashel, Hore Abby, and much more.

Students from all around the world choose Ireland for high-quality academics and friendly, warm culture stemming from the Irish’s long-standing love of social gatherings at pubs and cafes.

They’re also known to be a laidback and relaxed bunch who enjoy getting to know anyone over a classic pint of Guinness or glass of Irish whiskey, perfect for extroverted students who enjoy socialising on the weekends.

There are plenty of cool restaurants to check out in Dublin as well, even vegetarian and vegan options such as Saba and Cornucopia.

Learn about the rich history and traditions behind the Celtic culture, which is still very important and revered by Irish citizens today.

Seek experience in its booming tech scene — a number of tech giants such as Google, Airbnb and Pfizer have set up European headquarters in Dublin.

Top-ranked universities in Dublin include Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin.

Berlin, Germany

international students europe

Tourists pose for a photo at Checkpoint Charlie, a former checkpoint connecting the former US sector with the Soviet sector in then divided Berlin, on June 23, 2019. Source: John MacDougall/AFP

The capital of Germany is a top student city, as the country’s cultural and economic centre with fascinating historical monuments still carefully preserved.

Known as “the most beautiful square in Berlin”, the Gendarmenmarkt is also situated in Berlin’s historical Mitte, where the French Cathedral, German Cathedral, and Konzerthaus (Concert Hall, formerly Playhouse are located.

You’ll never go hungry in Berlin with the abundance of delicious local food to try, from currywurst to schnitzel to maultaschen (pasta pockets stuffed with meat).

Vegetarians can try spätzle, a type of pasta made with eggs, flour, salt, and a hint of fizzy water, as well as check out the variety of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the capital city.

It’s also a powerhouse in academics, home to several internationally-recognised universities such as the Free University of Berlin and Technical University of Berlin which offer a variety of English-taught programmes.

The main draw for international students, however, is the low cost of studying in Berlin. Tuition fees are either very low or free for international students at most universities in Berlin, so you can gain a world-class education at a much more affordable cost compared to other countries.

Vilnius, Lithuania

international students europe

People sit outside a cafe in Vilnius, Lithuania, on May 5, 2020, amidst the new coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Source: Petras Malukas/AFP

A lesser-known city for international students is the capital city of Lithuania. Known for baroque architecture, cobblestoned streets, and historical religious sites, the second-largest city in the Baltic states has its own unique appeal.

The city was officially declared a UNESCO Heritage Site for its well-preserved architecture in medieval Old Town, perfect for history buffs and wanderlusters.

For foodies, it’s a great opportunity to try local delicacies like cepelinai (potato dumplings), saltibarsciai (beetroot and kefir soup), and dried apple cheese (a type of dessert).

Vegan and vegetarians will also find plenty of options to suit their dietary needs with the variety of hip plant-based, organic, and meat-free eateries.

This hidden gem in Europe also offers a great academic experience for students. The country’s top university — Vilnius University — is a prestigious and well-ranked university, particularly in the sciences.