Having trouble choosing a city for your university experience? It’s a tough choice, especially when so many European cities score highly in the top student city rankings every year. But have you thought about trying somewhere a little off the beaten path? Then you should consider one of these hidden gem student cities.
As part of the EDUopinions Student Reviews Guide 2023, we pored over thousands of student reviews to find the best cities that aren’t making the news. All of the cities in this ranking score highly (above 4/5) for overall study experience, but you won’t find them on conventional rankings of the best student cities – they’re hidden gems.
So, have a read and gain some inspiration – these cities are full of culture, promising career prospects, and top-ranked universities.
Top 10 Hidden Gem Student Cities
10. Bologna, Italy
Bologna is usually passed over by students in favour of Rome, Florence, or Milan, but they’re missing out on one of Italy’s best-kept secrets. The city is home to some of Italy’s best universities, including the University of Bologna and the Conservatorio Giovanni Battista Martini, a top music school. EDUopinions reviewers gave Bologna high scores for student life, not surprising, given the cost of living is lower than in comparable cities and there are a wealth of cultural delights, including top-rated museums.
9. Groningen, the Netherlands
The University of Groningen is home to 37,000 students, in a city that’s home to just over 200,000. This gives Groningen a vibrant atmosphere – you’re sure to meet people from all over the world while studying here (and Groningen scored highly for internationality). Students also rate university facilities in the small city, which makes sense given that the University of Groningen ranks 75th in the world.
8. Valencia, Spain
EDUopinions reviewers ranked Valencia high across the board, including for facilities, internationality, and location. This last one is a given – Valencia lies on the southeast coast of Spain, and is home to a colourful city centre as well as picturesque beaches. There are two public universities in the city, the University of Valencia and the Polytechnic University of Valencia, both of which feature regularly in international university rankings. So, if you’re looking for an academic reputation and a beautiful landscape – Valencia could be the place.
7. Antwerp, Belgium
There are lots of popular student hotspots in West Europe, including Paris, Amsterdam, and Brussels. But have you considered Antwerp? This hip Belgian city is one of the most historic in the country, and the University of Antwerp is ranked the 3rd best in Belgium. Students gave Antwerp particularly high scores for student life and professors, and a city is an attractive option if you want rigorous academic quality and the chance to explore nearby tourist destinations like Bruges and northern France.
6. Vilnius, Lithuania
Ever thought about going to Lithuania for your studies? More and more students are discovering that Vilnius is the place to be if you’re looking for a beautiful city with lots of entertainment, culture, and history. Vilnius is highly affordable compared to other European capitals, and you’ll be able to explore a different culture, with lots of unique delicacies to try and cultural traditions to join in with. It’s clear that students enjoy living in Vilnius as the city got a 4.5 rating for student life, plus high ratings for university facilities and professors – well-rated institutions in the city include Kazimieras Simonavičius University.
5. Aberdeen, Scotland
Aberdeen is often overlooked for Glasgow or Edinburgh, but this northern seaside city is a great place to study if you want easy access to the great outdoors and a top-ranked degree. Robert Gordon University is one of two public universities in the city, which has over 16,000 students from 132 countries. Living in Aberdeen, you’ll also benefit from a low cost of living and a lively nightlife, but students also rate their experience here high for internationality and location.
4. Wrocław, Poland
EDUopinions reviewers praise Wrocław for its location, value for money, and overall student life – so there’s really no reason to pass it by for other destinations in Poland. There are several universities in the city, offering over 300 English-taught courses, so you’re bound to find something for yourself. Plus, Wrocław is Poland’s fourth-biggest city and contains lots of cultural highlights for students looking to experience something different during their studies. And, the city has a really affordable cost of living: what more do you want?
3. Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria
We’re sure that you’ve never heard of Blagoevgrad, a historic town in southwestern Bulgaria. This small town (there are just 67,000 inhabitants) is known for its ancient roots and traditional culture: when you study here you can visit the opera house and try local cuisine in the wealth of cafes. South-West University and the American University in Bulgaria are the two main universities in town, and about 50% of students at American University are international – so you’ll meet people from all different cultures and countries. That’s what makes Blagoevgrad one of the best-hidden gem student cities.
2. Reims, France
Reims is increasingly becoming a hotspot for international students, who flock to the northern French city for its relaxed atmosphere, cultural sights, and job opportunities. In fact, EDUopinions students rated Reims incredibly high for internationality (5/5) and value for money (5/5), while it also gained a higher career opportunity score than other popular job destinations like London and Paris. Studying at the University of Reims or at the Sciences Po campus, you’ll be able to bask in some of the country’s best cuisine, and benefit from a lower cost of living than in other French cities – it’s a no-brainer.
1. Guildford, England
So, here’s the best-hidden gem student city in Europe: Guildford! Never heard of it? Guildford is just an hour outside of London, in the heart of the pristine countryside. There are three universities in this small town: the University of Surrey, the University of Law, and the Academy of Contemporary Music Guildford. As a result, the town is filled with students and living here, you’re never far from the bustling town centre or your academic campus. Students love Guildford so much that it gets almost a perfect score, but it’s rated particularly highly for student accommodation and internationality.
Thousands of students travel to the biggest tourist destinations every year – but there are other, less well-known, cities waiting for you. Students have scored the cities on this list highly – often, even more highly – than some of the biggest European student cities, making them a worthy option for your future studies.
Want to read more from EDUopinions’ Student Reviews Guide 2023? Check out the other articles in this series!
- 10 Best Universities for Online Studies
- Most International Countries and Cities in Europe
- Best Degrees for Job Prospects After University