In history of great ideas, studying abroad has to fall somewhere between McDonald's Dollar Menu and YouTube. When else can you party in a different country for four months under the premise that you are “getting cultured”?
With cheap airlines like Ryan Air and easyJet it has never been easier to travel around Europe. The only problem is where to go with your limited time abroad. The following is a list of the ten best cities to explore when you’re across the pond.
I definitely have a soft spot for this place after having lived there for a year. While most people think the city to see in England is London, you’re better off spending your time up north. Manchester is half as expensive as London and twice as fun. With over 90,000 undergrads, the city has the biggest student population of any in Europe. Home to two of the best soccer teams in the world (City and United), Manchester also has a deep history in music (Oasis and The Smiths). If you’re there in the fall check out The Warehouse Project, a weekly rave held in the parking garage of the cities train station. Skip the fish and chips and head to the Curry Mile, for some Middle Eastern food you don’t need Kevlar to enjoy.
If Amsterdam didn’t exist you wouldn’t believe it was real. Imagine Las Vegas on acid and you get the picture. Everyone rides bicycles, there are canals instead of roads, hookers dance in display windows and people eat pancakes at all hours of the day. You’ve heard about the coffee shops, but this place is so much more than that. Visit the Heineken Experience for the one semblance of normal in a city Tim Burton would be proud of.
Any country that has a nationwide nap in the middle of the day is ok with me. This place has clubs as far as the eye can see. Whether you’re on the beach or in the heart of the city you’re guaranteed to be out until about six in the morning. Head to La Boqueria (a huge open food marketplace) the next morning to help you beat that hangover so you’re ready for another night out. There are no off days in Barcelona.
Tired of getting killed by the Euro to dollar exchange rate? Mom and dad threatening to cut you off if you don’t get your spending under control? Budapest is the place for you! This city is insanely cheap. I’m talking ‘10 bucks for dinner and enough booze to kill a small horse’ cheap. You can live like a king for about $100. Head to the Buda side (yes it’s actually two cities split by a river, Buda and Pest) to check out Sandor Palace, the equivalent of the White House in Hungary. Don’t forget Szimpla, voted the third best bar in the world by Lonely Planet. A former squat house for drug addicts, the government decided to turn it into one of the cities most profitable bars. God I love Eastern Europe.
Skip Berlin and "The Wall" and head south to the unofficial capital of day drinking. Home to Oktoberfest, these people love drinking beer. The Hofbrauhaus is the best place to grab a stein of the local product and enjoy the drunken chants. If you’re looking to do your drinking outside (obviously), take a walk to the English Gardens (skip the nude beach unless you’re interested in seeing man meat) where they have an outdoor beer garden. Be sure to check out “Surfers Wave” or what I like to call “Point Break Germany”.
Prague, Czech Republic
The second Eastern European city on the list, pretty much everything about Budapest reigns true in Prague. While it might be a bit more westernized, it’s still got that old Eastern Block flair that makes you think you could be kidnapped and star in the next Hostel movie at any point. The Old Town Square is the best place to start on a night out with plenty of club promoters who look like they were in Taken to tell you ‘where all ze sexy girls are’. Head to the Prague Beer Museum where they give you a book of beers to choose from. I never realized reading could be so much fun.
France gets a bad wrap. Are Parisians snobby? Sure, but so are hipsters that live in Brooklyn. Home to two of my favorite bands (Daft Punk and Justice), Paris ranks behind only London on the list of places that has stuff you’ve probably seen in your Western Civ textbook. Eiffel Tower? Check. Arc de Triomphe? Check. Lourve? Check. Paris isn’t so bad after all.
I’m about as Irish as Lucky Charms cereal but I still enjoyed hanging out here. The Guinness really does taste better in Dublin, I swear. The Temple Bar District is the best place to go at night in terms of bars. You can walk down the street and decide where to go based on what the live band sounds like from outside. And I’ll be damned if live music doesn’t make everything better.
Not the biggest city, but worth a trip if your looking for some time in the sun. They don’t call it the Costa Del Sol for nothing. Instead of blowing your money at an expensive beach resort in Greece save the dough and head to Malaga where the booze and women are just as good. If you’re there during the summer and looking for some violence head to the Plaza La Malagueta for bullfighting. Word of warning: Unlike most big cities in Europe everyone here does not speak English. Brush up on your Español if you want to have any hopes of spitting game, because ‘Yo quiero Taco Bell’ can only get you so far.
The one thing I regret from my travels through Europe was not making it here. After all of the stories I’ve heard about it, part of me doesn’t believe it actually exists. Everyone comes to this place for one thing: fun. If it’s good enough for Swedish House Mafia to do a song about it’s good enough for you.