As restrictions lifted, myself and my Covid cert have enjoyed a few trips abroad together. All being active city breaks, here are some of the top student-friendly and accessible cities in Europe perfect for a short trip during term times, and what to do and see from my own recent experiences. For cheap and sturdy accommodation, Booking.com is certainly your friend (top tip: always check reviews – don’t be deceived by photographs!), but I’d use Airbnb if travelling with a bigger group.
With a rising trend of online Parisian fashion and architecture aesthetics, Paris is becoming everyone’s top travel destination. One of the wonders of the city is simply the Musée Du Louvre (The Louvre Museum) and is located in 1er arrondissement, the geographical center of Paris, and neighbours with Les Halles and the Palais Royal. From Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to sculptural masterpieces of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, the museum’s collection has no bounds. To witness the entire palace turned museum would easily take up an entire day, and I would recommend planning which exhibitions you wish to see before going.
Although he had a short life, Vincent Van Gough gave us so much, and 10 of these paintings are displayed in the Musée d’Orsay (The Orsay Museum). Located in 7e Arrondissement, the museum shares surroundings with the Eiffel Tower and Rue Cler (the most famous market street in Paris). With correct student identification, admittance is free to both these museums for EU students. Montmartre in 18e is situated at the top of a hill overlooking the city with a small artsy village feel, and provides a breathtaking view of Paris from the steps of the Sacré Coeur church there. Close by is also the world-famous Moulin Rouge, in all its redlight glory. Although this location is further out from the city’s center, the accessible Metro line can get you there for €1.90 one way.
The Vintage clothing gods are by your side in Paris. Make your way to around Rue du Renard in 4e to find vintage shops sprinkled down every side street such as The Kilo Shop, Tilt Vintage Paris 4th, Vintage Désir and Vintage by Ramin. When looking for a choice in diverse and affordable eating, the Latin Quarter (5e) is definitely where to go. When in Paris, it’s inevitable that you’ll have as many crêpes as possible.
Rome holds a different sort of beauty. Not just in its palette and architecture, but its historical and cultural feel. I would also like to confirm that Italian food in its home country is nowhere near overrated. On Headout Bookings, you can purchase an EU student ticket for €3.60 that gains access to the neighbouring Roman Forum, Colosseum and Palatine Hill; a walking tour of ancient historical goodness. La Biga located directly across from the Colosseum is a popular restaurant, especially at night for the scene, with a wide range of Italian favourites, and easily where I had the best carbonara of my life. Great cocktails too. It also doesn’t have a service charge (which one should look out for in Rome and will be mentioned on most menus).
The Trevi Fountain, situated deeper into the city, is obviously a must see. Although usually busy with tourists, at night it takes on a whole new perception. By the Trevi Fountain are loads of cafes, restaurants and gelaterias, but I’d recommend Pizza in Trevi. Staying on inner-city historical sites, if you visit The Pantheon, down a side street from it is Piazza di S. Eustachio equipped with plenty of cafés and affordable lunch spots, distancing you from the Roman city hustle and bustle. Piazza Navona for dining at night has fantastic nightlife, and music from the restaurants and street performers bouches around the lit-up square.
If you make your way to Vatican city, to tell your Granny you went and visited the Pope, it’s about a 40 minute walk from the city center but is easily accessed by the Metro at €1.50 one way. Another ideal and fun mode of transportation in Roma is scooters. You may roll your eyes at this absolute tourist activity but don’t diss it until you try it. I’d recommend downloading the Lime or Link app which allows you to pay for them at 50c per minute. If flying into Aeroporto di Ciampino, which you most likely are if from Dublin with a nice and cheaply sourced Ryanair flight, the bus costs €5.90 to get into the city centre and run super frequently with the company RomeAirportBus. There’s simply so much to see in Rome and you’ll want to just walk everywhere – just take my advice and don’t do it in Birkenstocks.
Budapest is by far the most colourful and cheap European city I’ve stayed in. The Hungarian currency, forint, however, is rather confusing and I’d recommend paying by card if you can. Something that many marvel at in this city is the views of the city from a height, and one of them being from Gellért Hill; a funicular journey from the Chain Bridge along the hillsides provides a fast connection between Buda and Pest.
Nearby at a height is also Buda Castle on the west bank of the River Danube in Buda’s Old Town area. Home to many of the city’s most important medieval structures and monuments, it also homes the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. The top of St. Stephen’s Basilica gives incredible 360 views of the city and there is no access fee. The 360 bar and Igloo Garden also offers a stunning panoramic rooftop view of the city, and has a fun and lively atmosphere especially at night.
Located in formerly abandoned buildings, primarily in Budapest’s Jewish District are the mysterious and bustling ruin bars. Some of the most popular are Szimpla Kert, Instant & Fogas Ház, Mazel Tov Budapest and Szatyor Bar. The city’s Jewish District also offers a range of places to eat. For great burgers, at an astonishing low price, I’d recommend Burger Market on Király utca directly across from Fashion Street. Budapest, in its eating establishments, is very accommodating to vegans and has many vegan food joints.
Boat trips on the River Danube are a huge pastime in Budapest, especially night cruises and boat parties. Book online at BoatPartyBudapest.com for €24 to enjoy 2 hours of a free bar and music through the city. An absolute must in Budapest are the baths; the Széchenyi Baths are the biggest and most popular thermal baths in the city. They’re relaxing, fun, affordable (day ticket is 5,900 Ft working out at €16) and, at night, romantic.
Of course, these are just three of some of the best student-friendly cities for a short trip away. All are definitely a visual and cultural experience but you’ll be able to get around with English just fine.