Best student cities: Paris
The Université Paris-Sorbonne is located in the city's Latin Quarter. (Rieger Bertrand/hemis.fr/Getty)
This article is the first in a series featuring the top five cities for students around the globe in 2012, determined by QS. A number of factors were considered in the organization’s ranking, including educational institutions, quality of living, affordability and employer activity. Paris came in first.
Few cities are more enchanting than Paris, one of the most-visited cities in the world -- and its allure reaches more than just travellers. Every year, tens of thousands of international students descend on the city for their studies, most likely with visions of strolling the Left Bank at dusk, taking regular outings to the Louvre, and passing any one of the city’s astounding architectural landmarks while commuting to class.
Attending university in Paris can be a wise move financially, since international tuition fees are low compared to those in the US, Australia and the UK. And class sizes tend to be small, rarely more than 30 students, which is especially appealing given the illustrious teaching rosters at the city’s elite universities, such as the Université Paris-Sorbonne, École Polytechnique and Sciences Po. As a downside, living in Paris can be pricey, but the beguiling City of Lights tends to win students over regardless.
Many of the city’s main universities are located in the student-heavy 5th and 6th arrondissements on the Left Bank. During lunchtime on sunny days, crowds of students grab food at the many small cafes, restaurants or bistros by Metro Saint Michel or Vavin and picnic in the Jardin du Luxembourg.
Students also frequent the Jewish quarter of the Marais, which spans the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, where many believe the best falafel in the city can be found. Students can buy sandwiches for cheap at L’As du Falafel or stop in at the city’s oldest food market, the indoor Le Marché des Enfants Rouges, which dates back to the 1600s and contains stalls selling tasty and affordable pre-prepared food.
Students are also drawn to the cafe culture in the Latin Quarter on the Left Bank near the Sorbonne, where they congregate in the neighbourhood’s open squares and in bistros and bars like the laid-back Le Teddy’s Bar with its lengthy happy hour and the budget-friendly Le Requin Chagrin.
For nightlife, the ever-cool Oberkampf neighbourhood in the 11th arrondissement attracts the city’s most stylish. Favourite spots include the belle-époque Café Charbon and the rock-and-roll bar Au P’tit Garage. Nightlife in the upscale and centrally-located 6th arrondissement, where Sciences Po is located, is also popular among English-speaking students, who hang at the international-friendly bars Frog and Princess and Moose. With bar after bar and cheap concert venues, the once quite raunchy Bastille and Pigalle/Blanche areas bordering the 9th and 18th arrondissements are also top night time spots for the university crowd, who fill venues like the convivial Le Sans Souci, a restaurant by day and bar by night, and the free-to-enter club Chez Moune, which regularly has long queues to get in.
When not in class, most students explore the city’s many cultural institutions and hidden corners. Organised extra-curricular activities for students are available too, especially in regards to sports and exercise, and universities often have their own sports facilities or work with local gyms to provide students free or steeply discounted membership. The Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris is a student housing complex that offers activities and services for international students studying at a range of universities, including sports facilities, seminars and student-centric social events.
Individual universities such as the Sorbonne also host choir and orchestra concerts, festivals and student workshops throughout the year. The university also participates in citywide festivals, such as the poetry event Printemps des Poètes and the student arts festival Ici et Demain. The Université Paris Diderot also offers students the chance to take supplementary art workshops and also screens thought provoking films weekly through their CinéDiderot programming.