Must-Visit Eco-Friendly European Spots Perfect for College Students

By: Miriam Bribiesca

Calling all eco-travel buffs! As Earth Day approaches, we want to celebrate the only way we know how: By traveling. So what better way to celebrate than by exploring some of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable cities in Europe. 

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or this is one of your first trips, we know seeing the world without leaving a huge carbon footprint is important, so we’ve scoured the globe and found 3 destinations where green practices are a way of life. Let’s walk the talk and make this Earth Day one for the books by exploring Europe in the most eco-conscious way possible!

Cyclist passing by an iconic red-door landmark building in Paris, an architectural gem that appeals to student explorers interested in sustainable urban design.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Starting off with what might be known as the greenest city in the world, Copenhagen is a fantastic example of how sustainability and economic growth can go hand in hand. In fact, the city is committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2025, and thanks to a combination of policies and citizen participation, it’s well on its way to reach its goal!

How is that possible you ask? Well, Copenhagen has integrated sustainability into virtually every aspect of city life. This includes extensive cycling infrastructure, widespread use of renewable energy, and an impressive public transportation system that is powered by clean energy such as wind (*cries in U.S. public transportation). 

As you’ve probably heard, or maybe seen on your favorite social media app, one of the most iconic aspects of Copenhagen is its bike culture. With over 242 miles of designated bike lanes and more bikes than cars it’s safe to say that going for a bike ride while there is inevitable. Which means that you’ll be traveling on two wheels all while helping reduce emissions, and traffic jams. Look at you! Also it sounds like Los Angeles needs to take a page from their book, right? 

Now naturally, you can’t be one the most “green” cities in the world, without actual greenery and Copenhagen does not disappoint. It has beautiful parks and public green spaces, which contribute to the city’s charm and popularity. And because we want you to experience it while there, here are three spots you need to add to your list.

  • Visit Tivoli Gardens: Known as one of the oldest operating amusement parks in the world, Tivoli Gardens caters to those looking either for a thrill or a tranquil time. With rollercoasters, gardens, performance venues, and even seasonal festivals, this place is a no brainer! And let’s not forget that the garden uses renewable energy as well as practices of waste sorting to reduce waste as much as possible. Check and check. 

  • Witness CopenHill: From a first glance you wouldn’t think this recreational space that has a ski slope is a waste-to-energy plant but it is! And to be honest, this is probably one of the coolest examples of what our cities can look like when you combine utility with recreation and sustainability. If skiing is not your thing, not to worry, they have trails you can walk on and other activities depending on the time of year, either way, sounds to us like this is a must-visit location!

  • Dive into Islands Brygge: Because of the city’s successful efforts in water management and sustainability, Copenhagen offers several clean swimming zones available to the public. So if you are there during the summer, grab your towel and bathing suit and head over to the port to take advantage of their large grassy areas for sunbathing, picnics, and social gatherings.

Picturesque Amsterdam canal with eco-friendly bicycles and flower-decked houseboats, popular with environmentally-conscious student travelers

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Another must visit for all of us interested in sustainable travel is Amsterdam! The city is a frontrunner in green urban living and offers another model for how cities can function sustainably while maintaining a high quality of life.

Similar to Copenhagen, cycling is also at the heart of Amsterdam’s approach to reducing traffic congestion and pollution. The city’s infrastructure is incredibly bike friendly with over 310 miles of dedicated bike lanes (take that Copenhagen!) so there really is no excuse to not bike around the city.

Because of its popularity, Amsterdam has implemented several initiatives to manage the influx of tourists in a sustainable way that go beyond certifying their hotels by “eco labels.” These initiatives include promoting off-season travel (we’ve talked about this before as being a good option to save some cash by getting discounts!), and encouraging visits to lesser known areas. 

If you hangout with us long enough, you’ll see that we share gems as well. But before we get to those, we can’t forget to mention some eco-friendly activities you can partake in while there.

  • Take a Canal Cruises: Opt for a solar-powered boat tour and experience the city’s iconic canals in an environmentally friendly way. No gas, no problem! Here in Amsterdam, reuse, reduce and recycle is a real thing.

  • Taste Sustainable Dining: Like many major cities, Amsterdam offers a plethora of organic and vegetarian restaurants. Health buffs rejoice! We recommend checking out restaurants like De Kas who are known to grow their own ingredients in greenhouses and gardens right in the city. Yum!

  • Visit Green Markets: The city hosts various organic markets, such as the Noordermarkt on Saturdays, where you can find local organic produce and sustainable goods to make sure your entire trip you are honoring the earth and yourself.

  • Volunteer and Take it to Another Level: If ecotourism is close to your heart, you can even participate in local clean up events organized by local environmental groups. Um, a tourist that goes beyond and helps the community he/she is visiting? YES PLEASE!

Sunny day at a vibrant Ljubljana café in the picturesque Old Town, surrounded with college students enjoying Slovenia's sustainable city

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Although not as popular as our first two suggestions, Ljubljana (loo·blee·aa·nuh) is what we call a hidden gem, see told you we weren’t gatekeepers here! Most importantly, however, is that it is one of Europe’s leaders in environmental sustainability. In fact, one of its most notable green initiatives is its extensive pedestrian only city center. 

The city has dramatically reduced areas accessible to motor vehicles, prioritizing pedestrians, cyclists, and public transportation. By doing this, they have been able to reduce CO2 emissions and transform the city center into a vibrant social space free of traffic noise and pollution. Imagine that! Literary, a breath of fresh air.

And with numerous bike lanes like its sister cities, biking is also in the cards for you while here. We recommend looking into the city’s bike-sharing program, BicikeLJ, which is incredibly easy to use and can provide an efficient and eco-friendly way to explore the city. And despite its small size, Ljubljana has lots of sustainable attractions and things to do. Here are a couple: 

  • Drop by the Ljubljana Castle: Standing on a hill above the city, the castle offers a historical perspective but also hosts several cultural events throughout the year like Eco friendly workshops and seminars, as well as green market days where locals can sell their goodies.

  • Feast your eyes and palate at local markets: The Central Market is a wonderful place to explore truly anywhere but especially here as it is full of local produce, much of it organic, and opens a door for you to literally taste the city’s commitment to sustainability. Sign us up now!

  • Relax at Eco Hotels: Change it up and take advantage of the several eco-friendly accommodations found in the city like Urban & Green, which focuses on sustainable tourism practices like using recycled materials whenever possible, always opting for local food and so much more.

As you set off to discover these incredible eco-friendly destinations, remember that your journey doesn’t just end with experiencing the beauty of these cities, it’s also about embracing and incorporating their sustainable practices in your everyday life. By choosing these green cities, you’re not only guaranteeing yourself a memorable adventure but also supporting destinations that are committed to preserving our planet for future generations. How cool is that?

Celebrating Earth Day is not just a day on the calendar, but can be a transformative experience that will deepen your connection to the environment and change your life forever. Now it’s time to book your flight with an exclusive student discount and enjoy your travels!

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