Where to? Your city-by-city guide to student life
from nightlife to sporting and cultural activities, every college's identity is shaped, in part, by its host city. Here's what some of the cities have to offer
An embarrassment of social riches to be plundered in the nation’s capital, so let’s begin in the very middle: Trinity College Dublin.
What’s hot? Trinity is in the heart of the city, with a variety of hot spots to choose from for lunch or a night out. Of course, you will probably become a creature of habit and find your own regular place. It’s not all about the life outside the walls of Trinity. The campus is filled with benches, couches and even windowsills that you can make your own. Even the library can be a good social spot during busy periods, but try not to talk too loudly.
What’s not? There is no student centre here, which can be a pain. Even though students make do with all the corners college has to offer, a student centre would make social interactions a lot less scattered and fragmented.
Where to hang out: On campus students hang around the arts block, the JCR, the Pav and society rooms. On nice days they venture outdoors to the cricket pitch and Fellows Square. Off campus, each student would have their own preference, but MacTurcails, Doyles, the Gingerman and the Longstone are regular haunts.
Where to eat: It’s all about the burrito wars between Tolteca, Burritos and Blues, and Pablo Piccante’s. Everyone goes to KC Peaches and O’Briens for sandwiches, Costa for coffee, Captain America’s for a long lunch and Yum Thai for a quick lunch.
What to avoid: Avoid Avoca at 1pm, fast-food restaurants and places that have meal deals that cost more than €8 – you’re a student, remember.
(We know it’s not in Dublin, but it is in Dublin’s orbit)
What’s hot? Even though Maynooth is very handy to Dublin, you may never need to hop on that train. The town of Maynooth is a unique university town: you can feel the student atmosphere through the buzz around its bars and cafes.
What’s not? If you left an oppressive small town in search of anonymity, you won’t
necessarily find it in this university town.
Where to hang out: The students’ union venue and bar is one of the main sources of entertainment and activities, with all sorts of acts passing through the doors for half the price of regular shows. Acts in the past have included Calvin Harris, Bressie, Kodaline and Tinchy Stryder. The Union has also hosted comedy gigs with big names such as Des Bishop and Neil Delamere. Downtown Maynooth also has a number of pubs and clubs with bands and entertainment. Students also regularly take the opportunity of late night trips to Tesco, which is open 24 hours. The new library is a very popular option, with bean bags and couches; Starbucks in the foyer is also a hit. Phoenix, the student restaurant, and Chill are popular options for people looking for a bite to eat. Unfortunately, there’s no cinema. The closest is at Liffey Valley.
Where to eat: On the north campus the Phoenix restaurant, in the SU Chill, the John Hume building has an O’Brien’s sandwich bar and the arts block has a very handy coffee station – if you are bringing in your lunch there is a common room with wifi and plenty of seats. Head over to the south campus and you’ll find yourself in the impressive, old-world charms of Pugin Hall.
What to avoid: It used to be hard to get a cheap lunch in Maynooth, but, under pressure from students, establishments both on and off the campus have lowered their prices somewhat. You’ll need to shop around, though.
What’s hot? The new UCD student centre, “Ireland’s favourite building” (winner of the Public Choice Award in this year’s Irish Architecture Awards, voted for by the public), has a 3D cinema showing everything from blockbusters to arthouse movies, a theatre, debating chamber, radio hub, societies spaces, gym, fitness classes and an Olympic sized pool.
What’s not? The often-remixed dance music played in the gym.
Where to hang out: The Global Lounge: an indoor entertainment hub whose wall of screens beams in over 350 international TV stations, and is often home to life-size gaming nights with Xbox Kinect.
Where to eat: Pulse cafe in the health sciences centre has great hot and cold food options.
What to avoid: The queues outside the door of Reader’s Deli in the library building at five past one.
Dublin City University
What’s hot? It’s handy enough to the city centre but not so handy that students want to traipse in every week – as a result there’s a pretty good scene on campus. Clubs and societies are big deal in DCU – from drama and dance to tea and Harry Potter. There’s also a huge venue on campus that holds up to 1,800 people being entertained by the likes of Kodaline, Des Bishop and Calvin Harris.
What’s not? Paying €2.25 for the bus into town. The library’s location at the end of campus, so close yet so far away.
Where to hang out: Students mainly hang out in the Nubar, the canteen, the Mezz and the students’ union.
Where to eat: The canteen/restaurant is pretty good value and there are cafes in most buildings dotted around campus. Aside from multiple on-campus restaurants like the canteen and Nubar, off campus there is Weldons Bar on the Ballymun Road as well as Andersons just down the road off Griffith Avenue.
What to avoid: Avoid getting the bus at rush hour. Avoid walking to the Omni shopping centre when it’s raining. Avoid getting the 16 when you need to get the 16a.
What’s hot? There is a pub, club, bar and restaurant on the doorstep of every single campus. Getting involved in a club or society is also a good way to try new things without spending lots of money. Make a note of DIT’s clubs and societies sign-up week: September 23rd- 27th, 2013.
What’s not? DIT will next year start the move to the Grangegorman campus, so there could be some uncertainty about where to hang out during the changeover. At the moment though, students at a DIT campus can use facilities at other campuses in the city (like Fit2Go gyms in Bolton Street and Kevin Street).
Where to hang out Most campuses have a student area. DIT Aungier Street has a good-sized students’ union common area with pool tables, table tennis, PCs and a shop. There’s Cafe Java just upstairs.
Off campus, the Palace, D2, the Village, Coppers, Dicey’s Garden, Whelan’s, Wok Inn, Insomnia and Karma Stone Bar are all popular DIT student choices. Near Cathal Brugha Street, the Living Room is another popular venue, especially for sports loving students who can watch one of the more than a dozen TV screens.
Bodkin’s Bar, opposite DIT Bolton Street, is a favourite for those who prefer a more traditional pub.
Where to eat: Many of the campuses have canteens but Bolton Street is particularly recommended by students.
There are lots of good value meals around the Wexford Street/Camden Street area – Karma Stone Bar dishes up affordable meals and there’s also Burritos and Blues, Subway, Fresh, The Village, Against the Grain, Toasted, the Camden Rotisserie, and newcomer Bunsen.
Govinda’s on Aungier Street serves affordable vegetarian meals, and Neon 17 on Camden Street does great food – they are big portions, so if you’re smart and bring home the rest, you’ll have paid for lunch and dinner. Lots of places do loyalty cards.
Near Bolton Street, there is a little gem of a place – the Saba Inn cafe (a small Hungarian cafe across the road from DIT Bolton Street and beside the Centra). It’s good for healthy sandwiches and dinners and offers good-value student deals.
The Living Room on Cathal Brugha Street is another popular food choice for DIT students. There aren’t a lot of dining options around Mountjoy Square but there is a canteen on campus and the Londis at the bottom of the hill has a decent chipper.
What to avoid: If you stick to canteens and cafes/shops nearer campuses, you’re more likely to get better value deals. Prices for sandwiches and meals increase the closer you get to Grafton Street
Tourist traps like Temple Bar are not always the best option for students either.
Some of the shops and cafes on Wexford Street/Camden Street get busy at lunch-time due to office workers taking their breaks so go early or just after 2pm.
She’s a lady, according to the song, and according to those who study in the rugby capital of Ireland, she knows how to have a good time. Here’s what’s going on in UL, but remember, this is a city full of students with four other third level colleges in the vicinity, including Limerick Institute of Technology and Mary I, so there’s always loads happening.
What’s hot? On the UL campus there are plenty of places to stop and smell the roses – it’s a beautiful venue for a lazy day walk. If you’re looking for a more active way to work off your day, then definitely check out the UL arena, where the facilities range from a state-of-the-art gym to an Olympic sized swimming pool.
There are over 70 clubs and societies to choose from, from sky-diving to drama. (Sky-diving and drama: now that we’d like to try.)
Off campus, the city of Limerick has a load of activities, from go-karting and bowling to shopping and roller skating. There are three cinemas with special student prices.
What’s not? If you’re not into rugby the bars of Limerick can be hard to stomach at certain times of the year.
Where to hang out: The courtyard on a Tuesday for the farmers’ market, or the University Concert Hall performances. Up at the arena you might catch a glimpse of the Munster squad training, if that’s your thing, or the Stables runs an international night on Fridays.
Off campus, Limerick offers a great variety when it comes to nightlife. There are three other colleges in the city so there are plenty of student-friendly venues. Dolans is one of the best live venues in the country.
Where to eat: The campus has 19 different cafe/restaurants and has a number of others close-by, just off the campus.
What to avoid: The start of semester queues in student academic administration. Be sure you’ve paid your registration fees and save yourself a few hours during fresher’s week.
Students have a big influence on life in the city, with almost 30,000 students out of a population of 120,000. Businesses target the student market, there are countless events organised by students, and nightlife is “pure bad bhoy” (ie great).
What’s hot? Not only is UCC a very pretty campus; it’s also a hive of activity, with more than 90 student societies and around 70 sports clubs. On-campus bars, theatres, restaurants and shops ensure students are well provided for. The biggest lure, arguably, is the backdrop of Cork itself, with students bringing energy and fresh ideas to the city’s life.
What’s not? Cork gets very wet, and the city is prone to flooding. And it can get very foggy. Perhaps more than anywhere else in Ireland, weather is the main topic of conversation. Cork people can be divisive; one Twitter user recently described Cork as a place full of “smug, arrogant, insular people who don’t welcome newcomers to their distinctly ordinary city.”
Where to hang out: Students tend to congregate on campus as there is so much available to them, including the student centre, the Mardyke arena sports centre and the amphitheatre (which boasts live music every day at lunchtime and events throughout the year). Off campus, popular spots include Patrick Street for students in search of discounts, while Fitzgerald’s Park draws crowds on a nice day. Everyone drinks in the Bailey, Suas, the Washington Inn and Sober Lane, which is always thronged on match days and which does excellent deals on really top-notch pub food. The Chambers is a popular gay bar.
Where to eat: On and near campus, food is priced for students, with many deals available. On campus eating spots include the student centre, Kylemore, and Cafe Freso, while the Kiwi is a good spot just outside UCC. The two on-campus bars are favoured watering holes for students
What to avoid: Getting really angry and annoyed about Cork slang, particularly the phrase for no: “I will, yeah.” You’ll have to learn to live with this peculiar lingo.
What’s hot? CIT is one of the most significant of Ireland’s Institutes of Technology. Somewhat like DIT in Dublin, the campuses are scattered throughout Cork. The college offers business, humanities, science and engineering courses, but music and art students perhaps provide the pulse of CIT’s particularly bright student life. It’s creative, imaginative, young and exciting.
If Cork city life gets too much for you, there are a number of day trips you can make out to some of the most picturesque and scenic spots in Ireland. Youghal is a particularly pleasant 30 minute trip from the city, while Cobh and Kinsale also offer lots to see and do.
What’s not? The college’s library has been criticised as being a little too noisy and the scattered nature of CIT’s four campuses won’t appeal to everyone.
Where to hang out: In CIT, students flock to the outdoor spaces when the sun shines. The Nexus student centre is a popular spot, as is the common room where students gather to play pool or Xbox. Sports enthusiasts will find a home at one of CIT’s two gyms, on the athletics track, the tennis court, or astro-turf pitch, or in the state of the art sports stadium.
Where to eat: Cork’s reputation as a foodie city means students will find good value cheap eats wherever they go. Captain America’s, Gino’s, Subway and local bar food venues are much visited haunts, but many students eat in CIT’s college canteens.
What to avoid: Getting lured in by all the special offers on drink and grub and consequently forgetting to attend lectures or study for exams.
Galway is a small and compact city, with life revolving around the stretch from Eyre Square down through Shop Street and out to Spanish Arch. The city is widely regarded as an artistic and cultural mecca, with the Galway Arts Festival, the Film Fleadh, and the Cuirt Literature Festival among the highlights. For such a small city, there’s always something going on.
What’s hot: The abundance of annual balls in the second semester is a big highlight in the social calendar. NUI Galway has a particularly creative and artistic streak, with drama and music found on every corner. It’s also a slightly cheaper place to live than many of the other major student towns and cities in Ireland.
What’s not: It can get a little too artsy sometimes. Think black and white, eight-hour Russian cinema without subtitles, followed by a slam poetry contest which consists entirely of touching windows gently and you’ll get a sense of how painful it can get. If you hate hipsters, welcome to hell.
Where to hang out: Smokies, a cafe in the middle of the campus, is a place where students sit for five minutes and stay for five hours. It even has a famous pigeon that wanders in from time to time. The Róisín Dubh and the Crane Bar are the best locations for live gigs in the city. On a hot day, Salthill is jammed with students.
Where to eat: The students’ union offers €5 full dinners in the college bar. Finnegan’s is a go-to spot for mammy dinners, Boojum is a popular burrito bar. And there’s always Supermac’s; Galway students, unreasonably, claim that the local branches are the best in Ireland.
What to avoid: Trying to travel home during rush hour. Galway’s traffic is notoriously bad.
What’s hot: GMIT, of course, is more than just Galway, with students in the Castlebar campus forming a major component of the student body and another campus in Letterfack. Although Castlebar’s students have made their mark on the town, and student life here can be good fun, the Galway campus is the largest and most active. It’s centrally located and brimming with clubs and societies. GMIT students, especially those on the Cluain Mhuire campus, play a major role in forging Galway’s creative reputation.
What’s not: Although you will find a building where lectures take place, there’s not much of a campus as such.
Where to hang out: In the student villages for downtime. Favoured haunts include the student bar and, off-campus, Bodkin’s. However, Galway students are very integrated into the city, and can be found socialising in any number of pubs, clubs, or restaurants.
Where to eat: The Cafeteria on the Dublin Road campus, Cactus Jack’s on Courthouse Lane, off Quay St. McDonagh’s on Shop Street is a Galway institution.
What to avoid: The sporting facilities leave a lot to be desired, according to students, although GMIT does have a gym, sports hall, and football pitches.
Waterford Institute of Technology is the only major third-level centre in the city and the biggest college in the southeast. Waterford, one of the original Viking settlements, has a rich history and cultural life, and gets a (relatively) decent whack of sunshine compared with other Irish counties.
What’s hot: Student balls and events take place throughout the year, and like all larger colleges, most interests are catered for by the myriad clubs and societies. A newly built sports campus includes all weather pitches and grass training areas. To escape the city, students can go surfing in Tramore, hit one of the many different beaches of the southeast, or take a walk in the Comeragh Mountains. The public transport is decent too, with buses going to and from the college every 20 minutes.
What’s not: Waterford may be Ireland’s fifth largest city but it can’t compete on amenities with Cork, Galway, Dublin, and Limerick. Although there is a good arts scene for those who care to find it, the city isn’t quite as culturally exciting as its rivals.
Where to hang out: During lunch hours the students meet in a variety of restaurants and social areas, including the Hot House Bistro, the Gallery, Oscars cafe, and the arcade and pool room. The Dome Sports and Social club is the main campus bar, but there are many places on-campus to go and relax and wind down on the college day, including a number of green areas. There is a wide range of pubs and clubs in a concentrated part of the city; The Foundry is a particularly beloved option.
Where to eat: Most restaurants and takeaways have a student offer from Monday to Friday, with prices from €3-10. The college canteen also provides a range of meal prices to suit all budgets and students say the food is good value.
What to avoid: Arriving late to the campus: you’ll be hard pressed to find a parking space.