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THE USA: Destination Guides

The ultimate student guide to Gainesville

With so many people attending university in this sunny Florida city, you can be sure that it has a lot to offer. Read on to discover what you can expect from studying in Gainesville.

Aerial view of Depot Park in Gainesville, with a man-made lake beside green lawns, and several seating and play areas. Tall green trees stretch into the distance beneath a cloudy blue sky.

Come to study in Gainesville and you will find yourself in one of Florida's college capitals. It may not be the biggest city in the state, but if you're looking for somewhere with a large and diverse university population, you will feel at home here. Want to learn more about this city of sunshine, alligators and the University of Florida? Look no further than our Gainesville student guide.


What is Gainesville like?

Location and demographics

Gainesville is the largest city in the North Central region of Florida, America's Sunshine State. Unsurprisingly then, you won't experience much cold weather while you're there. Temperatures rarely drop below 10 degrees Celsius, and for most of the year, you can expect them to be much higher. They tend to stay above 20 degrees Celsius from April to October.


A pin marks Gainesville on a map of Florida, which also features several bodies of water and cities including Jacksonville and Orlando.


Demographically, Gainesville is a student hotspot. With more than 60,000 people enrolled at its main university and an overall population of just 140,000, you will never need to look far to find a college colleague. You will also never be far from others who have travelled internationally to reach the city: 11 per cent of people here were born outside of the USA.


For an understanding of the wider region in which Gainesville is situated, read our student guide to Southeast USA.


Culture and history

While people have lived in the area known now as Gainesville for thousands of years, it was transformed by the arrival of European colonisers in the 16th century. This began with Spanish conquistadors, who brought with them new diseases that took the lives of much of the existing population. Many of those who survived were forced to convert to Catholicism and enslaved, a practice that continued under the control of various incoming groups for hundreds of years. It was upon such violence that the modern Gainesville was formed, and that history of oppression should always be remembered.


Today, Gainesville culture owes a lot to its students, who can find an array of entertainment across the city. Multiple large-scale arts events take place each year, including the popular Downtown Festival, and this reflects a longstanding commitment to culture in general. Clearly, that has had an impact – Tom Petty, Stephen Stills and the Eagles are just some of the legendary musical acts with local roots.


Sport in the city, meanwhile, has an academic flavour. The University of Florida's Gators team competes across a wide range of sports at the highest level of America's college system. For a true taste of university culture, you could watch them play American football alongside 90,000 others at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.


Aerial view of an empty Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, with various buildings and many more tall green trees nearby


Want to know what else you can do while studying in Gainesville? Take a look across the country at the must-do things for international students in the US.


What universities are in Gainesville?

Gainesville is heavily shaped by the University of Florida, which is considered by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings to be one of the top 50 universities in America. It is also one of the largest universities in the country, with an international student population of more than 6,000.



Additionally, Gainesville is home to Santa Fe College. Although this is a less well known university, it still has a significant presence in the city. Almost 14,000 students attend it, following in the footsteps of former prospective presidential candidate Marco Rubio.


Of course, the colleges in Gainesville are not your only option for studying in America. Discover the top universities in the USA with our guide.


What does Gainesville offer students?

What is transport like in Gainesville?

Students in Gainesville are well served by public transport. Many use the Gainesville Regional Transit System, a bus service that connects the University of Florida and Santa Fe College with the rest of the city via ten different routes to their campuses. A single journey will cost you USD 1.50, although you can ride all day for USD 3. Additionally, discounted passes are available to some students, costing USD 17.50 for a month, and USD 60 for a full semester.


Outside of Gainesville, transport options vary. For an overview of what is available, read our guide to public transport in the US.


What are the entertainment and food like in Gainesville?

With so many students around, the entertainment in Gainesville has to be of a good standard. Indeed, you could have a whole day of fun in an area known as the Cultural Plaza, run by the University of Florida. There, you will find three great places to visit: the Harn Museum of Art, the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and the Florida Museum of Natural History. Whether you want to take in top exhibits or simply see a show, the Plaza will always be one of the first places to go.


Exterior of the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida in Gainesville, with a large, silver spiral sculpture on a small lawn


Elsewhere, you can satisfy your hunger and delight all of your senses at 4th Ave Food Park. Enjoy the creations of a wide range of street food vendors in its comfortable setting and you may also hear some great live music. All in all, it is one of the best places for delicious food in Gainesville.


Has that increased your appetite? Then you're looking at the right country. Learn all about what it can serve you up with our introduction to food and drink in America.


What is the accommodation like in Gainesville?

Your experience of student accommodation in Gainesville will depend on which of its universities you attend.


The University of Florida offers a variety of on- and off-campus accommodation to suit all needs and preferences. Whether you are an undergraduate, postgraduate, bringing family or have access requirements, they will have options to suit you, enabling you to feel as close to the college community as you desire.


Santa Fe College, meanwhile, does not have its own student accommodation. Gainesville is a city geared towards students, however, so privately rented housing is always an option. Wherever you study, there is a good chance that you will find somewhere suitable to stay within reach of your campus.


For more advice on making sure you find a great place to live while studying in Gainesville, try our top tips for getting the best accommodation.


How much does it cost to live in Gainesville for international students?

Both the University of Florida and Santa Fe College provide itemised estimates of the annual budget required by their international students. Although there are big differences between the two on the matter of tuition fees (course costs at the University of Florida are around three times higher than at Santa Fe), your budget outside of that should generally be between USD 16,000 and 21,000 per year.


If you're considering looking beyond our Gainesville student guide and towards the rest of the country, read our advice on how much it costs to study in the USA.


What are the main attractions in Gainesville?

In addition to the entertainment offerings of the Cultural Plaza and the range of sports at the University of Florida, Gainesville can provide you with a lot to see and do. In particular, it has much for lovers of nature. Around the city you can enjoy:

  • Butterfly Rainforest Located within the Florida Museum of Natural History, this tropical paradise is home to a diversity of beautiful flora and fauna, including the butterflies that give it its name.
  • Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park This vast savannah has a fascinating history, and is today home to a wide range of animals including alligators and bison. Don't worry, though you will be safe while enjoying what it has to offer visitors, including an information centre and a range of outdoor activities.


A man and a woman on a boardwalk over marsh on the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park Watershed trail hiking path in Gainesville


  • University of Florida Bat Houses Also associated with the Florida Museum of Natural History, these specially built structures are the world's largest of their kind, housing around 500,000 bats. Visit just before sunset, and you can watch them emerge.


Additionally, Gainesville's location in northern Florida means that you are not too far away from some of the state's other popular destinations. For an introduction to its most famous southern city, read our student guide to Miami.


Has our Gainesville student guide influenced your university choices? For some more help in making decisions, try our course matcher tool.

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