Bristol attracts students from all over Britain and across the globe. With its beautiful architecture, vibrant city centre and a harbour which is a thriving focus for leisure and the arts, it’s not hard to see why so many students choose to study in Bristol.
Home to two world-class universities, University of Bristol and the University of the West of England, Bristol is the region’s leading centre for business, culture and education. The two universities offer high quality teaching and excellent research facilities to prepare students for life in the working world.
Students always say how much they love the city of Bristol – from its friendly people and fantastic music scene to its vibrant harbourside, green spaces and buzzing centre.
Best of all, Bristol is the perfect size, offering all the excitement of a big city packed into an area you can easily explore on foot or by bike.
Out and about
The city centre
A short walk down Park Street brings you to College Green, Bristol Cathedral, and the Centre. Broadmead and Cabot Circus offer a comprehensive shopping experience, and the Bristol Hippodrome presents touring productions of West End hits.
One of the oldest streets in Bristol, Corn Street is dominated by an 18th-century building called the Exchange. Always a centre for the city’s traders, the Exchange now houses St Nicholas Market, a large community of independent shops named by the Guardian as one of the ten best markets in the UK. Outside are four 17th-century tables called the Nails, on which merchants used to transact their business (and giving rise to the expression ‘cash on the nail’). Corn Street is also the location of Bristol Farmers’ Market, the Nails Market, and the Slow Food Market.
Across the road from the Wills Memorial Building is Park Street, which boasts a range of shops, cafés, clubs, bars and restaurants, as well as music venues such as the Bristol Folk House and St George’s
Chock-full of Georgian architecture, rambling lanes and green spaces, Clifton Village is a short walk from the Students’ Union. Goldney House, Manor Hall and several other student residences are close by, and the many bars and restaurants include the Avon Gorge Hotel’s White Lion Bar, with spectacular views of the Suspension Bridge and the Gorge.
Bristol’s independent spirit is at its fiercest in this area of the city, an alternative hub of music, street art, and community action. Homegrown shops and cafés sit alongside small music venues and art galleries. This is where you’ll find Banksy’s mural ‘The Mild, Mild West’, voted Alternative Landmark of Bristol.
The Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity (to give it its full name), founded in 1140, sits by College Green at the bottom of Park Street. It was constructed over a period of 700 years and has many unusual architectural features, including some unique vaulting and a rose window above the central doorway.
Bars, cafés, museums and footpaths line the Harbourside in Bristol’s city centre, which is a magnet for late-night revellers. On the river itself are floating restaurants, water taxis, and an abundance of smaller craft.
One of the centrepieces of the redeveloped Harbourside, Millennium Square forms part of the At-Bristol complex but stands on its own as an attractive public space. Several pieces of public art grace this piazza, including several large water sculptures and statues of Bristol legends such as Cary Grant and William Tyndale. Dominating the space is the At-Bristol Planetarium, a giant mirrored sphere. The large plasma screen often shows sporting events and live arts performances – for example, from the Royal Opera House.
Bristol’s live music venues host every genre of music imaginable. Colston Hall has everything from symphony orchestras to solo singer-songwriters; the Fleece, the Thekla and the O2 Academy specialise in indie and alt rock acts; the Folk House and St Bonaventure focus on traditional folk and roots music; and St George’s offers an eclectic mix of classical, jazz, pop, folk, world music and everything in between.
To say that clubbers are spoiled for choice in Bristol would be putting it mildly. Close to the University precinct is the Bunker, open six nights a week and almost always packed to the rafters. Closer to the city centre is Motion, something of a legend on the underground scene and responsible for an autumn-long season of live music and DJ sets.
Whatever your musical bag, Bristol has a venue for it. Some, like the Bristol Folk House or the Old Duke jazz pub, specialise in particular genres; others cover the whole spectrum. Foremost among the latter is Colston Hall, which since 1867 has hosted the likes of Sergei Rachmaninov, Paul Robeson, Duke Ellington, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and Portishead.
Bristol’s eateries are as diverse and international as its inhabitants: the city’s neighbourhoods often spring surprises on you in the form of funky little outposts of world cuisine. Fancy trying Greek, Polish, Nepalese, West African, Lebanese…? Close to the University are a gamut of restaurants, including famous names such as Jamie Oliver’s Italian, Wagamama, Ask, and Pizza Express.
Caffeine – the student’s friend – is in plentiful supply all over Bristol, with hotspots clustered around the University precinct. You’ve got your tried-and-trusted international chains, of course, and regional outlets like the Boston Tea Party, but there are also smaller-scale, more local affairs that fly the flag of independence: Café Sazz in Bedminster, Café Kino in Stokes Croft, and dozens of others.
The Bristol Old Vic is the oldest and best-known of the local theatres, but it has some serious competition in the form of the Tobacco Factory, which has mounted a series of critically acclaimed Shakespeare productions and brings high-quality, independent touring companies to Bristol with new and often unusual shows. Open-air productions have become a feature of the summers – plenty of Shakespeare, but also street theatre and productions drawing on local history.
From the Royal West of England Academy (RWA), Spike Island and Arnolfini to numerous smaller galleries, Bristol has a thriving art scene. A major feature is the element of surprise: Banksy’s unannounced exhibition at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery made world headlines, and temporary galleries have a habit of springing up overnight in disused shop spaces,
Bristol has several major museums, from traditional Victorian (Bristol Museum and Art Gallery) to 21st-century interactive (M Shed, the At-Bristol science centre, and the award-winning SS Great Britain). On a smaller scale are Blaise Castle House Museum, the Red Lodge, and the Georgian House – three historic houses where the past comes to life.