BIMM Cities / Freshers Guides

A Freshers Guide to Bristol

9th August 2023

Say hello to Bristol! This West Country city has a fiercely independent spirit and is alive with inspiration and culture. A place where music and art come together to form a diverse creative community – and it’s waiting for you to become a part of it.

Bristol was the first British city to be named European Green Capital and is often hailed as one of the best places to live in the country. The atmosphere and friendly locals are a big part of that –you’ll feel right at home here.

The City of Bristol

If you’re after an exciting city with lots to offer, you can’t go wrong with living in Bristol. There’s an immense variety of clubs, bars, pubs, independent cafes, and restaurants with many different cuisines to try.

There’s also a wide range of legendary Bristol music venues everywhere – we’re talking dive bars, swanky concert halls, and everything in between, including Theatre Royal, the oldest continually operating theatre in the UK.

Colourful houses in Bristol, UK

Bristol Nightlife

There are some very iconic venues in Bristol. The Louisiana, known to locals as The Loui, was built in 1809 and has seen some incredible acts perform there in their infancy. Artists like Placebo, The Chemical Brothers and Florence and the Machine have all graced the stage. You’ll want to visit Thekla as well – spoiler alert: it’s on a boat. If you like your music metallic, The Gryphon is your classic real ale and heavy metal pub, hosting regular live music gigs upstairs.

There is a big dance music scene in Bristol. It’s vast and ever-expanding. You’ll find many student nights across all different clubs, bars, and pubs. Some famous clubs are Bunker, The Lanes and Motion for the more seasoned clubber.

The O2 Academy also hosts club nights, including Ramshackle, a weekly rave for the student masses. Propaganda is held at The Fleece and is regarded as the UK’s biggest student night, with sets from guest DJs such as Huw Stephens and James Buckley (Jay from The Inbetweeners).

If you prefer something less intense, Mr Wolf’s is an excellent student bar. They serve up noodles until late in the evening and play reggae, dancehall, soul, rock ‘n’ roll, funk and, occasionally, a sprinkling of disco. They also put on live music and hold weekly open mic nights.

Bristol festivals are growing. Check out Love Saves the Day, Bristol Harbour Festival and 2000Trees in the neighbouring town of Cheltenham. Of course, you’ll have the chance to get involved with some of our festival partnerships too.

The Food and Drink

There’s certainly no shortage of fantastic restaurants and cafes in Bristol. If you’re looking for a good starting point, head to Wapping Wharf near the Harbourside for an eclectic range of food joints housed in old shipping containers. Chilly Daddy, Caribbean Croft and Cafe Cuba are also must-visits in the centre.

St Nick’s Market has no shortage of food spots. You simply must have a naan wrap from Matina. They’re amazing! Coffee nerds head to Full Court Press for a pour-over or go to The Canteen, where you can eat, drink, watch live music and play table tennis in their roomy beer garden.

If you’re looking for pizza, go to L’Osteria, known for its giant pizzas. If you want Korean food, Tuk Tuck is the one. Or, if it’s vegan junk food you desire, Oowee will satisfy you.

There are so many hidden gems around Bristol, so explore the city and try new and different cuisines—no doubt there’s something for everyone. 

Graffiti over a diner, reading 'Welcome to Bristol'

The Shopping

Bristol is a popular shopping destination as it is the only major city in this part of the South West. People flock from all over North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, and Wiltshire to visit Bristol’s many shops and boutiques.

The town centre is home to Broadmead. Here you can find loads of shops, independent and high street. You will discover Cabot Circus and The Galleries, both indoor shopping centres at either end of Broadmead. Cabot Circus boasts a collection of modern and high-end retailers, including Vans, Urban Outfitters and Footlocker. There are also several restaurants, a cinema, indoor crazy golf, and other entertainment outlets.

If you venture out of the centre, you can visit Park Street or Gloucester Road. These are home to more independent boutiques and charity shops. Gloucester Road, in particular, has been famed for its self-sustaining nature and anti-corporate attitude. 

There are lots of music retailers, including Wanted Records, Rough Trade and Shall Not Fade. If you’re after music gear, you can also check out Hobgoblin, Mickleburghs, Music Room, PMT and Rikaxxe.

The Outdoors

You’re never far from greenery in Bristol, meaning it’s the perfect city for BBQ spots and sunshine beers. Hop on a bus, and you may find yourself near Clifton Downs. Clifton Village itself is a great place to visit on a sunny day, as you can sit in the shadow of Clifton Suspension Bridge and enjoy a drink at the White Lion.

Opposite Clifton is Leigh Woods – a charming patch of woodland. The famous Bristol Harbour is perfect for taking a stroll along the river. If adventure is calling and you fancy going further afield, Cheddar Gorge, Blaise Castle, the Mendip Hills and many other beautiful spots are nearby. There are plenty of other picturesque towns and cities to explore, such as Bath and Gloucester.

Special mentions also go to Ashton Court Estate, Brandon Hill Nature Park, Portishead Lake Grounds, College Green and Castle Park

You can find out more about what life in Bristol is like here.


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