If you’ve landed a place to study in Bristol, congratulations – you’re in for a brilliant three years. With all-round friendly vibes and a particularly buzzing student community, unbeatable nightlife, cracking culture and a renowned foodie scene, we’re certain you’ll love your soon-to-be second home.

Alongside making new friends and settling into uni life, get stuck into ticking things off our student bucket list. It’s a bumper list of things to do for students in Bristol, to help you experience the best of the best that our city has to offer. Complete them all and you'll know Bristol inside-out!

Attractions | Food & drink | Music & nightlife | Festivals | Outdoors | Shopping 

Attractions

Street art

Bristol is a renowned centre for street art and you’ll stumble across plenty of it during your time in the city. Join a street art tour to see some of the highlights, or take yourself on self-guided walks on the trail of Banksy pieces or Upfest murals.  

Where The Wall street art walking tour

Image credit: Paul Box 

A day of culture at the museums

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to museums in Bristol. Brush up on your local knowledge at M Shed; admire world-class collections of art, archaeology, geology and natural history at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery; have a peek at historic houses thanks to The Georgian House Museum and The Red Lodge Museum.  

Get inquisitive at We The Curious, a state-of-the-art science centre, retrace Bristol’s incredible aerospace achievements at Aerospace Bristol, not far from UWE’s Frenchay campus, or step aboard Brunel's SS Great Britain, which was rescued from wreckage in 1970 and returned to its home city.

A stone’s throw from the UWE Glenside campus, Glenside Hospital Museum explores the treatment of mental health, covering the 1860s right up until the late 20th century.

View of SS Great Britain and Bristol Harbour

Image credit: Brunel's SS Great Britain 

Meet the local wildlife

From gorillas to flamingos, encounter 400 species of animals at Bristol Zoo Gardens, the world’s fifth oldest zoo. Sister attraction the Wild Place Project has habitat-themed areas of parkland filled with wildlife, including the new Bear Wood exhibit. Or get a feel for life under the sea at Bristol Aquarium, with its amazing array of aquatic animals including rays, seahorses, terrapins, piranhas and more.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Walk across the bridge Bristol is famous for, pop into the Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre to discover everything about its history and then sit with a pint on The White Lion Bar's terrace for a spectacular view.

Go on a boat trip

A boat trip is one of the best ways to see Bristol, with groups like Bristol Packet Boat Trips offering themed tours. Make the most of the ferry services by Bristol Ferry Boats and Number Seven Boat Trips that can whizz you from A to B on the floating harbour too.

Spend a night at the theatre

West End productions, classic and contemporary plays, improv, emerging and established talent – it can all be found in Bristol’s theatres. Pick up tickets to performances at Bristol Old Vic, The Bristol Hippodrome, Tobacco Factory Theatres, Redgrave Theatre and more, many of which offer concessionary prices for students. There are even cutting-edge immersive experiences to be had at Limina, the UK’s first dedicated virtual reality theatre. 

Ride Bristol Insight’s open top bus

If you’re planning to hit a handful of the big attractions in one day, riding the hop-on hop-off Bristol Insight bus is a great way to get between them. It’s an experience in itself with a commentary en route and unbeatable views from the top deck. 

Garden tour at University of Bristol Botanic Garden

These beautiful gardens are crammed with 4500 plant species from over 200 plant families – a little flower-filled oasis near Clifton Downs. 

The tropical pool at University of Bristol Botanic Gardens

Image credit: University of Bristol Botanic Garden

Climb up Wills Memorial Building

As well as amazing views from Wills Tower, which stands 68 metres high above Park Street, a tour of this iconic University of Bristol building gives you access to the Great Hall, Council Chamber and libraries.

Escape rooms

Test your new uni friendships by attempting to figure your way out of an escape room together! Locked in a Room, Puzzlair, City Mazes, Hell in a Cell and Bristol Escape Rooms are a handful of those scattered across the city.  

Food and drink

Classy cocktails in a speakeasy

Semi-hidden behind mysterious doorways, search out Bristol's speakeasies for a taste of the Prohibition era. You've got the Milk Thistle and sister bar Hyde & Co, The Bootlegger on Cheltenham Road, Her Majesty’s Secret Service on Whiteladies Road and Red Light on Unity Street. 

£5 lunch at Three Brothers Burgers

Based on a boat on Welsh Back, conveniently close to the Unite Student halls in this part of town, tuck into Three Brothers Burgers’ lunchtime deal of a classic burger or veggie option with fries for only £5.

Close-up of a burger from Three Brothers Burger

Image credit: Three Brothers Burgers 

Award-winning pies from Pieminister

Bristol is where it all started for Pieminister and today you can have a taste of their pies at three locations in the city – St Nicholas Market, Broad Quay and Stokes Croft.

Frozen cocktails at Brozen Bar

A unique bar on the Bristol scene, try your first ever cocktail made with liquid nitrogen at Brozen. 

Gelato from Swoon

Keeping on the ice cold theme, gelato from Swoon is the perfect treat to enjoy on College Green on a hot day. The brains behind their flavour lab keep the freezer stocked with flavours like mango sorbetti, salted caramel and guest flavours picked according to seasonality.

Gelato at Swoon Bristol

Image credit: Swoon 

Hangover-curing brunch

Feeling worse for wear during Freshers’ Week? Hit up Bristol's best brunch spots for a plateful of something to perk you up.

Sample local beers at Bristol’s brewery tap rooms

Bristol has a first-class beer scene with a selection of brewery tap rooms ready to keep your glass full, rounded up for you here.

All the snacks at St Nick's Market

Plan in some return visits to St Nick’s Market, as once is never enough! A mix of permanent vendors in the Glass Arcade and street food traders in the weekly markets cover pretty much every cuisine you can think of. There’s also a brilliant mix of independent retailers selling everything from handcrafted jewellery to chocolate and records.  

Cargo at Wapping Wharf

Another spot where you’re spoilt for foodie choice is Cargo at Wapping Wharf. Pick between the independent restaurants that have taken over the repurposed shipping containers, such as Cargo Cantina, GambasWoky Ko: CARGO and Woky Ko: Kaiju.

Inside Woky Ko: CARGO Wapping Wharf

Image credit: Woky Ko: CARGO 

The Weird Bristol Pub Crawl

For a change from the usual pub crawls along Gloucester Road or Park Street, follow this route outlined by Weird Bristol aficionado Charlie Revelle-Smith. Stop in at some of Bristol's most historic watering holes uncovering the fascinating tales tied to them, which range from playing a part in the abolitionist movement to being the local of infamous pirate Blackbeard. 

Drink cider on The Apple

Enjoy some proper West Country refreshments aboard the cider boat or on their sunny quayside terrace. Sample their famous Old Bristolian – at 8.4% it’s available in half pints only!

Mrs Potts Chocolate House

Treat your sweet tooth to a chocolate-flavoured feast at Mrs Potts Chocolate House on Park Street, where hearty portions and the finest local ingredients are always on the menu. 

Chance & Counters

Get competitive over some delicious small plates, nibbles and ‘bready meals’ at this board game café on Christmas Steps. There are over 850 games to choose from, plus fortnightly social gaming events, which are great for meeting new people.

The flower wall at The Florist

As well as their cocktails inspired by floristry, visit The Florist on Park Street to have your photo taken in front of the Insta-worthy flower wall. 

£5 cocktails at The Lost and Found

The Lost and Found on Queen's Road is a 'Victorian hideaway' serving cocktails with character. Head there for Happy Hour (5-8pm Monday to Friday) and pay just £5 per drink. 

Have an Exhibition cider at The Cori Tap

The Coronation Tap is a Bristol institution best known for its Exhibition cider. It’s a must-try but go easy – at a potent 8.4%, it’s served in half pints only!   

Music and nightlife

Student nights

No matter what day of the week it is, you’ll easily find a student night running in Bristol, spanning from indie club nights to the cheesiest of pop. Our guide to Bristol’s student nightlife runs you through all the need-to-know clubs and bars and what’s on at each.

Live music

The Bristol calendar is chock-a-block with gigs and concerts. Choose from well-known acts at the O2 Academy, free live music and open mic nights at The Gallimaufry and everything in between. Keep an eye on our What's On pages and Headfirst Bristol for upcoming events you might like.  

DJ and crowd at O2 Academy Bristol

Image credit: O2 Academy Bristol 

Explore the LGBTQ+ scene

Bristol has two gay districts – Frogmore Street and Old Market – with plenty of pubs and bars, plus there are regular LGBTQ+ club nights across the city and the annual two-week long Bristol Pride celebrations.

Festivals

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta

The mass ascents at the annual hot air balloon festival at Ashton Court Estate provide some of the most spectacular sights you can get in Bristol, as do the magical Night Glows when balloons light up the sky in time to music.

Bristol Harbour Festival

Every July this free festival takes over the city, celebrating Bristol’s maritime heritage and putting on an epic line-up of music, dance, circus, food and much more.

St Pauls Carnival

Watch the iconic carnival procession dance its way through town, wander between the music stages and soundsystems, and fill up on authentic Caribbean food at this one-day celebration of African Caribbean culture in Bristol.

Woman in carnival costume dancing at St Pauls Carnival

Image credit: Bhagesh Sachania

Love Saves The Day

A line-up that showcases both underground artists and chart-toppers makes Love Saves The Day in Eastville Park one of the summer’s most popular festivals. Taking place over the bank holiday weekend in May, it’s a great way to celebrate the end of the uni year.

Tokyo World

Tokyo World in September can be the first festival of your university year. Also in Eastville Park, this year’s festival is headlined by Craig David and De La Soul, with a huge range of other acts spanning genres such as jungle and drum and bass.

Film festivals

Bristol is a UNESCO City of Film and that’s reflected in the stellar line-up of film festivals, including Cinema Rediscovered and Encounters Film Festival. Check out our round up of the top ones for the full lowdown.

Outdoors

Ride The Wave

Coming soon to Bristol is this new cutting-edge inland surfing lake, where the waves will cater to every surfer, whether you’re a complete novice or a professional.

Surfer riding wave at surf lake

Image credit: The Wave

Explore the city by bike

With bike-friendly roads and heaps of cycle paths, hopping on your bike is one of the best ways to get around Bristol. Even if you don’t have yours at uni, a choice of bike hire shops such as Bristol Tandem Hire and Webbs Cycle Shop can get you on two wheels.

Watch a sports match

Join the local fans to cheer on Bristol Bears rugby team and Bristol City FC at Ashton Gate Stadium, or if cricket is more up your street then watch Gloucestershire Cricket play at their home ground just round the corner from the independent shops, pubs and restaurants of Gloucester Road.

Watersports on the harbour

Team up with course mates or housemates for a group paddleboard adventure led by SUP Bristol, or hire a canoe from Adventurous Activity Company.

Rock climbing in the Avon Gorge

One of the more adrenaline-fuelled ways to enjoy the Avon Gorge views! If you’re a beginner, you can learn the ropes with one of Bristol’s climbing clubs or at one of the indoor facilities first.

Enter the Giant’s Cave

Don’t fancy climbing in the gorge? You can still stand on its edge, as the Giant’s Cave at Clifton Observatory leads you out on to a spectacular viewing platform. While you’re here, take yourself for a ride down the Clifton Rock Slide, a section of sloping rock face that’s been left smooth and polished by the behinds of generations of Bristolians.

Spend time in the city’s parks

Bristol is blessed with beautiful green spaces that people flock to on sunny days, including four parks in the city centre – Brandon Hill, Queen Square, Castle Park and Clifton Downs.

These are really just the tip of the iceberg though, with all manner of parks and gardens squeezed into different corners of the city. Discover new ones as well as different neighbourhoods and nearby countryside by following our walking routes around the city.

Shopping

Shop for vintage and second hand gems

There are a host of vintage and charity shops dotted around the city, but Gloucester Road and Park Street are your best bets for a second hand shopping spree. In Broadmead, sift through clothes dating from the 60s to the 00s at Beyond Retro, handpicked by their team of trend and vintage experts.

Look out for kilo sales too, which regularly take place both on university campuses and elsewhere in Bristol. Vintage Vera are hosting sales in time for the new uni term, at UOB on 26 September and UWE on 27 September.

Clothes on display at Beyond Retro Bristol

Image credit: Beyond Retro

Find high street favourites in Cabot Circus

Have a day of retail therapy shopping from brands like H&M, Monki, Zara, Harvey Nichols, The Body Shop and more under Cabot Circus’ huge roof. Coming up on 1 October is the shopping centre's next Student Sessions, an annual event where you can claim amazing discounts with your student card as well as enjoy freebies, DJs and prizes. 

Christmas markets

Search for the perfect Christmas gifts and warm up with mulled wine at Bristol’s Christmas market, which this year will fill the streets of Bristol Shopping Quarter between 8 November and 23 December. Bath is renowned for its magical Christmas market, so the festive season is also a great time to go day tripping there - it's only a 12-minute journey between the cities by train. 

Follow @VisitBristol on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up with all things Bristol throughout the year.  

More things to do for students in Bristol:

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