So you’ve decided to head to Bristol aka one of the best cities in the country (we’re not biased, honestly). It’s a city of great food, brilliant bars and excellent live music plus there's a variety of weird and wonderful events to enjoy, like a street art and graffiti festival and the largest air balloon fiesta in the world: all of which make this the perfect city for study and play.
Recently, it has been found that Bristol is the 4th most expensive place in the world to be a student - but have no fear! We’ve put together a student guide which will help you to navigate your way around; we've included the best things to see, the most delicious places to eat and where to go for a great night out - all the while trying to stick to a student budget!
An obvious choice for your first year, the Universities of Bristol have an array of options available to new students located across Bristol, all situated in places that are convenient for your campus.
Take a look at the below websites for further details on University Halls options:
Private Accommodation Options
You may decide that university accommodation isn't for you and, if this is the case, there are plenty of options available to you. The main student areas to live in are central Bristol or around Clifton, Bedminster, Fishponds or Gloucester Road. Take a look online at the listings on Gumtree or Spareroom.co.uk; with these sites, you can talk and meet with potential future housemates before diving in. Or, try one of the local estate agents from the below list:
The National Union of Students (NUS) has put together a great checklist to run through when house hunting.
Kitting out your new student digs? Obviously, you’ll want to show off your impeccable taste but not break the bank when it comes to furnishing your room.
Bristol has an IKEA (hallelujah) where you can pick up everything from rugs to kitchenware and maybe even treat yourself to some classic IKEA meatballs in their restaurant. Now, like all IKEAs, actually getting there can be a bit of a pain without a set of wheels, but there is a bus that will take you there, although you'll need to consider how much stuff you'll be bringing on board.
Other great shops for cheap homeware include supermarkets, Primark and TK Maxx. Also, make sure to scout out your local Wilkos, where you'll find a great range of homeware at brilliant price points. From a dinner set for a fiver to a duvet for six quid, you can find all those homely essentials without forking out.
Local charity shops are also worth a look as you can pick up 'pre-loved' items large and small for next to nothing, all whilst helping a good cause. Also, remember to take a look at apps like Preloved and Vinted to pick up a selection of second-hand items from across the South West.
Bristol is a brilliantly sized city, and as a student it’s possible to pick up accommodation that is both centrally located and affordable. Although quite hilly, you can easily make your way around Bristol on foot.
If you end up living further out - such as the UWE campus or private accommodation - there are quite a few local transport options, including a couple of bus providers and trains. Also, if you’re going to visit your pals at other unis or just fancy popping home to check in with the 'rents and get a good meal in you, we’ve rounded up the best travel options below.
First Bus is the largest bus group in Bristol and the South West. Pick up one of their Young Person’s photo ID card for £10 and you can receive 30% off singles, day tickets and season tickets.
Wessex buses provide specific buses to Bristol, UWE and Bath campuses. Day tickets start from around £2.50 or it may work out cheaper for you to pick up a month or year pass.
A cheap way of getting around the city, not to mention a great way to get you moving, cycling is big in Bristol. Cycling is both a fantastic way to see the city and it also helps to keep you active.
If you are keen to pick up a bike, there are plenty of second-hand bike shops located around the city, which can help save you a few pounds, both on the bike itself and in the long run. Give some of the below a try:
If you aren’t sure if you want to invest in a bike straight away, Better By Bike has a Loan a Bike scheme which allows you to borrow a bike for around a month along with all the accessories that you need to get started.
Remember to pick up all the safety gear such as a helmet and lights as well as something to secure your bike such as a bike lock to ensure your ride is safe and successful!
Whether it’s home from a night out when the buses aren’t running, or running late for a hand-in, there are some great local taxi companies that don’t charge through the nose. Plus, if you get a group together to pre-book a taxi it can sometimes work out just as cheap, if not cheaper, than a bus.
Give one of these local firms a go:
If you don’t need to prebook, ordering an Uber is a great option. It's a really cheap way of travelling by cab and, if you haven’t ubered before, you can pick up great offers to save money on first cab rides plus save further when you share with your friends!
Take a look at Uber's latest offers.
Having your own set of wheels is great, but be warned, city centre parking is pretty costly, and navigating your way around the centre’s roads can also be a bit of a nightmare.
Cabot Circus car park offers an evening tariff of just £3 between 5pm and 7am the next day - great if you are going for a late shop, for dinner or to the cinema.
Whether you’re going to visit mates or heading back home, Megabus is by far the cheapest method of transport. With routes to various major cities and tickets from £3 (with a 50p booking fee), it is well worth checking out the site before booking pricier travel arrangements.
A more upmarket Megabus, National Express coaches are still a pretty affordable way to travel. Leaving from Bristol bus station, you can travel all over the UK with one-way tickets starting from just a fiver.
There are two mainline railway stations in Bristol: Temple Meads, which is located a short walk from the centre, and Parkway which is located on the northern outskirts of the city.
To save money on your train travels, pick up a 16-25 railcard which can save you a third on most standard class tickets. A railcard will set you back £30 but you can easily make this back with just a few trips. Also, make sure you book in advance to get the biggest savings on your next trip.
In recent years, the food scene in Bristol has really come into its own. With a consistent array of restaurants opening, if you’re a bit of a foodie, you really will be spoiled for choice in Bristol.
From quick streetfood-esque places to Michelin star gourmet - Bristol really does have it all. We’ve hunted out our favourite restaurants, of various cuisines, that won’t break the bank.
Make sure you download the Shopmium App - with this app to hand you can find some great local deals on food. By scanning your receipts, you can get discounted or even free (!) Cadbury's chocolate and Pringles!
Love a burger? So do we! Head on down to Three Brothers Burgers on the Welsh Back (next to The Apple at the end of King Street) for fries and a burger for a fiver. (Image by @3brosburgers, from Instagram)
Tuk Tuck is a relatively new addition to Bristol, opening in early 2016, offering super affordable and delicious Asian street food. A meal at Tuk Tuck will set you back around £6.
The Korean-style bibimbap bowls are delicious, filling and full of veg and we thoroughly recommend their kimchi fries. What’s more, it’s BYOB.
One of the best steak restaurants in Bristol, this one is a little hard to find. Located under the Commercial Rooms on Corn St you can pick up the best steak you’ll ever have, with chips, a sauce and a glass of wine for £19 (between 5-7pm all week).
This is definitely a unique restaurant to impress your mates with. A venture by Korean chef Hwi Shim, also known as Wizzy, who has previously worked at the fancy Michelin-starred Nobu in London, serves up organic, local and seasonal Bentos and dinner. The Bentos will set you back an amazing £3 and the evening set menu is £12.50. (Image by @sky_kong_kong, from Instagram)
Check Sky Kong Kong’s Twitter to see what is on the menu for this evening.
Stokes Croft/Gloucester Road
Not only is the Canteen a place that is good for your wallet, with main meals costing between £5 - £10, but also on your conscience as Canteen's menu has sustainability in mind. Offering a great range of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, the Canteen is well worth a visit.
This Lebanese restaurant and takeaway is a Bristol institution. Pick up cheap and healthy wraps or mezze that are super tasty. It’s also open until 2am on a Friday and Saturday night, so you can pick something up on the way home from a few drinks out. (Image by @zosianowak, from Instagram)
The name might give this one away, but freshly baked pizzas are on the menu here. Pick up a classic, or why not try one of their streetfood-inspired Boccas, a hybrid pizza-sandwich, or Piadinas, a filled soft flatbread.
If you love Indian food, this one will hit the spot. A 10-minute walk from the centre, near ASDA Bedminster, this is an unsuspecting restaurant which serves up delicious dishes that are leagues above a takeaway. Make sure to ask the helpful waiters for advice on what to choose; they will guide you towards a traditional dish that is perfect for you.
A great little spot for drinks and dinner. The Old Book Shop regularly host pop-up kitchens with previous cuisines ranging from Caribbean to American Diner. They also do a cracking roast on a Sunday.
We do love a pizza here at vouchercloud, and Bosco’s pizzas are second to none. Wonderful wood-fired and handmade pizzas will set you back between £10 and £12. Order one to share, along with a few of their side plates - we thoroughly recommend the hot Italian sausage with fennel & chilli. (Image by @boscopizzeria, from Instagram)
For a great brunch, or equally great lunch, head on down to the Mockingbird Cafe on Alma Road for “tastes of the US south”. This place is a little gem and has recently ventured out into hosting pop-up nights in the evening, such a recent success with Kaedama serving up authentic Ramen.
Cowshed, on Whiteladies Road, opened alongside its supplier Ruby & White butchers. Offering up tasty British dishes from delectable steaks to delicious fish dishes.
Make sure to try out the Earlybird deal which consists of either a 200g steak or a burger with chips alongside a glass of wine or larger - all for £12.50!
One way to really rack up money on a food shop is popping into your local Tesco Express or Sainsbury’s local on a daily basis. Try to plan your food shop in advance and make big batches which you can freeze and then reheat at a later date. We've also got bags of tips in our free food guide.
Greengrocers and Butchers
A great way of saving money and reducing waste is to head to your local greengrocers and butchers. Here, you can buy exactly the amount you need for your week's meals. You can also pick up flavoursome herbs in one of the zero waste shops dotted around the city, like Harvest and Better Food.
These German chains are well worth hunting out. The great value and quality products on their shelves range from fresh vegetables and fruit to meat and alcohol, and you can even pick up some interesting buys from their middle aisle baskets - £3 shoes anyone?
If you do your weekly shop here you’ll probably even get change from £20 quid.
You can pick up some great deals at local markets, Bristol Council’s website has a list of all the local markets around so take a look and see if there is one near you.
If you like to whip up a sweet stir fry or a powerful curry, there are a handful of oriental supermarkets around the centre, such as Wah Yan Hong. You can also find a few a bit further afield in Bedminster and on Gloucester Road.
Picking up oriental ingredients in one of the larger supermarkets can definitely be quite expensive. Take a trip to your local oriental supermarket to stock up on spices, sauces - even fresh produce.
After some multi-pack tins of baked beans? Maybe a bulk load of loo roll? Online shopping could be the way to go - a large solo shop or a shop with housemates could save you money and effort.
The big chains often have money off first online orders so try them all out to save the most cash. Keep checking our supermarket vouchers for the latest offers!
For those of you looking to be cultural on a budget, Bristol has a variety of destinations that won’t cost you a single penny.
Museums & Art Galleries
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery is located at the top of Park St, close to Bristol Uni’s Wills Memorial building. There are some great static exhibitions, as well as pop-up temporary ones. If you are looking to up your knowledge on Bristol, then get yourself down to M Shed to learn about the city's history and take a peek at the infamous Colston statue toppled during the Black Lives Matter protests.
If you are in the need of some art therapy, Bristol has a fantastic art scene with many free-to-enter galleries that regularly change up their exhibitions. Located in the tranquil surroundings of Bristol Harbourside, the Arnolfini is open Tuesday to Sunday and, once you are done taking in the exhibition, join the rest of Bristol in sitting around the harbour edge with a drink (if the weather's nice).
If you fancy walking a little further, head to Spike Island Bristol's vibrant hub which is dubbed the 'International Centre for the development of contemporary art and design'.
As well as contemporary art, Bristol also has a large street art scene (we are the home of Banksy y’know). Wander up Nelson St to spy some large pieces and also go for a walk around Bedminster to see works from the latest Upfest, Europe’s largest free outdoor street art and graffiti festival.
Bristol has some great green spaces near the city centre, whether you are looking for a place to head for a run or a place to hang out with friends.
Castle Park is just a few minutes walk from Cabot and Broadmead and is a great place to sit for lunch or just lounge around. Come the weekend, if the sun’s out, you’ll find loads of people hanging out in the park having picnics and sunbathing.
If you’re on the other side of town, College Green offers a great picnic hang-out point. Surrounded by Bristol Cathedral and overlooked by the council offices, it is a nice place to hang out and meet your friends.
If you head up Whiteladies Road and out of Clifton you will reach The Downs, 400 acres of greenery which is home to the Downs Festival. Make sure you take an obligatory walk across Bristol’s famous suspension bridge.
Home of the world-renowned Balloon fiesta, Ashton Court is a mansion surrounded by large green spaces and woods. There is even a specially designated BBQ area for you to cook up a storm with your pals.
Tourist Sightseeing Things
This is a unique day out that works well paired with a walk across the suspension bridge. Located just a couple of minutes from the bridge, take a look at the amazing sights from the observatory and at the camera obscura, which was used by artists to draw the surrounding area.
Then, take a trip down into the caves for another really unique view of the river Avon and the suspension bridge
Brunel's SS Great Britain - the world's first ocean liner - is one of the top attractions in the UK according to TripAdvisor. Your ticket allows you entry for the entire year, so if one visit isn't enough you can return to see even more above and below deck aboard this famous ship which has travelled over a million miles at sea.
At some point during your university stay in Bristol, we thoroughly recommend boarding a boat and setting sail up the rivers of Bristol.
The Matthew, which docks up in the Bristol harbour, is a replica of the original Matthew that John Cabot sailed to Newfoundland in 1497. Take a look at the various group trips they have on offer, from fish and chips trips to trips that sail out under the suspension bridge. A great way to spend an afternoon.
You can save money on watching films by signing up to Netflix, NOW or BritBox for the price of a couple of cinema tickets. We know this isn't quite the same as a night out watching the silver screen, so it helps to know that most cinemas offer a student ticket which can make that night out a bit more affordable.
All the large blockbusters and occasionally a smaller indie flick can be seen for just £7.75 at Showcase with their student ticket.
Plus if you register for an Insider card you can pay just £6.50 for admission all day Monday and Tuesday and after 7pm on a Sunday.
Located on Union St, although not quite as nice as the Showcase, you can save a few more pounds with a student ticket at Odeon which costs just £5.10.
For £17.99 a month you can also buy a limitless card which means you can see pretty much all the films, whenever you fancy.
This ‘cultural cinema and digital creativity centre’ located on Bristol Harbourside shows the very latest arthouse films. If you fancy seeing something a bit different you can see an indie flick or subtitled film for a fiver before 4pm with a student ticket (or £6.50 after 4pm).
The cube is a microplex cinema located in a building that has been everything from a girls' school to an illegal gambling den. Watch new indie films or old classics here for under a fiver.
Live Music and Nights Out
Bristol has an amazing live music scene with plenty of venues playing all types of music and located fairly centrally.
The O2 Academy plays host to rather large acts all year round. Make sure to pop in The Hatchet opposite, a rock pub that is the perfect place for a cheap pre-gig drink. Similarly, Bristol Beacon (formerly Colston Hall), just across the road, tends to have larger acts on their stage - it's definitely worth checking out their listings from time to time. Also, be sure to check out Bristol Beacon's more intimate venue, The Lantern, which is located in the oldest part of the venue.
Just a short walk from the centre, The Louisiana is a cosy venue located above a pub. Catch local bands, as well as up-and-coming acts: Kings of Leon, James Bay and Florence and the Machine have all played here on their way to the big time.
The Fleece is a legendary music venue in Bristol and has been showcasing big names in alternative music since 1982. Everyone from Oasis to Every Time I Die have performed on their stage.
Last, but not least, The Marble Factory at Motion is a pretty cool venue. Once a skate park, it now plays host to some great bands and is located behind Temple Meads train station, just a fifteen-minute walk from Bristol city centre.
Bristol ticket shop, located on Union St, is a great place to pick up tickets to gigs whilst supporting a local business.
The last thing you want to do before a big night out is to spend all your money on the pre-drinks. Besides the SU bar, we’ve rounded up the cheapest and best bars and pubs to visit before heading to the main event.
The holy grail of a cheap drink is, of course, Wetherspoons and, luckily for you, central Bristol has two located near to the centre. The top of Park St is home to The Berkley and on Corn St, running right through the centre is The Commercial Rooms. Both are big and roomy and won’t break the bank when it comes to booze.
The centrally located pub, The White Harte used to be a Scream pub and is situated between Park St and Park Row. Sadly the pound-a-pint night is no more, but every Thursday you can pick up a cocktail or craft beer for £3, or share a pitcher for the reasonable sum of £6.
If cocktails are what you are after, Turtle Bay and Aluna both have 2-4-1 cocktail offers which will feed your cocktail addiction, whilst not eating too much into your loan.
Turtle Bay’s 2-4-1 ‘Happy Hour’ is on pretty much all the time - 7 days a week - just not between 7 and 10. Aluna’s 2-4-1 is on throughout the week Sunday-Thursday and cocktails are around £6 so take along some friends and get yourself some really good £3 cocktails!
Moving to Bristol as a student, you will be spoiled for choice with all the nights out on offer. Going out mid-week means you can hit up the student nights and make sure your wallet doesn’t take a battering, although there are a few great nights on at the weekend.
We’ve rounded up the best places to go by music genre and hunted out the best nights that are on offer:
Thekla - Pressure is one to definitely mark in the calendar. Not only are there 2-4-1 drinks all night but the night takes place on a boat - queue renditions of Lonely Island "I'm on a Boat" (ft. T Pain). Definitely a win when showing the sights of Bristol to your new pals or to friends that are visiting from home.
The Lanes - If you are into pop punk, make sure to head down to Fatlip on a Saturday night. Entry is about £3 and live bands perform throughout the night intermixed with big tunes from bands and artists such as Lower Than Atlantis, Taylor Swift, Bring Me the Horizon, Skrillex, Panic! and many more.
The Fleece - A night that was started in Bristol, Propaganda is now known the world over. Every Saturday you can hear all your favourite indie classics, pick up some cheap drinks, and more than likely see some new indie band DJing behind the decks.
Pop & Retro
Popworld - If you are a lover of all things 90s/00s and current, Popworld is where you need to be. Get a sugar rush with one of their 'poptails' and dance the night away to some great nostalgic tunes.
Bootlegger - If you like a retro vibe with your night out this speak-easy is the place to be. Free entry Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, with two for £10 on cocktails is accompanied by live bands and a DJ playing the best swing music around.
This place is super cool and perfect if you are up for a dance.
R&B and Hip-Hop
Mbargo - Find this club located on the triangle, a classic Bristol Uni destination. You will usually find a good mix of chart and R’n’B playing here. If you head down on a Monday for their Cheap Thrills night you can pick up selected pints, shots and single vodka mixers for £1.50 a pop.
D’n’B and Bassline
O2 Academy - Ramshackle on a Friday is a big one in the student diary. Head on down with your new group of uni mates. Make sure to purchase a yo-yo (some WKD concoction) and head to whichever room tickles your fancy. Main room: D’n’B, Bassline, Hip-Hop and Grime. Upstairs: Pop-punk and alt. Downstairs bar: Hip-Hop, R’n’B and Bashment.
Motion - Bristol’s largest club (and skate park) has big nights on all year round. Keep an eye out for their In:Motion series which plays host to a wide selection of the biggest artists and promoters.
Outside of all the big high street brands, Bristol is chock-full of small independent shops, brilliant vintage destinations and also a vast array of charity shops where you can pick up a total bargain.
If you are after your high street favourites such as H&M, River Island, Topshop, Urban Outfitters, Zara, Topman and Pull & Bear you can find them here.
Remember to pull out your student card in-store. Most high street chains do offer a discount, so it’s definitely worth asking!
A selection of more high street brands can be found here, both outside as well as in The Galleries, such as Tk Maxx, Primark, Superdrug, M&S and a smaller H&M too - great if you can’t find what you want in the Cabot store. There are two large pound stores here where you can pick up everything from party supplies to toiletries on the cheap.
St Nicks is conveniently located between Park St and Broadmead. A covered market and glass arcade that houses independent stalls and delicious streetfood-esque food stands. Here you can pick up a wheatgrass shot, browse some vintage records and clothes, take a look at some amazing silver jewellery, or even sample some South African delicacies.
Just outside, on Saturdays and Sundays, throughout Corn St you will find even more independent stalls, and on a Wednesday you can pick up some amazing food from the Farmer’s Market.
An abundance of independent stores line both sides of this pretty steep street. Take a look in BS8 for cool vintage and new clothing, pick up a bargain in one of the charity shops or stock up on some great reads in the £3 book store.
Running from Stokes Croft all the way up to Horfield, Gloucester Road is a prime spot for students. Lined with independent bars, pubs, shops and delis there is a real bohemian vibe here favouring independent shops over larger capitalist stores (Tesco 2011 riot anyone?!).
If you're after something local or vintage then Gloucester Road rules.
Walking up East St, Bedminster can be a little daunting. But if you’re after a bargain there is a Poundland, a Poundstretcher, about five charity shops, as well as two greengrocers and two butchers. It’s a lively street, with a couple of pubs dotted along it and if you keep walking you will eventually get to North St.
North St runs along the edge of Southville which is a bit of a yummy-mummy area. Here, you can find some really nice coffee shops and pubs, great local shops such as Zara's chocolates and Southville Deli - perfect for picking up some foodie gifts - plus three great charity shops where you may find some of the rich families' cast offs!
One of the best pieces of advice to be given to you whilst you’re at uni is to not get too carried away when it comes to partying. Although being away from home does mean you can get away with skipping your five-a-day and going out whenever you want, what it doesn't mean is that this will come with no repercussions. Not only will this leave you not feeling physically at your peak but it may start affecting your general wellbeing and productivity, which could have a greater impact on your studies overall.
Having a big night and really enjoying being a student is fine every once in a while, but - without wanting to sound like your mum - keeping a healthy balanced lifestyle is important for your mental health as well as avoiding the dreaded Freshers 14.
A well-balanced diet, with plenty of fruit and veg, as well as keeping active through sports societies or going to the gym, can help you keep both your mind and your body healthy during the course of your studies.
Most universities have a discounted gym, or you could take a look to see if there is a gym near where you live. Will you want to travel 30 mins out of your way? Probably not. It's more likely you'll actually go to the gym if it’s near your house or lecture buildings so bear that in mind.
Take a look at these gyms that offer some great and reasonably priced student memberships:
Getting help if you’re struggling
Although opening up and speaking to people can be difficult, universities have a support network in place which can help if you are struggling. Most universities have mental health advisors, and this is a great port of call if at any point during your time at uni you want to talk to someone about your mental health.
If you don’t feel like going down this route through your university, there are other avenues you can explore. Student Minds is the UK’s student mental health charity offering groups and services to support you through any problems you may be facing.
Whilst at uni you should also make sure you sign up to a local doctor. If you are feeling unwell, or need to see your GP, having to travel back to your hometown may be inconvenient. Signing up to a doctor's surgery straight away means you can get emergency care and quick and easy access to services straight away. Find your nearest GP surgery using the NHS website.
So we'll sign off with some useful local apps and websites to help you keep updated with upcoming events and save even more when out and about in your new home.
Useful Local Apps:
Wriggle - A great app for picking up local deals on food. Just pre-pay on the app and show the bar or restaurant a code to get some delicious and cheap food.
vouchercloud - An app for local and national savings on restaurants, shops and more.
Travelwest - Bristol's bus service isn't known to be the more punctual - check out up-to-date bus information with this handy app.
Headfirst - Find out the latest and best live music, club nights, comedy shows and theatre with Headfirst's app.
Useful Local Websites
Want to find out about upcoming events and local goings on? Make sure you bookmark these great websites below:
If you are looking for a bit more cash during your time at uni a part-time job can be a great way to help your cash go a bit further.
Take a look on Gumtree or your university's job board. Your university itself might be a great place to look for a job as they are (for obvious reasons) really understanding of your timetable.
Other top jobs for students include the obvious such as bar work and retail, which can be great for meeting new people as well as a potential discount, to temporary work such as call centers and promotional work.
Hopefully our Big Bristol Student Guide will be a good starting point for helping you to navigate your way around great places to go and things to do in Bristol.
I'm sure in no time you'll have sussed what's-what but remember to check back if you ever need some inspiration!
Finally, just a few pointers on the local accent and dialect. Often described as a farmer-come-pirate twang, Bristol speech is a friendly one that throws in an 'L' to the end of a word here and there as well as 'to' at the end of sentences. Take a look at the below to help decipher
Daps - to everyone outside the Bristol area these are known as "plimsolls".
Mind - added on at the end of a sentence, meaning "You know what I mean?".
Where's that to? - "Where is it?".
Lush - Really nice.
Gurt - Really big or very ie. "That zara dress is gurt lush, mind".
Me Babber/ Me Lover - Friendly endearing terms for pretty much anyone 'How are you me babber/me lover?".
IdeaL - Usually meant to mean something that is perfect "That's a great ideal".
AsdaL - Asda
Led - Lying down ie. "I spent my entire Monday led on the sofa watching daytime TV instead of going to lectures"
Scrage - Scratch/Graze ie. "I had a few too many jagerbombs last night, tripped up Park Street and scraged me knee!"
Drive - You will find that every Bristolian will thank the busdriver (aka Drive) when alighting with a "Cheers Drive"