Cultural Experience | Bristol

BRISTOL: How to #LiveLikeALocal

Bristol boasts some of the most lively-yet quirky student life in the UK.

If you’re about to begin your studies at Bristol University, let me tell you, there is a LOT to be excited about. With 3 years of experience, I can proudly say that Bristol boasts some of the most lively-yet-quirky student life in the UK. Whether you’re raring to get all dolled up to go clubbing or simply want to throw on a tee and relax in a quiet café, there really is something for everyone. As you prepare for Bristol, take a look at these tips of what you should do and see to really experience Bristol life as a local.

1.       Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Designed by Brunel in 1864, the Suspension Bridge is arguably the most iconic landmark of Bristol city, impressively straddling the Avon Gorge.  Either admire the view from an overlooking bar or take the trip up the treacherous side slopes of the Gorge to the official viewing point, to fully appreciate the site.

Photo: Zoe Nash

Photo: Zoe Nash

Top tip: Visit The Bridge Café, Clifton at sunset for optimal experience.

2.       Bristol Harbourside.

After recent regeneration, the harbourside really is now a bustling hub of enjoyment, experience and exploration.  Home to the Watershed – Britain’s first media centre – and the Arnolfini – presenting contemporary art – alongside countless bars, it’s an ideal day out. If you’ve ever been a fan of Wallace & Gromit, be sure to check out the Aardvark animation centre, which originated it Bristol!

Top tip: Hang around until summer for the annual Bristol Harbourside festival.

3.       Bring hats, and plenty of them.

Photo: Zoe Nash

Photo: Issy Croker

No, this is not because of the cold weather, but because wearing some form of hat seems to be pretty much compulsory to pass as a legit Bristol Uni student. It might be a snapback, a bowler or – my personal hat-of-choice – a beanie. Just add one to ANY outfit to give off those real ‘Bristol’ vibes.

Top tip: Beanies are not only for winter in Bristol, they are for all year round.


4.       Banksy.

Bristol is home to this now world-renowned graffiti artist. Although you’ll spot some ‘Banksy’s’ almost immediately as you stroll round, try to find as many of the hidden gems as you can. With the appearance of a new piece of street art last month, word on the street is that Banksy might be back in Bristol, so keep an eye out for the man himself.

Top tip: Do not try this at night and/or after a few drinks. Not only it is highly dangerous, but your visual impairment will likely lead to the claim that any graffiti you stumble upon is ‘A BANKSY’!

5.       Browse the vintage shops on Gloucester Road.

Bristol students are not only hat-obsessed, but there is a prominent fashion scene here too. The shops on Gloucester road, punctuated by cutesie cafes, are a great start. There’s an array of reasonably priced vintage shops; great for finding one-off pieces or some traveller-style jewellery.

Top tip: Be brave with your fashion choices in Bristol. Trust me, you always be able to find people dressed more bizarrely than you.

Photo: Issy Croker

Photo: Issy Croker

6.       Party on a boat.

Thekla is unique in the sense that it is a nightclub on a moored boat. With two levels and a spacious on-deck sitting area, it makes for a guaranteed fun night. Recently hitting the headlines for a surprise appearance by Macaulay Culkin, there’s no doubt it will remain popular in the upcoming years.

Photo: Issy Croker

Photo: Issy Croker

Top tip: Make sure you have plenty of cash. Thekla is one of the more pricey clubs and – being on a boat and all – there are no cash machines available!

7.       Wills Memorial Building.

Designed by Sir George Oatley in memory of Henry Wills and opened in 1925, this is considered to be one of the last great Gothic buildings created in England. This really is a must-see as it is not only an architectural spectacle, it is also where students graduate (and sit exams!).

Top tip: Don’t storm in and make a scene! The building is home to law students who are often working very studiously inside.


8.       Bask in the sun

Although a rare occasion, when the sun does come out to play, it completely transforms the feel of Bristol. Really make the most of it and head to one of the many green areas with friends for chilled picnic. Head to College Green, where you can admire the cathedral, Castle Park next to the shopping centre, or the expansive Durdham Downs, to soak up those rays.

Photo: Issy Croker

Photo: Issy Croker

Top tip: DO NOT be fooled by the sun into thinking you’re safe. Always take an umbrella – Bristol weather is unbelievably fickle.

Although there is of course so much more to see in Bristol, armed with these pearls of wisdom and the map featured below, you can start your studies with the knowledge of where to start your explorations!


Lizi Woolgar

University of Bristol | 40 stories

Graduate of University of Bristol. Having spent my first two years of University writing for the student newspaper, epigram and Brighton-based Spindle Magazine, I then went on to edit the Style section of Epigram 2012-2013. Now keen to pursue a career in journalism/editorial work, I look forward to writing my weekly column for The College Tourist, all the while seeing where my writing and travel will take me.

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