Bristol City Guide for Students: Things to Do in Bristol

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Samir Badawy

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02 April, 2024

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9 mins read

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If you are planning to study or visit Bristol, there are various things to consider so you can make the most of your time there. After considering your major, university, and city, important questions arise, such as how much life in the city costs, what to do, and where to go around the city. This is why, in this Bristol City Guide, we’ll act as your local guide around the city and make your acquaintance to Bristol as smooth as possible.

The guide’s sections will include many questions that come to mind before you arrive in the city, such as information about the city, the best activities to do there, where to eat, drink, and shop, transportation, some of our top picks for student accommodation in Bristol, and a glimpse of student life in the city of Bristol, among other interesting and helpful information!


About Bristol

Before we discuss “what to do and where to go in the city," we’d like to introduce you to the beautiful city of Bristol. Bristol is a laid-back and cosy city known for its great walkability, beautiful greenery (which earned it the title of European Green Capital), thriving and modern economy, and great nightlife. Since the 12th century, the city has been an important trading city, a position it still enjoys thanks to its unique location on the River Avon.

Bristol is located in England’s southwestern region and has its north and south separated by the River Avon. Bristol is also near London, which is 190 km away. The city also has the Bristol Channel, where the River Severn empties. It is also packed with history, having been first incorporated in 1155. The city was historically an important port and trading city as well as a manufacturer of cloth. Today, it is known for its high-quality education and major shopping centres.

Bristol ranks 44th in 2024 as one of the best student cities worldwide. Its institutions, including the University of Bristol and the University of West England, attract many students from all over the world.

Top Things to Do in Bristol

Bristol is a lively city with many fun activities and a bustling nightlife. In this section, we’ll list the most popular things to do in Bristol.

Take a Hot Air Balloon and Marvel at the City’s Skyline

Bristol is known for many things, including hot air balloons, and is home to the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, one of the city’s biggest events. Take a hot air balloon ride to see Bristol's skyline from above; Virgin Balloons and Elite Air (UK) Ltd offer such hot air balloon rides.

Cycle Around the City

Cycling is another great way to explore the city, as the city is extremely bike-friendly and offers many beautiful and scenic bike paths. Bristol’s bike paths are fit for all types of cyclists. If you’re looking for a peaceful cycle, you can easily consider cycling through the countryside, or for more adventurous cyclists, you can consider more difficult mountain bike routes. You can also explore the city centre’s large network of bike paths for everyday commutes.

Check Out the City’s Street Art at Stokes Croft 

Stokes Croft is a popular landmark in Bristol that reflects the city’s rich street art scene and creativity. In addition, this road is full of history, having been part of a former industrial centre. It is full of trendy and youthful places to go out and represents "counterculture.” This road also has one of Banksy’s first street art paintings, “The Mild Mild West.”

Explore Bristol’s Music Scene

One thing that you may not know about Bristol is that it has a rich music scene. The city is very multicultural, which has largely affected its music industry and given rise to major artists and bands, including Massive Attack, Portishead, and Roni Size. Bristol was known in the eighties for its “Bristol Sound,"  which included elements of Caribbean-inspired genres, electronica, hip-hop, punk, and psychedelic styles. It is believed that the Bristol Sound later inspired Drum and Bass. That said, Bristol is home to major music events and festivals, which take place all over the city, most notably in the Bristol Beacon.


Top Places to Eat and Drink in Bristol 

Bristol is a foodie’s heaven and is also known for its sustainable practices in the food and beverage industries; this was highlighted when the independent Sustainable Food Places Board awarded it Gold Sustainable Food City in 2021. 



Cor: 81 North St, Bedminster, Bristol

Cor is a Michelin-listed restaurant and one of the city’s most popular. It has also been awarded the Bib Gourmand, which recognises establishments that serve good-quality food at a reasonable price. The restaurant serves Mediterranean and tapas-style dishes. Among its various dishes are hake with mussels and Tropea onion with hazelnut beurre noisette.

Little French

Little French is a local, family-owned bistro, a Michelin Guide-listed restaurant, and a local favourite. 

Little French’s menu includes starters such as twice-baked soufflé suissesse and razor clams, garlic, butter, and parsley; all the way to main dishes such as wood-grilled ribeye, peppercorn sauce, frites and fillet of hake, hispi cabbage, crab sauce, and anise.

Bravas: 7 Cotham Hill, Redland, Bristol 

Bravas is another local favourite and a Spanish-inspired Tapas restaurant. Its menu items include croquet del día, Spanish-cured meats, and Spanish cheeses. Bravas also serves mains, including Cod a la Plancha with salsa verde & confit piquillo and Hereford beef onglet with chimichurri. It also serves desserts, including its Crema Catalana cheesecake.

Wilson: 24 Chandos Rd., Redland, Bristol

Wilsons is another Michelin Guide-listed restaurant and recipient of the Michelin Green Star, which is awarded to sustainable restaurants. This bistro-style restaurant serves modern-British cuisine and is known for its weekly minimalist menu. Wilson offers three- and six-course set menus where you can sample some of the freshest ingredients.

Cafes and Tea Rooms

We cannot mention food and leave out beverages, so we have included some of Bristol’s best-known cafes and tea houses in this portion.


Full Court Press (Cafe): 59 Broad St, Bristol

Full Court Press is a specialty coffee roaster and cafe ideal for coffee lovers with refined tastes. Furthermore, you can enjoy special blends of coffee roasted not only by Full Court Press but by other roasters as well. 

Playground Café (Cafe): 45 St Nicholas St, Bristol

Playground Cafe is known for its special coffee roasts and unique environment, making it an ideal place to sip delicious coffee and hang out with friends, as the cafe has more than 150 different board games.

Spicer and Cole (Café): (Various Locations)

The Spicer and Cole cafe consists of four independent cafes and is known for its coffee and food options, especially breakfast items such as avocado on toast. It also serves delicious lunch and brunch items, including salads, frittatas, cakes, pastries, and much more!

No. 4 (Tea Room): The Rodney Hotel, 4 Rodney Pl

In the UK, we cannot mention cafes without mentioning tea rooms. As a tea room and restaurant, it is one of Bristol's most popular tea rooms, offering an extensive afternoon tea menu. There, you get to start with a sandwich selection, followed by plain and fruit scones and a wide variety of teapots to choose from.


Ashwell & Co (Tea Room): 32 Alma Vale Rd., Clifton, Bristol

Ashwell & Co. is another local favourite that serves traditional afternoon tea with sandwiches, cakes and treats, and scones. This tearoom also caters to vegans and those with a gluten-free diet. This beautiful tea room mixes elegance and vintage interiors.

Where to Shop in Bristol


Cabot Circus: Bond St., Broadmead

Cabot Circus is located in the Bristol shopping quarter, in the heart of Bristol. You can spend the day shopping or dining there, as this centre is full of options. Among the various shops located in Cabot Circus are AllSaints, Claire's, Foot Locker, Holland & Barrett, Levi's, and The North Face, among a total of more than 130 different stores. Food and beverage options include Wagamama, Yo!, Nando's, Pret a Manger, Five Guys, Costa Coffee, and much more!

Cribbs Causeway: The Mall at Cribbs Causeway, Bristol, BS34 5DG

This impressive shopping complex is another popular option for shopping in Bristol. It has over 150 different shops and an impressive retail size of 994,981 sq ft. Bear in mind that Cribbs Causeway, unlike Cabot Circus, is an out-of-town shopping centre, meaning that it is a bit distant from the main city, but this will definitely give you a day-trip experience.

You can do everything from shopping to watching a movie at the Vue multiplex cinema and dining; you’ll spend an enjoyable day there. This shopping centre’s shops include the Apple Store, John Lewis & Partners, M&S, and Next.

The Galleries: Broadmead, The Galleries Shopping Centre, Bristol

The Galleries boast more than 70 shops where you can find everything you need. From books and stationery to fashion, health, lifestyle, sport, and leisure, among other products and services, this shopping centre has everything you need! That’s not all, as this shopping centre also has various places where you can grab a bite and a drink, including Greggs, Cafe Nero, Subway, Burger King, and much more!

Transportation in Bristol

We cannot discuss where to go in Bristol without discussing “how to go," so in this portion of the Bristol city guide, we’ll list the best ways to move around the city.



Buses are one of the most convenient ways for students to move around Bristol, with providers such as FirstBus and Stagecoach being the most popular options. FirstBus offers a 20% discount to young people and students aged 16 to 21.

You can also apply for the Bristol multi-rider ticket on the Travelwest website. This ticket allows you to use most bus providers, including Stagecoach and FirstBus, for a weekly price of £23.50 for adults and £18.80 for students.


Trains are another great mode of day-to-day transportation, as many combine them with other modes of transportation, most notably buses. This is why if you’re a user of trains and buses, you can opt for a Peak 1-Month Freedom Travelpass—Bus & Rail Pass, which costs as follows per month:

  • Zone A: Bristol: £108 

  • Zone A B: Bristol Plus: £200 

  • Zone A C: Bristol & Bath: £200 

  • Zone A B C: Bristol, Bath, Nailsea & Yatton: £235 

  • Zone A B D: Bristol & Weston-super-Mare: £235 

  • Zone A B C D: Bristol, Bath & Weston-super-Mare: £305 

As you can see, this travel pass is ideal for frequent travellers, especially those who travel beyond Bristol. It also has daily and weekly passes.


The ferryboat is another way to travel around, and it is called the Waterbus. The Waterbus is cashless, so all payments are made by card, and its fare is calculated by the minute, starting with £2 for a 10-minute boat ride and going all the way to £12 for an 80-minute ferry ride.


Taxi services are a good way to get around if you’re in a hurry, and Bristol taxis are readily available. The day tariff is £2.60, with an extra £1.12 per kilometre. The night tariff is £3.40 with an additional £1.37 per kilometre.


Another fun way to get around the city is the TIER E-scooter sharing services, which initially charge 99p to unlock and an additional 16p per minute.

Student Life in Bristol


Bristol is an exciting place for students, with more than 187 nationalities represented and more than 90 languages spoken. The city is small but bursting with creativity and life, and you can easily find lots of places to visit and hang out with your newly-formed friends, such as Gloucester Road, Redland, Bristol City Centre, and Cotham & Kingsdown.

Bristol’s Top Attractions


There are various places to visit in Bristol, the most popular being:

  • Clifton Suspension Bridge

  • Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

  • Cabot Tower

  • Bristol Cathedral

  • Blaise Castle

  • Clifton Observatory

  • Bristol Aquarium

  • St Mary Redcliffe Church

  • The Downs Bristol (Park)

Where Students Stay in Bristol


Zinc Quarter (Affordability and Location)

Zinc Quarter is one of our top options. This student accommodation Bristol combines affordability with a great location in the city centre. It offers various room options, including en-suite rooms, studios, and townhouses. The starting price is £289 per week (subject to change) and is an 11-minute walk from the city centre.

Castle Park (Closest to the City Centre)

If proximity to the city centre is your top priority and you don’t mind the price tag, then you can consider Zinc Quarter’s pricier alternative, Castle Park. This student housing Bristol has a starting price of £765 per week (subject to change) and offers one- and two-bedroom apartments. It is only a four-minute walk from the city centre.

iQ Bristol (Top Recommended)

iQ Bristol is one of our top recommendations and offers studios and en-suite rooms and similarly to Zinc Quarter, it is also an 11-minute walk from the city centre. This Bristol student accommodation has a starting rental price of £367 per week (subject to change).

You can check out more options in our “Where to find the Best Student Apartments in Bristol?” blog. To better understand room types, check out our other blog, “A Guide to Student Room Types in the UK”.

Cost of Living in Bristol



Cost (Average)

One-bedroom (near the city centre)

£1,395 / month

One-bedroom (outside the city centre)

  £1,016 / month

Student accommodation

 £105 to 299/ week

Utilities (Basic Utilities and Internet)

 £270/ month

Transportation (Student FirstMonth Pass)

 £67.10 / month (Bristol zone)


  £106/ month

If you’re interested in checking out the cost of living in the UK compared to other countries, you can also check out “Cost of Living in Australia vs UK: A Comprehensive Guide”.

So, there you have it; this was your comprehensive introduction to the city of Bristol, which has much more to offer and a lot more to explore! At Casita, we can’t wait to see you embark on your Bristol journey. Who knows, maybe you’ll become others’ Bristol city guide and guide others to the exciting marvels this city offers!


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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Bristol expensive for students?

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It is estimated that students living in Bristol can spend as little as £9,000 to £15,000 per academic year, including accommodation and excluding tuition fees. This makes it more affordable than other UK cities.

What is Bristol City famous for?

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The city is known for its laid-back environment and greenery, earning it the title “European Green Capital.” It also has reputable universities and has contributed to the creative, electronics, media, and aerospace industries.