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THE UK: Destination Guides

The ultimate student guide to Bristol

Bristol is known for its panoramic views, cosmopolitan culture, and top-ranked universities. The city provides an exciting environment for international students. We explore what the city offers.

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If you’re looking to study in the UK, look no further than Bristol for a university city with great vibes and something for everyone. This is a city so full of art and culture that you’ll find yourself immediately absorbed. With world-famous nightlife and a vibrant food scene, Bristol is an ideal study destination.

 

Located only a short bus ride from England’s picturesque south-west coast and with the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge to take in all the spectacular views, this is a city you’ll want to explore.

 

What is Bristol like?

Location and demographics

Situated on the banks of the River Avon in the UK’s sunny south-west, Bristol is an urban hub surrounded by rolling hills and sandy beaches. With the coast only eight miles from the city centre and two of the UK’s famous Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty less than 10 miles away, it’s an enviable place to live.

 

The most populated city in south-west England, Bristol is home to approximately 475,000 people. You might have seen photos of its traditional terraced houses on steep hills. Bristol’s hills are famous (or infamous) across the country. The benefit to this unusual city layout though? Spectacular panoramas from several viewpoints make it well worth the workout.

 

 

Culture and history

Bristol is a city with a history spanning over a thousand years. With its coastal positioning on a prominent river, it was a significant UK port, and its docks are still used to this day. These days, Bristol has a booming economy across several industries, with specialisations in aerospace and defence, as well as an emerging technology sector.

 

As a popular historical tourist destination, it also boasts a diverse arts scene and some spectacular architecture, perhaps most famously the impressive Clifton Suspension Bridge, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel during the UK’s Industrial Revolution.

 

What universities are in Bristol?

Ranked at number 61 in the QS World University Rankings 2023, the University of Bristol holds international renown with notable alumni across all fields, including Nobel Prize-winning physicist Paul Dirac. This prestigious establishment is also one of the UK’s elite Russell Group universities and consistently appears in well-regarded lists of the top 10 universities in the country. Other institutions of note in Bristol include:

 

 

Alternatively, if you have fallen in love with the UK’s south-west and are prepared to travel a bit further afield, you might want to explore the University of Bath which is placed at number 166 in the QS World University Rankings 2023 and is an esteemed academic institution. If you’re interested in exploring universities in the UK, the Complete University Guide League Tables 2023 is a useful way to compare institutions.

 

What does Bristol offer students?

What is transport like in Bristol?

Bristol is a safe city, so walking or cycling is a great, and free, option. Bristol has attained national acclaim for the infrastructure it has put in place for cyclists and was named Britain’s first ‘cycling city’. Another fun option for those shorter distances is hopping onto an e-scooter, an inexpensive but quick way to get where you need to be.

 

Bristol is also home to two well-connected train stations and has plenty of buses which run through the night. You can buy bus tickets when you board or pre-purchase them on the city’s First Bus App.

 

And for international travel, Bristol has an airport, connected to 115 destinations in 32 countries.

 

What about entertainment and food in Bristol?

Bristol is a vibrant city with a quirky vibe which most students fall in love with immediately. Stroll along the banks of the Avon or pop into an art gallery to pass a quiet afternoon. And for a livelier occasion, make the most of the city’s thriving nightlife and regular festivals.

 

From busy marketplaces where you can buy mouth-watering street food to trendy cocktail bars, Bristol has food to cater for every taste and budget. Vegan restaurants, boutique cafés and chic ice cream parlours give the city a welcoming, homely feel. And if you want to try a local flavour, almost every pub will serve a selection of ciders sourced from nearby farms.

 

Get familiar with the types of British accents you may hear when studying in the UK.

 

What is the accommodation like in Bristol?

Students living in Bristol have plenty of accommodation options to choose from. Whilst it’s commonplace to live in university-owned halls of residence in your first year, you can also choose to rent privately.

 

The University of Bristol offers residences split across three student villages, so you’ll always feel part of the student community. You can usually choose between catered or self-catered rooms, although the former option will be more expensive.

 

The University of the West of England suggests average accommodation costs for students living in Bristol are around GBP 100 to GBP 150 per week.

 

Bristol has a great rental market, and you’ll easily be able to find a private house or flat share in the city. If you prefer to rent somewhere alone, it will work out more costly, but it’s certainly not unheard of. Another option is private halls of residence. Remember to research when renting privately to be sure you’re getting a good deal. You can also speak to your university to understand your options.

 

 

Explore more about the best student cities in the UK.

 

Are there public services for students in Bristol?

Your university will offer several services and resources to international students through its international office. The staff here should be able to answer most questions relating to immigration and settling into the city.

 

Bristol also has a designated not-for-profit international student centre. Or if you’re looking for more general information, the city’s tourism board has put together a few resources for international students looking to get to know the city.

 

Get more information on how to apply for a student visa in the UK.

 

How much does it cost to live in Bristol?

The general cost of Bristol

Bristol is undeniably an expensive place to live in the UK. But try not to be put off. You’ll need to budget accordingly, of course.  Don’t forget to look out for the many student discounts available around the city. And if working while you study is something you’re considering, you’ll find plenty of jobs available.

 

Discover how much tuition fees will cost when studying in the UK.

 

Student budget

International students living in Bristol can expect a few upfront costs, for example, paying a deposit for your accommodation. Once these costs have been accounted for, the University of the West of England suggests a weekly budget of around GBP 240 to GBP 280.

 

Want to know the student cost of living in the UK?

 

What are Bristol’s main attractions?

Studying in Bristol certainly won’t leave you bored in your time off. This little cosmopolitan hub is packed with things to do for students.

 

If you’re looking for activities on a budget, a great starting point is checking out some of the world-famous street art on display. Did you know Bristol is the hometown of Banksy? As such you’ll find many of his most famous pieces dotted around.

 

Take a walk along the River Avon or a bus to the beach. And why not visit one of Bristol’s art galleries or museums? Many of these are free, and all of them will give you an insight into the city’s deep culture and history.

 

Bristol is a city renowned for its art scene. Home to many theatres and performing arts venues, there are shows on to suit any budget. From light comedy to exhilarating concerts to West End theatrical productions, you’ll be sure to find something to enjoy.


And as for the nightlife, in Bristol, you’re in the right place for a party! With venues to suit every personality, you can dance the night away in huge nightclubs or get cosy in a traditional pub. If clubbing is your thing, check out Thekla, the city’s iconic floating nightclub, hidden aboard a disused cargo ship.

 

Are you interested in the city? Take some time to explore more about what you can study there using our course matcher tool.

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