With its artistic, independent spirit, Bristol is a brilliant place to be a student. On nights out in a city like this there’s no need to bother with boring chains – there’s loads of uniquely Bristolian places to party. And there really is something for everyone, whether you’re into craft beer, gigs or dancing all night. Our top five nights out will inspire you to try something new.
Small Bar (BS1 4DZ)
Run by the man behind Brewdog’s taps in Aberdeen and Manchester, this is one for the craft beer fiends. You won’t find pints, shots or TV here, but there are halves, thirds and two-thirds of the finest beers from the south west and beyond.
There’s an impressive 25 taps serving IPAs, fruit beers, imperial stouts and everything in between. As if that wasn’t enough, Small Bar also has a great bottle selection featuring some rarities you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. If you’re hungry, you can grab a top-class burger or hotdog too.
Small Bar takes pride in championing the little guys of the brewing world, but there’s plenty of space inside to enjoy your beer. There’s the bar, a large room downstairs and a cosy snug upstairs. Throughout the atmosphere is quirky but relaxed, with menus tucked inside hard back books, huge kegs for tables, and tea lights in Small Bar glasses on the walls.
Just don’t ask for a Stella here – the branded pump only serves water!
The White Bear (BS2 8BS)
The White Bear claims to ‘encapsulate the heart and soul of Bristol’ – and we have to agree! For 250 years it has been welcoming locals and travellers, and in recent times it has become a hub for the local arts scene too.
Most people will find something to drink here – there are a selection ales, beer, cider, wine and cocktails on offer. There’s also a good selection of pub grub, such as burgers, sandwiches and fish and chips. By night the pub comes alive with sporting events and DJ sets.
What makes The White Bear really special though is The Wardrobe. This upstairs arts space is run by volunteers to provide a platform for up-and-coming local theatre and comedy. The aim is to make the arts accessible to everyone, so you’ll never pay more than a fiver a ticket.
Look out for Chucklebusters, where big names such as Russell Howard, Josh Widdiecombe and John Richardson warm up for their national tours. The ongoing improvised soap opera Closer Each Day is also worth a look.
The Louisiana (BS1 6UA)
From its prim exterior you wouldn’t expect The Louisiana to be an indie hotspot, but for gig-goers it’s a must. The main room is an intimate 140 capacity venue, whilst downstairs there’s an even tinier 45 capacity cellar for acoustic sessions. Topped off with excellent sound, it’s the perfect place to get up close and personal with the best new bands.
From the Black Keys to Florence and the Machine and The White Stripes, pretty much every indie great has played here on their way to the big time. So if you love getting in on up-and-coming bands, this is definitely the place for you.
Thekla (BS1 4RB)
The Thekla is an old German timber ship floating in the Mud Dock area, and is home to a brilliant club and music venue.
It first moored up in Bristol as The Old Profanity Show boat, staging music, poetry and cabaret performances – and the party hasn’t stopped since then. Today it hosts an eclectic mix of club nights and gigs, so you can rock out to everything from pop and house to indie classics.
Being a big ole’ boat, it gets pretty hot and crowded, and at times you can’t help wondering if the whole thing might be about to sink. The faint-hearted might find this disconcerting, but we think it only adds to the thrill of this unique venue.
Motion (BS2 0PX)
As if partying on a boat wasn’t enough for you, at Motion you can also dance the night away in the cool urban setting of a skate park. It’s a huge venue with a warren of different rooms, making it perfect for all kinds of night. House, electro and techno are the main sounds here – look out for great local nights such as The Blast and Futureboogie.
After a mellow summer, Motion relaunches itself each autumn with In:Motion, a dazzling 12 week programme of hiphop, electro, house, drum and bass and much more.