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Guide to Bournemouth

Where to go

Bournemouth and Poole offer plenty to do, from nightlife to sport, and from the countryside to the beach

Where to go

There's a lot waiting for you in Bournemouth and its surrounding areas – so why not see it for yourself?

Bournemouth is more than just a seaside town; there's something for everyone, wherever your interests lie. The area's performing arts scene, vibrant nightlife, stand-out restaurants, attractions and more keep things interesting all year round.

Arts and culture

Bournemouth is rich with art showcases and cultural hotspots, all right on your doorstep while studying with us.

Our on-campus exhibition space, TheGallery, has been open for more than 25 years. It's a great showcase of contemporary artists and designers from major galleries and museums worldwide, plus it's easy to get to. Take a stroll into TheGallery while you're on AUB campus, or see what's coming up.

We're selling student artwork and wares at #AUBMAKERS, our bespoke pop-up shop down Poole High Street. It's a great place to support current AUB students, staff and creatives alike. Be sure to explore Poole while you're there – it has some great spots around the Quay and plenty of history too.

If you're looking for more classical inspiration, check out the Russell-Cotes Museum and Art Gallery. It's located on Bournemouth's East Cliff and set inside a mansion that's over 100 years-old, frequently exhibiting a range of international collections, artefacts and unique artists. Several of our courses have also collaborated with Russell-Cotes, catering to special evenings for the public.

Bournemouth is no stranger to the performing arts.

We host AUB Productions, a cross-collaboration between our Bournemouth Film School courses, at our very own Palace Court Theatre in Bournemouth town centre. Be sure to check out what's on and our previous performances – if you're studying one of our BFS courses, you may even be involved!

There are some great local venues, with the Poole Lighthouse offering a symphonic concert hall, multiple theatre spaces, art galleries and a cinema. For performing arts, you can also visit Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre for touring plays, as well as Christchurch's Regent Centre. Meanwhile, visit Pavilion Dance Southwest (PDSW) for exceptional dance shows and classes.

Make sure to check out the Arts by the Sea Festival in late September. It’s an extravaganza of expressive creativity with a full week of performative and interactive showcases including comedy, music, visual arts and literature throughout Bournemouth town centre.

When you need some light relief, Bournemouth has comedy for all. The Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) and Bournemouth Pavilion are regular stops for big name comedians like Katherine Ryan, Romesh Ranganathan, Michael McIntyre and Joe Lycett.

There’s small-scale comedy too – Jaggers Comedy Club inside Cameo nightclub hosts Saturday night shows from March through to October, and Coastal Comedy put on regular stand-up shows at Canvas in Bournemouth, often featuring comedians fresh from Live at the Apollo. For more great acts, head to the Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne.

You don't have to wander far in Bournemouth for great sound.

The Bournemouth International Centre is a regular stop for big artists like Declan McKenna, Christine and the Queens, and James Blunt. For more intimate venues, there's the O2 Academy in Boscombe and the heart of the town centre is The Madding Crowd and Canvas, both intimate venues showcasing established acts and new talent.

If alternative and rock genres are your deal, check out Electric Boulevard on Holdenhurst Road with a late-night bar and live music downstairs, alongside Bear's Bar and Venue across the road. There's also Chaplin’s in Boscombe, a beautifully eccentric venue with nightly live events, ranging from punk rock bands to reggae and blues.

If you're looking for festivals, check out Camp Bestival hosted on the Isle of Wight every summer.

University Music is a joint AUB and BU department that offers musical opportunities and performances to students and staff. We have a concert band, three choirs, a string orchestra and various other ensembles, all of which rehearse weekly and give regular performances both on campus and in the local area. All students can join our ensembles free of charge, with access to practising facilities too. Contact University Music for more details.

For the latest blockbusters, Bournemouth's BH2 complex has a 10-screen Odeon cinema, while nearby Tower Park over in Poole features Cineworld.

Looking for something more intimate and indie? With only 30 seats, the Colosseum Cinema and Bar in Westbourne is the smallest cinema in the UK, showing a diverse range of unique films as well as sports.

You can also catch the latest films as part of the events programme at the Lighthouse in Poole.

Going out

Bournemouth is filled with great clubs and nightlife. Cameo is one of the most popular spots with a range of rooms from disco and house to R&B and hip-hop, as well as The Old Fire Station (Bournemouth University’s Student Union venue) with event nights and affordable prices – be sure to check out what's coming up.

There's also a thriving alternative music scene here too. Alt and Sound Circus bar and nightclub is a go-to stop on student night Thursday with half-price drinks, music requests and quirky events. Be sure to check out Sixty Million Postcards on Exeter Road, as well as Buffalo Bar in Winton, Chaplin’s in Boscombe and Electric Boulevard on Holdenhurst road – these are all great spots for live music and a few pre-drinks.

For live gigs, Boscombe is the home to O2 Academy, a fast–growing stop for UK tour circuit for well-known bands.

If you're looking for a more relaxed night out, Mr Mulligans features great student prices, an indoor mini golf course as well as Boom Battle Bar, where you can challenge yourselves with axe throwing, augmented reality darts, or play it safe with some karaoke. It's all based in Bournemouth's BH2 complex, which is home to a wide range of popular chain restaurants like Nando's, Pizza Express and TGI Fridays, as well as Odeon cinemas.

In Poole, you'll find the Insanity Arcade, where gamers with a passion for retro consoles can enjoy set-payment sessions, as well as an in-house bar and grill.

There are plenty of great places to shop around Bournemouth.

You'll find plenty in the town centre, with high street chains like Primark, River Island and Zara. Meanwhile, Bobby's department store is your go-to for all things health, beauty, art, culture and community. Old Christchurch Road features some great shops, with The Arcade housing Waterstones and Space.NK.

Thrifting is growing in popularity and it's great fun. You'll find plenty at charity, thrift and vintage shops in Bournemouth, with several local kilo sales nearby. Check out The Den Emporium for vintage and antique retro goodies, as well as charity shop spots in Westbourne and Wimborne.

Around Poole, you'll find our very own #AUBMAKERS pop-up shop down at the newly developed Kingsland Crescent, as well as Boiler Room Records with two separate locations – one here, the other close to the Quay – for some great vinyl and CDs.

Boscombe features the Boscombe Arts Depot on collaboration with BEAF Arts Co in which you'll find Pen Gallery, a contemporary art gallery and store offering all kinds of goodies from over 100 local artists and makers. Check out Vinilo while you're here for more records – they have a separate location in Southampton which hosts live artist signings too.

Castlepoint makes for a great day trip, featuring a wide range of stores to shop around at.

You'll find some great events around Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch, no matter what time of year it is.

During summer, there's the hugely popular Bournemouth Air Festival in August and Bourne Free, Bournemouth’s pride festival in July, filling the town and gardens with creative costumes and live entertainment.

Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival takes place every Autumn, run by Arts Bournemouth, with over 60 events offering a mix of some of the best regional, national and international arts. There's also Bournemouth Emerging Arts Fringe which takes place during Spring, showcase of local emergent artists and creatives, with a diverse and accessible range of events suitable for all audiences, including exhibitions, talks, workshops, performances, live music, poetry and even a film festival. Meanwhile, sport and music festival, Bournemouth 7s takes place in May. Seasonal events include Bournevaria Oktoberfest, Bournemouth's Christmas Market and the Cool Coast and SKATE ice rinks during the winter months.

Be sure to look out for AUB events too, such as Alice In Spring, curated by our BA (Hons) Events Management course.

The Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch areas all feature great places of natural beauty.

Notably, there's Old Harry Rocks, Durdle Door and Lulworth cove, all must-see spots along the Jurassic Coast. These all make for a great day out with walking, cycling or a picnic overlooking the chalk formations. It’s also popular with kayakers and if you’re really lucky, you might even spot a seal or Bottlenose dolphin. The Jurassic Coast is also home to some incredible rock-climbing and bouldering spots. Well-known crags include Portland, Winspit, The Dancing Ledge and Hedbury Quarry. For indoor, visit The Project Climbing Centre in Poole or Rock Reef at Bournemouth Pier.

We'd also recommend the New Forest – it's perfect if you want to go wildlife-spotting on walking trails, grab lunch at a nearby country pub, try out a horse-riding lesson, or even plan a camping trip during the summer.

Food and drink

There are plenty of spots within walking distance of AUB. Only a few minutes off campus you'll find L'arte Coffee House, a great spot for lunch (and the best hot chocolate) which also collaborates with AUB, hosting student art as well as open mic nights.

You'll also find great places in the Winton and Charminster area, with plenty of art cafés and coffee shops. Conto Lounge is a popular classy spot offering a wide range of food, drinks and cocktails at great prices, plus a variety of lunchtime offers. This is a part of Lounges, which has more Art Deco-style locations too: Ludo in Southbourne, Circo in Westbourne and Arcado in Christchurch.

Bournemouth is full of great places to eat. If you’re looking for dinner and a film, head down to the BH2 Leisure Complex. It features a state-of-the-art 10-screen multiplex ODEON cinema as well as a great choice of different restaurants, including ASK Italian, Five Guys, Nando’s, Pizza Express, T.G.I Fridays and Prezzo.

Some other local favourites we'd recommend around town centre include The Stable, Turtle Bay and Franco Manca. Right by BH2 you'll find Sixty Million Postcards – a popular spot for events, burgers and drinks on-tap – as well as Brass Haus with digital darts, or head to The Goat and Tricycle for a great roast. Be sure to look out for unique brewery experiences near the triangle at Brewhouse & Kitchen, as well as some great independent eateries like Mexican restaurant Ojo Rojo.

For vegetarians, vegans and coeliacs, Mad Cucumber Vegan Lounge, Twelve Eatery and Miiko have some delicious options.

If you're planning a day out, we'd recommend spots like Little Pickle Wimborne next to Walford Mill Crafts, home to local makers, creatives and artists. There are some great spots around Wareham too, only a short train journey from Bournemouth station – check out The Salt Pig while you're there.

If you're looking for a dinner spot down the beach, Aruba is a restaurant by day and club by night with a prime location at the town-end of the pier. If you're looking for a special date or occasion, West Beach offers an award-winning eating experience with a fine dining seafood menu.

Following the beach down to Boscombe Pier is Urban Reef, which has outdoor seating areas with fire heaters – the staff even bring out blankets as the chillier evenings come around.

Nothing spells the arrival of summer like an ice cream. We'd recommend some well-renowned Purbeck Ice Cream, and there’s plenty to be had from the kiosks in the town centre gardens, on the seafront or at Sprinkles down Holdenhurst road. If you're going on a day trip, why not sample some local gelato and artisan chocolate at Chococo in Swanage?

Bournemouth town centre has an array of places to do your weekly shop, with a Co-op a few minutes’ walk from Halls, a large Asda next to the train station, and Tesco and Lidl downtown.

If you’re looking for sustainable shopping, check out Sunrise Organics located near the Triangle in town centre. You can bring your own bags, jars and containers and stock up on all the essentials like oil, rice, pasta, flour, milk, grains and even cleaning products. You'll also find fresh organic fruit, veg and baked bread.

Weekly bargains can be found at Boscombe’s Thursday and Saturday markets, open from 09.00 to 17.00. Lining the pedestrian area of Christchurch Road you’ll find stalls selling fresh fruit and veg, meat and fish and clothing and handbags.

During winter, Bournemouth’s Christmas Market spans the high street with stalls for gifts, sweet treats, food and drinks. Every December, you'll find wooden huts selling gifts and Christmas decorations as well as the two-storey Alpine bar. Indulge in a hog roast, a Yorkshire Pudding wrap or traditional bratwurst from the street food
stalls, then wash it all down with a mulled wine or tankard of beer. There’s not a more festive way to see in the Christmas break.

Great coffee can be found at places like South Coast Coffee in Bournemouth town centre, and Boscanova, where lampshades are made from disposable coffee cups and regular coffee events are held. We've also got plenty of high street regulars, like Pret A Manger, Costa and Starbucks.

Velo Domestique in Southbourne, run by AUB alumni, started out as a pop-up collaboration on 2014. It now has a permanent base on Seabourne Road and combines repairing bikes with serving locally roasted coffee and fresh food. You'll find Little Perth here (with a location in Westbourne too) for coffee and hot drinks alongside stunning flowers, eats and gifts, plus local artisan bakers Wild and Ginger and BakeHouse24 for sweet and savoury treats.

One of the most eccentric attractions in Bournemouth is the Pause Cat Café, where you can sip your cup surrounded by rescue cats.

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