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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

While studying with us, there’s no doubt you’ll also want to make the most of Bournemouth and its surrounding areas. Though our award-winning beaches are a tourist hotspot, there’s always lots to do and plenty to see from January through to December.

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.

Discover more of your new hometown.

Arts and Culture

Our on-site gallery showcases work by contemporary artists and designers from around the world, including collections on loan from major galleries and museums. Take a look at what's on at TheGallery.

Russell-Cotes Museum is a museum-house on Bournemouth’s East Cliff that exhibits a collection of art and artefacts of world cultures – set inside a mansion that's over a hundred years-old.

In Wimborne, there's Walford Mill Crafts, a gallery and shop run by the makers – they host regular workshops and have open studio spaces for rent. Other galleries include Westover Gallery in Bournemouth, and Lighthouse, Poole's Centre for the Arts, also runs regular visual art events.

Lighthouse Poole is the only multi-space venue with four auditoria in the South West, and the largest outside London. It offers a symphonic concert hall, mid-scale theatre, small-scale studio theatre, independent cinema, art galleries, and function room spaces.

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.

Don’t miss the Arts by the Sea Festival in late September – it’s an extravaganza of creativity and 
curiosity, showcasing comedy, music, visual arts and literature throughout the town for an entire week.

When you need some light relief, Bournemouth has comedy for all. The Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) and Bournemouth Pavilion are regular stops on the tour circuit for big name comedians, with past shows seeing the likes of Katherine Ryan, Russell Brand, Michael McIntyre and Joe Lycett.

There’s small-scale comedy too. Jaggers Comedy Club, inside the Cameo nightclub, has weekly 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. Previously Gary Delaney, Henning Wehn, Stewart Francis and John Cooper Clarke have all made appearances.

The BIC is a regular stop for big artists like Bastille, Clean Bandit and Christine and the Queens, while intimate, independent venues bring lively local bands.

The Anvil, on Holdenhurst Road, is a regular rock pleaser – there’s a rock jukebox on the wall for when there’s no live band – and Chaplin’s in Boscombe has nightly live events ranging from punk rock bands to reggae and blues. Head to the O2 Academy in Boscombe for chart-topping artists and DJ nights. Meanwhile, in the heart of the town centre is The Madding Crowd – an intimate venue playing music from established acts and new talent.

University Music is a joint AUB and BU department that offers a wide range of musical opportunities to students and staff of both universities. 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. We also have a suite of practice rooms on campus all equipped with pianos that are freely available for all students to use. Lessons are also available from our team of friendly and well-qualified tutors at reasonable rates and if you have passed grade 8 and have a good academic grounding in music such as grade 8 theory or A level music, you may be eligible for scholarship support towards the cost of lessons. Contact University Music for more details.

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

However, did you know that you can also find the smallest cinema in the UK in Bournemouth? With only 30 seats, the Colosseum Cinema and Bar is tucked away in Westbourne. It shows live sports alongside its diverse film listings.

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

Going out

Bournemouth is buzzing with students, being a town with two universities. It’s filled with great clubs with student nights most nights of the week – for example, Cameo, which is popular for its range of rooms, from Disco and House, to R&B and Hip-hop.

For a more relaxed 
vibe, Sixty Million Postcards on Exeter Road has regular DJs and live music alongside its craft beers. Quirky watering holes include Chaplin’s in Boscombe.

The Anvil and Buffalo are both hubs for alternative music and The Old Fire Station (Bournemouth University’s Student Union venue) is a big hit with nights like We Are Your Friends, a mix of Hip-Hop, Indie, Disco, Electro and Dubstep. It also has a weekly Indie and Pop night, along with comedy and live bands. As a student venue, it’s geared up for student prices. AUB students are just as welcome as BU students, and it’s usually full of both.

Boscombe is the home to O2 Academy, a fast–growing stop for UK tour circuit for well-known bands. Vodka Revolution is a fantastic spot for weekends with its fun, busy atmosphere and great space to sit and chat and an entire room for dancing. Down on the seafront, Aruba offers promotional offers for students.

For a little low-key competition, take advantage of the student prices at Mr Mulligans, an indoor mini golf course based at Bournemouth's BH2 complex. This is also home to Boom Battle Bar, where you can challenge yourselves with axe throwing, augmented reality darts, and 'Crazier Nolf', or play it safe with some karaoke. Both venues are close to a wide range of popular chain restaurants like Nando's, Pizza Express and TGI Fridays.

of the shopping in Bournemouth is focused around the town centre. You’ll find all the usual high street chains like Primark, River Island and Zara on Commercial Road and Old Christchurch Road. Meanwhile, Bobby's department store is your go-to for all things health, beauty, art, culture and community.

The Arcade, also on Old Christchurch Road, houses Waterstones and Space.NK. You can also head to Castlepoint, one of the UK’s largest shopping parks, where you’ll find even more high street brands.

For something a bit boho, try Enigma on Old Christchurch Road, where you’ll find silver jewellery, semi-precious stones, incense and crystals for sale, or Thai Threads. Located in Boscombe Arts Depot (B.A.D.), you'll find Pen Gallery – a contemporary art gallery and store – offering all kinds of goodies from over 100 local artists and makers.

For zero-waste and plastic-free shopping, Almond&Co in Westbourne and Bare Necessities in Poole are the best place to refill your jars and stock up on sustainable treats.

For music, Vinilo Record Store has a decent collection of vinyl and CDs, with everything from soul, reggae and jazz to rock, punk and blues. Absolute Music on Ringwood Road also has a great selection of musical equipment.

Bournemouth and Poole also host seasonal events throughout the year, with 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 each Autumn, with over 60 events offering a mix of some of the best regional, national and international arts across dance, film, music, visual art, literature, theatre, comedy and more. The festival is run by Arts Bournemouth and aims to encourage a greater awareness of and participation in outstanding and engaging arts across different media and art forms.

Bournemouth Emerging Arts Fringe is the town’s largest independent art festival and takes place each Spring. BEAF is a 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.

Bournevaria Oktoberfest takes place at the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC), forming the south coast's largest indoor Oktoberfest event and offering a huge range of traditional German beers and great food. Meanwhile, sport and music festival, Bournemouth 7s takes place in May.

Food and drink

Just a 15-minute walk from the university is Conto Lounge, a popular bar offering a wide range of food, at reasonable prices with a variety of lunchtime offers. Conto Lounge also has partner lounges: Ludo in Southbourne, Circo in Westbourne and Arcado in Christchurch.

Staying relatively close to campus, there are many restaurants in the Charminster area. There’s a Lebanese restaurant, Retro and also Nippon Inn, a quaint little Japanese restaurant that serves a number of small cheap dishes. This is the perfect place to meet with friends and get a great selection of food at a bargain price.

If you’re looking for dinner and a film, you can head down to the newly opened BH2 Leisure Complex. As well as a state-of-the-art, 10-screen multiplex ODEON cinema, the complex gives you the choice of 13 different restaurants.

Restaurant chains include ASK Italian, Five Guys, Nando’s, Pizza Express, T.G.I Fridays and Prezzo – giving you a whole host of options to choose from. The BH2 Complex is located in Exeter Crescent. You can also visit popular favourites including The Stable, Turtle Bay and Franco Manca.

In the town centre, Sixty Million Postcards is a very popular place for student events and burgers and you can head to The Goat and Tricycle for a great roast. There are brewery experiences at inventive brewpub Brewhouse & Kitchen and some great independent spots like Mexican restaurant Ojo Rojo.

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

Aruba, restaurant by day, club by night, has a prime location at the town end of the pier. Moving further along is West Beach, a small seafood restaurant right on the promenade. It’s perfect for grabbing a quick bite while visiting the beach.

Following the beach down to Boscombe pier along the promenade is Urban Reef, which has a fully exposed seating area, to which the staff bring out blankets as the chillier evenings come around.

Ice cream on a sunny day is essential, and there’s plenty to be had from the kiosks in the town centre gardens, on the seafront or at Giggi Gelateria in Burlington Arcade and Sprinkles in Winton.

Bournemouth town centre has an array of shops to pick some nibbles! There is a Co-op a few minutes’ walk from Halls, a large Asda next to the train station, and Tesco and Lidl in the town.

If you’re looking for sustainable shopping, Almond&Co is a store dedicated to reducing the use of single-use plastic. You can bring your own bags, jars and containers and stock up on essentials such as oil, rice, pasta, flour, milk, grains and coffee at the dispensing points. They also sell organic loose fruit and vegetables as well as locally baked bread and cakes.

Weekly bargains can be found at Boscombe’s Thursday and Saturday markets, open from 9.00 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.

One of the highlights of winter in Bournemouth is the annual Alpine Market, which forms part of the Bournemouth Christmas Tree Wonderland. Every December, small wooden huts selling gifts and Christmas decorations line the town centre square, and a two-storey Alpine bar is erected. 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.

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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