With the start of the new school year already upon us and autumn fast approaching, it’s tempting to enter hibernation mode a few months early. But why let the travel season come to an end? Whether you’re a fresher, final year or none of the above, fight the urge and check out what’s right on our doorstep. With a well-connected network of routes to and from uni towns throughout England and at such low rates, don’t let students have all the fun. It’s easy to forget that some of these towns exist beyond the realm of academia but there’s a lot more to them than libraries and lecture halls. Here are some of the best university towns to visit in England…
Besides its overly emphasised ties to the legends of Robin Hood, Nottingham is best known throughout the UK as a university town and home to a vibrant student culture thanks to the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University. Like any good youthful city, Nottingham offers an exciting and diverse range of nightlife establishments ranging from it’s traditional English Pubs to upscale wine bars and wild nightclubs. Recently rejuvenated, the charming streets and striking buildings of the Lace Market, a quarter mile square that once stood at the forefront of the world’s lace industry, currently house a series of fashionable bars, shops and restaurants. The Nottingham Castle’s commanding position atop Castle Rock provides a striking view over the city and a visit is highly encouraged.
With its historic architecture and a cosmopolitan vibe, Brighton has become one of the UK’s most popular student cities, with many graduates of its two top universities opting to stay. While its overwhelming majority of students are originally from London, earning itself the nickname “London by the Sea”, a large international student population has also added to the city’s diversity. This seaside resort has a reputation for being creative and free-thinking, offering cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs that suit all tastes and styles. Festivals, galleries, museums, comedy, theatre, take your pick, Brighton has it all! Over the summer, the city hosts some of Britain’s top events including Brighton Pride, the Brighton Festival Fringe and the 58 mile London to Brighton Bike Ride (if your stamina’s up to it!)
Often referred to as Oxbridge in spite of a centuries-old rivalry, Oxford and Cambridge share an undeniable link. Stagecoach has even dedicated its X5 bus route to providing multiple hourly connections between the two university towns. Each with a unique and rich history steeped in academia and boasting such incredible alumni as Adam Smith, Charles Darwin, T.S. Elliot and Nabokov, its easy to understand the attraction for students and visitors alike. With each claiming that punting is quintessentially Oxford or quintessentially Cambridge, visitors should make sure to find out for themselves who really does it better. Oxford’s Christ’s Church campus (backdrop to the Harry Potter franchise) and Cambridge’s Great St Mary’s Church give an impressive indication of what each destination has to offer.
The UK’s only city outside London to boast three universities, it’s safe to say that Liverpool is the epitome of a student city. While The Beatles is undoubtedly the city’s most-famous export, it is the diversity of Liverpool’s live-music scene that marks it out above other UK cities. Buzzing yet intimate gig venues are clustered around a few areas including Hope Street, Hardman Street and Matthew Street, with major acts performing regularly at the Echo Arena. The centre of Liverpool is quite compact, making it incredibly easy to get around. You can wander between sights from the city centre over to the stunning Liverpool Waterfront, which is lined with the mercantile architecture of the Liver Building and the Grade I listed Albert Dock warehouses. This fusion of 800-year old heritage and cultural wealth gives Liverpool a certain spirit well worth experiencing.
A friendly city with a low cost of living, it’s no surprise that Leeds has become a magnet for students, drawing over 100,000 to its two large universities: Leeds and Leeds Met(ropolitan). As a result of the city’s bulging student population and its transformation over the past few decades, Leeds has a youthful and dynamic feel about it. This has naturally fed into a diverse nightlife scene, with a plethora of great drinking spots including everything from dimly-lit room-sized bars and traditional pubs to swanky new champagne and cocktail lounges. Its shopping and dining opportunities are equally as impressive, with an eclectic mix of independent retailers, bustling markets and award-winning restaurants. Perhaps not a traditionally “tourist-y” destination, Leeds has so much to offer in the way of things to do and see, including a number of world-class museums and galleries (many of which are completely free!) For a real student experience, head to Headingley, one of Leeds’ alternative student districts. Have a picnic in the park and watch a film at the Grade II listed Hyde Park Picture House, an art deco-style arthouse cinema with gas lighting and retro red velvet curtains.
Madeline Sinclair and Susannah Taplin work on the UK marketing team at GoEuro. Having both recently graduated from university, they are taking any and every opportunity to travel that comes their way.