A Freshers Guide to Fun Without Alcohol

Emma Holding lists 10 (non-alcohol-based) things to do when you first move to Bristol. 

If you’ve just moved to Bristol and Freshers’ week has left you with extensive knowledge of the clubs and bars in the city, it’s time to explore the many other things Bristol has to offer. Although the alcohol consumption during Freshers can make socialising a whole lot easier, it’s easy to forget that it is possible to socialise without it, or at least in moderation. As you’ll discover in the next few weeks, our city has a lot more to offer than just alcohol and clubbing.

Now that you live in Bristol, you’ll soon realise that much of the city’s charm doesn’t actually lie in the clubs of the triangle, but in the many other places across the city. Although moving somewhere new can be daunting, try to embrace all the new opportunities you find; that feeling of apprehension will quickly change to one of excitement. Armed with this article and your phone’s maps app, you’ll soon discover all the great things Bristol has to offer.

Whether you’re a non-drinking fresher or you just need a break from waking up with a headache every morning, these ten things to do when you move to Bristol will be a great way to hang out without the alcohol and explore your new city.


St Nicholas Market

You can find everything and anything at St Nicks market in its multiple sections, including the undercover market and outdoor food market. The market is open Monday to Saturday from 9:30 until 5, but keep an eye out for their regular special events and visiting markets, for example, vegan market Mondays, farmers’ markets, and special evening opening hours.


M Shed

If you’re curious about the history of your new city, at the M Shed you can find out about Bristol from the prehistoric times to the present day. The museum is free, which makes it particularly appealing to a post-freshers student, and it’s by the Harbourside which is also a beautiful place to visit and wander around.


The Cube

Characteristic of its location, Stokes Croft, The Cube is an independent cinema which screens a wide variety of indie films and locally-produced art. Along with getting to watch an inspirational film, you’ll also be supporting a great non-profit organisation which has grown in Bristol as ‘a social art experiment existing in the form of a cinema and event venue’.


The Downs

Being the city with the greenest open spaces in an urban area, Durdham Down is one of Bristol’s many green spaces perfect for a sunny day. And even though we are sadly leaving summer behind us, the Downs are perfect for a refreshing walk, which is always a welcome break from stuffy or dirty university halls. The Downs are right next to the Stoke Bishop accommodation, and only a bus ride away from city centre accommodation, so make sure to head there to give your brain back some much-needed fresh air.


Gloucester Road

Although a bit further from the university campus, Gloucester Road is definitely worth a trip. Bristol prides itself on its many independent shops and businesses, most of which can be found on Gloucester Road. You can buy almost anything with a single trip down this road, and the endless charity and vintage shops mean you’ll probably get a good deal too. The various fruit and veg markets are also a cheaper way of getting your nutrients, all the while supporting local businesses!


The Lanes

Whilst The Lanes Live sometimes turns the venue to host club nights, The Lanes’ star of the show is the actual ‘lanes’, a.k.a. the bowling. Their boutique bowling alley characterises Bristol’s individual charm and is a great place to hang out with friends (not to mention they have a  delicious pizza menu too).


That Thing

If you love the iconic Bristol style, independent clothing store ‘That Thing’ in Stokes Croft is for you. That Thing specialises in individual style and houses both designer and locally-designed clothing which is hard to find elsewhere. It’s a perfect place to add to your wardrobe for the new year, to buy gifts for your new friends, or to send a bit of Bristol to someone back home.


You & Meow

If you have fur babies at home and are missing that animal contact, Bristol’s answer is the cat cafe in the city centre. Their cafe has a selection of teas, coffees, cakes and cats! There are 14 different felines who live in the cafe and the whole thing is decorated for cat lovers. There is a £5 entry charge which makes it a novelty trip but is sure to give you your furry fix.



Swoon is home to Bristol’s very best gelato and sorbet; not only do they master the Italian gelato but also the Italian coffee. Their menu consists of ice cream, hot and cold drinks, milkshakes, waffles and so much more. Open until late, it’s a great place to hang out with friends without the booze or if your sweet tooth demands some attention.



Arnolfini is Bristol’s own art house which exhibits all kinds of visual arts and hosts performance, music and workshop events regularly. There’s also a friendly cafe which has outside seating on the Harbourside, providing a nice place to relax with a coffee after visiting their exhibitions. There’s even a quiet space which is a great place to go and study when you (inevitably) can’t find a library seat on campus!

Illustration by Rivka Cocker. 

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