To make the most of your experience as a student in the UK, take time to explore all that your campus, town or city has to offer! Most students go out to socialise on Friday and Saturday nights, but there’s always something to do during the week too – an evening with friends or doing a hobby is a great way to relax.
In the evenings, make sure you stay safe. For example…
Always tell a friend where you are going.
If you are travelling at night, travel with a friend or a group and stick to well-lit areas.
Buses and trains run throughout the night in major cities, but are less frequent than during the day and routes can be restricted – look up timetables online in advance.
If you need to use a taxi (minicab), make sure it is a registered taxi.
If you drink alcohol, make sure you drink responsibly and safely (see Responsible drinking advice from Drinkaware).
We recommend reading the Creating confidence guide for more advice about safety in the UK.
Leisure, arts and entertainment
The UK’s nightlife is diverse and there’s something for everyone, so it’s worth asking other students about their favourite events and venues. Have a look at what’s on around your campus, too – students’ unions often organise evening entertainment.
Pubs and bars
Pubs are popular social destinations for many university and college students in the UK. You don’t have to drink alcohol to go to a pub – you will find lots of non-alcoholic drinks on offer, and many pubs also have food and entertainment such as karaoke, football match screenings or pub quizzes (weekly events where you compete as a team). There are age restrictions, however. See our article The pub for more details.
In most towns and cities you’ll find a range of bars, from glamorous cocktail and wine bars to traditional old pubs, and cheaper student bars.
Nightclubs and dance-floors
You might go on to a nightclub after the pub – clubs in the UK stay open later, sometimes until 5 or 6am, and many people arrive after 11pm. There will usually be an entry fee (this can range from £3 to £10, or more for special events) and drinks might be more expensive than in pubs. ‘Clubbing’ is all about the music – find out which venues play your favourite music, whether it’s R&B, '80s pop, dance, techno, rock or indie, and dance the night away.
The restaurant scene in the UK is thriving, and increasingly diverse – people are becoming more adventurous and interested in foods from around the world (see Food and drink). As a result you’ll find restaurants to suit every taste, mood and budget.
To dine out on a budget, look out for two-for-one or half-price deals, ’early bird’ deals (usually these run until 6 or 7pm), or discount cards such as TasteCard – for an annual membership fee, you’ll get money off unlimited visits to participating restaurants across the UK. As a student, you can also get discounts at many bars and restaurants with the NUS extra card or ISIC (International Student Identity Card).
Some of the world's largest music venues are in the UK, such as the O2 Arena in London and the LG Arena in Birmingham, but many world-renowned artists and bands also play at UK universities and colleges, and small bars and cafés often host live music and dancing. Read our Music article for more ideas, including key music festivals across the UK.
Regent's Park Open Air Theatre ©VisitBritain/Eric Nathan
Theatre and performing arts
The UK has a vibrant performing arts heritage, with theatres featuring traditional plays as well as new, contemporary productions – from Shakespeare and opera to world-famous musicals and modern dance. The latest trend is for ‘immersive theatre’, which brings the audience into the action – a recent production in London, The Drowned Man, invites audiences to explore a four-storey building where props and actors are waiting to reveal their story.
Look out for reviews and adverts in your local newspaper, listings magazines and notice boards at your school, college or university. For inspiration, look at websites such as TKTS.co.uk, Lastminute.com and WeGotTickets.co.uk, where you can often get discounts. You might be able to see some top shows at a cheaper price by choosing seats with a restricted view.
Almost every town will have a cinema with feature films (movies) from around the world. Hollywood releases will be easy to find, but major cities also have cinemas specialising in foreign and independent films, and universities often have a ‘student cinema’ that shows films on campus at student-friendly prices.
It’s also worth looking out for one-off events. In summer, organisations such as The Rooftop Film Club, The Luna Cinema and The Nomad Cinema run screenings outdoors – complete with drinks, snacks and blankets to keep you warm on chilly evenings! The UK is also home to the prestigious Edinburgh International Film Festival, Raindance Film Festival and BFI London Film Festival, where you can see some of the world’s best independent cinema.
Comedy nights are another essential UK experience, and a great way to get to know the British sense of humour! Seeing big-name comedians can be expensive, but many perform at students’ unions where tickets are often more affordable.
All comedians have a unique style and sense of humour – look them up online to see which ones appeal to you. Popular British comedians include Michael McIntyre, Jo Brand and Omid Djalili from London, Ricky Gervais and Eddie Izzard from the southeast, Russell Howard and Bill Bailey from the southwest, Sarah Millican from the northeast, Peter Kay and Johnny Vegas from Lancashire, Rhod Gilbert and Rob Brydon from Wales, Billy Connolly and Kevin Bridges from Scotland.
Jongleurs (across the UK) and The Comedy Store (in London and Manchester) are two of the largest comedy clubs, but you’ll also see adverts for smaller comedy events in your local area. There are thousands of gigs taking place in clubs and pubs across the UK each night. This is where up-and-coming comedians try out their acts, and many world-famous comedians started out. You might need to endure some lesser talents, however – the excitement of seeing unfamiliar acts is that it’s unpredictable.
Still bored? If you’re looking for something different, try:
Museum, zoo and gallery ‘lates’: Many visitor attractions offer late entry for one evening each month, with added perks such as music, dancing, food and drinks. Note that some events are 'adults only', so you might need to be over 18.
Organised night-time bike rides and runs are a great way to keep fit, as well as to meet new people. Look for a local group to join, or take part in a larger annual event – these are usually organised for charity, so you’ll also be supporting a good cause.
There are some unique walking tours that introduce a side of the UK’s towns and cities you won’t have seen before. Haunted ‘ghost tours’ are popular in cities including Edinburgh, York and Sheffield, or try a night-time photography class in Birmingham, an introduction to the street art of east London, or a tour of Brighton’s sewers!
There’s a trend in the UK for ‘pop-up’ shops, bars and restaurants (meaning they will rent premises on a short-term basis and open only for a few weeks or months) and ‘supper clubs’, which serve an exclusive menu in a new venue each month. They might be hard to find – keep an eye on blogs, Twitter and student newspapers – but if you do, you’ll be part of a unique secret!
Alternatively, why not organise your own entertainment? Invite a group of friends to cook a meal together, plan a movie night and share your favourite DVDs, or organise a board game tournament! Take turns to host a night in – you’ll save money, and introduce your friends to new interests.
Find out more