Student cities: studying in Nottingham

Student cities: studying in Nottingham
From ancient pubs to contemporary art galleries, Nottingham combines old and new and is host to a large student population.

There are advantages to living somewhere the size of Nottingham, which is a modest-sized city but with a large student population of just over 60,000 students.

For a start, it’s a friendly place and there’s nothing stand-offish about Nottingham. It’s easy to walk around and its public transport has a good reputation. But it’s also easy to get out of Nottingham into some particularly beautiful landscapes – the splendour of the Peak District, the history of Sherwood Forest and the majesty of the river Trent.

And there is a lot to do and see within the city. Nottingham certainly buzzes after hours, claiming to have more bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes per square mile than any other city in Europe. There are some great student hangouts near the city centre, around Lace Market and Hockley in particular.

Nottingham’s a sporting centre too, particularly for football, ice hockey, tennis and rugby. If you’re a cricket fan you’re in for a treat. Trent Bridge is a test, one-day international and county ground and is home to the celebrated Nottinghamshire Cricket Club. About 10 minutes from the city centre is the National Water Sports Centre, which has student memberships for a whole range of activities from white water rafting and tubing to stand-up paddleboarding.

The University of Nottingham’s campus is about three miles from the city centre. Lots of its students live in the Lenton area. Nottingham Trent University (NTU) has a city centre campus and two other sites about four miles from the centre of the city. Accommodation in the Forest Fields district is popular with NTU’s students.

Free and cheap stuff to do in Nottingham

Nottingham Castle was home to the sheriff in the Robin Hood films; student admission to it will set you back £5, for which you’ll be rewarded with a history lesson, beautiful grounds and a panoramic view of the city. The castle has a café but also hosts the city’s beer festival. At its foot is Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, which jousts with several rival inns for the title of oldest pub in England; it’s a fine hostelry, complete with its own cave under the bar.

Other Nottingham landmarks may be familiar too. Wollaton Hall was home to the Dark Knight in the Dark Knight Rises Batman film of 2011, with its twiddly-looking three storeys doubling as Wayne Manor/Batlair.

Back to the city centre and Nottingham Contemporary is a free gallery featuring lots of experimental art, while the New Art Exchange – just outside the city centre – is the UK’s largest exhibitor of multicultural art. Admission to it is free too.

In the middle of Nottingham is the Hockley area, and that’s a great place just to hang out, with lots of trendy shops to browse and bars to frequent – it’s been nicknamed the Soho of Nottingham. Hockley is where you’ll also find Broadway, which is one of the best independent cinemas in the UK and offers student deals.

The city hosts many festivals. As you’d expect there’s a feast of them over the summer. Neat 16 provides 27 days of European theatre, dance, literature and arts across 16 venues. Many of the events are ticketed but some are free. The most recent Waterfront festival costs £10.50 but for that you get a full day of local music acts, comedians and bunting in aid of charities. Riverside is more of a traditional family festival (with music and steam engines!) but it does have a spectacular Saturday night firework display, and that’s free to watch. Dot to Dot and Sherwood Pines are reasonably priced music festivals that have booked Jake Bugg, Tom Odell, Paloma Faith and Mumford & Sons. There are festivals for food, drinks, theatre and cinema too.

Also in the summer (but, in fact, also throughout the year), it’s a winter wonderland at the National Ice Centre, which is home to the Nottingham Panthers ice skating team, the occasional foam party on ice, Halloween fancy dress party on ice and other ice-related jaunts. Student discounts apply.


The Old Market Square is bang in the middle of the city, with stores to cater to every taste. Nearby is the Flying Horse Walk shopping arcade, a Georgian arcade for the fan of boutique stores. There are more independent shops – for antique clothes in particular – in Hockley, which is also a great place to have a coffee.

There are markets throughout the week. Bilborough, Clinton Street, Victoria Centre, Bulwell and Hyson Green are the main markets. Between them you can buy fresh food, clothes, household items, jewellery, plants, computers… practically anything you want.


Tapas, sushi, veggie fast food and Polish pierogi dumplings filled with fruit, potato, meat or cabbage are just of few of the menu items to be found among Nottingham's many lively eateries.

The live music and club scene is vibrant too. The Rescue Rooms music venue and club deviate from the norm with a two-day alternative freshers’ fair and a Caribbean barbecue evening with acoustic acts. Other top places are Keogh’s Irish Bar (expect to see singers and fiddlers), The Lion Inn (jazz), The Bodega (indie), and The Maze (punk and Americana).

For a big, shiny new nightclub experience head to Pryzm, which is popular with townies. If you like a more rootsy vibe head to the Marcus Garvey Ballroom, a West Indian community centre in Lenton. It can give up to 1,000 student revellers a good night out, and is very popular for those wanting an evening of no-nonsense fun. The Lace Market is where you’d want to be if you like your music bars smaller and more chic, and want to spend the end of an evening nursing a cold craft beer with incense filling the air and the DJ making sure the hip-hop is truly hip.

Some of Nottingham’s good music venues are also great pubs, such the Orange Tree, a stone’s throw from Nottingham Trent Uni. Other recommended pubs are the Canalhouse (waterside pub), Boilermaker (known for its quirky décor, a favourite in the Hockley area) and Horn in Hand (if you like sports bars).

The Theatre Royal and Nottingham Playhouse cater for theatre, and there’s no shortage of cinemas in the city.

If you’re looking for work experience

Nottingham is home to plenty of employers, and offers particularly good opportunities in areas such as life sciences, engineering, digital media, finance, business consulting, retail and leisure.

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