Birmingham is Britain’s second largest student city, with five universities: Aston, Birmingham City, the University of Birmingham, University College Birmingham and Newman University College. Aston (rated 33rd in The Guardian University Guide 2016) and the University of Birmingham (placed 17th) are especially strong. Alongside its 65,000-strong student population, Birmingham educates thousands more school-leavers and adults at its five further education and sixth-form colleges. Birmingham Metropolitan College, one of the biggest FE colleges in the UK, provides education on 14 sites, from the hi-tech eight-storey Matthew Boulton campus in the city’s learning quarter to a horticulture study centre in the historic botanical gardens. At South and City College Birmingham some 13,000 students study on courses from level one to higher education.
So as you can imagine, there are a lot of hungry, thirsty students out there, but where do they go for a good night out? University of Birmingham intern Michael Francis has come up with his best student bars in the second city:
One could imagine that there are a fair number of students who would like to try a Flaming Moe. Once inside Island Bar, it becomes obvious that a huge amount of effort goes into the service. One would be forgiven for thinking that they will have to exclusively pay premium prices for the high quality cocktails on offer. Rather, Island Bar offers a range of both affordable and premium range cocktails.
In addition, the bar staff provide a service that will definitely exceed expectations. The bar staff are very approachable, and while being served, customers may almost feel they are watching a performance of a cocktail making masterpiece. Staff are happy to talk through with the customer how they make cocktails, and of course, the staff appear happy to just have a good chat.
Hare & Hounds
Students who love music are in for a treat at Hare & Hounds. Hounds has a unique reputation for featuring live performances from artists early in their careers, who went on to become world famous. Most notably UB40, more recently Ed Sheeran.
Students who go to Hounds get to experience live music amongst a crowd of a few hundred. Combining this with the reputation of the venue, and students will likely experience an evening that they will one day in the future will regard as special. Even better for students, is that live music can be enjoyed on a small budget. For live music and a few pints, students could potentially have a memorable evening for no more than £20. This includes ticket prices, which are usually no more than £10, plus drinks.
Even if students are not after live music, Hare and Hounds provides a first class Brummie pub experience, meaning that students from outside Birmingham will most likely regard Hounds as the best of the best of Birmingham pubs. Hounds just as many pubs do, provides weekend club nights, pub quizzes and comedy. All this provided in a traditional pub venue makes Hounds one of the most iconic pubs in the country.
Having opened in 2017, The Ruin offers an alternative to all Birmingham bars before it. Aesthetically, The Ruin lives up to its name, as parts of the bar look like the decorating process is ongoing. However, it soon becomes apparent that the look of The Ruin is a pleasant alternative to the ongoing development of slick and shiny new buildings in Birmingham. Any student walking away from The Ruin after a first visit will likely come away thinking ‘that was different’.
Happy hour deals from 5 to 7 on food and drink, make The Ruin an ideal early evening stop for students. Happy hour is an ideal time for students to try ales, lagers, and ciders that they might not have come across before.
Food at The Ruin is unbelievable value for money. So cheap is the food and drink; a student could perhaps expect to enjoy a good evening at The Ruin with food and two drinks for no more than £10. The bar also do 10% off for students, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday!
For students, Walkabout’s Mates Rates card provides deals and discounts on a range of selected drinks. This includes: beers, spirit mixers, and even cocktails. To be clear, in order to take advantage of these deals and discounts, one must have the Mates Rates card; flashing your student ID at the bartender without the Mates Rates card means drinks are full price. Mates rates card holder offers are valid 7 days a week Amy time they’re open.
As one of the most popular bars in the whole of Birmingham, Walkabout does not cater to a niche alternative crowd. Rather Walkabout offers a diverse, mainstream, and somewhat cheesy experience that aims to appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds. This is clearly visible especially at peak times as one will definitely notice a very diverse crowd of customers.
This however does not mean that Walkabout does not have an alternative edge to it. As a bar that promotes ‘the spirit and authenticity’ of Australia, many of the bar staff are Australian, and additionally they also offer a range of Australian beers and ciders.
Walkabout goes all out to provide whatever kind of experience the customer is seeking, whether it be a party experience, a sports experience, or a quiet lunch experience. For a party or sports, Walkabout is a big experience that can either leave students feeling like they’ve had one of the best nights out, or sports viewing ever, or they may leave feeling overwhelmed. During off-peak times Walkabout is very quiet, but it is there to offer a cool laid-back service, if such as student requires while studying.
A five minute walk away from Edgbaston campus, The Bristol Pear is popular with students from all three of Birmingham’s universities. For students the Bristol Pear frequently offers deals not exclusive, but very attractive students. The Bristol Pear also offers a More Card, for which those with the card can collect points for every purchase.
The Bristol Pear caters to students by offering free Wi-Fi, allowing customers to request any tune they desire, and even offering printing service for students. All this is handy for a chilled early evening where customers can enjoy sports and recreational activities such as pool and even board games.
Later in the evening, the Bristol Pear becomes more vibrant but never feels overwhelming; it retains its chilled out vibe, and is very ideal for those looking for a pub to converse and at the same time enjoy the surrounding environment.
The Glee Club
This comedy and live music venue offers vouchers to students which allows them to have money off food and drink. With these vouchers, students can expect to have an enjoyable evening while spending no more than £15.
Glee Club offers a variety of entertainment, but of course it is best known for its comedy nights. Students can expect to see mainstream comedians that they see every week on comedy panel shows. For the mainstream comedians, getting tickets in advance is a must.
Students may not even realize that a great time at Glee Club is usually effortless. In order for customers to have a memorable evening, Glee Club does most of the work. The entertainment is of course there; in addition Glee Club staff will bring food and drink straight to your table.
Students can expect to be enticed by The Victoria pub’s daily deals. 20% off Real and Craft Ale on Mondays, 20% off whisky on Wednesdays, and 2 for 1 happy hour cocktails at varied times throughout the week.
Two monthly comedy nights are promoted at Victoria, for students on a budget, the improve comedy is free entry. Snap up comedy requires a ticket purchase, however with tickets from £8, students can still expect a quality night on a budget.
Students in addition will love performances from live bands, and the funky R&B, soul music on weekends. Victoria delivers for those who wish to experience a lively and friendly atmosphere. The design of the pub is what one would expect from a pub called The Victoria, however all of this blends with a unique mix of colours to liven up the atmosphere. It is all a nice getaway from the increasingly bigger development of buildings around central Birmingham.
The Night Owl
The Night Owl is Birmingham’s best night club for those who are serious about dancing. While Northern Soul is at the heart of this stunning purpose designed venue, other great nights at The Night Owl include DJs playing psychedelia, funk, disco, reggae, 80s pop and MOD from the regions finest DJs in their field.
There are various tribute nights to rock and disco legends with live music and various offers. Look out for student nights and dance-off Le Freak parties where the audience decide who wins the best dancer of the night. This is a student mecca for those looking for something with a bit of substance in their jiving.
Article by Michael Francis for Grapevine Birmingham