I first moved to Nottingham as a student back in 2011 and I call tell you that the city has changed in a lot of ways since then, all of them for the better. Long gone is the Shottingham image that once unfairly plagued the city. Now it's an ever expanding cultural hub for the East Midlands, with new bars, galleries and creative spaces opening up all over the place, all within walking distance of the city centre.
Many of the places mentioned here have only opened in the last five years, a sign of both the city's continuing growth and the way that contemporary Nottingham is dedicated to embracing newness and innovation. It might still be a city dominated by its student population, but there's a real sense of diversity when it comes to nightlife. That combined with all the other nice changes I've briefly outlined make it an great place to spend three (or more) years. OK, there might not be a tonne of incredible clubs at present, but hey, given the rate of change elsewhere in the city who knows what's round the corner?
Notts—as you'll soon be calling it—is a localised and vibrant community, and the place has kept a great deal of its character and charm despite the rapid expansion. View the following guide as a starting point to a city that'll be different in so many ways every term.
What our club scene lacks in quantity it certainly makes up for in quality, with the Wigflex parties leading the way, throwing gritty experimental nights that most recently have seen the likes of Ben UFO, Head High and Hunee grace the decks. They've recently expanded to London and often take their parties to festivals, but for my money their Notts parties at warehouse venue Brickworks are always the standouts in town. For more soulful vibes be sure to check out the infrequent, but always lively Mimm parties, and when summer rolls around head to Saltwater for the best rooftop sessions in town. Finally, be sure to check out Lofthouse which is a real rising star of Notts nightlife, regularly hosting disco, funk and soul nights that always get the crowd going. Which helps. It being a club and everything.
A Really Good Pub
Nottingham has so many pubs that you'll find yourself up to your neck in pints of the local Harvest pale ale, but the outstanding choice right now is Junkyard, a pokey, dimly-lit place tucked away next to the tram line in Hockley. It's not the cheapest by any means, but the beers are from small-batch breweries and all taste sensational. The Canalhouse close to the station is also a good shout for a cheaper pint; you just can't beat a beer next to Notts canal.
A Decent Restaurant for Someone on a Budget
You won't find it on any Buzzfeed lists but for me Edin's Café in Hockley gets it right every time for classic English dishes. A two-course meal is an absolute steal at around £8, and everything is usually a few quid cheaper before 5pm. If that doesn't tickle your fancy the tapas menu always cooks up a real treat. On the other side of town, you'll also find Sheesh Mahal, which I swear is one of the best kebabs I've ever had, and is perfect for fixing a hangover.
A Great Gig Venue
OK, it's a pretty obvious one that you'll soon find out about but Rock City has always remained my favourite spot for a gig in the city. The crowd there always seem up for a party, and it's a great place to catch bands who are on the verge of making it into the big-time.
A Record Shop
A few months back now, we sadly saw the closure of record shop and local the Music Exchange. Luckily a few others have recently sprouted up to soften the blow, with Forever Records, started by one of the Music Exchanges former owners, filling the void by stocking LP's from local Nottingham bands as well as jazz and alt-rock. It's Plates for me that's the current standout store in Notts, situated just off of Market Square and dealing in everything from dance music oddities to a quality selection of reggae and hip-hop. For the true digger in you, a trip to Rob's Records is an absolute must. Rob is somewhat of a cult figure around Nottingham, having owned the shop for over 30 years, and although the records are dauntingly unorganised, it's always a fantastic way to waste away an afternoon.
A Museum You Can Take the Person You Got off with on the First Night in Halls To
Staring out over the Hockley is the magnificent Nottingham Contemporary, a free art gallery that always hosts intriguing exhibits from both international artists and Nottingham alumni, most notably including a recent exhibit by Turner Prize winning artist Simon Starling.
A Truly Local Spot That You'll Feel Really Smug Knowing About
Very few students ever seem to venture out of the immediate city centre unless they're heading back to halls, but if you head to Sneinton you will be rewarded for doing so. Located behind Hockley and near the massive Motorpoint Arena, Sneinton is a vibrant spot full of affordable pubs, and in Sneinton market a great place to both pick up street food and skate. It also has both the Surface gallery and Backlit, two of Nottingham's best art spaces displaying work from up and coming local artists.
A Place to Drink Coffee in Between Lectures Because You Will Suddenly Decide That You Drink Coffee Now Even Though You'd Rather Have a Squash
I now never get coffee from anywhere other than 200 Degrees, a small artisanal coffee shop by the market square. Their coffee is always on point, and the cakes and pastries are to die for. They've just opened another shop in Hockley (yep, Hockley again!), so now you shouldn't have to worry if you can't find a seat.
A Good Bookshop
Compared to most cities of its size Nottingham has a surprisingly big independent publishing community. The figurehead of this is Idea's on Paper, a magazine store located in Cobden Place that stacks all sorts of independently published arts, culture and lifestyle magazines. You're always likely to stumble across something new and original inside, so a visit here is a must.
A Place to Laze About the Morning After the Night Before
Nottingham is sadly lacking in a good number of these spots, so the place to go is always The Arboretum. Located a stone's throw away from Nottingham Trent university (sorry anybody studying at Uni of Nottingham) and it's a great place to relax with plenty of shade for when summer comes around. Just make sure your out before they close the gates at 9PM, or you'll have to awkwardly hop it over the fences.
When I first came to university in Nottingham all those years ago, I'd never even been to the city before, let alone knowing anything about it. Since then I've found the city so captivating that I still haven't been able to leave it since finishing my degree. I wouldn't mind betting the same thing might just happen to you.