Student guide to Plymouth

Plymouth city guide

By Leah Scott

So you got into Plymouth, congratulations!

A few things: it rains a lot but never snows, everything is within walking distance but it’s super hilly, and the only sun you’ll see will be on university open days. Also, good luck explaining to everyone back home that despite being on the coast, Plymouth doesn’t really have a beach :(.

But the locals are friendly and the bars are good, so welcome! I hope you enjoy your stay.

I thought long and hard about the best way to guide you through this fair city, and figured we’d get the boring stuff like accommodation and food shopping out of the way first, before talking about fun stuff.

Accommodation

If you’re heading into the PU halls of residence, good for you. The chances are you’ll be either right next to campus (it’s literally across the road), or in the City Centre, right in the middle of all the shops (convenient!)

If you’re going for shared housing, there are two main places you may end up. Mutley, or St Judes.

If you’re in the St Judes area, expect a peaceful existence that is the envy of your Mutley counterparts. In our year spent there we had one neighbour who was a deaf old lady, and another fairly quiet student house on the other side. It was perfect. We could make noise if we wanted, but didn’t really have to worry about other people making it. I slept in a room at the front of the house and never had noise issues from people walking past.

However, we had a barbeque once and after went out into our front garden to have some beers and left a few bottles out, the next morning an empty bag of pig feed had been forced through our letterbox. Whether we deserved it or not, pretty passive aggressive move there, anonymous neighbour.

Mutley is pretty much the opposite, in my experience no one will really judge you for anything, but it’s rough. Trust me. I was sat at our kitchen table in third year and a guy wandered into our garden and tried to break into my ground floor bedroom through the window. In front of me. It’s also much noisier, with the nearby train tracks, and the bars on Mutley High Street. You can make a racket, but expect one in return.

Obviously, this should go without saying, but respect your neighbours, especially locals. End parties or at least turn down music at a reasonable time. We used to play Closing Time by Semisonic before herding everyone out towards Oceana.

Food shopping

Wherever you are in Plymouth, chances are you’ll be surrounded by Tesco Metros, and small convenience sized Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Co-ops. That’s great, and you could probably sustain yourself from those shops alone. But if you fancy bulk food shopping, and don’t have a car, you only really have two options.

There’s a massive Sainsbury’s, with a Wilko and Iceland (sort of) next door, in the centre of town. It’s very close to campus. While it’s a good distance if you’re in halls, if you’re further away it conveniently has a taxi rank next to it.

If you’re in Mutley, you have an ALDI basically on your doorstep. It’s just off the high street, and for those of you who aren’t familiar with the joint, it’s SO CHEAP. The food is good, too. When we started shopping there I was a bit concerned about the quality, but everything tasted great, and my new third hand is super useful.

Eating out

Goodbody’s is a quintessentially Plymouth-ish establishment. Cheap food, sticky tables, loud natives - it’s got it all, and it’s fantastic! It's open 24hrs a day, meaning if you’re stumbling around drunk after a night out and fancy a cooked breakfast, you’d better trundle up to Mutley. Many a hangover has been cured there. They serve food in larger portions than any reasonable human can consume, and their milkshake sizes go from roughly-the-size-of-your-head, to roughly-the-size-of-a-two-year-old.

I’m not sure ‘heaven’ is the word - pretty damn good, sure, but ‘heaven’? Talk to me after you get more seating, mate.

If you don’t live near Mutley and need late night food - Jake’s is a good alternative, it’s more central and very close to halls. They serve the same quality food you’d expect at a poorly run carnival, but when you’re drunk stuff like that doesn’t really matter. It tastes good, it’s cheap, and they’re generally a very nice bunch in there.

Interesting side note: Plymouth was voted the best place to get ‘drunk food’.

Bar Burritos only opened up a few months before I moved away. Life is pain.

If you’re not wasted and just fancy a nice meal out, check out Bar Burritos on the Barbican. It’s gorgeous. For those of you fortunate enough to have visited a Chipotle, it’s a bit like that, only they bring your food to your table, it all feels a bit more personal, and the hot sauces are a bit more hot. Also they have a plethora of phone chargers available, an old piano you can play on, and the entire staff was playing Pokemon Go last time I was there. Perfect 5/7, would recommend.

Other places to check out

You’ll find out very quickly at uni that’s it's best to have at least one or two fancy dress outfits. Not only do clubs host frequent dress up nights, so do lots of the clubs and societies. But don’t worry, Plymouth has got you covered. Just by the Sainsbury’s I mentioned earlier, there is a magical place with all your costume needs.

I stumbled into it accidentally during my first few weeks in Plym, and it was a mecca for fancy dress lovers. They had literally everything I could think of.

Later in the year I got out Google Maps on my phone and paced the length of the city searching for it, finding only smaller, disappointing shops. It felt like the room of requirement from Harry Potter - only it disappears when I actually needed it.

Anyway yeah wizard references aside, it turns out it’s located just underneath Sainsbury’s. It has its own entrance just to the side. I doubt anyone else has ever had trouble finding it, and I’m probably just an idiot, but either way, check it out! The only advice I would give is that it gets huge queues outside the door during the approach to Halloween, so get in there early if you can.

Entertainment

For cinemas, you have two options - Vue or Reel. Your choice of venue will probably correlate with how recent your last student loan payment was.

Vue is in a leisure park, complete with a gym, a bowling alley/arcade, a Nando’s, Pizza Hut, Pizza Express, Chiquitos, and Oceana. The tickets are about as expensive as you’d expect, but you’re surrounded by nice things to do and free parking.

Interestingly, Reel is number 3 on the Top 5 Haunted Places in Plymouth list.

Reel is not in a lovely part of town. It’s over by the pavilions, hidden behind a load of other stuff. The building is a converted theatre, so the screens are small, the place is dusty, and the seats are pretty terrible - BUT it’s super cheap! Also the staff are lovely.

The Hoe

On a warm day, the entire student population of PU can be found on The Hoe, Plymouth’s alternative to a beach. It’s a big bit of grass with a lighthouse overlooking the sea, but they do lots of events there, like fireworks and concerts, so it’s a good place to check out.

The view almost justifies the price of the drinks. Almost.

Just down the seafront from The Hoe is The Barbican, the most beautiful part of Plymouth. Apart from streets of shops you won’t be able to afford to shop in, it also contains dozens of bars you won’t be able to afford to drink in, but will anyway. You can take in the sea aroma and plan elaborate thefts of the nearby boats while sipping on a cold one. Nice.

Lastly, if you’re feeling flush check out the Plymouth Aquarium. It’s pretty good.

Bars & clubs

I haven’t written an exhaustive guide to bars because frankly the best part of Fresher’s week is exploring them all yourself. However there are lots of societies that run bar crawls if you want a semi-structured expedition.

If you're really clueless, here are some of my favourites:

  • Cuba is where every night will inevitably end up. Luckily it’s right opposite the uni, and surrounded by other bars. They do 2 for 1 drinks on Tuesdays and £1 a pint Fridays.
  • James Street Vaults - this is a pub on the PU campus, the quiz on Tuesdays is usually a good laugh and you get free food.
  • The Mousetrap is a popular club that's famous for it's awesome roof terrace, pub quiz on Sundays, and £1 a pint Thursdays.
  • Switch, or ‘The Bar Formerly Known as Bang Bang’, located right next to the infamous Cuba, and right opposite campus, they do £1 a pint Mondays, 2 for 1 drinks everyday 6-11pm, and have astroturf in the smoking area.
  • Roundabout is a great place to check out, day or night. They do a Man Vs Food challenge for most chicken wings eaten, pub quizzes on Sundays, cheap cocktails on Thursdays, and air just about every sports game known to man.

I hope this guide has helped you out and you've learned something new about the fine city of Plymouth - one final piece of advice... keep away from the seagulls.


Check out our guide to saving money at Freshers Week.

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