Berkley's cocktail bar

Plymouth’s nightlife comes as a pleasant surprise to many newcomers to the city.

There’s plenty of it to suit all tastes and budgets – from heavy metal bands in throbbing ‘pound a pint’ student pubs to high culture for those who prefer fine dining and a night at the opera.

But if you’ve just arrived in Plymouth and found yourself in the city centre after dark, you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s more action in a Tibetan monastery.

Nightlife in the main city centre shopping area is non-existent - except on special occasions including Christmas which is one of the few times the place has an evening buzz about it.

The lack of after hours activity is partly explained by the fact that the city centre was destroyed in the devastating Plymouth Blitz of WW2. The current centre is the result of a massive – albeit rather hurried - rebuilding programme which failed to include a strong residential element.

As no-one actually lives in the city centre, the place is virtually a ghost town after shop closing time. But worry not – take a short walk in one of three directions and you’ll find enough nightlife to keep you going till dawn.

North HillCuba - student bar on North Hill

This is the main road running through the University of Plymouth campus and it’s chock-a-block with student bars. Favourites among uni students (and the city’s younger party animals) include Cuba, The Roundabout pub, Mousetrap, Skiving Scholar, Bang Bang and After 8. This is where you can indulge your passion for everything from pole dancing and pool to packing away as many cheap shots as your body and wallet can stand.

Mutley Plain, at the top of North Hill, is also awash with bars and fast food joints largely catering for students (as many of them live in the student apartments which dominate this part of town). Several of the pubs here have live gigs – including the Mutley Crown, Junction and Boomerangs.

The Barbican

Plymouth’s historic quarter, which escaped the WW2 bombing, is packed with bars, clubs, takeaway joints and a huge range of restaurants including many right on the waterfront.

The B-Bar and Barbican Theatre, in Castle Street up the steep steps to the left of the quayside Tourist Information centre, is a must if you’re into quirky entertainment, experimental theatre and authentic Thai noodle boxes.

Annabel’s in Vauxhall Street offers a great range of cabaret acts (with a bit of racy burlesque thrown in for good measure) and a disco on the top floor.

Plymouth’s biggest nightclub, Oceana, is at the Barbican Leisure Park. Drinks are pricey at the weekends but the club has cheap student nights during the week. There’s a free bus to Oceana from the University of Plymouth campus on Monday nights and a free service from Derry’s Cross roundabout in Union Street on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

If Oceana’s too big and brash for your taste, try the cosy Barbican Blues Bar and Grill on the harbourside - it hosts some truly talented singers and musicians and its American-style ribs are the stuff of legend.

Union Street

This is Plymouth’s most notorious street – famed for years as the city’s main den of iniquity where hordes of sozzled sailors made the most of their shore leave and often wreaked havoc in the process.

These days ‘the street’ has shaken off its image as Plymouth’s premier trouble spot though there are still the inevitable bust-ups which accompany weekend drinking in every British city.

The western end of Union Street is decidedly shabby and run-down, blighted by decaying buildings including the once grand Palace Theatre where Harry Houdini wowed the crowds with his escapology act in 1909. The building became the popular Dance Academy nightclub until its owner was slapped in jail in 2008 for allowing it to be used for the 'rampant' sale of Ecstasy. He was sentenced to nine years and hasn't yet managed to follow in Houdini's footsteps.

C103 is one of the most popular clubs in town and now faces competition from the stylish looking Venue which has opened next door. Jesters is one of the oldest clubs on the Union Street strip, The Clipper is the place for 24-hour drinking and Flares is a fun spot for more innocent seventies-style partying.

Dubious entertainment is on offer at the interestingly titled ‘Gentlemen’s Club’ and gents in the mood for something slightly less seedy are invited to enjoy a ‘private dance’ at Temptations.

Restaurants and clubs at Derry's Cross roundabout in Plymouth

Wetherspoon’s Union Rooms morph from a child-friendly family eatery by day into a popular club by night. Nearby Revolution, on the Derry’s Cross roundabout, is an upmarket vodka bar, restaurant and nightclub – one of the top nightspots in town which offers the unique incentive of free haircuts on Wednesday nights!

Many uni students start their nights in the North Hill bars, head on to clubs like Oceana, C103 or Revolution then head back to North Hill to see the dawn in. Walkabout, next to Revolution, is the place for live sport and it offers you the chance to try out your vocal talent at Sunday night ‘Bandeoke’ (singing with the backing of a live band).

Tips on the best students bars and clubs from a University of Plymouth graduate.

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