The Top 10 Things To Do and See in Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s historic Pavilion Theatre
Bournemouth’s historic Pavilion Theatre | © Let’s Go Out Bournemouth / Flickr
Photo of Marianna Hunt
11 September 2020

Located in the picturesque county of Dorset, this idyllic British seaside town on England’s South Coast has been a European holiday hotspot for decades. The coastal gem, Bournemouth, is known as an epicentre of culture and entertainment. Holidaymakers and tourists flock here every year to enjoy Bournemouth’s stunning beaches, quirky shops, delicious cafés and, occasionally, some sunshine.

Bournemouth’s stunning beaches

What else from a seaside town? Breathtaking views of Bournemouth’s seven miles of beaches stretch on into the distance, nestled by the side of spectacularly soaring cliffs. The natural coastline here is some of the most picturesque in the UK. It seems unsurprising then that Bournemouth’s award-winning beaches have proved so popular with British and international tourists over the years. Bournemouth Beach is one of the UK’s safest, with lifeguards stationed along the whole stretch. Get your buckets and spades at the ready and head straight for this British seaside paradise.

One of Bournemouth’s breathtaking beaches | © Let’s Go Out Bournemouth... / Flickr

Attend one of Bournemouth’s festivals

Throughout the year, the Bournemouth plays host to incredible and diverse festivals, so no matter what time you visit, the town is sure to be buzzing with life and colour. Launched in 2012, the Arts by the Sea Festival has been making waves in the UK’s cultural scene ever since. Featuring showcases of the UK’s best dance, drama, music and films, this festival has become a firm favourite. The 10-day Bournemouth Food and Drink Festival is just as popular and attracts visitors from across Europe. Performances by the famous Red Arrows at Bournemouth Air Festival and the town’s annual Bourne Free carnival are also unmissable.

The town’s parks and gardens

The town’s luscious green parks and gardens provide a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Relax under the shade of a lush leafy canopy and admire the idyllic natural landscape all around. The town’s Upper, Lower and Central Gardens are the most popular, and these charming examples of Victorian style are Grade II-listed. Expect exotic flowers, rare species of wildlife and perfectly mowed lawns. With over 2,000 acres of parks and gardens, there’s no shortage of scope for relaxation in this summer getaway town.

Bournemouth’s Lower Gardens | © Let’s Go Out Bournemouth... / Flickr

A spot of shopping

Quirky vintage shops and chic designer boutiques rub shoulders will all the classic high-street favourites on the bustling streets of Bournemouth. Whether its eccentric curiosities, the latest trends, ancient antiques or local artisan products, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in Bournemouth. Charming souvenir shops offer interesting options as presents for family and friends. The town centre is located, very conveniently, a short walk from Bournemouth’s beaches, and the streets are dotted with first-class restaurants and charming cafés. The town’s fascinating vintage quarter is situated on Christchurch Road.

Bournemouth’s piers

Bournemouth boasts two wonderful piers. Both Bournemouth Pier and Boscombe Pier are iconic landmarks in the town and appear on hundreds of postcards around Bournemouth. Boscombe Pier, opened in 1889, stands at an incredible length of 230 metres and is a Grade II-listed site. Bournemouth Pier is over 300 metres in length and its RockReef adventure center offers activities for the whole family. A new favourite is the PierZip, allowing people to whizz through the air along a zip wire from the pier to the beach. There’s also the opportunity to have a go at caving, fairground games and arcades.

Enjoy the outdoors

Come and explore the outstanding nature of Dorset by taking a relaxing stroll or hiring a bike. Bask in the British sunshine along one of the fantastic cycle trails or be enchanted by the view of the setting sun from Bournemouth’s towering cliffs. Cyclists have the option of either an off-road adventure or a smooth sightsee along the roads. For those feeling a little weary after a day of sightseeing, Bournemouth’s land train provides the perfect alternative for allowing visitors to admire the breathtaking coastal views from the comfort of the train’s carriages. The route, from Bournemouth Pier to Boscombe Pier, is one of the most scenic in the country.

Listen to some fantastic live music

With its thriving cultural scene and young population, it’s unsurprising that Bournemouth is known as one of the best places for gigs and concerts outside of London. Boasting three major venues in the Pavilion Theatre, BIC,and O2 Academy, Bournemouth has no shortage of musical options. The O2 and Pavilion are both Grade II-listed and, even without the great gigs, these historic buildings, particularly the Pavilion with its sublime Art Deco style, merit a visit. The Pavilion Theatre hosts a range of events, with everything from operas and ballets to West End shows.

Bournemouth’s historic Pavilion Theatre | © Let’s Go Out Bournemouth / Flickr

St Peter’s Church

Map View
St Peter’s Church
St Peter’s Church | © Alwyn Ladell / Flickr

This Grade I-listed church was the first ever to be built in the town of Bournemouth. Stunning and historic in equal measure, St Peter’s Church is certainly worth a visit. Completed in the 19th century, St Peter’s was designed by architect George Edmund Street – one of Britain’s leading Victorian Gothic Revival architects. The towering 62-metre spire erupts onto the skyline and is unmissable. Simon Jenkins, in his book England’s Thousand Best Churches (1999), describes St Peter’s as “one of the richest Gothic Revival interiors in England”.

Bournemouth’s famous food scene

The lush natural landscape of surrounding Dorset provides the fantastic wealth of local ingredients and regional produce that makes the food scene in Bournemouth so wonderful. Whether it’s a quick snack, a relaxed lunch or a gourmet dinner, any meal in Bournemouth is sure to be a memorable one. Local favourite include the incredible organic treats at Little Pickle Café and the charm of Frieda’s Tearoom – a quintessentially English spot to enjoy afternoon tea. Bournemouth’s Urban Reef also deserves a mention for its sensational beachside location.

Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum

Map View

Both a museum and an art gallery, the Russell-Cotes building is one of Bournemouth’s main attractions. The museum is simply jam-packed with fascinating objects, intriguing exhibits and superb art from around the world. The building itself rivals the art for beauty and is a magnificent example of Victorian and Art Nouveau styles. The museum’s elegant interiors will transport you back in time to the world of the traditional English ladies and gentlemen.

These recommendations were updated on September 11, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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