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Visit Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s seven-mile stretch of golden beach is the focal point of a town with a lot to offer. The UK’s most venerable seaside spa town has shed its reputation as a place for wrinkles only, attracting weekend warriors of both sexes to indulge in a frenetic mix of drinking, dancing and dressing up. Stag and hen parties abound in the town centre on Friday and Saturday nights – while nearby Bohemian Boscombe attracts surfers, artists and students with cheap pubs, crowded waves and cheerful cafes.

It’s not all madness and mayhem, though. Bournemouth is blessed with some of the best outdoor and public spaces in the UK, and with a climate that’s statistically better than most of England it’s always well stocked with wanderers. Half retirement haven, half layabout’s paradise, “BoMo” has reinvented itself as the place to be on the south coast.

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Top Attractions in Bournemouth

Bournemouth International Centre

The Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) was purpose built in 1984, for entertainment; conferencing; and...

BIC

Hengistbury Head

Bournemouth’s favourite nature reserve boasts a whole handful of preservation designations. Thanks to its extraordinary archaeology,...

Hengistbury Head

Lower Gardens

Bournemouth’s garden spaces are legendary. Originally sculpted to give well-heeled Victorians verdant places...

Lower Gardens

Bournemouth Beach

Seven miles of golden sands make Bournemouth beach one of the longest and most attractive in the UK...

Bournemouth Beach
Bournemouth Beach
Bournemouth Beach by Charles D P Miller
Bournemouth Air Festival
Bournemouth Air Festival by Santosh Puthran

The award-winning beach remains Bournemouth’s main attraction. Its beautiful sandy shores are dotted with candy striped deckchairs from early March until late in the year. The twin piers of Boscombe and Bournemouth are home to much-loved local attractions, including the Pier Theatre on Bournemouth Pier and the Grade II Listed Neck Building (the pier entrance, designed in the 1950s) at Boscombe. Boscombe Pier is also adjacent to the first artificial surfing reef in Europe.

Visit Bournemouth

Visit Bournemouth and you’ll be amazed by the transformation from fuddy-duddy stamping ground to cosmopolitan seaside resort. Not since its Victorian heyday has the town rung with so many tourist footsteps (or danced to so many different tunes: it’s estimated that the hordes of clubs and bars in the town centre play host to an average of 40,000 weekend partygoers). Hipster bars rub shoulders with no-holds-barred drinking holes, gaudy nightclubs compete for frontage with galleries and arthouse cafes.

Festivals

Summertime sees festivals aplenty, including the Bournemouth Air Festival – a celebration of everything aeronautical, which runs over the August Bank Holiday weekend – and Bourne Free, the area’s best-attended gay pride event, which has been running with increasing success since 2007. Year-round, gigs and shows happen at various venues including the Bournemouth International Centre, which also plays host to political party conferences and trade unions. Check local papers, gig guides and what’s on pages for the best that Bournemouth has to offer, or keep your ear to the ground when you’re out and about. With a standing population of more than 185,000 souls, there’s enough going on throughout the year to keep even the most demanding culture vulture well satisfied.

Shopping & Eating

Shoppers are well catered for, though the best bargains are to be had away from the town centre. Head out to Boscombe for trendy thrift stores, first rate antiques dealerships and vintage clothing boutiques. Nearby Westbourne is also well stocked with independent designers.

On the eating front, Bournemouth runs the gamut from high-falutin’ five star restaurants to belt-loosening greasy spoons. Unsurprisingly, fish and chips play a starring role on the seafront menus: just look for the biggest queues to find the best fryers.

With so much going on indoors, it can be easy to forget the beautiful coastline and piny air (which the Victorians believed would cure ailments of the lungs). Don’t. Bournemouth is a town built for strolling. Visit the central gardens, hit the seafront and head out to the Chines (seaside valleys). Behind the sparkle, it’s the Great British seaside at its best.

Bournemouth Station
Bournemouth Station by Steph Gillett

Visit Bournemouth by train and you can spend the whole of your holiday on foot. The town is small enough to walk around, and a decent bus and taxi service serves the centre and areas of interest. Be aware, though, that you’ll want a cab from the station to your hotel, hostel or B and B. The main station is situated halfway up a steep hill leading out of the town, and it’s a nightmare to get to and from on foot when you’re laden with bags.

Trains

Mainline trains serve Bournemouth from London Waterloo. Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham also have rail links with the town. Bournemouth has two stations: Bournemouth and Pokesdown. Bournemouth is the main stop.

Planes

Bournemouth Airport receives flights from some European destinations.

Buses

Externally, Bournemouth is served by the National Express bus route. Internally, Bournemouth there are two competing bus services: the blue Wiltshire and Dorset buses, vs the yellow Bournemouth buses. While neither takes the other’s tickets, it is possible to buy a “Getting About” pass that’s technically valid on both. In reality, it can take some persuading to get your driver to accept it!

Taxis

There are plenty of taxis to be had in Bournemouth, both for hire on the street (the best taxi rank is just behind Holdenhurst in the town centre) and by telephone booking. For the best fares, and convenient pick up times, it’s recommended that you put the numbers of local taxi firms in your phone and call ahead for your cabs.

On foot

Bournemouth was built for walking. Head to the promenade for a slice of classic British holiday action, or take yourself off to the Chines (small picturesque valleys cut into the coastal land along the seafront) for a spot of rest and revivification. You’ll find nightlife clusters around specific areas of town, too, so when it’s time to swap walking boots for drinking shoes you’ll be able to navigate between hostelries without any trouble.

Bournemouth Cinema
Bournemouth Cinema by Chris Sampson

Bournemouth was founded in 1810 by the enterprising Lewis Tregonwell, who took advantage of a growing popular conviction that pine-scented air was good for the lungs to turn a deserted smuggler’s haunt into a modest health resort.

A Tiny Settlement

Initially a tiny settlement of cottages surrounded by pine forest (planted by Tregonwell), Bournemouth expanded rapidly when it was featured in a popular medical travel guide, Dr Granville’s The Spas of England. 50 years later, the arrival of the railway brought Victorian tourists in droves to the town, which was once described by Thomas Hardy as a “Mediterranean lounging place” on the English coast.

Creative Figures

By 1900, Bournemouth was enjoying its reputation as a haven for artists and invalids – a creative, health-giving place by the sea, much beloved by some of the most legendary artistic and literary figures of the day. In addition to Thomas Hardy, Mary Shelly adored the place. She’s buried in St Peter’s Church, along with the heart of her husband Percy Bysse Shelly (the poet).

Victorian Architecture

Over the next 20 years, Bournemouth’s glorious collection of Victorian architecture was added to: Art Deco cinemas, cafes and theatres packed the streets and seafront. Between the wars, the tourist trade declined, however: a change in fortune that carried on for some years after the end of hostilities. Boscombe Pier’s brand new Neck Building (now a Grade II Listed structure) marked the start of Bournemouth’s renaissance, which continues today thanks to its student, artist and tourist populations.

Unique

The area’s relatively good weather (it’s statistically one of the driest and warmest locations in the UK) has made it increasingly popular with older residents. Unlike most seaside “retirement towns”, Bournemouth has carved out a reputation as something quite unique: a place where the young as well as the old come for the surroundings, the entertainment and the lifestyle. More than just a blue rinse Brighton, Bournemouth has grown into one of the liveliest and most laid back coastal towns in Britain.

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