Bangor is a city situated in the north west of Wales, surrounded by some of the most stunning scenery that the UK has to offer. It’s so stunning, in fact, that Lonely Planet frequently ranks Wales as one of the most beautiful places in the world. Tucked in between the mountains of Snowdonia and the fierce sea in Northern Wales, its history stretches all the way back to the 6th century, when Saint Deiniol built a monastery there. The site is now home to Bangor’s impressive Cathedral.
Packed full of independent shops, cute cafes, and brilliant restaurants, Bangor is the perfect place to enjoy student life and scenic surroundings.
Did you know?
- Bangor has more students than the city’s population. There are an estimated 8,000 residents and over 10,000 students.
- Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle attended Bangor University. His credits include the film Slumdog Millionaire, which won eight Oscars, and being the brains behind the London 2012 Olympics’ opening ceremony.
- Until 1905 Bangor was the only city in Wales. Now there’s six of them, with Cardiff being the capital and Newport being the newest.
- Like many other places in North Wales, Bangor is bilingual. Alongside English, you’ll hear the ancient Welsh language being spoken. If you want to try a bit of Welsh yourself, start with shwmae (pronounced SHOO-my) – it means “hi.”
- Bangor, Wales isn’t the only Bangor in the world. You can find towns and cities with the same name in Northern Ireland, Canada, the United States, France, and Australia.
What to do in Bangor
Catch the bus from Bangor city centre to explore Anglesey’s beautifully rugged coastline. Head to Beaumaris Pier to try your hand at crabbing, build a sandcastle on the beach, or catch a ferry across to uninhabited Puffin Island, which actually has Atlantic puffins.
Anglesey is also your gateway to Ireland. You can be in Dublin within two hours to enjoy a day trip filled with Irish hospitality, a pint of Guinness, and a good Irish stew.
Bangor’s new national museum and gallery, Storiel, displays the city’s history. Exhibitions look at what life used to be like within Northern Wales. Various contemporary local artists are featured, too, giving the museum a modern edge.
Hop on the bus for 25 minutes and you’ll land in the Snowdonia National Park. You really won’t want to miss the park; it’s regularly voted one of the most scenic places in the world, with soaring mountains, mirrored lakes, and breath-taking waterfalls.
Dare devils can give Europe’s longest and fastest zip wire a go at Zip World Velocity or jump around at Bounce Below – a trampoline park hidden beneath a network of caves. For those keen to practice their surfing skills, slip on a wet suit and head to Surf Snowdonia’s surfing lagoon.
If you are looking for a more relaxed time, visit Penrhyn Castle. The immaculate grounds and stately library will transport you to a bygone era. Penrhyn is also home to one of Wales’ most extensive classical art collections. Be sure to finish off your visit with a picnic in the idyllic castle grounds.
Where to eat in Bangor
Perched at the end of the Victorian Pier, overlooking the Menai Straits and the towering peaks of Snowdonia, is the quaint Whistlestop Pier Café. Its menu is packed with Welsh delights and national culinary treasures, including Welsh Rarebit (similar to a cheese toastie but a lot more indulgent) piled high with spicy molten cheese and bara birth, a speckled cake enriched with dried fruit and buttered at tea time.
Photo credit: Jeremy Keith
Ditch the high street coffee chains and opt to leisurely sip Domu Kafe’s bespoke blend of beans from Peru, El Salvador, and India. Alongside keeping you caffeinated, the vegetarian and vegan café will also keep you well-fed. Its creative menu features fragrant coconut curry, peanut-butter pretzels, and salad stuffed with halloumi, falafel, and pomegranates. Don’t miss the avocado and courgette cake that has earnt legendary status locally.
For a sophisticated night out on the town, book a table at The Wheathill. It uses local produce to put modern spins on classic Mediterranean and European dishes. Try the locally-caught fish of the day stew soaked in a spicy chorizo sauce or the perfectly-roasted chicken breast.
Serious snackers will love Creperie Café, whose extensive crêpe menu includes sweet and savoury options. Chow down on a classic sugar and lemon crêpe, or opt for a more adventurous ginger jam and marscapone one. If you’re in the mood for a heartier eat, try a ham, cheese, and mushroom crêpe. It’s the perfect place to catch up with friends or hunker down for a serious study session.
Settle in for a proper pint on a Sunday night at the Harp’s Inn. With incredibly student-friendly drinks prices, a large snack offering, and a menu dishing up pub classics, it’s often packed to the rafters with fellow course mates. There’s also a quiz every weekend, so gather your brainiest pals and see if you can beat the quiz master.
Where to shop in Bangor
Home to Wales’ longest high street, shopaholics will have no problem finding places to browse. Hunt for treasures in independent and high street stores, including student-friendly brands such as Topshop and vintage wares like Lookachu.
*Lead image: Photo of Bangor Pier by Jeff Buck (CC BY-SA 2.0)