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10 hidden gems in Bournemouth

10 hidden gems in Bournemouth

Boasting an ideal seaside location on England’s south coast, there’s a lot more to this resort town than sand and beaches (though you’ll find plenty of those too, of course). With its laid-back yet lively buzz, Bournemouth is the ideal place from which to explore both England’s picturesque countryside and vibrant cultural life.

Here’s a list of ten hidden gems to uncover while you learn English in Bournemouth and begin exploring Britain’s beautiful southern shores.

1. Watersports and wildlife on Brownsea Island

Marking the eastern border of South England’s spectacular Jurassic Coast, there are plenty of secluded beaches, idyllic seaside towns, and peaceful islands near Bournemouth to discover.

Brownsea Island in nearby Poole Harbour is the largest of the nearby islands and is well worth a visit for its wildlife and magnificent castle. You can explore your pick of local spots via kayak, sailboat, or even jetski — all of which can be rented along the coastline.

2. Boscombe vintage shops

As Bournemouth’s verified vintage district, Boscombe is the best place in the area for a sustainable range of unique antiques and chic vintage pieces. Clobber Vintage stands out for its treasure trove of affordable fashion and friendly staff, as does The Crooked Book shop and cafe for its cozy decor that feels like something straight out of Harry Potter.

3. Colosseum Cinema

Hidden down an atmospheric Victorian arcade, Bournemouth Colosseum is a cozy cinema tucked away underneath a jazz and blues bar. With it being the smallest cinema in the UK, catching a movie here feels like kicking back in your living room. It features comfy sofas, a well-stocked bar, and various food and film nights that are on offer throughout the year.

Screenings range from current blockbusters and cult classics to foreign films and sports events. Don’t forget to stick around for some music at the upstairs blues bar after the show.

4. “Cherries” football game

When you think of top English football teams, the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester United probably come to mind. Nicknamed “The Cherries”, AFC Bournemouth now play these teams on a weekly basis, after rapidly rising from the bottom professional division to the heights of the Premier League in a very short and surprising five-year spell. If you’re a football fan, perhaps this one isn’t as hidden for you, but most would agree that The Cherries are a rather unexpected Bournemouth gem.

Tickets can be tough to get, but it’s well worth the effort. Strap in to watch world-class football teams face each other alongside a local crowd who stuck through the hard times to live Bournemouth’s football dream.

5. Bournemouth Upper Gardens

This serene town park is an ideal spot for cycling, running, or reading. It’s home to three distinct garden sections based on the continents of Europe, Asia, and North America. At Bournemouth Upper Gardens, you can spend time among many exotic plants, including the country’s largest Giant Redwood (those enormous trees typically found only in California).

While you’re around, check out the nearby Upside Gallery — a dull concrete underpass turned artsy urban canvas displaying street art from talented local creatives.

6. Virtual Reality Center

Whether or not you’ve already enjoyed the revolutionary experience of virtual reality, nowhere beats Bournemouth's Centre VR for its variety of artificial environments to explore. As the largest VR specialist in Europe, it may not seem like a hidden gem, but it’s often overlooked by visitors. Centre VR offers over 100 cutting-edge virtual adventures, including entire world expeditions, immersive battle games, and fun VR parties.

7. Arts by the Sea Festival

Every year around the beginning of Autumn, Bournemouth hosts a celebration of art, culture, and people on the seafront. Arts by the Sea is a mass weekend event where artists of every genre — from music and street theater to classical art and modern dance — come together to inspire the local crowd. It’s a great chance to meet a cool, creative community and enjoy the year-round energy of Bournemouth’s beachfront in an exciting new way.

8. Cafe Boscanova

Ethically sourced and traded directly through farmers, the coffee here is considered by some to be the best in town. Boscanova attracts a multitude of visitors for its impressive menu, laid-back beach club style, and welcoming staff. Despite its growing popularity, it maintains the independent feel that first made it a fun local favorite to begin with. Plus, it’s the perfect place to hang out before traveling back in time with our next hidden gem just across the road…

9. Marvo Mysteries Escape Room

If you're after an indoor adventure with friends, look no further. Marvo Mysteries stands out from the crowd for its immersive, sepia-soaked world. Every detail is meticulously designed to make you feel like a mix of Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones as you go searching for clues, solving puzzles, and finding hidden artifacts.

10. Hengistbury Head Beach

It wouldn’t be right to finish this list without including at least one scenic beach — especially as this part of the country is loaded with them. Hengistbury Head is only half an hour from the center via the number 70 or 80 bus, and takes our pick for its tranquil shoreline. Jutting out on the eastern side of the beach is Mudeford Sandbank — a wide, white-sand peninsula that faces out into the English Channel. Watch the sun setting over the sea here to round off a perfect day.

Add these hidden gems to your list before you visit Bournemouth and discover the best of England’s south coast.

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