It is likely that, as a student at the University of Warwick, you will end up exchanging around £4 of your precious student loan for a return bus ticket to the nearby town of Royal Leamington Spa. Leamington, or ‘Leam’ as it is affectionately known by anyone who spends more than five minutes there, is a small yet grandiose spa town whose growing student population and host of bars, shops, and restaurants have made it into a buzzing social hub. Whatever your reason for gracing these whitewashed Georgian buildings with your presence is, here is the ultimate guide to everything that’s worth doing in Leamington Spa.
WHERE CAN I EAT?
As well as checking the box of pretty much every major chain restaurant possible (there’s a Nando’s, a Turtle Bay and a GBK all about five metres from each other), Leam is also home to heaps of independent restaurants. Sitting at the top of the price range and the top of The Parade is Italian restaurant La Coppola. If you manage to get a booking here, you’re in for a treat: its interior is filled with fake blossom trees, mirrors, and fairy lights, and it has a delicious, expansive menu. Head to Libertine Burger on Warwick Street for an award-winning burger and 10% off for students on a Wednesday (try the No. 7, it is unbelievable). The best (and cheapest) hangover cure can be found in the form of an English breakfast at Café Royale, and vegans, fear not! The Garden Shed Café tucked away in the South of Leamington offers a completely vegan and utterly tasty menu.
WHERE CAN I GET COFFEE?
Alongside the standard Starbucks, Costa, and Café Nero, Leam is practically bursting at the seams with independent cafes and coffee shops. The sign outside Spa Town Coffee declares that they do the ‘Best Coffee in Leamington’, and they take their coffee seriously, with books about blends on the tables and a range of coffee beans available to buy by the bag. Saturday mornings see a queue forming outside Coffee Architects with people patiently waiting to get their hands on one of the most Snapchatted brunches in town. Procaffeinate in South Leam has a canal-view outside area and you can help yourself to unlimited free toast alongside your coffee of choice, and you can take part in creative workshops like embroidery classes alongside your coffee at The Muse Coffee House.
WHERE SHOULD I GO FOR DRINKS?
Leam has a seemingly endless supply of cool bars and pubs. Apehangers in the south of Leam is a hidden bar whose address is simply ‘through the fridge in Procaffeinate’. Fizzy Moon in the north has its own brewery and offers up these concoctions alongside an extensive cocktail list. The outside terrace of Bedford Street Bar has an Instagram-worthy flower wall, and inside there is a live band blasting out cheesy hits pretty much every weekend. The best roof terrace in Leam can be found in House, whose pricey-but-nice drinks can be enjoyed from the comfort of their jungle-themed loft garden. On the other end of the price-scale, there’s a Wetherspoons in the middle of The Parade, and towards the train station lies the infamous Kelsey’s. Drinks here are ludicrously cheap, they have pool tables and live music acts at the weekend, and they serve up jugs of a bright green liquid called Eliminator that have certainly eliminated many a Warwick student over the years. If pubs are more your scene, try the used-to-be-a-Spoons Old Library near the church, which is themed around books, has a bunting-strewn beer garden, and hosts a weekly pub quiz. Other good pubs include The Royal Pug, which is decorated with framed drawings of dogs and allows fluffy friends to come inside, and The Drawing Board, whose walls are adorned with comic book drawings and they cook up a pretty exceptional roast every Sunday.
WHAT ABOUT NIGHTS OUT?
Over 5000 students live in Leamington Spa, and where there are students, there are night outs. Tuesday and Thursday evenings call for an outing to Smack, whose LED-light filled rooms led to one website naming it the seventh-best nightclub in the world. Even Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas have been spotted posing in front of its iconic warped height wall by the entrance. Just down the road, Altoria hosts a multitude of student-run nights and includes an open-air roof terrace, although the drinks are a touch on the pricey side. A Friday night can be spent dancing through Neon’s three rooms to a mixture of club classics and R&B before stumbling 10 metres down the road to the cheesy-chip haven that is Vialli’s kebab shop. For those who want something a little different, student-run Keep the Faith blasts out the disco music to crowds decked in themed fancy dress.
I DON’T DRINK! WHAT CAN I DO?
There are so many things you can do in and around Leamington that don’t involve drinking. As well as your staple bowling alley and cinema, the Loft Theatre puts on a variety of shows ranging from big-band performances to live comedy – and they offer concession tickets for students. For budding bargain-hunters, Leam has enough well-stocked charity shops up and down the parade to embark on a charity shop crawl, and a market pops up on the north of The Parade every Sunday. To get to know the local culture, the Pump Rooms is both a museum and art gallery dedicated to documenting Leam’s history, and Leamington Council runs free history walks around the town centre. Good weather calls for an afternoon sprawled in one of the many public gardens. The Pump Room Gardens is where a variety of events are held year-round, including Leamington Peace Festival and a travelling funfair. In the summer, Jephson Gardens becomes populated with students pretending to revise or having picnics. It also has a boat house where you can hire pedalo-boats or kayaks and spend an hour frolicking up and down the River Leam and dodging the local swan population. If you’d rather spend some time quite literally locked inside, there are a few good recently-opened escape rooms scattered around Leam. Another new addition to the town is the Dice Box – Leam’s first board game café with a ‘menu’ of over 500 games. Further afield, if you walk along Radford Road and past the Sainsbury’s Local you’ll eventually reach Newbold Comyn – a 300 acre country park that you can ramble through with ample wildlife-spotting opportunities. Plus, if you climb up to the top of Campion Hill, you can see all of Leamington stretched out beneath you.