The University of Warwick is one of two universities that are part of the historic and cultural city of Coventry. That sentence may surprise some people but we are proud to be part of the city and the region of Warwickshire. There are a lot of things worth shouting about that our students get the chance to experience whilst living and working here so prepare to be surprised.
Coventry is a city with a difficult history but an exciting future. The past has not been kind to Coventry but has certainly been instrumental in creating a tight-knit community that constantly pushes the boundaries of technology and culture. Coventry is not a city that shouts about itself but there is a lot to discover if you are willing to look.
Yes, we have the basic shops every student will need, ranging from Primark to Bank, from HMV to an Apple Store but we also have the first city centre Ikea in Europe with 6 floors of student necessities and frills. The real gems in Coventry's shopping crown though are our vast range of independent stores selling everything from American sweets to reptiles and traditional toys. Very recently opened are Refreshed, a shop solely selling unique fashion handcrafted from confiscated counterfeit branded clothing and Made in Coventry, stuffed full of locally produced gifts, clothing and produce.
Yes, we have the usual sporting facilities, from a large public sports centre to several swimming pools but we also have some distinctive offerings. We are proud to have the Olympic hosting Ricoh Arena, home to Coventry City Football Club, and the Skydome where the league-topping Coventry Blaze ice hockey team face-off each week. If you want to watch Speedway or Basketball you can, if you want to go ice skating or play a round of Disc Golf you can in nearby Leamington.
Yes, we like our music like most cities and many pubs will have the standard acts most weeks but we also have a vast range of other opportunities to hear great artists, from acoustic and rock night at Taylor John's canal side venue to the Kasbah, regularly hosting home-grown acts like The Enemy to international stars like Calvin Harris. One of the cities most treasured events is the Godiva Festival each Summer which is the largest free festival in the Midlands, with 3 days of music, comedy and food.
OK, so Coventry is not a traditionally beautiful city like York or Durham but we still have pockets of history lovingly protected by passionate Coventrians. Our two world famous cathedrals provide visitors of no faith a chance to see the city from up high or find a peaceful moment to take a break. Medieval Spon Street brings together a collection of original buildings in one street housing great bistros to traditional pubs. It's also interesting to tour the remains of the city walls or the crypts within St. Mary's Guildhall or even discover the castle tower hidden amongst the council buildings.
Finally, for more eclectic days out Coventry can provide experiences from a visit to the award winning Herbert Museum and Art Gallery, home to George Eliot's piano, a stark Blitz showcase and a staggering history of touring exhibitions from Walking with Dinosaurs to Banksy and street art or the Coventry Transport Museum which is a free way to spend a few hours amongst some amazing machines, from ice cream vans to Thrust SSC, the fastest car in the world. On top of these you can also while away hours enjoying our War Memorial Park, Coombe Country Park, Brandon Marsh and Ryton Pools to name but a few popular parks. If the Arts Centre on campus doesn't provide your theatre needs then we also have The Belgrade which hosts major touring shows and excellent in house performances, or The Criterion in Earlsdon which handles all your Am Dram needs.
Our students see Leamington Spa as our second home as many choose to live in this historical bath town in their second and third years. It's easy to see why as it is home to some exclusive shops and amazing bars and restaurants. Leamington is only 20 minutes by bus from campus and the service is so regular you'll never wait long.
Leamington is home to shops ranging from Superdry to LK Bennett for clothing to niche shops like Walnut and Weave for gifts and making your digs that little bit more 'Grand Designs'. The Royal Pump Rooms is worth a visit to find out the history of the town, although tasting the metallic water is only for the brave. Within a few minutes' walk from the Parade you can enjoy a picnic in Jephson Gardens, and visit the botanical Temperate House, or nip across the road when Leamington Peace Festival is on to enjoy food from around the world, alongside great music and craft stalls.
A bit further afield, 45 minutes via National Express for only £2.80, the town of Stratford doesn't really need introduction, being the home of William Shakespeare and there is much ado about him there. Again, you can find some wonderful shops to sate your appetite, and equally great places to eat and drink, from 100 different milkshakes to an ice cream by the river. Riverside in Stratford is where you really need to spend your time, whether that is catching a play in the world famous RSC theatre or simply watching the swans or jugglers on the green. Stratford even has a butterfly farm and a permanent Christmas shop so there is no reason to get bored. The Stratford Food Festival is a yearly must where you can feast on locally produced food and catch someone like James Martin cooking it for you.
It may seem strange that our eponymous town is low down on this list of places to visit but it is 30 minutes away from where you'd expect! Warwick is a small but perfectly formed town most famous for the awe inspiring Warwick Castle, home to an incredible working trebuchet, many ghosts and medieval displays of weaponry and royal life. If that isn't enough, you can wander through the streets enjoying even more great food and winding up at St. Nicholas' Park for riverside views of the castle that take your breath away.
Solihull, Birmingham and beyond
They say when you are tired of Coventry, you are tired of life* but you may want to explore beyond the city and local towns and go crazy with your shopping or clubbing friends. Solihull is all about shops with the huge Touchwood shopping centre, including the nearest John Lewis, or you could even pop to the UK's second city.
Birmingham is only 20 minutes by direct train from Coventry and has everything you'd expect from a major city, but don't relax for a moment, it changes every time you visit. The shopping experience received a huge boost a few years ago when the Bullring Centre was opened and with it came Selfridges so you'll never be stuck for birthday presents. If that isn't posh enough for you then walking along one of Birmingham's 'more than Venice' canals to The Mailbox will harm your overdraft.
So, shopping done...what else can Birmingham offer? well being second only to London it clearly has all the entertainment you'd ever need. Whether that is theatre (The Rep, The Hippodrome, The Alexandra), the Good Food Show at the NEC, or a night out at Gatecrasher it is all on a Brummie plate for you.
If you really are a country dweller and shopping makes you scream then you can get on a bus and discover the haunting Kenilworth Castle, the artistic Compton Verney, the water sport laden Draycote Water or the organic Ryton Garden Organic...and much much more. It's all there, it's all waiting to be found.
*ok that was London