It might just be a taxi ride from Newcastle, but Sunderland’s nightlife scene more than holds its own with a diverse range of commercial clubs, pop parties, karaoke joints, traditional pubs and specialist bars. From Establishment or The Basement, to The Dun Cow or Ivy House, the clubs and pubs in Sunderland will keep you happy long into the night.
Nightlife in Sunderland
With dozens of pubs spanning large-scale chains to centuries-old independent public houses, there’s a pub stool with your name on it somewhere across Sunderland.
With nearly a dozen hand pumps serving ales, craft beers, fruit beers, ciders and more, The Ship Isis is one of Sunderland’s most venerable drinking establishments. Popular with locals, students and visitors, it’s frequently busy and strictly no frills – there are no screens, there’s no background music and no food, just an excellent range of beers and ales housed in a Victorian pub packed with character and charm.
Offering a few more mod cons is Ivy House, home to an impressive beer and ale selection including guest beers from local breweries and from across the UK on rotation. The pub also has a good sideline in food – the burgers and pizzas come highly recommended and are made from scratch on the premises, pizza dough, burger buns and all. The pub also has a strict no-pop policy, priding itself on its choice of music creating a relaxed and comfortable vibe.
Upping the ante in the entertainment stakes is Vesta Tilleys, one of many establishments near the Empire Theatre. Vesta Tilleys is a lively pub that serves dozens of gins, cocktails and real ales along with an entertainment remit that includes 80s classics, Northern Soul and swing music. Named after the English music hall entertainer born in Sunderland, the pub has a strong fun factor, so if you’re looking for a quiet pint, you might want to look elsewhere.
Once home to the city’s shipbuilding community, The Saltgrass has turned itself into a pub with a big reputation for good food, especially its Sunday lunch. Offering excellent value for money – you can get three courses for under a tenner – and portion sizes that will leave you full for hours, this pub in Ayre’s Quay is worth the detour away from the city centre.
So named as it’s right in the middle of Sunderland’s seafront, The Promenade is an excellent drinking and eating spot that offers breakfast, lunches and a full Sunday roast. A dog-friendly pub that will give your pets a blanket, biscuit and water, they offer a decent range of beers and screen all the main sporting events, and is a pleasant 50-minute sea stroll from our City Centre hotel or just 13 minutes in the car from our North West hotel.
The Dun Cow
The Sunderland Saltgrass
From historic bars with a long nightlife tradition to newcomers boasting page after page of cocktail creations, Sunderland knows how to enjoy itself on a night out.
The Dun Cow takes its beer, atmosphere and service very seriously indeed. With a stained glass window bathing the pub in dappled light, and the cosy fireplace lighting up the pub in winter, this city-centre staple has been serving a varied selection of beers, wines and spirits for over half a century and has built up a strong following. There are regular events, including a weekly pub quiz and gin nights, while they also offer those heading to the nearby Empire Theatre 10% off at the bar when you present your tickets.
A new addition to Sunderland’s bar and bistro scene, The Engine Room is housed in a converted fire station, and is just a short walk from The Dun Cow. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, and with an impressive array of guest ales, top-shelf drinks and wines, they throw regular events throughout the year including jazz and tapas nights.
Standing out from chain bars with its quirky decor and music policy that steers clear of the charts, Sam’s Bar is a basement bar in the Sunniside part of town, packed with comfy seating and enough dancing room if you get in the mood. Alongside its well-stocked main room, it also has a second room – including its own mini bar – that can be hired out for private events. The bar hosts regular funk, soul and disco events and is open until 1am on weekends.
A short walk away and also in the Sunniside Quarter is Gin & Bear It, Sunderland’s leading gin bar. With over 50 gins stocked behind the bar, and a range of tonics and slices to fit, they pride themselves on getting your G&T just right. The bar offers several gin-tasting sessions including expert advice, while you can book and reserve your own table or booth for the night, with packages starting from around £50 for a group of six.
Video guide to nightlife in Sunderland
With a large student population, Sunderland has a strong clubbing scene that includes rowdy karaoke clubs as well as chart and commercial floor fillers.
Opened in 2012, The Basement has since become a bastion of Sunderland’s dance music scene. Catering to the student crowd as much as pop and chart fans, the club is open most nights of the week and has a varied playlist, running hip hop and RnB nights, 80s-themed parties and classics nights. With wallet-pleasing drink deals – house trebles are less than a fiver on Saturday nights – and a crowd-pleasing mix of music, Basement aims to cover most bases.
A halfway house between a late night bar and a full-on club experience, Establishment hosts a range of events and parties during the week including karaoke every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, with a free drink for each singer to help entice wannabe Mariahs up to the stage. A four-minute walk – or an eight-minute stumble on the way back – from our City Centre hotel, Establishment is as well known for its party music as it is for its drink deals – bottles cost a couple of quid and you’ll get plenty of change from £10 for two of their house cocktails. With an up-for-it crowd and a lively atmosphere most nights of the week, Establishment is another popular destination for students and locals alike.
If you want triple drinks from £1 – yes, you did read that correctly – and fancy yourself as the next X Factor winner, Sinatras is the place for you. The bar’s crooner namesake Frank might not agree with all of the singers that take to the mic, but with cheap drinks, an always friendly crowd and an atmosphere permanently on the edge of rowdy, Sinatras remains one of the most popular clubs in the city.