Your guide to… Bristol
Award-winning restaurants, famous street art, a buzzing music scene, countless cultural opportunities, stunning scenery, a fascinating history, its own currency... is there anything Bristol doesn’t have!?
Voted the Best City to Live in Britain 2017 in The Sunday Times and one of the UK’s 10 happiest cities for work by the Guardian, it’s not hard to see why Bristol is fast becoming one of the country’s most popular places. No wonder SpareRoom frequently has 900+ ads for rooms in the city!
Whether spending a leisurely afternoon exploring the alternative offerings of Gloucester Road (the UK’s longest strip of independently owned shops), indulging in some of the country’s finest food in classy Clifton or dancing it all off at one of several iconic music venues, you’ll never be lost for something to do in “gurt lush” Bristol.
Read on for an insiders guide to all the best things to eat, drink and do in one of the UK’s most exciting cities.
South West England, duh. More specifically, Bristol borders North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, with South Wales just beyond the Severn Estuary. The cities of Bath and Gloucester are also nearby.
Transport links from Bristol are numerous. Temple Meads, the city’s main train station, is one of the busiest stations in the South West running directly to most parts of the UK, including Wales and Scotland. A train to Bristol from London Paddington takes just 1 hour 45 minutes, and you can get to Cardiff in less than 50 minutes. Travelling further afield is no issue either - Cornwall is a few hours drive, and Birmingham is a mere hour and a half away.
Bristol itself is fairly compact, and not difficult to explore on foot – but there are several city bus routes if you’re going a longer distance/ just CBA to walk.
A hub of creativity known for its award-winning photography, visual art and theatre, Bristol is one of the UK’s cultural hotspots - no wonder it's where infamous street artist Banksy calls home.
Start your cultural voyage with a visit to one of the city’s many art galleries. Sitting on the harbourside, The Arnolfini is one of the UK’s leading centres for the contemporary arts, showcasing everything from art exhibitions and book readings to music and dance events. Or try Spike Island – home to 70 artists studios (which you can visit at their annual Spike Island Open Studios event). There’s always something exciting going on at this international arts centre.
Theatre buffs can get their fill at the globally-renowned Bristol Old Vic, the oldest continuously working theatre in the English speaking world and home to one of the world’s most respected theatre schools. The venue’s calendar features dance, workshops and comedy alongside theatre.
And for film buffs? The Everyman on Whiteladies Road shows all the latest releases, enjoyed from their plush velvet seating with a cocktail in hand. The Watershed is your one-stop-shop for arthouse flicks.
Having been a thriving port town since 1051, Bristol has played a vital role in sea trade for hundreds of years, the evidence of which can be seen aboard ss Great Britain. The first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic, today she serves as a museum showcasing not only the history of the magnificent vessel, but also a venue for workshops, talks and even afternoon tea.
And finally, no trip would be complete without a visit to the city’s famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, the grade 1 listed building which spans the Avon Gorge. Snap some photos, learn about its impressive history and then soak it all in with well deserved pint at the White Lion, a nearby hotel offering panoramic views of the gorge from its sunny terrace.
With countless brunch spots, pizza places and fine dining eateries - including not one but four Michelin starred restaurants - Bristol is rapidly becoming on the the UK’s top foodie hotspots.
Start the day off like any self respecting Bristolian at The Bristolian for a fab fry up (including veggie and vegan options). Or try the Crafty Egg – specialists in… eggs - baked, to be precise. Other options include non-profit vegan (read: very trendy) Cafe Kino and music-venue-cum-brunch-spot The Art’s House Cafe.
Pizza lovers rejoice! Flour & Ash on Gloucester Road serves up just two things in its pared back industrial setting - pizza and ice cream. What more could you want!? Alternatively, head to one of the city’s two Bosco Pizzeria’s on Whiteladies Road and in Clifton Village for delicious Italian small plates, charcuterie, pizza and pasta.
Bristol might be one of the most vegan friendly cities in the UK, but meat eaters won’t be disappointed. The pleasantly affordable (and mouth watering) steaks at The Ox make it the ideal neighbourhood steakhouse, whilst the aptly named Cowshed is great for local produce, good wine and special occasions.
For the city’s best Indian, head down the alleyway that is Small Street for Urban Tandoor. Expect smiling waiters, mouthwatering grills and the most delicious curries. If you like your Indian with a bit of everything (a mouthful of daal here, a crunch of poppadom there), head to one of the city’s five Thali Cafes serving up Thali’s (i.e. a selection of different dishes served on a platter).
Fine dining also shines in Bristol, specifically on Chandos Road. Here you can find Michelin-starred Wilks serving up modern European sharing plates; Otira, the home of New Zealand cooking; and No Man’s Grace, a friendly neighbourhood restaurant with British menu. Expect to leave with a lighter wallet, but a much happier belly.
You’ll never be far from a pub in Bristol. Start off with a trip to The Apple, a floating boat pub boasting a cider so strong it can only be served as a half pint. The Christmas Steps pub, a cosy joint tucked away at the bottom of Bristol’s historic steps, is a good shout for craft beers and hearty food.
For sunnier days, the White Rabbit has a rooftop terrace and 2-for-1 Monday pizza deal, and the Beer Emporium is worth a look for its wide ale and lager selection served in a cave. Go and see for yourself. Cocktails should be enjoyed at Her Majesty's Secret Service (AKA HMSS), a secret cocktail bar hidden behind the most unassuming of doors.
When you want more than an evening at the pub but less than “out out”, The Crofter’s Rights has your back. With live music and the occasional disco, this venue promises chilled out fun. Its neighbour The Love Inn is home to some of Bristol’s best low-key alternative nights, whilst the big courtyard of The Attic Bar is ideal for both chilled summer drinks and late night parties.
Want something a little heavier? As the drum and bass capital of the country, Bristol is certainly not lacking in late night spots. Those in search of a blow-out, up-until-6am kind of night can’t miss a trip to clubbing mecca Motion which hosts some of the biggest DJ’s from across the globe. The Old Crown Courts is a former magistrates court with regular house, disco and techno nights and The Island features disused prison cells that now act as a multi-purpose music venue.
Call yourself a proud Bristolian? Let us know your favourite hangouts.
Image credits: pyride, Davehamster, Vijayforvictory