10 cool things to do on Bristol’s Harbourside

On a sunny afternoon in Bristol the harbourside is buzzing. Locals with an after-work pint in their hand spill out onto cafe terraces or soak up the sunshine with their legs dangling over the harbour wall. At the weekend families gravitate to the harbour, dipping into the free museums and galleries or watching the boats on the water, while the creative types hang out over brunch in one of the numerous cool cafes.

10 Cool things to do in Bristol Harbourside

Once the heart of Bristol’s industry and commerce, the harbour has been reinvented as the city’s playground. As a local of Bristol for over 20 years I’m here to take you on a walk around the Bristol’s harbourside to share some of the cool places that I enjoy. So let’s start at….

1. Millennium Square

Millennium Square in Bristol

Millennium Square in Bristol

Built in 2000 to celebrate the turn of the century, Millennium Square is a place to hang out, bring the kids for a picnic, watch sporting events on the big screen or move on to one of the many bars nearby for a drink with friends. The veg beds run by Edible Bristol are full of lavender, herbs, yellow sunflowers and a few miniature apple trees. Take a seat next to statues of Bristol’s literary figures like Thomas Chatterton and William Tyndall, not to mention Archibald Leach a.k.a the suave Hollywood star, Cary Grant who was born here.

Millenium Square in Bristol

Millenium Square in Bristol

Mobile getting a bit low? No problem! The energy tree has small solar panels at the end of its branches and there are USB points where you can plug in and recharge. On the other side of the square is a water fountain for you can fill up your bottle – all part of the initiatives that went into making Bristol a European Green Capital. Possibly the best loved spots in Millennium Square are the water features – shallow pools where children splash, pillars with water rippling down them and pools where it spills over the rim. On a sunny day they provide hours of good clean fun that won’t cost you a penny.

Where to Stay? For a modern base in the city with 24 hr reception check out Ibis Bristol Centre which is right on the square or for classic luxury, the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel is just a few minutes walk away on College Green.

And if you’re in Millennium Square with the family, why not pop into…

2. At Bristol Science Centre

This hands-on science centre is great for kids and teenagers, with handles to turn, buttons to press, things to build and something to see, smell, touch wherever you turn. On the ground floor it’s all about us and our bodies – test how high you can jump or fit your body’s organs into the body like a jigsaw puzzle. On the other side of the room you can turn the Heath-Robinson style water wheel or make a miniature parachute fly. There’s a whole area devoted to food and where it comes from – you can compare what a sumo wrestler and a farmer in the Andes eat for breakfast.

At Bristol Science Museum

At Bristol Science Museum

Upstairs a big section is all about animation, based on the Wallace and Gromit films created in the city by Aardman Animations. You can also blow giant bubbles and find out how astronauts wash in space, which leads us neatly into the shows in the Planetarium – that’s the big silver ball that you see outside in the square. Check out the At Bristol Website

From Millennium Square we’ll cross Pero’s bridge, with horn like weights that balance the bridge when it occasionally opens to let the large ships pass through. It’s named after the Pero, the slave servant of 18th century Bristol merchant John Pinney, who built a home just off Park Street that’s now open as the Georgian House.

Pero's Bridge in Bristol Harbour

Pero’s Bridge in Bristol Harbourside

Just before the bridge there’s a covered arcade of bars and restaurants where you’ll find the tourist information centre. Next door the Watershed Arts centre has an upstairs cafe that overlooks the water and is popular with creative entrepreneurs who hold informal meetings across their open Macbooks.

On the other side of Pero’s Bridge is a favourite place to catch the evening sun, sitting on the harbour wall with a drink in your hand. Bring your own or buy your drinks from The Grain House run by the YHA or the Arnolfini bar.

Sitting on Bristol's harbour wall

Sitting on Bristol’s harbour wall

Where to Stay: The Bristol started life as a motel and is actually a listed building for the 1960s concrete facade but inside the rooms are stylish and welcoming with fab harbour views. Those on a budget should check out the YHA Bristol with shared dorms and private rooms – you can’t get a better location for the price.

Once on this side of the harbour it’s worth a stop at…

3. Arnolfini Arts Centre

The Arnolfini is one of my favourite contemporary art centres, housed in one of the old stone warehouses and because it’s free I always like to pop in and see what’s going on. Once I saw a group of dancers twisting silently with only those wearing headphones hearing the music they were dancing to. Another time I hopped from one upturned log to another around a room filled with just a few inches of water. The ever changing exhibitions always provoke and question, but don’t expect to find pretty pictures in here. I often pop up to the second floor just for the pleasure of looking back down across the whole harbour at the window by the loos.

Arnolfini Art Gallery in Bristol

Arnolfini Art Gallery in Bristol

Out on the quayside sits John Cabot or Giovanni Caboto, a Genoese explorer who has given his name to a number of parks, towers and shopping centres across the city. In 1497 he sailed from Bristol in The Matthew, a surprisingly small ship to cross the Atlantic all the way to Newfoundland. The replica of the original ship now sits on the other side of the harbour – more of that later.

John Cabot statue in Bristol

John Cabot statue in Bristol

If you’re inclined you could turn left after the footbridge for a quick detour to Bathhurst Basin where there’s a small marina. It’s mainly a residential area but The Ostrich Inn, once a haunt of sailors and slave merchants, is a fine place to sit outside with a drink on a sunny day. The Michelin star restaurant Casamia recently moved here with the same team opening Pi shop next door serving gourmet pizza overlooking the water.

The Ostrich Pub in Bristol

The Ostrich Pub in Bristol

Where to Stay: The Mercure Holland House is a convenient 5 minute walk from this end of the harbour close to St Mary Redcliffe church, with modern rooms, an indoor pool and is well placed for Bristol Temple Mead.

Retracing your steps, our next recommended stop is the free museum at …

4. M-Shed

I have memories of when this old warehouse in Bristol’s docks was the Industrial Museum and once attended an amazing play about the life and times of the harbour where the doors onto the quayside revealed a banana boat which formed part of the performance.

M-shed in Bristol

M-shed in Bristol

Now M-shed is a fantastic free museum that shows off the varied, vibrant and multicultural life of Bristol through exhibits on the ground and first floor and special exhibitions on the second floor. The ground floor covers life in Bristol, our diverse neighbourhoods, transport and a taste of Bristol during the blitz. The vintage double decker bus is always popular with families climbing on board and if everyone seems to be gazing at the floor it’s because they are trying to find their own house on the street map of Bristol.

Inside M-shed in Bristol

Inside M-shed in Bristol

Upstairs on the first floor it’s all about the people of Bristol and the commerce of the city. See the metal tables or ‘nails’ where merchants did their business, leading the expression ‘Pay on the Nail’ and learn about Bristol’s slave trade on which the wealth of the city was built.

Cranes from the rooftop of M-Shed

Cranes from the rooftop of M-Shed

One of my favourite views is from the second floor balcony where you look out across the harbour and get a birds eye view of the cranes that are part of the museum’s industrial heritage. Sometimes you’ll hear them speak out and tell their story.

A little further along the quayside, you’ll find another part of Bristol’s history in …

5. The Matthew

I mentioned earlier about John Cabot, who Bristolians like to claim as their own but who was actually from Genoa and sailed to Newfoundland in his ship The Matthew. Sadly the original Matthew is no longer around, but a replica was made in 1997 to sail across to Newfoundland and mark the 500th anniversary of the original voyage. The ship is now based in Bristol harbour and if you see her moored close to M-Shed you can generally go on board and have a look around.

The Matthew in Bristol's harbourside

The Matthew in Bristol’s harbourside

It’s difficult to believe that a ship this small would have made it across the Atlantic – the life of a sailor in those days was certainly a pretty perilous and uncomfortable existence!  It’s free to go on board for a look around and they also run regular 1 hr sailings around the harbour as well as special fish & chips or afternoon tea trips. Check the Matthew website for upcoming events.

By now you may be ready for a stop at one of the many …

6. Cool coffee shops

Bristol Harbour abounds with places to stop for a coffee, snack, after work drink or delicious meal and there are plenty of independents that you won’t find on every high street. I’ve made a bit of a list below of all my favourites so that you can find a great place to stop wherever you are in your walk around the harbour. In the spirit of full disclosure I haven’t necessarily eaten at all of these but have selected those I would happily try based on their style, menu and reputation.

Spoke and Stringer in Bristol

Spoke and Stringer in Bristol

Around Millenium Square

The area immediately around the square is mostly the province of chain restaurants which are popular with the after work crowd for a beer and bite to eat. These are larger establishments and you’ll often find happy hour or other offers, so best to walk around and see what catches your fancy. I also like the upstairs cafe at The Watershed for lunchtime or early evening meetings as they serve tasty, healthy food and you won’t feel self-consious getting out your laptop, plus there’s a great view over the water.

Around Anolfini and M-shed

Arnolfini Cafe – The cafe for the free contemporary art gallery that I already mentioned serves coffee, cakes and sandwiches, salads and charcuterie platters. They have a section of tables by the water if you want to eat outside or grab an after work drink. Open 10am – 8pm

Mud Dock Cafe – I haven’t been here for a while but it’s best known for the cycle shop on the ground floor and roof terrace above that overlooks the harbour. It’s always packed on a sunny day, serving coffee, brunch, tapas from 10am-6pm then dinner until 10pm.

The Ostrich Inn – A taste of the old Bristol of sailors and pirates who frequented the inn in the 18th Century. Inside it’s traditionally atmospheric although the seating space isn’t huge, but comes into its own in the summer where there is loads of outdoor seating overlooking the water.

Pi Shop – The Michelin star Casamia restaurant recently moved to the new General development beside The Ostrich Inn, and they’ve also opened Pi Shop next door. Run by the same team it serves sourdough pizza made in a wood fired oven and home-made ice cream with a casual ‘Napoli meets Bristol’ feel and some outdoor tables overlooking the water.

From M-Shed to SS Great Britain

Just behind M-Shed is Wapping Wharf, which as I write is nearing completion with many of the restaurants now open. Once it’s all complete there will be even more food vendors operating out of shipping containers in the Cargo complex, but to tell you about what’s there already…

Pizzarova * – serving take-away pizza freshly made in their wood-fired oven in the shipping crate which you can eat on the tables outside or on the wooden benches just opposite beside M-Shed. I tried one of their pizzas which was good value, tasty and I liked their easy going approach of letting your choose whatever combination of toppings and the price is the same.

Wild Beer – If you’re looking for an after work or any time beer, the freshly opened Wild Beer offers around 20 draught beers from their own Somerset brewery among others, together with a connoisseur’s version of fish and chips.

Mokoko Bakery and Cafe * – serving an delicious selection of cakes and pastries with a few quiches to order with colourful salads. You can eat them inside, on the outdoor tables or buy to take away with an excellent coffee.

Better Food – It’s local, organic and ethical at Better Food which is half an enticing grocery store and half a cafe selling organic lunches, fresh juices and teas and coffees. In this and their other Bristol stores they stock local producers and artisans, to support a ‘shop local’ philosophy.

Brunel’s Buttery – a short walk along from Wapping Wharf is Brunel’s Buttery, the die-hard Bristolian’s favourite, serving steaming mugs of tea, bacon butties and cones of chips from a small brick kiosk halfway between M-Shed and SS Great Britain. All the seating is outside and the seagulls will swoop down for anything you don’t finish.

Food around Bristol Harbour

Clockwise from top left: Mokoko, Pickle, Spoke & Stringer, Pizzarova

Around Underfall Yard

The Cottage Inn – a local’s favourite on Baltic Wharf, this Victorian stone pub has an outdoor terrace by the water for a pint of local ale on a sunny evening accompanied by some classic pub grub.

Pickle Cafe at Underfall Yard * – One of my ‘new’ discoveries this small cafe is inside the Underfall Yard visitor centre and offers stylish breakfast specials and sandwiches, with a tempting selection of cakes and excellent coffee. There are a few tables inside but it’s mainly one to sit outside on a sunny day right beside the harbour.

Between Underfall Yard to Millennium Square

Spoke & Stringer *- Right opposite SS Great Britain (you can get the ferry across) this is possibly my favourite harbourside cafe. It’s connected to the shop next door selling lifestyle surf and bike gear, with a couple of Harley Davidson’s parked outside and a thriving Instagram account to hammer home the style credentials. The food (brunch dishes by day, pintxos by night) is both delicious and beautiful and it’s fun to be inside or outside – but outside is a real suntrap and you get the view of the SS Great Britain and harbour.

* The ones marked with a star are my personal tried and tested favourites

Now you’re fully refreshed, we’ll walk along the harbour to reach Bristol award winning harbourside attraction…

7. SS Great Britain

I love the stories behind the SS Great Britain. Launched in 1843 as the first iron steam ship it was designed by the great Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the man behind the Clifton Suspension Bridge and Temple Mead Station. The ship ended its days as a rusty hull in the Faulkland Islands and was brought back to Bristol in 1970 to start a lengthy restoration process on the journey to becoming the splendid visitor attraction, with all flags flying, that you see today.

SS Great Britain in Bristol

SS Great Britain in Bristol

If you start your tour below the water covered glass that surrounds the ship you can see the hull below the waterline and pass through the museum with plenty of interactive exhibits explaining the maritime history surrounding the ship. Once on board you’ll find out what life was like for the different classes of passengers who sailed in her. While the first class passengers enjoyed elegant dining, you’ll also see the cramped bunks in steerage that would have reeked of stale ale and sweaty laundry. The sights, sounds and even smells of life on board have been recreated, right down to the rats running around (luckily enclosed) and the cow on deck to provide fresh milk.

Go Aloft with SS Great Britain

Go Aloft with SS Great Britain

For the daring there’s the chance to Go Aloft in the ship’s latest activity where you climb up the rigging to the crow’s nest and then inch your way along the yard-arm – rather you than me! For more information check the SS Great Britain Website.

From here you can easily take a detour to Spike Island creative hub which provides a work and exhibition space for artists and small creative businesses. They often have exhibitions and the Spike Cafe serves organic dishes and drinks.

And there’s a Banksy too! It’s not so easy to find if you didn’t know it was there, but if you find your way to the streets at the back of SS Great Britain, you’ll find it off Hanover Place close to The Orchard Inn, painted on the back of the Dockside Studios. It’s actually marked on Google Maps. Search for Banksy’s ‘The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum’.

Banksy Girl with the pearl earing

Banksy Girl with the pearl earing

From here walk along the harbour-side path until you reach the end of the harbour and …

8. Underfall yard

The pumping station for the Bristol floating harbour is another authentic part of the city’s industrial heritage that has recently been restored to make a fascinating visitor attraction. It’s a working shipyard where beautiful wooden boats are brought to be work on – take a peep into the door of the big shed to see the hull of a ship taking shape.

Underfall Yard in Bristol

Underfall Yard in Bristol

The new visitor centre which is staffed with enthusiastic volunteers has a room sized map table of the harbour and hands on activities that show the engineering that went into keeping the harbour free of silt, so ships could enter and Bristol’s trade continue uninterrupted. Ask to have a demonstration of the Human Accumulator where you and your friends are lifted slowly up to provide enough force to turn the sluice paddle. The visitor centre also houses the highly recommended Pickle Cafe for coffee, cakes and sexy sandwiches with names like Hot Chick and Killer Courgette. More information on the Underfall Yard website.

You’ve made it to this far to the end of the floating harbour, so you may like to walk a little further to the Create Centre which is mainly open on weekdays. The centre features events and exhibitions related to the environment including a purpose built eco home to give practical ideas for greener living.

If you don’t fancy walking all the way back to Millennium Square you could take …

9. A Boat trip around Bristol Harbour

There are a few different options to get to around the harbour by water – it’s the original and best way after all. Bristol Ferry Boats provides a regular service throughout the day around once an hour, taking visitors and commuters from City steps at one end of the harbour (just beyond Pero’s bridge) to the Pump House at the other (by Underfall Yard). If you’ve just shlepped all the way along the route I’ve described and can’t face the walk back then getting the ferry by Underfall Yard (Nova Scotia stop) will save your legs.

Ferry in Bristol Harbour

Ferry in Bristol Harbour

They also run public trips around the Avon Gorge or along the River Avon that will give you an enjoyable few hours on the water spotting wildlife or seeing the harbour’s iron bridges and architectural features. Bristol Packet Boat trips run similar regular tours around the harbour and have a kiosk just beside SS Great Britain where you can see what’s on and buy tickets for their next trip.

Ferry in Bristol's Harbourside

Ferry in Bristol’s Harbourside

For a short ferry ride that crosses the harbour at a convenient point, hop on the 7 Boats ferry by SS Great Britain which takes you to the landing stage near Spoke and Stringer on the opposite side for 90p one way. No timetable – it just goes constantly back and forth so you’ll never wait long for the next one.

Walk along Bristol Harbour

Walk along Bristol Harbour

If you’ve taken the short cut by ferry from SS Great Britain to the other side, it’s not too far to walk back to Millennium Square, past a lovely reed bed which makes a habitat for ducks and other wildlife.

But if all this walking seemed a bit tame to you, perhaps you’d like to try…

10. An adventure out on the water

Stand up paddle boarding is the latest craze to reach Bristol harbour and you’ll often see a few people paddling around the harbour. SUP Bristol run regular weekeday evening and Saturday sessions where you’ll be shown how to paddle safely and spend a few hours having fun on the water.

Paddle Boarders in Bristol Harbour

Paddle Boarders in Bristol Harbour

If you’d rather try a canoe, The Adventurous Company offer guided trips around the harbour in an open Canadian style canoe that takes 2-3 people. Finally Cycle the City offer daily guided cycle tours around the harbour on a comfortable and stylish Pashley bicycle and also hire bikes (need to book in advance) from No 1 Harbourside which is by the Watershed and Tourist Information Centre.

So now we’ve made a circle around the harbour and are back where we started at Millennium Square. Of course it would be rash to suggest that you can do justice to all the places I’ve mentioned in one day. Instead I’d enjoy the walk and just stop at one or two that catch your imagination, fortifying yourself with a few coffee and lunch stops along the way. If you’d like to make a weekend of it and combine your day in the harbour with some of Bristol’s other fine neighbourhoods, my recommendations for places to stay are below.

Where to stay around Bristol’s Harbourside

I’ve mentioned all of these hotels in the article, but here they are again ranged from budget to luxury.

YHA Bristol – for budget travellers with shared dorms and private rooms – you can’t get a better location for the price.

Ibis Bristol Centre – a modern base in the city with 24 hr reception check right on Millenium Square.

The Bristol – started life as a motel and is actually a listed building for the 1960s concrete facade but inside the rooms are stylish and welcoming with fab harbour views.

Mercure Holland House – close to St Mary Redcliffe church, with modern rooms, an indoor pool and well placed for Bristol Temple Mead station.

Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel – classic luxury, a few minutes from the harbour on College Green.

Visitor Information for Bristol

For more information on what to do in Bristol and what’s on when you visit, check the Visit Bristol website

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This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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Italy: The charms and challenges of going off the tourist route

In this article, our guest author, Cole Mayer shares his trip to Italy, in which he discovers the challenges of Italian driving as well as the charms of visiting places that are a little off the tourist trail.

I had travelled around the world as a child. Europe was no stranger to me. But when it came time to honeymoon in Italy in 2014, I was at a bit of a loss as my parents had always arranged everything. My wife had also travelled the world and had been to Italy before, so she suggested that, along with going to some of the major tourist attractions for my benefit, we should look for out of the way attractions and hotels.

Italy off the tourist route

The hunt began. I scoured guidebooks. My eyes all but bled from researching on the internet. But finally, I put an itinerary together. We only booked the first and last hotels, flying by the seat of our pants for the majority of the trip.

Driving out of Milan

Upon landing in Milan, we picked up our rental car. During the hour-long drive out into the hillsides of Italy, I discovered that Italian drivers are strong believers of the “speed limits are suggestions” philosophy. Based on how fast I was going, I calculated one driver easily going 120 mph. The joke’s on them – they missed some beautiful scenery.

San Salvatore Monferrat Heatheronhertravels.com

San Salvatore Monferrat

Olimpia, nestled near the top of a hill in San Salvatore Monferrato, was a welcome sight to a weary traveler. The Bed and Breakfast Olimpia where we stayed was the very definition of charming and rustic, with a spectacular view over the valley.

San Salvatore Monferrat Heatheronhertravels.com

San Salvatore Monferrat

The owners suggested that we drive about 10 minutes into town for lunch, which sounded fantastic to both of us. Something must have been lost in translation, though, as the quaint town had all but closed for the day. When we walked into a restaurant, they shooed us out. Frustrated and hungry, we returned to the B&B.

Lunch and dinner that night consisted of crackers and gummy worms. Thankfully, they provided an amazing breakfast of cheese, meat and pastries the next morning. We headed back to Milan proper, staying at the Hotel Silver. The hotel itself was beautiful, with a motel-style layout but four-star interiors.

The main problem with the hotel was the location. It was a hidden gem, but located off a large, busy street. They provided a shuttle into the city proper, a godsend for getting in and out of the hotel. Our first stop was the Duomo, the third-largest church in the world.

Duomo, the third-largest church in the world Heatheronhertravels.com

Duomo, the third-largest church in the world

I highly recommend simply walking around Milan, even just around the Duomo. The architecture is hundreds of years old, but looks new. You can’t swing a spaghetti noodle without hitting a church or religious building. Because most visitors will stick with the Duomo, they tend to be quiet affairs, allowing contemplation of the artifacts held within ancient walls.

Walking around Milan Heatheronhertravels.com

Walking around Milan

A little more obscure, however, is the Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia “Leonardo da Vinci.” Dedicated in part to the famed Renaissance man, the museum features models based on da Vinci’s sketches, from war machines to farming tools.

Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia Heatheronhertravels.com

Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia

The museum itself is easily worth a half day’s tour. They fit multiple, full-sized boats inside the water transportation exhibit. Much like the smaller churches, because it is not a major tourist destination, it was fairly quiet when we were there, a nice change from the bustle of the city.

Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia Heatheronhertravels.com

Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia

The next city we visited was Bologna. We stayed in what was clearly meant to be a business hotel, the Hotel Cosmopolitan. It was a few miles outside the city, but after visiting the supermarket to buy provisions, we realized my wife’s iPad was still at Hotel Silver, and they would not send it to us.

Not deterred, we headed out and wandered around the city on foot, eventually meeting with a crowd of college students who had just been released from class. Following the students, we found a hole-in-the-wall gelato place near Via Santo Stefano where all the locals went for an afternoon snack.

Hotel Cosmopolitan Heatheronhertravels.com

Hotel Cosmopolitan

That night, we dined at Ristorante Garganelli. It was expensive, but worth it – especially for our honeymoon.

After a two-hour drive back to Milan to retrieve the iPad, we started the journey to Rome. I can’t suggest not driving enough. Our nerves were shot to pieces, as we had picked Halloween night to drive into Rome. Apparently, Romans love the holiday and the streets were packed, even at 10 p.m. The streets are highly confusing at night. Next time, we’ll fly in.

Ristorante Garganelli Heatheronhertravels.com

Ristorante Garganelli

Eventually, we made it to Hotel Maison Althea. The one-way alley it is on looked disreputable at first glance, but the penthouse hotel was top-notch. It helped that the owner delivered breakfast every morning, after asking you what breakfast foods we liked. It was also only a few minutes’ walk to a major subway and train station.

We drove our rental car to the airport, turned it in early, and took a train back to that station. From there, we went to the Coliseum. We spent a week in Rome – half of our honeymoon. The Spanish Steps, crowded with people, were a sight to see – especially with the view from the top.

Spanish Steps, crowded with people Heatheronhertravels.com

Spanish Steps, crowded with people

What I really wanted to see, though, was the “Monster Door.” Created by the two artist brothers living in the building, they simply wanted their doorway to stand out. Though it can be seen in just a few moments, and is a stone’s throw away from the Steps, there was only the couple you see in the photo, and us.

Monster Door Heatheronhertravels.com

Monster Door

As we had planned only our first and last hotels, we moved from Maison Althea to Villa Magnolia Relais, an oasis in an otherwise cold apartment district. We made our last tourist stop with a private tour of the Vatican’s attractions and took another trip to a grocery store.

That was the end of our Italian honeymoon, though we almost missed the flight back to the States – but that’s a story for another time. The moral of the trip, though, is not to confine yourself. We rented a car and went where we felt like going. We walked around. We saw the big tourist attractions, but weren’t limited to them. We stayed in hotels that, for being off the proverbial paved path, were exquisite. I doubt I could travel any other way again.

1383606_10151792865338791_600673464_thumbThanks for this guest article to Cole Mayer, a former professional journalist covering crime, court and fire stories. Cole is now a freelance writer of too many topics to list.

Other things to see and do in Italy

How not to eat badly in Venice
Join me on our Venice boat tour – with Walks of Italy
But is it Art? at the Museion in Bolzano, South Tyrol

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All photos by Cole Mayer

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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Six great things (and more) to do in King’s Cross, London

At one time the area surrounding King’s Cross was associated with dingy late night bars and some of the city’s most untoward activities: Today though it couldn’t be more different. The unwelcoming bars and clubs have mostly gone and instead one of London’s newest and hippest area to hang out is developing. In the last few years this area has had an astronomical amount of money and creativity poured into it and the results are showing as interesting, classy and entertaining ways to spend your time in London are appearing. The British Library, the Welcome Collection, Central St Martin’s and the Guardian are all there now and it seems a fabulous new restaurant or attraction opens up every day. So, if you’re looking for a great autumn break, this could be just the answer. Book your ticket to London and we’ll fill you in on the best things to do in King’s Cross…

Soak Up Some Culture at Kings Place

One of the real triumphs of the newly developed area of King’s Cross is King’s Place. It’s a hub for music, art and food which is all found inside one award winning building. There’s a wide range of events going on there from the wacky to the wonderful – Perhaps join a Piano-Yoga class (Yoga for Pianists) or see some Classical Music, Folk or Jazz, or go to the regular Thursday evening Comedy night, Off With Their Heads. Also well worth a visit is Pangolin London, a wonderful gallery dedicated to modern and contemporary sculpture, as is the King’s Place Gallery which features regularly changing art exhibitions.

Kings Place Gallery in Kings Cross London, Photo:www.kingsplace.co.uk

Kings Place Gallery in Kings Cross London

Visit the London Canal Museum

The canals are a fascinating part of London’s history and there is no better place to find out about them than the London Canal Museum. Today the canals are a place of leisure, with many Londoner’s using the tow path as a place to walk, jog or cycle, though once these canals provided vital transport connections for the city. The Museum gives an extraordinary insight into Victorian London when the canals were first created and you and you can take a look inside a narrow boat, learn about the cargoes carried on the boats and the horses that pulled them. The museum also has a genuine Victorian ice well where imported Norwegian Ice was stored after arrival before being sold to wealthy Londoners and even an early Ice-cream Maker! This is a lovely museum, a little off the beaten track and all the better for it.

London Canal Museum in London Photo: www.canalmuseum.org.uk

London Canal Museum near Kings Cross

See Platform 9 and ¾

If you’re a Harry Potter fan it will be a little hard to resist visiting this spot, where in all of J.K. Rowling’s best-selling books the legendary Hogwarts Express leaves for wizard school. Of course, unless your own magical powers are up to scratch you won’t actually be able to take a train from the platform but you can enjoy taking a few snaps in the famous spot and taking in the impressive architecture of this huge station.

Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station Photo: eddiejdf on Flickr

Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station

Explore the Oldest Christian Worship Site in Britain

Founded in 314 AD St Pancras Old Church is literally bursting with history. The church that you see today was actually rebuilt in 1837 but the site is itself is the oldest of its kind in Britain. The graveyard has become the final resting place for many famous people including, composer Johann Christian Bach and Mary Wollstonecraft, the ‘mother of Feminism’. In 1968 the Beatles even famously visited – for a photo-shoot! This is a fascinating spot and really is quite unlike anywhere else.

St Pancreas Old Church in London Photo: Paul Hudson on Flickr

St Pancreas Old Church in London

Dine Railway Style

If you are treating yourself to dinner out whilst you’re in King’s Cross we recommend Plum + Spilt Milk at the Great Northern Hotel, where Mark Sergeant (Gordon Ramsay’s protégé) cooks up Modern British cuisine in chic and lively surroundings. There’s a real buzz to this place as business travellers and locals, young, old and everyone in between gather to dine in the beautifully designed restaurant, which can be accessed from the station’s main concourse. Try the Moons Green charcuterie plate to start and follow it up with the fantastic Salt Marsh lamb shank hot pot. And whatever you do don’t miss pudding. The citrusy Lemon posset, or the very English Kentish Gypsy tart, or even the Baked Alaska? It doesn’t matter, they’re all delicious – preferably order them all!

Plum + spilt milk restaurant at Kings Cross Photo: plumandspiltmilk.com

Plum + spilt milk restaurant at Kings Cross

Take a Walk

London’s Canal network links the city together in a way that takes you away from traffic and into another pace of the city. You’ll pass countless runners and cyclists and probably spot the odd heron and moor hen too. The stretch that takes you to Regents Park is lovely, it takes about half an hour and leaves you free to wander around the park on arrival. Once you are there you could visit the famous London Zoo, where last week 300 people streaked to raise awareness of the plight of the Sumatran Tiger!

Regents Canal in London Photo: Michael Jones 51 on Flickr

Regents Canal in London

Stay at the Gorgeous Great Northern Hotel

The Great Northern Hotel in St Pancras is London’s original Victorian Railway Hotel and it stands proudly right next to King’s Cross Station. It reopened this year after a huge £40m restoration project and is now looking better than ever. The hotel has 91 rooms, all expertly decorated, with free WIFI, in room entertainment and a ‘pantry’ on every floor where guests can help themselves to home-baked cakes and nespresso coffees. The hotel has a rather glamorous bar too, the GNH Bar and the restaurant (which was our foodie pick!) is great at all times of the day.

Great Northern Hotel in Kings Cross, London Photo: www.gnhlondon.com

Stay at the Great Northern Hotel in Kings Cross, London

We hope all of this has given you some ideas for your next trip to London – we are always happy to hear if you have any great ideas too! A little tip for King’s Cross though – pick up a map as many of King’s Crosses spots are so new Google Maps hasn’t necessarily caught up yet, so you can’t rely on your smart phone! Enjoy.

This article is brought to you by the Great Northern Hotel, an iconic boutique hotel metres from St Pancras International and home to the Plum + Spilt Milk restaurant.

Photo Credits: Kings Place, London Canal Museum, Platform 9 3/4 by eddiejdf, St Pancreas Old Church by Paul Hudson, Regents Canal by Michael Jones 51, Plum + Spilt Milk, Great Northern Hotel.

More tales from London:

A River trip in London up the Thames to Greenwich
High in the Treetops at Kew Gardens
Three great ways to spend a day in London

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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