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25 fun things to see in Bristol with your friends

25 things to see in Bristol with your friends

On Bristol’s harbourside the water’s sparkling, a hot air balloon is drifting over the Clifton Suspension Bridge and somewhere down a side street a wannabe Banksy is spraying their next street-art mural. OK – that’s the view you’ll see on the postcards, but I’ve lived in Bristol for 25 years and love its creative spirit. There’s something special about the way we nurture our quirky independent shops and value our vibrant food scene – you have to try quite hard to eat badly here.

25 things to see in Bristol with your friends

When friends visit me in Bristol, I love to share what we have, here in the heart of the West Country. It was a pleasure when I was asked to show around my blogging friends Erik from Around the Globe and Jennifer from Luxe Adventure Traveler, to give them my local’s perspective of the city. It was a fun-packed few days, which I hope gave them a flavour of Bristol’s best side, with a bit of time to relax and soak up the atmosphere. Now I’m sharing the best of Bristol with you too, with 25 suggestions on what to enjoy when you visit with friends or family; here’s a comprehensive although by no means exhaustive list of what you might like to see, arranged by neighbourhood.

Bristol Harbourside photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Bristol Harbourside

1. Bristol’s Harbourside

I’d spend half a day to 1 day here

My first stop with friends visiting Bristol is always the harbourside, especially on a sunny day when the sailboats are clinking gently and it feels like all of Bristol is sitting on the harbour wall, dangling their feet over the water. If I’m driving, I’ll park under Millenium square and then start a circular walk around the harbour from there.

Peros bridge in Bristol photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Peros bridge in Bristol

Millenium square – relax and people watch

As the name suggests, the square was created as a community space in 2000 and it’s one of my favourite places in Bristol to people-watch. Find a bench to relax, while young guys show off their skills on the trick bikes and kids splash in the pools and fountains. Take your photo with the statues of notable Bristolians, such as film star Cary Grant who was born in Bristol under the less glamorous name of Archibald Leach, as well as William Penn, William Tyndale and teenage poet Thomas Chatterton. The silver globe of the At-Bristol planetarium and the reflections in the pools and fountains make a good picture too and there are endless bar and restaurant options nearby. From here I’ll normally cross over Pero’s bridge, with the horn shaped weights. It’s named after the slave of John Pinney, one of Bristol’s 18th century merchants who built the Georgian House, now a museum on Park Street. Families might like to dip into the At-Bristol hands on science centre or the Bristol Aquarium that are on this square.

Hotels near Millenium Square: For a budget stay look at the Hotel Ibis Bristol Centre or for something more luxurious you’re a short walk from the historic Marriott Royal on College Green.

Millenium square in Bristol Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Millenium square in Bristol

Arnolfini – for contemporary arts

Along the cobbled waterfront is the Arnolfini, an old stone tea warehouse that now houses a contemporary arts centre. The art exhibitions change all the time and are normally conceptual in nature. This isn’t a place to go for pretty images, it’s more about experiencing art through all your senses, making you think and challenging pre-conceptions. Because it’s free I normally pop in to see what’s on and sometimes go up to the top floor to have a view from the windows across the harbour.

Hotels in Bristol Harbourside: The Bristol Hotel is well located right on the harbour front, with a 1960s listed facade. The rooms are well sized and stylish, many with great views over the harbour and they also serve a nice afternoon tea.

The harbour and Arnolfini in Bristol Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The harbour and Arnolfini in Bristol

M-Shed – for Bristol’s history and culture

From the Arnolfini we’ll cross the Prince Street bridge (currently being rebuilt and under scaffolding) with a glance  towards the spire of St Mary Redcliffe, which Queen Elizabeth I said was the “the fairest, goodliest and most famous parish church in England“. On the other side of the bridge is M-shed, another free museum, a place to dip into Bristol’s history and culture and a favourite with families. As a local I like to try and find my own house on the big aerial photo that covers the ground floor, but I also point out to friends some of the historical stuff about Bristol’s past, such as the interesting exhibition about the slave trade. Of course we also have to go and pay homage to the Banksy mural of ‘The Grim Reaper’. It used to be at the waterline of The Thekla, a ship in the harbour that’s also a nightclub, but I guess they thought it was just too important and so it was cut out and put in the museum. I also like to take friends up to the 2nd floor terrace where you get a closer view of the impressive cranes and see right across the harbour.

M-shed and the cranes in bristol Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

M-shed and the cranes in Bristol

Wapping Wharf – Bristol’s cool new foodie hub

If I’m showing guests around Bristol we almost always end up at Wapping Wharf, whether it’s for a coffee stop or a drink and bite to eat in the evening. In this traffic-free area of the harbour, just beyond M-shed, there are lots of independent bars and restaurants, that showcase the best of Bristol’s indie food scene. The atmosphere is relaxed and in the evening it’s fun to have a drink at one place, then move on for a bite to eat somewhere else. When Erik and Jennifer were in Bristol I wanted to give them a taste of traditional English and West Country dishes, so we started with a cider tasting at The Bristol Cider shop, accompanied by Lovett Pies, then on to Pigsty for a piggy blow-out with their pig-board, a selection of different tastes such as scotch eggs, sausages and a pulled pork ‘Pig Mac’ burger.

Heather and Erik at Wild Beer in Wapping Wharf Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Heather and Erik at Wild Beer in Wapping Wharf

Next we tasted some of the craft beers at Wild Beer – there are so many unusual flavours that you can normally tempt even the most sceptical beer drinker and they do great fish and chips and fish tacos with Hook Restaurants. Upstairs in the Cargo containers we popped in at the end of the evening to Box-E, a tiny establishment serving modern British cooking, where we sat at the chef’s table while chef Elliott Lidstone created mouthwatering deserts of panacotta with rhubarb and orange or chocolate mousse with passionfruit, pomegranate and coconut. At lunchtime on the next day I also stopped by with Jennifer at Mokoko for quiche, cake and salads with well made coffee. I also love the coffee at Little Victories where they do fabulous coffee cocktails in the evening.

Wapping Wharf food tasting

Tasting the food at Wapping Wharf Bristol

SS Great Britain – Bristol’s maritime heritage

I’d been on board ss Great Britain a few times, but not really had a proper look around until I took Jennifer there in the afternoon. Luckily the rain we’d had in the morning had cleared and the sunshine made the ship look very pretty with brightly coloured flags fluttering in the wind. The climbing instructors from the Go Aloft Experience, in which you climb the rigging like a sailor, were getting everything ready for the spring opening – I’ve seen others do it but was a bit too scared myself!

ss Great Britain in Bristol Photos: Heatheronhertravels.com

ss Great Britain in Bristol

Instead we explored below deck to see the cabins realistically reconstructed complete with dirty washing lying around and minuscule bunks. We fancied ourselves in first class but there was not much more room there either, even though the food laid out in the dining room looked very elegant. This is a great family attraction, but also one that’s fun for anyone with a curiosity about how people lived in the past and Bristol’s maritime heritage.

Below the waterline on ss Great Britain photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Below the waterline on ss Great Britain

Banksy’s ‘Girl with the pierced eardrum’

In case you hadn’t noticed, Banksy is a big deal in Bristol. There are plenty of great street artists here, but Banksy’s international reputation and the fact that there are just a few pieces left in Bristol, means that it’s worth seeking out those that remain. One of these is tucked away in the harbour, just behind the ss Great Britain. The piece just off Hanover Place appeared in 2014 and it’s a parody of Vermeer’s ‘Girl with the Pearl Earing’, the earing being a gaudy yellow security alarm. Worth a quick photo stop I always think.

Banksy Girl with the Pierced Eardrum photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Banksy Girl with the Pierced Eardrum

Photographing Bristol’s colourful houses

Instagram lovers will have spotted the frequency with which those rows of colourful houses appear in photos of Bristol – they are even in the Visit Bristol logo. The houses are just as colourful from the front as the back and if you’re in Clifton, I suggest that you find the The Lion pub in Cliftonwood and then walk along Cliftonwood Crescent or Argyle Place for some Instagram gold. From the harbour there’s a great stretch from Bristol Marina, where the swans and ducks often add a bit of wildlife colour, and along to The Cottage Inn. This is the best stretch to photograph coloured houses on the harbour, although there are quite a few other spots around the city in Totterdown and by the Bathurst basin at the other end of the harbour.

Photographing painted houses in Bristol photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Photographing painted houses in Bristol

Underfall Yard – the pumping station for the harbour

Although I didn’t have time to visit Underfall Yard with Erik and Jennifer, for those who have the energy it makes a nice extension of a walk past ss Great Britain. I’m always curious to peep into the half open doors of the working boatyard and have a chat with anyone working on the old wooden ships that come in for repair there. The visitors centre is also a great place to pop in to turn a few handles and get your bearings on the map of the harbour – who knew a Victorian pumping station could be so fascinating? When the suns’s shining there’s no better place to grab a coffee and a bite to eat from the Pickle cafe that’s just inside the visitor’s centre and eat it on the tables outside watching the boats go by.

Underfall Yard in Bristol photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Underfall Yard in Bristol

Catch a Bristol Ferry

By the time we’ve walked the length of the harbour, energy levels are usually running low and a great option is to make a return journey on one of ferries that ply up and down the harbour. The Bristol Ferry is the best known with its distinctive yellow and blue colouring and often you’ll see a Grommit statue on the front. The ferries cost about the same as a bus and go once or twice an hour, so it’s worth checking the timetable so that you don’t miss it. Heading back from ss Great Britain, under Pero’s bridge and back to the centre, we got a different view of the harbour. The whole experience of being on the water was very calming. There’s also a short ferry ride at ss Great Britain that will take you directly across the harbour – there’s no timetable, it just goes back and forth constantly and costs under £1.

Ferry around Bristol harbour Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Ferry around Bristol harbour

2. Park Street in Bristol

Spend half a day seeing all the things here

After your tour of the harbour, you’ll probably end up close to the bottom of Park Street so you may want to spend the rest of the day exploring what’s around here.

Bristol Cathedral – peace in the heart of the city

I always feel a sense of peace when I enter Bristol Cathedral and also a bit of nostalgia since my son was at Bristol Cathedral School. I took Jennifer in to show her the impressive nave, beautiful wooden pews for the choir where I’ve listened to magical voices at evensong and the interesting side chapels, including the Eastern Lady Chapel at the end. The vibrant red, green and gold of the painted stonework was done in the 1930s to show what cathedrals really looked like in medieval times, when they were richly painted, a far cry from the unadorned grey stone we see today. It’s easy to miss the cloisters down the steps, from the time when the cathedral was an Augustinian Abbey and the 12th century Chapter House, with beautiful carved stone and niches where the monks would have sat at prayer. The garden at the end of the cloisters beside the buttery is a hidden gem, a tranquil oasis where you can sit quietly among the gravestones and the flowers with a cup of tea in the sunshine.

Bristol Cathedral photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Bristol Cathedral

When you’ve finished your tour, be sure to cross College Green to SWOON, where the gelato is freshly made on the premises and utterly delicious – ask what their seasonal flavours are for something a bit different.

The Banksy – Well Hung lover

There are only a few Banksy murals scattered around Bristol, but the ‘Well Hung Lover’ is one of the most accessible, which you can easily spot as you walk up Park Street.  Just because it’s Banky doesn’t mean it gets respect and reverence from the spray-and-run graffiti crowd – you’ll spot the blue paint-ball spots that have only been partly removed. The position is typical of Banksy – after so many run-ins with the council who whitewashed over his pieces, he tried to paint in places that were hard to reach and remove – and in any case the building was owned by a friend so hopefully it’s here to stay. If you go down the steps beside the bridge there are a few more interesting pieces along the street and on the sides of the Queens Shilling nightclub, so worth a small detour. If you want to take a street-art tour check out the excellent Where the Wall who run regular tours to all the street-art places in Bristol – you can read my review of their Bristol street-art tour here.

Banksy Well Hung Lover Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Banksy Well Hung Lover

Park Street for Shopping

Park street is one of my favourite shopping streets in Bristol, a mixture of independents and upscale high street chains, combining vintage, jewellery, designer clothing and quirky gifts. My favourites, although its very subjective are Jigsaw for womens clothing, Diana Porter, a Bristol based jewellery designer where we like to buy special occasion pieces, Bristol Guild for an eclectic collection of arty gifts. For a coffee stop I head to Bakesmiths, a bakery and all day cafe where the pizzas are a bargain. If you see any of their legendary doughnuts on sale, grab one before they sell out. If you can’t get in there, I’d head to the cafe tucked away on the second floor of Bristol Guild where it’s a lot calmer and I almost always find a space, or try one of the other Bristol indie cafes like Boston Tea Party or Friska.

Park Street in Bristol photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Park Street in Bristol

Brandon Hill and Cabots Tower

While heading up Park Street I took a slight detour up to the left to show Erik and Jennifer Cabot Tower, perched at the top of Brandon Hill. As we drove up Great George Street, I pointed out The Georgian House, a lovely old sugar merchant’s house and museum which normally opens after Easter, and St Georges Brandon Hill, a fantastic concert venue in an old church (we never miss the Christmas concerts there). On a sunny day it’s fun to just sit on the grass with a picnic or on the benches at the top of the hill for a view across Bristol. The views are even better if you take the time to climb Cabot tower (it’s free), which was built in 1897 to commemorate the Genoese explorer John Cabot’s voyage from Bristol to Nova Scotia. From the top you can see over the harbour and rooftops, feeling you’re in a miniature but much less crowded version of the campanile in Florence.

Cabot Tower in Bristol photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Cabot Tower in Bristol

Hotels in Bristol on Park Street: The Berkeley Suites at the top of Park Street offers stylish suites in a Georgian building, which are ideal if you want to have the freedom of self-catering. If you prefer a hotel stay then the Berkeley Square Hotel is owned by the same group and is just around the corner.

Museums and Towers on Park Street

Although I only had time to show Erik and Jennifer a quick view of Park Street, it’s worth mentioning that at the top of the hill you’ll spot the honey coloured Wills Tower, built by the family who made their money from Wills cigarettes – it’s now part of Bristol University. There are guided tours of the Wills Tower at weekends when you can go right up to the top of the tower to see Great George Bell who even has his own Twitter account. Right next door there’s the Bristol City Museum, which is a happy place to potter about among the mummies and displays of natural history and artworks, with a biplane flying from the ceiling. It’s worth checking out what exhibition is on – the museum is free but there’s a charge for exhibitions and they are often excellent. Just down the hill on Park Row there’s also Red Lodge, another historic house that’s open as a museum with free entry, with beautiful Elisabethan oak panelled interiors and views over the city.

Wills Tower in Bristol photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Wills Tower in Bristol

3. Clifton Village and Clifton Suspension Bridge

Spend half a day seeing all the things here

Clifton Suspension Bridge – the icon of Bristol

The Clifton Suspension Bridge is one of the must-see attractions of Bristol, featuring heavily on all the postcards, normally with a few balloons drifting in the background from the Bristol Balloon Fiesta. Take some time to walk across the bridge and admire the views of the gorge. Pop into the Visitor’s Centre on the other side which has lots of interesting information about how the bridge was designed and built by Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. There’s a free guided tour of the bridge at 3pm on weekends Easter to October and most people don’t know that you can also go inside the vaults below the stone pillar beside the visitor’s centre – this is only in a guided tour and you normally need to book well in advance here. If you want the view of the bridge in a more relaxed fashion, then I’d suggest you head to the terrace of the Avon Gorge Hotel, which is packed out on any sunny day with locals having a drink at the recently refurbished White Lion Bar.

Hotels in Clifton Village: The Avon Gorge Hotel is a historic hotel with a prime position overlooking the Avon gorge and suspension bridge. As I write in March 2017 the hotel is undergoing a complete refurbishment which will be finished some time in 2017, so depending on when you book check whether some of the newer style rooms are available, especially those with views of the bridge.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol

The Clifton Observatory – with Giant’s cave

Having walked across the bridge, you might want to walk up to the Clifton Observatory, the tower that’s set on the high ground above the bridge. You’ll probably pass the natural rock slide which is a favourite for thrill seekers of all ages to slide down – just watch where the kids and teenagers are going!

The Rock slide in Clifton Bristol photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Rock slide in Clifton Bristol

If the Observatory is open it’s definitely worth a visit – at the top there’s a camera obscura where you can see a video-like reflection of the bridge. Next you’ll descend steps through a narrow rock passage (not for the claustrophobic) to the Giant’s Cave, coming out on a viewing platform halfway down the rockface, for a different view of the gorge.

Clifton Observatory photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Clifton Observatory

Clifton Village – independent shopping and cafes

After seeing the bridge, it’s time to relax a bit and wander around the shops in Clifton Village. You’ll be in heaven if you like unusual fashion and homeware finds from independent boutiques, which are mixed in with lovely cafes and bars from which to sip a latte and people-watch. The main shopping streets here are The Mall, Princess Victoria Street, Waterloo Street and Regent Street where you’ll spend a happy hour or two meandering from one shop to the next. At the end of Boyce’s Avenue is the Clifton Arcade, a Victorian building with a glass roof which houses vintage and jewellery stores, with my favourite stationers Papersmiths nearby. Instagrammers should look out for Reg the Veg, and Lisa Elliott the florist, whose colourful displays pop up daily in the feeds of the Clifton ladies of Instagram. If you want my recommendations for a coffee or lunchtime stop I’d say Primrose Cafe for huge wedges of home-made cakes, Anna cake couture for elegant macarons and bite sized patisserie, Spicer and Cole for brunch dishes, salads and filled rolls with coffee and The Ivy Clifton Brasserie (an offshoot of the well-heeled London establishment) if you want to treat yourself day or evening, but you may need to book.

Clifton Arcade in Bristol photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Clifton Arcade in Bristol

Photograph the Georgian architecture of Clifton

I sometimes have to explain to overseas guest what we mean when we describe architecture as ‘Georgian’ – it’s the flat fronted, honey stone buildings that were built between 1720 and 1830 in the reigns of English kings George I to George IV. This is the architecture that Bath is well known for, but we have our fair share in Bristol too, especially around Clifton Village. The Mall Gardens is lined with these elegant Georgian houses and you can go into the central gardens to get a good view of the imposing Clifton Club, where balls and assemblies were held in the 18th century. You might then pass the Avon Gorge Hotel and circle back along Royal York Crescent, which at over 300 metres is one of the longest in Europe and has views over the city. From here there’s a pleasant walk along Birdcage Walk and back through Victoria Square for a sense of Clifton’s elegant houses, built by wealthy merchants whose business was being done down in the harbour and old city, but who preferred to live in the cleaner air of Clifton.

Royal York Crescent in Bristol photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Royal York Crescent in Bristol

Although we didn’t have time to visit, families will also enjoy the Bristol Zoo Gardens which is a short walk from the village area of Clifton, close to The Downs.

4. Bristol’s Old City

Spend a couple of hours exploring the Old City

Corn Street – the old financial heart of Bristol

I’ve mentioned that Bristol’s wealthy merchants liked to live in the elegant surroundings of Clifton Village, but Corn Street was where they did their business in the heart of the Old City. Nearby there’s Bristol Bridge, where the original bridge over the Avon was first built in the 13th century and there are now quite a few boats with bars and restaurants nearby such as Glass Boat (elegant dining), Three Brothers (outstanding burgers, craft beer and local ciders) and The Apple (an open air bar serving cider in summer). As you walk up Corn Street, alternate which side of the street you’re on and look up to see the impressive facades of the buildings, with pillars and porticos, to proclaim the wealth of the banks and insurance companies they once housed.

Cosy club in Bristol photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Cosy club in Bristol

Most of these impressive buildings are now bars and restaurants – check out Cosy Club for its gorgeous interiors and a great place for coffee or cocktails in the early evening. You might also pop your head in to take a look at the impressive interiors of Pizza Express, Commercial Rooms and even the Sansovino Hall at The Harbour Hotel which was the old Lloyds Banking Hall. Outside the front of the old Corn Exchange, which now houses St Nicholas Market, are the metal tables, known as The Nails where merchants made their deals, leading to the expression “to pay on the nail“.

Hotels in Bristol’s Old City: The Harbour Hotel is a luxury hotel, created out of two old banks with an excellent Jetty restaurant, spa in the old bank vaults and some of the rooms have roll-top baths in the bedroom area.

Corn Street in Bristol photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Corn Street in Bristol

St Nicholas Market – a favourite lunchtime stop

The local’s favourite lunchtime stop is St Nicholas Market, known as “St Nicks”, where you’ll find a huge range of food stalls under the glass arcade. They are mainly open from mid morning to late afternoon and are closed in the evening, so be sure to stop for lunch which you can eat at the small tables outside each stand. There’s a huge range on offer including pulled pork burgers from Grillstock, pies from Pieminster, salads from the Olive Works, falafel and hummus from Eat a Pitta. For hot dishes, try the home cooked Portuguese or Caribbean dishes and my new favourite is the Brozen ice cream, which they freeze in a cloud of liquid nitrogen before your eyes.

St Nicholas Market photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

St Nicholas Market in Bristol

St Nicholas Street runs alongside the market has a few interesting shops, bars and cafes too – look out for the Bristol Cheesemonger (soon moving to Wapping Wharf) and Brew Bristol selling lots of specialist beers by the bottle.  Also take a look at the quirky stalls selling all sorts of interesting things, such as crystals, books, old records and silver jewellery in the covered areas of the market and the old Corn Exchange building. If you’re interested in taking a food tour, check out the excellent tours of this area by Eat Walk Talk Bristol food tours.

The Bristol Cheesemonger photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Bristol Cheesemonger

Hotels in St Nicholas Market: Brooks Guest House is tucked away in a courtyard in the heart of St Nicholas Market, with stylish, contemporary style and some iconic silver Rocket caravans, which you can also stay in on the roof.

Castle Park – time for a picnic

If the weather’s fine or St Nicks market is crowded, I recommend crossing the road to eat your lunch in Castle Park. There’s the shell of St Peter’s Church which was bombed in the war, with a pretty herb garden beside it and a water feature at the back. This is where the local office workers come to sit on the grass at lunchtime in summer overlooking the canal, where they are building a new footbridge across to the Redcliffe Quarter and Finzal’s Reach. The park is named after Bristol Castle that was built here in the 11th century, now just a few stone areas remaining, and there’s also a childrens’ playground tucked away in the trees. The Park adjoins Broadmead and Cabots Circus shopping areas where you’ll find a huge choice of high street shops, a cinema and other shopping possibilities.

Castle Park in Bristol photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Castle Park in Bristol

Street Art on Nelson Street

From the end of Corn Street turn left down Broad Street to the arch in the old city wall and the church of St John in the Wall at the end. Through the arch is Nelson Street where you can still see a few of the street art murals left from the See No Evil festival in 2011 and 2012 that was a precursor of the Upfest festival now held in Southville. There has been a lot of new building along this street, so most of the smaller pieces have disappeared, but the larger murals high up on buildings are well worth a look.

Hotels in Bristol’s Old City: The Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel has recently gone through a refurbishment using some of the street-art inspiration for the murals in the lobby and photos of street-art that you’ll find in the rooms and corridors.

Street art on Nelson Street Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Street art on Nelson Street

A cocktail in Bristol’s ‘secret’ bars

While there are no shortage of places to drink in Bristol, the locals often head for a late night cocktail to one of Bristol’s ‘secret’ bars – the ones in an old building with an unmarked door that you’d easily miss unless they were pointed out to you. In the Old City check out Milk Thistle, a prohibition style cocktail bar and the less secret but equally trendy Gold Bar in the Harbour Hotel, which was the old bank manager’s offices. In other parts of Bristol there are a few other ‘secret’ bars and (since you asked) I’ll let you into the secret that Hyde & Co is tucked away on Upper Byron Place at the top of Park Street and Red Light Bar (which requires you to dial a telephone to enter) is at 1 Unity Street at the bottom of Park Street.

The Gold Bar in Bristol photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Gold Bar in Bristol

Hotels in Bristol’s Old City: The Hotel du Vin is a luxury hotel in an old Sugar warehouse, set back from the main road where once the harbour ran in front of the building. I had dinner with Jennifer in the cosy French brasserie style restaurant, all dark wood and wine bottles on display. The bedrooms also have a wine theme with luxurious furnishings and roll-top baths and they also do a great afternoon tea. I love sitting tucked away in the bar for a coffee or glass of wine with old leather chairs and wooden beams.

Hotel du Vin in Bristol

Hotel du Vin in Bristol

5. Stokes Croft for street-art and coffee

Spend a couple of hours exploring Stokes Croft

For street-art lovers, a walk up Stokes Croft is a must. Its a part of the city that’s either bohemian and up-and-coming or grungy and down-at-heel depending on your point of view. This is an area where you’ll often see homeless people since there are several night shelters nearby, but also plenty of great cafes, bars and nightclubs. At the bottom end is also the Bear Pit, and underpass below the roundabout where there are a few food stalls in the day and street-art in the underpass, probably mixed with a whiff of wee or weed.

Stokes Croft, Bristol photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Stokes Croft, Bristol

Then there’s the Full Moon pub which also has a hostel, the Blue Mountain nightclub and quite a few coffee shops, the newest I’ve tried being Ceres which is a delicious brunch stop. At the heart of Stokes Croft is The Canteen, which as the name suggests, serves as an all day eatery for the neighbourhood, with live music in the evening.

Street art murals on Stokes Croft in Bristol photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Street art murals on Stokes Croft in Bristol

Outside you’ll see two notable murals, the ‘Breakdancing Jesus’ and the Banksy ‘Mild Mild West’, one of his earliest pieces that epitomises the Bristol spirit – mild and friendly until you push us, at which point a cider fuelled riot may ensue.

The Canteen Bristol photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Canteen Bristol

The food at The Canteen is excellent and well priced with mains around £8-10. When I ate there with Eric and Jennifer we chose from mussels, broccoli tagiatelle, and fish with thai green curry sauce. You’ll see all the favourite local beers and ciders on tap and there’s free live music every evening from 9.30pm, so also worth stopping for a drink after dinner, even if you’re eating elsewhere. Right opposite is Jamaica Street where there’s an artists studio and a street art wall which has an ever changing array of murals. Pop into the small PRSC shop (Peoples Republic of Stokes Croft) for a very Bristolan souvenir of street art posters, photographs or china mugs.

Stokes Croft PRSC in Bristol Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Stokes Croft PRSC in Bristol

Walking up and down Stoke Croft you’ll spot quite a few murals but there are even more pieces in the side streets and back alleys, so be adventurous and go explore (well maybe not at the dead of night). If you want to do a street art tour to find the latest pieces and the hear the stories behind them, book onto one of the Street-Art tours with Where the Wall.

Erik with Street art on Stokes Croft

Erik with Street art on Stokes Croft

6. Southville and North Street for street-art and coffee

Spend a couple of hours exploring North Street

If you’re still hungry for more street-art after visiting Stokes Croft, head south of the river into Southville to walk up North Street and spot the murals that remain from the Upfest Festival. You might be best to pop into the Upfest gallery to pick up a map that shows the location of the permanent pieces, as some are a bit tucked away down the side streets. The Upfest festival started in 2008 and will next take place in July 2017, with over 35,000 visitors and hundreds of street artists from all over the world descending on South Bristol.

Cheo Upfest mural in Southville Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Cheo Upfest mural in Southville

During the festival there is live music and temporary painting sites are set up along North Street, and all the murals that you’ll see if you visit today will be painted over in the next festival. Southville is also a cool place to live, a little more affordable than the north Bristol neighbourhoods and there are plenty of cafes for a coffee stop. Look out for Mark’s Bread, a bakery where you can buy bread, sandwiches and pastries for lunch and Zara’s Chocolate further up the street where you can see the owner making chocolates in an open worshop. Favourite evening dinner stops are Souk Kitchen and Thali Cafe on North Street, with modern English dining at Birch on Raleigh Road.

Upfest gallery in Bristol photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Upfest gallery in Bristol

Phew, that was a whistle-stop tour of Bristol but of course you can’t see it all in a weekend, or you’ll exhaust yourself trying. I’d pick just one or two of the neighbourhoods I’ve mentioned and see them at a leisurely pace, dipping into the shops an taking your time to savour some of the great food we have in Bristol. Hope to see you in Bristol very soon!

More information on visiting Bristol

For lots of information on visiting Bristol check out the official tourism website of Visit Bristol. When you arrive there’s a tourist information centre in the harbourside, next to the Watershed Arts Centre, where you can pick up leaflets, get advice and book tickets for many of the tours in Bristol. If you’re visiting other parts of Great Britain, you’ll find all the information you need on the Visit Britain website.

More great articles about Bristol

10 Cool things to do on Bristol’s Harbourside
Bristol Street Art: So much more than Banksy
Three fab food experiences in Bristol (that make the perfect gift)

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25 fun things to see in Bristol

This post was brought to you as a result of the #WelcomeToEngland campaign, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with Visit Britain, although as always I am free to write what I wish about Bristol. Some of the experiences or meals described were provided free of charge. 

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

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    Anna
    April 22, 2017 at 9:49 am

    I never realised there was so much to see in Bristol! I only ever visit with work and the office is (of course) right next to the station! I need to engage your tour-guiding next time I’m in town I think!
    Anna´s last blog post ..Spring walk: South Downs lambs and bluebells

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      April 22, 2017 at 9:56 am

      @Anna I hadn’t realised you come here for work – next time stay an extra day and I’ll show you around!

  • Reply
    Suzanne Jones
    April 23, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    There’s so much to see and do in Bristol – surely you’d need a month to take in all of this! I love the look of the Georgian areas of the city; Clifton Arcade and Royal York Crescent and I’d have to take in Clifton Suspension Bridge as well.

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      April 25, 2017 at 4:27 pm

      @Suzanne It’s certainly not just Bath that has some stunning Georgian architecture

  • Reply
    Lucy
    April 23, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    So many great ideas! I’ve not spent as much time in Bristol as I should given it’s so close but there are a few more on the list to see next time – Wapping Wharf sounds very tasty and I’ve still not managed a sunny day at the Clifton Suspension Bridge yet.
    Lucy´s last blog post ..A taste of South Africa’s Cape winelands

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      April 25, 2017 at 4:26 pm

      @Lucy I’m sure we could guarantee some sunshine if you were to visit

  • Reply
    alison abbott
    April 24, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    What a great overview of Bristol you’ve given us. Certainly good incentive for a side trip from London. I’m a big fan of street art and Banksy. Visitors must love stumbling upon the Well Hung Lover. The art work outside the Upfest Gallery is my favorite-so pleasing to the eye and joyful.
    alison abbott´s last blog post ..Eco Beauty Products for your Travel Bag

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      April 25, 2017 at 4:26 pm

      @Alison Street-art is certainly one of the great reasons to come to Bristol

  • Reply
    Sara @ Travel Continuum
    April 25, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    Once, many years ago, I briefly drove through Bristol en route elsewhere, and I have to say, there was something about the vibe that has always drawn me to it. Those secret bars are especially tempting, but if I’m honest, you had me at the top end of the post, with the At-Bristol science centre…right up my street! I feel a weekend break coming on… 🙂

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      April 25, 2017 at 4:25 pm

      @Sara You’ll be welcome to visit – At-Bristol is a fun place for kids of all ages 🙂

  • Reply
    pavitra
    November 7, 2017 at 11:02 am

    Wonderful article. very well written. I love Bristol.

  • Reply
    Bordeaux in 365 Bottles: March 2017 - Luxe Adventure Traveler
    November 12, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    […] actually met and traveled with Heather from Heather on Her Travels almost two years ago now when we did a wine themed trip in Luxembourg. So it was great to see […]

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