OK, I may be biased but I think my home town of Bristol makes the perfect weekend destination and one that couples looking for a romantic break will love. If you’re looking for a romantic weekend in Bristol, there are no shortage of cosy bars and restaurants, quirky and unusual shopping, the Georgian elegance of Clifton Village and a world class food scene with indie restaurants and cafés, to get you in a Valentines Day mood.
What to see on your romantic weekend in Bristol
For your weekend in Bristol let me give you my local’s recommendation on some of my favourite things to see and do while you’re here;
Take a walk on Bristol’s Harbourside
Starting in Millenium Square, head across Pero’s bridge, the footbridge with the distinctive horn weights where lots of people come to leave their love lock in a romantic gesture. Walking past the small boats in the harbour you can stop by the Arnolfini contemporary art gallery to see what’s on (it’s free) before taking a Bristol selfie with the statue of John Cabot, the Genoese explorer who looks out to sea and the replica of his ship The Matthew that sailed from Bristol to Newfoundland in 1497.
Crossing the bridge you’ll walk under the cranes that were used to off-load the banana boats along the quayside and can pop into the M-Shed museum to discover something of Bristol’s history and heritage (it’s free). If it’s lunchtime a stop to sample the foodie delights of Wapping Wharf is a must, before continuing along the harbour or taking the small steam train which is run by volunteers at weekends, until you reach Brunel’s SS Great Britain.
You can easily while away a few hours or more at this fascinating iron clad steam ship and visitor attraction that was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in Bristol and took passengers to Australia and America before returning to Bristol where it was restored.
From here, either continue past the Banksy mural Girl with the pierced eardrum, with views of Bristol’s famous coloured houses, until you reach the boatyard and visitor centre at Underfall Yard. Alternatively get the ferry across the harbour (it costs less than £1) and stop for a bite to eat at Spoke and Stringer, before walking back along the harbourside path to Millenium square and your starting point.
Shopping and culture on Park Street
At the bottom of Park Street, be sure to visit Bristol’s beautiful cathedral with hidden chapels and monastic cloisters as well as a hidden garden that is a charming place to sit for a while in sunny weather. If I’m in this area, I always visit Swoon, a gelato shop that serves the most delicious ice cream in Bristol, all freshly made only from the ingredients you’d expect, and you can really taste the different.
Close by is the Diana Porter jewellers just in case you’re looking for a beautiful piece of jewellery and there are plenty of up-scale fashion and vintage shops on Park Street too. I love The Bristol Guild for unusual and artistic gifts, and Pinkmans bakery as a stop for coffee with one of their famous sour-dough-nuts or salads and pizzas at lunchtime.
Halfway up Park Street you may want to take a detour to pass by the Georgian House, an interesting merchant’s house that has been preserved in original style, opposite St George’s Brandon Hill, an old church that’s now a classical music venue. Further up the hill walk into Brandonhill Park to climb Cabot Tower (it’s free) and get a view over Bristol’s harbourside, looking out to the green hills of the Mendips beyond the city.
Returning to Park Street, there’s also Red Lodge (it’s free) to see nearby, an old merchant house that still retains its Tudor rooms and panelling. Further up Park Street you’ll pass the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery (it’s free) which often has interesting exhibitions and a little further still is the Royal West of Engand Academy with art exhibitions and a fine glazed dome and impressive gallery space.
A walk around to Georgian elegance of Clifton Village
I normally start any walk around Clifton Village with a stroll across the Clifton Suspension Bridge to get a feel for Brunel’s engineering masterpiece and take in the views of the Avon Gorge. On the far side of the bridge is a small visitor centre (it’s free) with information about the bridge and how it came to be built which is worth visiting.
Once you’ve walked back across the bridge, you might want to climb the path up to the Clifton Observatory, which is a great spot to photograph the bridge. Inside you can see the Camera Obscura and the video-like reflection of the scene outside, as well as climbing down the stairway to the Giant’s Cave viewpoint of the gorge – but it’s not for the claustrophobic.
Back in Clifton Village walk down The Mall – my favourite stops here are Shy Mimosa artizan perfumery, Wellbourne for coffee and The Ivy Brasserie for lunch. There are lots of clothes shops here too and be sure to look up at the impressive facade of the Clifton Club – it was from their windows that Queen Victoria, who was visiting as a child with her mother, waved to the public of Bristol.
Wander down West Mall admiring the elegant Georgian terraces until you reach the Avon Gorge Hotel, which has the best outdoor terrace in Bristol, a favourite spot on a sunny day to sit with a drink and admire the bridge.
Back in the heart of the village, turn left along Princess Victoria Street past the numerous jewellers, should you be looking for a special ring! My favourite place for a coffee along here is Spicer and Cole, so stylish and wholesome, and then at the end cross the road into Boyce’s Avenue. Anna’s is always a favourite for delicate macarons and cakes and there are numerous brunch spots along here, but you must also take a look at The Clifton Arcade at the end which is a pretty old covered arcade with quirky independent galleries, gift and vintage stores.
If you continue back down Clifton Down Road, be sure to turn into Royal York Cresent and walk along the pavement at the top of the steps, past this elegant Georgian crescent with views across the gorge. At the end, the walk will bring you back past the Avon Gorge Hotel and the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Tours and activities that couples will enjoy in Bristol
Eat Walk Talk Food Tour – This food tour is a great way to get a sense of Bristol’s history and heritage, combined with the best of its food scene. Brian who runs the tour varies it slightly each time but you’ll always get at least eight tastings of food and drink at the best indie food stops around Bristol. I’ve taken the tour a couple of times now and even though as a local I think I know most of the best places to eat, I’m always surprised by some hidden gem that Brian takes us to. Read More: 3 fab foodie experiences in Bristol
Where the Wall Street Art Tours – There’s a huge street-art scene in Bristol, birthplace of our homegrown talent Banksy and numerous other well known street-artists. Add to this the annual Upfest urban art festival and there are plenty of amazing and ever changing street-art murals to see. Where the Wall offer tours that give you an insight into Bristol’s street-art culture with the stories behind each piece and the artists who created them. Read More: Bristol Street Art – so much more than Banksy
Hot Air Balloons in Bristol – The Bristol Balloon Fiesta takes place in August every year when the skies of Bristol are fulled with colourful balloons drifting up from Ashton Court . From the spring through to the autumn, you can also book a balloon flight for a unique view on the city and be greeted with a celebratory glass of bubbles when you land. Flights are offered by Bristol Balloons and Bailey Balloons
Romantic places to eat in Bristol
Bristol’s food scene has grown hugely in the last few years, and the quality and variety we enjoy here is incredibly high. It’s difficult to put your finger on one dish or type of food that epitomises Bristol, although you always come back to the cider. It’s more a rich tapestry of food influences and global cuisines that you can eat here, with pride in the knowledge and passion of the chefs and food entrepreneurs of Bristol who have often grown from a festival stand or food truck. Nevertheless I’ve picked out a few of my favourites that will appeal to couples looking for a more romantic atmosphere for their weekend in Bristol.
Spoke & Stringer – a waterside brunch
Set in the harbour inlet, right opposite SS Great Britain, Spoke and Stringer is the place for a perfect brunch, or coffee and cake while you watch the swans gliding on the water. Sit in the sunshine with a beer and tapas as the day wears on then pop into the lifestyle shop next door to dream about your next surfing escapade to Cornwall.
The Jetty – fabulous seafood in style
Although it’s part of the Harbour Hotel, The Jetty is a destination restaurant in its own right that specialises in seafood but has plenty of choice for all tastes. The atmosphere is stylish with parquet wood floors, high ceilings and arched windows with Bristol Blue glass. Our favourite seats are the sea blue winged sofas where you can cosy up together side by side.
The Ivy Brasserie in Clifton – a special evening out in Clifton Village
In Clifton village, this busy all-day brasserie restaurant turns into a perfect special occasion restaurant, as the white clothed tables are laid with silver and sparkling glass and the lights are dimmed. The dishes at The Ivy Clifton are brasserie classics like slow roast lamb or fish and chips with a nod to international flavours like tuna carpaccio. The dining room has high ceilings with over-the-top floral arrangements and the service is professional but friendly – perfect to make you feel a little spoiled.
Le Poivrot – wine and small plates
If you love a glass of fine wine, and want somewhere relaxed for light bites, then try le Poivrot at the top of Christmas steps. The walk up the steps is a romantic adventure in itself, with a slightly Dickensian air that reminds you how Bristol must have been before heavy wartime bombing destroyed the heart of the city. As Le Poivrot partners with a local specialist wine merchant, there are many excellent wines to choose by the glass accompanied by cheese or charcuterie boards and excellent bistro dishes in the evening.
Hotel du Vin – afternoon tea with a twist
Afternoon tea is served in the atmospheric stone walled bar area of Hotel du Vin, or in their private rooms if you are a larger group. This is a meal in itself, so you might think of it as a late lunch or early dinner, as you won’t need to eat for hours afterwards. At Hotel du Vin afternoon tea is served as a first course plate of savouries, followed by the traditional cake stand of scones and sweet treats topped with candy floss. You have a choice of a wide range of teas, from delicate Jasmine and fragrant Earl Grey to elegant Darjeeling, the queen of teas. Take the opportunity to enjoy the English tradition of Afternoon Tea with a modern twist.
Strawberry Thief – Belgian Beer in the Old City
I recently discovered this bar in Bristol’s Old city, which has table service and a delightful atmosphere. It’s in an old Georgian shop, with a fireplace and William Morris wallpaper which gives the Strawberry Thief its name. Each of the Belgian beers is served in it’s own style of glass and they offer some small plates, sharing platters and bistro style dishes in the evening.
Wapping Wharf – for the foodies
The harbourside complex of shops and restaurants housed in old shipping containers at Wapping Wharf is definitely one for foodies. Although the atmosphere is more lively than romantic, it’s a great place to go if you’re not quite sure what you fancy eating, since there are countless different food vendors packed into a small area. Many serve light bites and snacks that you could eat on the harbourfront nearby in good weather, others are proper restaurants serving a complete range of cuisines from India to the Caribbean.
It’s also the place to sample Bristol’s famous cider scene at The Cider Shop, or craft beers at Wild Beer, or fabulous coffee and coffee cocktails at Little Victories. It’s hard to pick out one place to eat as there’s a dish for every taste, but I’ve enjoyed relaxed fine dining at Box-E, sophisticated vegetable dishes and plump oysters at Root, sourdough pizzas at Bertha’s and Asian street food at Woky Ko.
Romantic hotels in Bristol
Of course you’ll want to treat your loved one to something a bit special for that romantic gettaway and here a few places I’d recommend to stay in Bristol;
Bristol Harbour Hotel & Spa
It’s actually not in the Harbour area of Bristol but in the heart of Bristol’s Old City, in the buildings that were once occupied by two rather grand banking halls and an ornate facade that was inspired by the Sansovino library in Venice. Inside Harbour Hotel Bristol you’ll find 42 rooms, each individually decorated in quirky and colourful style, with luxurious bathrooms and some with a rolltop bath in the bedroom. Downstairs in the old bank vaults there’s a spa with plunge pool and steam rooms and on the ground floor a beautiful seafood restaurant, the Jetty with tall arched windows. Take a peak in the Sansonvino hall, formerly the Lloyds Banking hall which has ornate plasterwork and a glazed roof, a favourite venue for weddings. The Gold Bar is housed in the old bank manager’s office and serves excellent cocktails.
Hotel du Vin Bristol
Set in an old stone sugar warehouse where the ships would moor up on the quayside, the Hotel du Vin oozes old school elegance. As the name suggests, there’s a wine theme going on (Bristol in the past was a huge importer of fine wines and sherry), with each of the rooms named after a different vintage. The hotel style is polished wood and wine references mixing old stone and Georgian panelling with spacious rooms that often have both rolltop baths and walk in showers. The Bistro restaurant serves French inspired dishes, with perfectly paired wines recommended by the sommelier of course. For something a bit different try their afternoon tea of sweet and savoury treats, topped with candy floss.
Berkeley Suites in Clifton, Bristol
If you want the option of self-catering and a bit more space to lounge around and relax, I recommend Berkeley Suites, serviced apartments in Bristol that have all the amenities of a hotel. The suites are in an elegant Georgian townhouse and a 2 minute walk from their sister hotel the Berkeley Square Hotel, where you can have the full hotel breakfast if you wish. The rooms are stylish and elegant, with a luxurious bedroom and bathroom as well as a separate living room with comfy sofa, ingenious kitchen in a cupboard and basket of complimentary snacks including continental breakfast. Just around the corner you can make use of The Square Club facilities in the Berkeley Square Hotel with a members-only lounge and cocktail bar.
Brooks Guest house – cosy caravans on the roof
If you’re looking for a romantic place to stay in Bristol that’s stylish but budget friendly, try Brooks Guest House, tucked away in a courtyard in the heart of Bristol’s St Nicholas Market. This is more of a guest house, with contemporary boutique bedrooms and a downstairs sitting area where breakfast is served – there’s an honesty bar here too. The stars of the show, for those of you who dream of sleeping under the stars (well almost) are the shiny silver rocket caravans on the roof, which have a cosy double bed for two as well as an ensuite shower room. From here you can admire the view of the rooftops of Bristol and look up at the stars to dream of what your future together may hold!
Backwell House just outside Bristol
At Backwell House, just outside Bristol you can relax in the elegance of a Georgian house and make believe that it’s your own country pile, while exploring the delights of Bristol just 20 minutes away. Each room has been individually decorated using antiques and vintage finds, with views across the fields or the beautiful rose gardens behind the hotel. Downstairs, relax in front of the roaring winter fire, or sip a pimms on the lawn in summer. The restaurant serves modern British dishes, all seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. If you happen to be jetting off somewhere from Bristol airport, the hotel is 10 minutes the airport although as its not on the flight path you’ll get the benefit of a quick taxi ride to catch your flight without any of the noise.
Romantic spa experiences in Bristol
If you’re more into relaxation than sightseeing on your romantic weekend in Bristol, you might like to book a spa experience as part of your stay.
The Lido Spa
The old Lido swimming pool tucked away in the backstreets of Clifton has now been restored as an atmospheric outdoor baths and spa, with a cafe to one side and smart restaurant above. The Lido Bristol is one of my favourite treats to get steamy in the sauna, then run outside for a few brisk lengths in the pool, followed swiftly by a warm bubbly session in the outdoor jacuzzi. If you want to be extra spoiled, throw in a massage or facial treatment and then retire to the cafe for a tapas lunch or dinner in the restaurant upstairs – there are lots of different packages available. Even if you don’t use the spa at The Lido, I highly recommend having coffee or lunch in the cafe – there’s something very hypnotic and relaxing about watching the swimmers go up and down the pool, while you sit cosy inside.
The Harbour Hotel HarSpa
For something a bit different spend a couple of hours in the old bank vaults, now converted into the HarSpa at the Harbour Hotel. There is a small mood lit pool for swimming with a hydrotherapy pool next too it and these lead through to a sauna and steam room. There are lots of treatments available using both ESPA products and the new exclusive HarSpa range, and in some of the treatment rooms you can still see the old bank safe doors. A perfect combination would be to book one of the half day spa packages, followed by lunch or afternoon tea in The Jetty restaurant or a cocktail in The Gold Bar upstairs.
Where to buy flowers in Bristol
Just in case you want to surprise your loved one with a bouquet of flowers, here are a few places that have ready tied bouquets and can also deliver to your hotel.
Lucy Anna Flowers St Nicholas Market – they have a flower stall under the glass arcade in St Nicholas Market Call: 07787 478117
Lisa Elliott Clifton Village – tucked down a side street in the village, this is easily the most instagrammed florist in Bristol Call: 0117 9732440
Belle de Jour Clifton Village – another tempting shop in the village that always has beautiful floral displays Call: 0117 9730445
Les Fleurs – Colston Street – a small florist with beautiful bouquets at the top of Christmas steps Call: 0117 9298166
Roots Floral Designs – Broad Quay close to the harbour – a centrally located florist that has pretty bouquets, plants and bulbs. Call: 0117 9451820
Chocolates for your sweet toothed lover in Bristol
Sweets for the sweet can be found in plenty of fine chocolatiers in Bristol or sipped as a warming mug of hot chocolate – try these for starters;
Guilberts – this small shop tucked away on Small Street in Bristol Old City is something of a Bristol institution, with a delightfully old fashioned feel, offering gift boxes and tins of chocolates.
Zara’s chocolates – this small shop which combines with a florist is on North St in Southville, on the south side of the city and makes enticing chocolates by hand, they also have an online store.
Mrs Pott’s Chocolate House – a chocolate cafe at the bottom of Park Street, which is the place to go for hot chocolate, cakes and deserts for you and your chocolate lover.
Bar Chocolat in Clifton Village – a cafe that serves and sells all kinds of chocolate novelties, cakes, hot chocolate and artizan chocolates.
Jewellery and Perfume for your romantic weekend in Bristol
Diana Porter – Founded by a well known Bristol jeweller, this shop on Park Street specialises in contemporary jewellery, both designs by Diana and many other jewellers. All the gold and gems used are Fairtrade and ethically sourced and you’ll find everything from earings, bracelets and necklaces to engagement rings. It’s just the place to buy a special gift on your romantic weekend in Bristol.
Shy Mimosa – This pretty boutique in Clifton Village sells artizan perfumes that you won’t find in every high street store and the knowledgeable owner Maria will guide you through the fragrences and stories behind them. They offer a personalised bride and groom service for couples where you can choose complimentary perfumes for your special day.
I hope I’ve given you some ideas for your romantic weekend in Bristol – a city where you can relax, explore or just curl up together in a stylish hotel with your special someone.
Visitor Information for Bristol
You can find out more about all the things going on in Bristol on the Visit Bristol website.
There is excellent flight access into Bristol via Bristol Airport with international flight connections to numerous destinations and then the Bristol Airport Flyer bus runs every 10 minutes to take you into the centre of Bristol, with tickets on sale from the kiosk beside the bus stop.
The journey to Bristol from London is around 2 hours by train or bus and you can arrive at Bristol Temple Mead Station by train (this is more central then Bristol Parkway) or by bus to the Central Bus Station. Coaches from numerous UK destinations and airports can be booked with Megabus or National Express.