Most people associate the United Kingdom with London. However, many cities in the UK are worth visiting besides its capital. Bristol is one of the better-known cities in the southwest of England.
You might have heard of it because of the university, but did you know that it was the second most important port in the UK during the 15th century. Moreover, it’s also home to one of the most infamous pirates in history, who goes by the name of Captain Blackbeard (no, it is not Captain JackSparrow)?
Where to stay in Bristol
Obviously there are plenty of hotels to choose from but if we need to give you an honest review, we would recommend the Artist Residence, a quirky boutique hotel on the tranquil Portland Square. This hotel is located a couple of minutes from the main shopping area, Carbot Circus and the artsy distinct of Stokes Croft. It is super convenient without being caught in the busyness of the city for when you eventually wind down for the night. Rooms are equipped with sustainable and organic toiletries, which we love. My favourite thing about Artist Residence, however, is their 3-5 pm tea time, where guests can relax with a complimentary hot drink and some homemade sweet treats!
How to get around
I’m going to put it out there: Bristol is hilly. You’ll find yourself hiking up and down the city constantly. Yet, that is not to say that the city is not walkable. Everywhere is easily accessible by bike or on foot. There is also public transport everywhere. However, I never went on them besides getting the train back to London from Bristol Temple Meads, which is the main train station. TIP: bring yourself some decent shoes that are comfortable for walking a few miles.
Places in Bristol not to miss
Stokes Croft is also known as the cultural and artistic hub of Bristol. You will see walls covered in graffiti along the streets, houses painted in different colours (kind of reminds you of Notting Hill in London). There is an abundance of cafes and restaurants in the area. Caribbean Croft is a local pub and restaurant that serves family recipe Caribbean food. If you are new to the cuisine like I was, I’d suggest ordering the platter as a starter. Warning: their Jerk sauce is pretty spicy!
If you like Spanish food and wine, head to Poco, a Spanish restaurant that puts sustainability at its core. It is the perfect place for an evening of drinks and tapas. However, if you’re feeling particularly hungry, definitely order one of their two set menus (vegetarian option available). The only thing missing is sangria but they made up for it with a list of artisanal cocktails. I suggest booking in advance to avoid disappointment as the restaurant is always full.
For brunch, the Bristolian is very popular among the locals. Cafe Kino is one for vegans and vegetarians (not exclusively). A non-profit cafe/bar focuses on ethical trading, serving homemade dishes and cakes. What’s more? Cafe Kino is also a space to showcase works from local artists and hosts affordable workshops and events from time to time.
This is where you’ll find most of the tourist attractions. From Bristol Zoo Gardens to Clifton Suspension Bridge, Clifton is the one area you cannot miss out on. The park where Clifton Observatory is is the perfect place to relax on a sunny day. Grab yourself a cake or a drink from a bakery nearby or on the way and have yourself a little picnic in the green. Bakesmiths does amazing baked goods. Their ultimate brownie is gooey without being sickly and their basque burnt cheesecake was just sublime *chef kiss*.
Also worth mentioning is Primrose Cafe, another good spot with outdoor seating and a roof terrace, where you can enjoy your meal looking over the Bridge. If you’re here on a Sunday, make room for a roast dinner at Hope and Anchor, a cosy pub not far from Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.
The Old City of Bristol
Like many other old cities, this one is pretty charming. Stuff your belly at St Nicholas Market, where you can find stalls after stalls of street food vendors. From Indian to Greek, Portuguese to Chinese, you can definitely find a thing or two to satisfy any cravings. There is also an indoor area selling hand-crafted goods and vintage finds. Even if you’re not hungry, I’d recommend coming for the good vibes!
Not far from the Market, you’ll find the picturesque medieval corner of Bristol. This area is known as Christmas Steps. Here, you will find independent boutiques, art galleries, cafes and pubs. It is definitely a hidden gem of Bristol! Head to Spicer + Cole for a cup of home-roasted coffee and a slice of their baked on-site cakes! If you are a lover of art, Arnolfini Arts is an art centre on the opposite side of Queen Square to Spicer + Cole. It houses a selection of contemporary art and workshops for visitors of all age groups. The art centre is located on the harbour side, where you can look over to Spike Island.
While historically, this area was known for its industrial sites, nowadays the island is a place to celebrate art and creative industry. Here you will find all kinds of museums, from M Shed, a museum of life on the dockside, to Brunel’s SS Great Britain, which is a museum ship. Yes, a museum in a ship. Not just any ship but the largest vessel at the time it launched back in the 19th century.
On a whole, Bristol is a quirky city in the UK we think is fun for a city trip, especially if you are looking for an alternative to London.