The quirky and vibrant City of Bristol has recently been voted as the best place to live in the UK. It’s easy to see why when it’s full of uber cool cafes, colourful streets, a lively harbour, foodie finds, funky street art, craft beers and independent shops, this is one seriously happening city. I spent a weekend exploring Bristol and have created a nifty little guide of things to see, do and of course eat, in Bristol, so that you are best informed on how to spend a weekend in Bristol.Bristol full of uber cool cafes, colourful streets, a lively harbour, foodie finds, funky street art, craft beers and independent shops. Click To Tweet
Seek out Bristol Street Art
Bristol has some incredible, cutting-edge street art to be found when you go and scour its streets. Book a street art tour or take yourself on a trip down side streets and into hip parts of Bristol.Bristol has some incredible, cutting-edge street art to be found when you go and scour its streets. Click To Tweet
There is a mix of tags, murals and many iconic Banksy works, including ‘Girl with the Pierced Eardrum’ and ‘Well-Hung Lover.’ Banksy began his career as anonymous street artist extraordinaire in Bristol, his striking images often have varying political and controversial themes as well as slogans and are created using multi-layered stencils and spray paint.
I went on an informative street art tour with Graft, who organise graffiti workshops and tours, to learn more about the history of street art in Bristol. Our guide took us around the street art areas of Bristol and explained more about the various murals and the artists behind them.
We also ventured to Nelson Street to see some of the huge murals that were created as part of the ‘See No Evil’ Street Art Festivals. There are some massively impressive works of street art including a man in a bowler hat piece by Nick Walker and a beautiful mother and baby mural by El Mac. They both really brighten up what would otherwise be pretty drab concrete buildings.
After the tour, I headed to over to Stokes Croft, an eclectic and cultural area of Bristol that is full of colourful street art. You will find mural based works and graffiti on buildings, bins and on alleyways and side streets. You can spend a delightful afternoon wandering the streets of Stokes Croft seeking out street art and trying out its cool cafes. I would recommend Café Kino, a co-operative owned space with a super tasty vegan menu.
Fabulous Foodie Finds
Bristol has been steadily growing a reputation as a serious dining destination. There are all manner of quirky cafes, street food, high-quality restaurants, international cuisine and fine dining eateries. You could spend weeks eating your way around the city and barely scratch the surface.
There are plenty of fabulous evening dining venues to choose from in the city. The River Grille at The Bristol serves contemporary British dishes with stunning harbour views, I would really recommend ordering one of their juicy steaks. Quirky, floating restaurant ‘Under the Stars’ offers a marvellous dining-on-a-boat experience with carefully crafted cocktails and a quality menu. Definitely, try the Beef Tagine, it is super vibrant and tasty.
If you are looking for a massive Sunday roast with all the trimmings then I would recommend swinging by Racks Bar & Kitchen. Thier roast topside of organic beef with a mustard & horseradish crust was absolutely divine. Roasts are served with seasonal veg, lush roasties and a huge Yorkshire pudding. Fair warning, you won’t be able to move for some time afterwards, so you may as well order a bottle of wine and digest for a few hours.
If you fancy a bit of international cuisine then Bambalan do a cheeky mix of Mediterranean and North African style food. Their spiced charcoal roasted shoulder of lamb ‘bab’ flatbread was especially delicious.
Lunch options are also plentiful, there are so many cafes, street food options and brilliant eateries, you are ridiculously spoiled for choice in Bristol. If you love street food then a trip to St Nicholas Market is for you, sample street food treats such as Los Hermanos, Indian Masala, Niang’s Thai Snacks and Enggi’s Kitchen. Souk Kitchen in Clifton serves up a cracking Mediterranean brunch if you are looking for a lazy morning of eating and sipping coffee.
One of my absolute favourite places for a lunchtime treat is the mighty Pieminister. This popular pie shop began life in Bristol and is now popping up in cities across the UK. These guys serve a range of award-winning pies including veggie pies, chicken pies and British beef steak pies. Combine your pie with lush gravy, mash and peas for the ultimate comfort lunch. For sweet treats around Bristol, you could try Swoon, for deliciously authentic gelato, or Pinkman’s bakery for the most amazing cakes and sour-dough-nuts. I had one of their chocolate sour-dough-nuts and it was one of the most wonderful, sugary treats I have tasted in quite some time.
If you are looking for a whole afternoon of sweet indulgence I would recommend relaxing with an Afternoon tea at Mercure Holland House. The Mercure Bristol Holland House Hotel and Spa is around 10 minutes’ walk from Bristol city centre. It has a gorgeous spa with indoor pool and fitness suite, as well as the Urban Bar & Kitchen restaurant. Spend a few hours unwinding as you feast on finger sandwiches, scones and delectable little cakes, all served with a lovely pot of tea!
Go bar hopping and dancing
There is a huge bar and nightclub scene in Bristol. There are a huge range of independent bars, speakeasies, comedy clubs, LGBT bars, nightclubs and well-known bar brands with music, drinks and entertainment to suit all tastes and budgets. You can search for bars, clubs and events in Bristol on ‘Design My Night‘, a website that showcases the best in UK nightlife.
You can go and catch a magic show at Smoke & Mirrors, a fabulous Boutique Magic Theatre, sup craft beer Wild Beer at Wapping Wharf, go dancing at uber cool Blue Mountain Club, or enjoy cocktails in the swanky Gold Bar. This contemporary and chic bar is located lovely old bank building, that is now the Bristol Harbour Hotel.
One of my favourite spots for a great cocktail is plush bar, ‘The Florist’ located on Park Street. This gorgeous new venue is part of the popular Botanist chain of bars and serves highly Instagrammable drinks that are as pretty as the venue.
Make sure to try a ‘Rhubarb in bloom’ cocktail whilst you are there, a cheeky mix of Slingsby rhubarb gin, rhubarb and ginger liqueur, green apple liqueur, raspberry syrup and ginger ale.
Photograph colourful streets
There are so many colourful and photogenic neighbourhoods in Bristol, including Cliftonwood & Totterdown. It has long been a dream of mine to live in an ‘Instagram worthy’ street and walking around the vibrant streets of Bristol will give you serious #colourfularchitecture envy. I went on a Colour walk around the prettiest streets of Bristol with photographer and Instagrammer Jess Siggers.
We spent some time exploring Cliftonwood, a pretty area of Bristol where the most common houses to be found in are towering Victorian terraces painted in bright colours. This adds character to an already charming corner of the city and these colourful terraces are one of the iconic sights of Bristol.
We also went to look at the gorgeous houses in Royal York Crescent, a colourful and major residential street in Clifton, Bristol. This rather stunning and expensive street overlooks the docks and has fantastic views of the city.
Totterdown is a quirky little suburb, south of the River Avon and sits high above the city. The horizon of brightly coloured Victorian terraced houses and super steep narrow roads can be seen from quite a distance. Totterdown also hosts an annual ‘Front Room Art Trail’ which is a funky three-day festival featuring music, poetry, art and film. Residents open up their homes to the public to show off their artwork, it definitely is a feel-good festival! There are also other colourful houses scattered around Bristol and you can spend a very pleasant afternoon strolling around, seeking out Instagrammable spots in the city.
Treat yourself to a boutique hotel
Make the most of your stay in the city by staying the night in a beautiful boutique hotel. I stayed at the charming Hotel du Vin, a Grade II listed former sugar warehouse. The contemporary design also celebrates it’s industrial heritage, with exposed brick, high ceilings, gorgeous lighting and spacious loft style rooms.
The chic room has all the amenities you might expect from a hotel of this standard. There is a huge plasma TV, air conditioning, tea and coffee making facilities, fine Egyptian linen, magazines and a lovely selection of exquisite toiletries.
One of the best features of my luxury room was the fantastic freestanding bathtub that was situated on the upper level of my loft style room. There is nothing better than soaking in the tub with a glass of prosecco, with a smooth jazz playlist in the background. Utter bliss.
You should also endeavour to treat yourself to dinner at Bistro du Vin, the hotel’s cosy and relaxing restaurant. Choose from à la carte and fixed price menus and feast upon classic, French-inspired dishes, paired with a marvellous selection of wine, with suggestions from their expert Sommelier. Typical dishes include Half Roast Normandy Chicken, Moules Frites and Roast Cod with Lentilles Du Puy.
Catch a show at the Planetarium
An evening at Bristol’s 3D Planetarium is a rather unusual and immersive experience. It is part of We The Curious, a science centre and charity in Bristol, with exhibits, live shows and the Planetarium. Step inside the huge, silver dome and watch a show on a gigantic screen with full surround sound.
I went along to see ‘Dark Side of the Moon: The Fulldome Experience’ which promised to be an “audio-visual extravaganza, inspired by the music of Pink Floyd”. The entire showing was absolutely packed, with many people who seemed to have an explicable case of the munchies and the odd patron having a snooze. The show featured the sort of retro computer graphics that tended to act as computer screen savers in the 90’s, perfectly timed to the entire 1973 ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ album. After 10 minutes of hypnotic graphics and masterful music, I sort of entered a trance-like state, I felt as if I had sunk into my seat. Perhaps several glasses of wine before the show wasn’t a great idea on reflection? If you aren’t a Floyd fan [then you should be frankly ashamed of yoururself], the Planetariumerium has a wide variety of shows on offer, including a rather rad stargazing show.
Discover the life and legacy of Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Learn more about iconic architect Isambard Kingdom Brunel at the new ‘Being Brunel’ museum at SS Great Britain. This modern museum looks at the life and works of one of Britain’s greatest engineers with displays, exhibits and interactive experiences.
Brunel was an incredibly bold and skilled engineer, designing bridges, ships and railway lines in 19th century. When you visit ‘Being Brunel’ you can have a glimpse into the mind of a genius, especially when you go inside a giant head of Brunel for an audio-visual experience that shows life through his eyes. It’s a slightly strange experience being sat inside a giant head and watching recreated scenes of Brunel’s life, complete with sounds and smells. Entry to Being Brunel is included in the ticket price for SS Great Britain and is most definitely worth a visit.
Catch a show at Colston Hall
The Grade II listed Colston Hall is a fabulous place to catch a concert, comedy show or classical works. It is Bristol’s largest concert hall and has historically hosted some big-name music acts such as David Bowie, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. The hall will soon be undertaking a huge multimillion pound refurbishment and reopening in 2020 with a new name after the Bristol Music Trust voted to disassociate its name from the slave trader, Edward Colston.
I spent an evening watching one of my favourite comedian’s Sarah Millican, who was at Colston Hall as part of her UK wide tour. It was a laugh-out-loud evening of toilet habits, bra fitting anecdotes and cringe-worthy sex life stories, all delivered in her hilariously blunt Geordie style.
Have a lazy afternoon exploring Bristol Harbourside
Bristol Harbourside is a vibrant and happening place to hang out. There are markets, bars, restaurants, attractions and great vibes. Spend an afternoon lazing with a cider at a waterside bar or head over to Bristol Aquarium, M Shed or SS Great Britain for a few hours of entertainment.
Wander around the new harbourside development Wapping Wharf to find funky bars, restaurants and cafes and the remarkable CARGO, Bristol’s first-ever shipping container yard. CARGO is frankly a hipster paradise, full of independent shops and restaurants including Bristol Cider Shop, Oliver’s Ice Cream, Portside Gallery and Sholay Indian Kitchen. You can eat, shop and drink all in one nifty container city.
Admire the views at Clifton Suspension Bridge
Take a walk across the world famous Clifton suspension bridge, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. This impressive bridge spans the Avon Gorge and the River Avon, and links Clifton to Leigh Woods, which is part of North Somerset.
There is a Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre, where you can learn more about the construction and completion of the bridge. There is also a free guided tour of the bridge that runs at 3pm, every Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday from Easter to October. You could also spend some time wandering the surrounding area of Clifton, which has a fabulous mix of independent cafes, shops and restaurants.
What do you think of my article on How to spend a weekend in Bristol? What else should be added to this list? Let me know in the comments below!
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Massive thanks to Visit Bristol, who organised my fabulous weekend in Bristol.