With its vibrant cultural scene, innovative culinary developments, numerous attractions and landmarks — Bristol is on the rise of being one of England’s hot spot destinations. We recently traveled to Bristol to explore its alternative charter and wealth of fascinating activities. Read our Weekend Guide to discover some of the highlights of Bristol.
The Highlights of Bristol: A Weekend Guide
Bristol was once the center for heavy industry and numerous landmarks are still there to remind of its prominent trading past. Today the city has reinvented itself as an inspiring hub for arts, culture, music and food. In fact there is a lot of buzz about Bristol’s revamped harbourside offering a wealth of cultural and dining opportunities. Here’s what we managed to see in our two day weekend trip to Bristol.
Stokes Croft: Street Art, bars and nightlife
One of the highlights of Bristol is the fascinating street art scene. In fact, Bristol is home to one of the world’s renowned street artists — Bansky who is known for his distinctive stencilling techniques. We did see two of his famous masterpieces, the ”Well Hung Lover” and the “Girl with the Pierced Eardrum” which is a parody to the famous Girl with a Pearl earring and can be found at the city’s docks.
A visit to Stokes Croft should definitely be on your list of top things to do in Bristol. Whether you are joining a guided walking tour or simply visiting the area yourself, you will discover that most buildings in the area are covered with graffiti which is considered as a part of self-expression and creativity.
Stokes Croft is filled with a vast selection of independent businesses which emphasise on the importance of sourcing local, fresh ingredients. Bristol is also famous for its exceptional nightlife and many of the top bars and clubs are locates in the heart of Stokes Croft.
Experience one of Bristol’s highlights by visiting the famous Lido located in the residential area of Clifton which is only a short 5-minute walk from the Beech House luxury serviced apartments.
This unique Spa destination does not only offer swimming and massage facilities but also wonderful dining opportunities. The Lido Restaurant and poolside tapas bar are a perfect venue to enjoy a delightful meal in a relaxed setting. We had a lovely evening with some tapas and wine — the atmosphere is very cosy and relaxed, especially the tables by the floor to ceiling glass windows which open up to the views of the outdoor heated pool.
Clifton Suspension Bridge
Bristol’s iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge is one of the city’s most important landmarks which was completed in 1864 based on the original designs of Isambard Kingdom Brunel which began in 1831. The bridge spans over a kilometre across River Avon and links Clifton with Leigh Woods in North Somerse.
SS Great Britain
One of the finest activities not to be missed when in Bristol is a visit to the SS Great Britain which today serves as a museum ship.
This former passenger steamship was the longest in the world from 1845 to 1854 — and was also constructed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. A ship that changed world’s history and marked the beginnings of international passenger travel and world communications, was initially designed to serve trans-Atlantic luxury passenger trade.
Today this remarkable ship museum gives visitors a fantastic insight to how life was on this exceptional time machine. You can actually experience the sights, sounds and smells which transform you to how the journey was at sea. When Heather told us that we can spend hours admiring the museum, we were not convinced but in fact you can easily spend a couple of hours if not more.
You can visit the decks, engine room, dining saloon, kitchen and staff quarters and much more. We also dressed up in fancy Victorian dresses and pretended to be passengers arriving on the ship.
Make sure to visit the dry dock which protects the ship’s iron hull. It has been sealed off with a massive water-line glass plate which is kept dry by a giant dehumidification plant.
This fascinating interactive museum is dedicated to Bristol and its people. Entry to M-Shed is free and here you can enjoy learning all about the city and its developments from prehistoric times until this day. Here you will find a collection of vehicles used to travel around the city like buses, trains and planes.
You can also explore the various activities which take place in Bristol and learn all about the inspiring stories of people’s experiences over the years. M-Shed is part of the Bristol Museums. Our visit was brief but it is a wonderful place for all ages as well as for families with children.
Visit the St Nicholas Market
The St Nicholas Market is a fantastic place to shop, eat and drink. The market is separated into three sections which house Bristol’s largest collection of independent retailers. This energetic market is set right in the heart of the old city, characterised by its historical Georgian architecture.
From the Sunken ship with wonderful colourful creatures to the Underwater Tunnel where you can watch sharks float over your head — the Bristol Aquarium is a fun place for all ages. Here we admired numerous colourful creatures — including Nemo and Dory!
Colourful Houses of Cliftonwood
The charming neighbourhood of Cliftonwood is most famous for its numerous colourful houses which are perched on a hill overlooking Bristol Harbourside. Here you will find gorgeous Victorian terraced houses which are all painted in bright colours. No matter if the sky is blue or grey — the sight of these houses will make you shine.
St. Mary Redcliffe
Often referred to as the masterpiece of Gothic architecture the St. Mary Redcliffe is an Anglican parish church built between the 12th and 15th century. Here you will find a rich collection of carved bosses, remarkable original medieval stained glass and the highly decorated vaulted ceiling which is one of its exquisite highlights.
One of Bristol’s prominent landmarks the Bristol Cathedral is also the Mother Church of the city. This impressive medieval cathedral is located in the heart of Bristol and is open daily to visitors and worshipers.
Where to find the best food in Bristol?
From Michelin-starred restaurants and locally run food stalls, to comfort food favourites — Bristol has got all that and more to satisfy every type of palate. During our weekend trip to Bristol we managed to get a pretty good feel of the diverse food culture that the city has to offer.
Eat Walk Talk Bristol Food Tours
If you are visiting a city for a short while it makes it even more worthwhile to go on a food tour. Not only do you get introduced to the newest culinary trends, you will also learn about the history of the place and get a feel of what its like from a local perspective.
On our first morning in Bristol, we did exactly that — went on a food tour with Brian of Eat Walk Talk Bristol. We started our food tour of Bristol from the Bristol’s railway station passing important landmarks like the Church St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol Cathedral, Queen’s Square, St. Nicholas Market and Bristol’s most popular food area — the Wapping Warf. To learn all about Bristol’s vibrant culinary scene read our blog post: A Taste of Bristol: Eat Walk Talk Bristol Food Tours.
Afternoon Tea at Hotel du Vin
After visiting the museums we headed to one of Bristol’s finest hotels — Hotel du Vin (Wine hotel) which is housed in an old sugar warehouse. An interesting concept which blends a mix of industrial and modern elements.
Here we enjoyed a delightful afternoon tea — for starters we had a selection of savoury bites such as tartlets, ham and cheese croissant, egg and cress mayonnaise brioche sub and smoked salmon served on dark rye bread.
Then came the traditional scones with cream and jams. We then topped off our afternoon tea experience with a three-tier platter filled with sweet mini treats of lemon merengue pie, sugary donuts, dark chocolate tea cakes and lastly homemade candy floss.
You can choose from a fine selection of teas — I had the Elderflower & Blossom Darjeeling which is known as the Champagne of the teas.
There is also a notable selection of gins with Fever Tree tonics of different flavours which add a perfect touch to the afternoon tea. I tried the Hendrick’s & Elderflower tonic with refreshing rose petal and cucumber infusions.
The Ivy Clifton Brasserie
The Ivy Clifton Brasserie is an all day dining venue set in the heart of Clifton Village serves everything from breakfast, lunch, brunch, afternoon tea and dinner.
Part of the famous Ivy Grills and Brasseries brand which can be found in selected locations in London and beyond.
This elegant restaurant is closely linked to the engineering and transportation industry — as the Rolls Royce and the Concorde were once made here close by. The walls are decorated with prints of ships, cars and planes. The menu features both a selection of classic and innovative dishes.
For starters I had tuna carpaccio served with ponzu dressing, avocado puree, toasted sesame and coriander shoots. For main course I opted for Black cod fillet — baked in a banana leaf with baby pan choi, shaved radish, toasted sesame and yuzu mayonnaise.
Our meal was paired with a Riff Pinot Grigio. For dessert we had a sensational Chocolate bombe which melts as the hot salted caramel sauce is poured on top. We also tried the refreshing frozen berries served with a yogurt sorbet and warm white chocolate sauce.
Where to stay in Bristol?
Beech House: Boutique Services apartments
During our weekend trip to Bristol we stayed at the Beech House, which are lovely boutique serviced apartments housed in a grand Victorian Villa. The Beech House enjoys a prime location, within a short walking distance from the shops and the main attractions of Clifton Triangle and Park Street.
For a full review of Beech house, check out my post here.
Hotel du Vin
Part of the Hotel du Vin chain with a unique collection of 19 town house and city centre hotels, this property is ideal for food and wine lovers.
As the name implies it is a wine hotel — with wine elements evident in its decor. You will find wine bottles pretty much on every floor. The 40 rooms and suites feature deep roll top baths, comfortable beds with Egyptian cotton sheets, high ceilings and exposes brickwork that reminds of the city’s industrial past.
We hope that you enjoy reading all about the highlights of Bristol and will visit this vibrant city soon.
If you’re travelling around Bristol and in need of some reliable transport, give AA Taxis a call.
Thank you to Heather of Heather on her Travels for being such a wonderful host and Visit Bristol. All opinions expressed are my own.