When I’m looking for something fun but quintessentially English, I head to Bristol in England’s southwest. Bristol is a cool spot for a city-break. Although it isn’t large, it’s packed with scenery, fun and great food!
Bristol’s earliest human inhabitants, of which we know, were Neanderthals more than 120,000 years ago! The lushness of the wooded countryside, the availability of caves for shelter and the proximity of the bounty of the Severn have always made Bristol a great place to live. There were villas and even a settlement called Abona during the Roman period. So, Bristol has a claim to being one of the oldest inhabited areas of the British Isles! The city of Bristol was founded on its current site about 1000AD and was important enough to have a mint producing coins by 1020AD. During the 15th and 16th Centuries, Bristol was second only to London as a port. It was very important to maritime trade until the late 18th and 19th Centuries until the Industrial Revolution reduced its importance. Today, Bristol is rising again as a media, technology and commerce hub. It is consistently in the top 10 places to live in the UK because of its vibrant, young and welcoming population.
Bristol; you pastel it by!
Unless you’re traveling from another city like London, you’ll fly into Bristol Airport. It is situated a few miles southwest of the city centre and provides flights to over 125 destinations across Europe. Reaching the city is easy. The Flyer bus service links the airport to the city and is available 24 hours a day. The journey takes about 30 minutes. When the airport is busy it leaves every 8 minutes and costs only £11 for a return ticket.
There’s so much to do in Bristol, it’s hard to select the best activities. Here are some of my favourite places:
- Clifton Suspension Bridge – This giant, wrought-iron structure, opened in 1864, is a Grade I-listed bridge. It’s an internationally recognised icon of the city and is widely believed to be one of the best designs of the famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
- Clifton Downs – Relax in nature at the huge open green space known as “The Downs”. It’s the perfect spot to see after visiting the bridge, and is known as “The Green Lung of Bristol”. Enjoy a picnic there with wonderful views.
- Wapping Wharf – this is a lively new neighbourhood in the historical and cultural heart of Bristol. With its boutiques, restaurants, bars and shops housed in quirky shipping containers, it really has a funky and cool, look and feel.
Ship-shape in Bristol!
- Millennium Square – Apart from the perfect photo-op with the big shiny sphere, you can visit several fun sites in the square. Here you’ll find an observatory, the Bristol Aquarium and We The Curious science centre that will keep you busy for hours.
- Harbour ferry ride – See the city from the water on one of Bristol’s water buses. You can jump on and off as you please (just not into the water!) as you explore the area.
- Hot air balloon ride – I’d never thought that Bristol would offer this amazing activity. The International Balloon Fiesta has made Bristol famous for ballooning. Every August this amazing festival sees 130 balloons take to the skies. It’s quite magical.
- Gloucester road – This is the perfect shopping area to find unique items. It has the largest collection of independent retailers in Europe. It’s a quirky and bohemian area, with artistic graffiti, trendy cafes and stores galore.
- Clifton Village is the best spot for luxury boutique shopping. It is popular for jewellery shopping.
- SS Great Britain – Also created by Brunel, this Victorian passenger ship is a museum where you can see what life aboard was like in the 19th Visit the first class cabins and see the fine craftmanship that even sailed the long trip to Australia.
- City Farm – Have you ever visited a city farm? The mini working farms at St Werburghs City Farm or Windmill City Farm are a great sustainable activity. Pet sheep and visit the pigs and chickens. Their onsite farm shops offer up homemade jams, preserves and unique gifts.
Bristol’s food scene is constantly evolving with its growing population. Local restaurants are always striving to stay ahead of the ordinary with authentic and innovative food. Here are my favourite spots:
Aim to find Banksy’s artwork in Bristol!
- Bravas – Enjoy an authentic taste of Spain in this lively tapas bar which features great food, a relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff. The staff travel to Pamplona and Barcelona every year to ensure that their dishes and suppliers remain top notch.
- The Ox – If you’re looking for high-quality steak in a trendy venue then this is the place for you. I love the atmosphere in this restaurant. They serve up expertly crafted cocktails too, which is always a plus!
- Bertha’s Pizza – This creative restaurant boasts some of the best pizza in the UK; especially their sourdough pizzas. Their pizzas are prized for being creative, with an array of interesting ingredients, sourced from only the best quality suppliers.
Here’s another Pro-tip: St Nick’s Market is home to a variety of food stalls that are delicious and fun. You can find everything from Kurdish and Lebanese dishes to Caribbean jerk chicken. The quality of the food is excellent!
Bristol is a haven for mixology, unique and quirky venues and entertainment. Here’s where I spend my evenings whenever I’m in town:
- The Lost & Found Bristol – This charming Victorian-themed cocktail bar will leave you giddy with excitement over their cool creations and creative ways of serving them. They use the strangest ingredients, most of which you will never have heard, to create works of art.
- The Milk Thistle – The luxurious and vintage interiors of this venue will have you photographing every corner. They serve unique cocktails in a large venue spread over 4 floors.
- Lola Lo Bristol – This Tikki-themed bar will transport you to the shores of South Pacific as you sip fruity cocktails and dance the night away.
When it is time to rest, Bristol has a wide array of accommodation to suit all budgets and styles. These are my top three stays in the city:
- Number 38 Clifton – This lovely boutique hotel is set in a Georgian townhouse. They offer stylish, comfortable and luxurious rooms that will make you return again and again.
- Hotel Du Vin Bristol – This historic hotel offers elegant and comfortable rooms with clawfoot bathtubs. They have an award-winning bistro which serves French cuisine and a cosy bar.
- Bristol Harbour Hotel & Spa – I love this stylish hotel because of all the little details they provide for your stay. As well as a Nespresso machine and fluffy robes (my favourite), they also offer complimentary decanters of gin and sherry. They also have a relaxing spa and indoor swimming pool.
Bristol is gaining prominence as a comfortable and hipster location for relaxation and fun. Enjoy the same area that has enticed visitors for hundreds of thousands of years!