More a patchwork of ‘villages’ than a city, Bristol makes a fabulously vibrant weekend away.
Visit Bristol for two days and you’ll find a fiercely independent music scene, a rapidly evolving foodie reputation, world-famous street art, and a palpable passion for all things green.
Best of all, it’s a city that’s not overwhelming to get around. In fact, it’s small enough to explore on foot, if you don’t mind a bit of walking.
– DAY ONE IN BRISTOL –
Start with a Street Art Tour
You can’t visit Bristol without seeing a real-life Banksy. So hop on a street art tour with Where the Wall. It’s 2 hours of street art brilliance where you’ll see some of the city’s most incredible urban artwork from world-famous artists that include Inky, Nick Walker and, of course, Banksy. The tour is led by John Nation, a Bristol graffiti godfather who worked with a young Banksy and who is still friends with the artist today.
Do: Wear trainers and pay attention to where John goes. There’s a lot of (fast) walking on this tour.
Hang out Harbourside
Head down to Bristol’s waterfront – it’s buzzing with independent shops, hip cafes, and cool museums. When the sun is shining, Harbourside is a mecca for Bristolians who come to chill and chat by the water’s edge. You can jump on a boat ride here, sup on a cider or just wander along the cobbles soaking up the relaxed vibe.
Do: Pop in to the Bordeaux Quay for a splash of something cold and watch the world sail by.
Eat at Pieminister
There’s a pie with your name on it waiting at Pieminister in Stokes Croft. Found in the bohemian part of town, Pieminster makes a great lunchtime pitstop or dinner joint. Its sleek, industrial interior is comfy, rather than cosy; this is tradition done with a distinctly modern crust. Choose your pie (classic or open top), gravy, and side – and, whatever you do, don’t think about the calories.
Do: Book Pieminister in advance. It gets busy on the weekends.
Mooch around the museums
Bristol has a wonderful collection of museums and art galleries – many of which are free entry. On my visit, I headed to the Arnolfini for a spot of contemporary contemplation, then crossed the water to the M Shed where Bristol’s industrial and social history was skilfully retold. There’s also a chance to see Banksy’s famous Grim Reaper and a moving exhibition recalling Bristol’s part in the slave trade.
Do: Take the steam train from outside the M Shed to see Brunel’s SS Great Britain.
– DAY TWO IN BRISTOL –
Breakfast at Primrose Cafe, Clifton
Make tracks for Clifton Village in the famously trendy part of the city. Once here, settle down for breakfast in Primrose Cafe. Located next to the entrance to Clifton Arcade, this hipster hangout serves great food in a laid-back style. So grab your broadsheet and expect to spend a good couple of hours rubbing shoulders with Bristol’s beautiful set in the gilded morning sun.
Do: grab a table outside the Primrose Cafe, if it’s warm enough. ‘Being seen’ is all part of the deal here.
Window shop in Clifton Village
Independent boutiques and shops abound in Clifton Village. Do the local thing: set yourself to ‘browse’ mode and wander in, out and through. Clifton Arcade is worth a look, just for its Victorian splendour. The shopping mall of its day, it’s now home to 17 unique shops selling all manner of curiosities, my favourite being Otomi – where you’ll find all things Mexican, including Luche Libre masks.
Do: Make time for Papersmiths in Clifton. This design-led stationers has an abundance of beautiful accessories and books. Prices are a bit on the steep side, however.
Take the Suspension Bridge Tour
Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and opened in 1864, five years after he died, the Clifton Suspension Bridge is a must-do for a weekend in Bristol. Even if the engineering side of its story doesn’t float your boat, the views almost certainly will: 75 metres above the Avon Gorge brings an impressive panoramic of Clifton, the city and the ancient gorge itself. I took the Clifton Suspension Bridge free 1 hour tour (donations are asked for at the end) and was captivated from start to finish.
Do: Visit the Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre in Leigh Woods (open 10am – 5pm, everyday) for more insights into the Bridge’s stories.
Enjoy Afternoon Tea at the Avon Gorge Hotel
It’s the perfect way to end your weekend in Bristol: fat scones and devilish cream on a sunny terrace overlooking Clifton Suspension Bridge. Head to the Avon Gorge Hotel, which is only a 3 minute walk from the Clifton Suspension Bridge and Clifton’s upmarket Georgian streets. It’s a traditional hotel with friendly, animated staff. Get comfy in the Bridge Cafe and gorge on the views and a delicious Afternoon Tea. Alternatively, order the hotel’s famous Clifton Teacake. At 7 inches in diameter, it could be the biggest in the South West.
Do: Remember your camera or make sure you’ve plenty of charge on your phone – this is one of Bristol’s best spots to snap Clifton Suspension Bridge.
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