It’s already well-known for its Banksy street art connection and vibrant arts, culture and music scene — but there’s even more to Bristol than meets the eye.
Not only is Bristol a buzzing university city, but it’s also home of some of Britain’s quirkiest tourist attractions. It’s little wonder that in 2017 it topped a Sunday Times poll for ‘Best Place To Live’ in the UK.
Walks along the harbour or through The Downs, a public park overlooking Avon Gorge, are the perfect way to relax in between the excitement of a hedonistic 48-hour trip to this lively city, home to an eclectic art scene and the ever-present basslines of its famous music venues.
TIME TO CHECK IN:
Stay among the hipsters and check into the Hotel du Vin at The Sugar House, a collection of restored historic sugar warehouses. Right in the city centre, it’s the perfect base from which to enjoy the best of classic Bristolian cool.
10:00 EXPLORE EUROPE’S MOST BIKE-FRIENDLY DESTINATION
13:00 EAT IN A SECRET GARDEN
Fill your rumbling tum with rustic fare at local favourite The Ethicurean where you can indulge in an ethically conscious feast of seasonal produce in its whimsical walled garden setting. It is half an hour by taxi from Bristol city centre (and only six minutes from the airport); note that it’s closed on Mondays.
The mouthwatering dishes include modern British creations such as beef neck with purple sprouting broccoli to classic desserts like sticky toffee pudding. Diners can choose from an a-la-carte lunch menu or enjoy the ‘Full Feast Dinner’ served Tuesday to Saturday evenings (£28-£46 per person).
15:00 HEAD TO THE HARBOURSIDE
Wander down to Bristol’s historic harbour and learn why the SS Great Britain, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was called ‘the greatest experiment since the Creation.’ The steamship, one of the longest and most powerful of its time, was designed to transport passengers across the Atlantic from Bristol to New York.
Get to know the vessel’s history at the Dockyard Museum. Step aboard the lovingly restored ship, adorned with flags as if ready for departure, and imagine what transatlantic travel would have felt like in Victorian Britain. The ship is contained inside a glass ‘sea’ to repel humidity and ensure minimal corrosion. In fact, the air inside the ‘dry dock’ that surrounds the ship is as dry as the desert!
19:00 DINING ON THE WATER
Grab a table at the Glass Boat Brasserie. This floating restaurant, constructed from a barge, makes for an unusual dining experience and serves up classic French cuisine.
21:00 SECRET SPEAKEASY
Get the party started and seek out one of Bristol’s ‘secret’ prohibition bars. Opposite the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, in the city centre, you’ll find Hyde & Co, Bristol’s original speakeasy. Grab yourself a pew at the bar and sip on Sucker Punch, a tropical mix of the bar’s own Hyde Scotch, with coconut, salted pineapple, lime and creole bitters.
10:00 UNESCO CITY OF FILM
See why Bristol was named UNESCO City of Film and check out some of the city’s famous locations. From university rom-com Starter for Ten, to period drama The Duchess starring Keira Knightley, Bristol is a seriously starry city.
13:00 DINE IN A SHIPPING CONTAINER
Enjoy lunch at Cargo, at Wapping Wharf, a collection of restaurants set in old shipping containers. Other spots include the delicious taco bar Cargo Cantina or opt for the ultimate comfort food at Lovett Pies.
15:00 EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP
No Bristolian adventure would be complete without a pilgrimage to places where the notoriously anonymous street artist, and Bristolian, Banksy made his name in the early 1990s.
See some of his iconic works, such as ‘Paint-Pot Angel’ at the entrance to the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. You’ll come across many others on a self-guided Banksy walking tour or can download the Banksy Bristol Trail app for more.
Although he’s never sold a piece, his work attracts fans from around the globe, which was the subject of Banksy’s own Oscar-nominated film Exit Through the Gift Shop, about a street art-obsessed French immigrant living in LA.
17:00 BOUTIQUE BUYS
Grab some last-minute buys and head back to shoppers’ haven Clifton, a picture-perfect Victorian suburb of Bristol. The area is packed with independent shops, and you’ll have the perfect opportunity to get that Instagram shot of Clifton Suspension Bridge too.
HOW TO GET THERE:
By air: Bristol Airport is approximately 30 minutes by express bus to Bristol Temple Meads station.
By rail: Bristol Temple Meads is under two hours from London Paddington.
By road: Bristol is 2.5 hours from London via the M4.