Banksy, boat hostels and bars in shipping containers: This alternative city in southwest England is a very cool place to spend the weekend.
Food & drink
St Nick’s Market
This beloved local lunch spot is a fun and affordable way to fill up. Venture inside the Glass Arcade for firm favourites like Matina, whose massive halloumi-packed wraps always attract long lines, and Pieminister, a Bristol-born pie company that’s even fed the Queen! On Tuesdays and Fridays, the Street Food Market on Wine Street adds even more temptation.
Soak up continental cafe vibes, day or night, at this cool new container development on Whapping Wharf. The raft of new openings already includes The Athenian, which serves up succulent Greek souvlaki, Gopal’s Curry Shack, much-loved for its fresh take on Indian street food, and Salt and Malt - their gluten-free fish & chips are widely touted as the best in the city. Located by the Harbourside, Cargo is also a lovely spot for an evening drink. Take your pick from fine wines, Somerset ciders and Bristol craft beers.
Places to stay
Sleep on a boat
Bristol is a boat city, so where better to stay than on the water? The Kyle Blue is a luxury boat hostel moored a short stroll from the city centre. The comfy Dutch barge is a wonderful place to wake up, with port holes to peer at the seagulls and a kitchen on the upper deck where you can make breakfast with a view.
The UK’s longest stretch of independent shops is the place to go for one-of-a-kind finds, whether that’s vintage frocks or antique clocks. Fox + Feather is great for Scandi-cool fashions, while Fig focuses on all things beautiful, from silver jewellery to porcelain vases. Devote an entire afternoon to exploring.
The ludicrously steep hill up to Clifton is best taken in stages - stop to browse the boutique shops along the way. Pick up a pair of ripped Levis or some cowboy boots at Uncle Sam’s or bag a modern, multi-purpose mac made for life on the road at Roamers and Seekers. (To keep up the energy, get some dreamy gelato at Swoon, a sourdoughnut at Pinkmans or a melted milk chocolate pot at Mrs. Potts.)
Things to do
Snap some street art
See where the world’s most famous street artist, Banksy, started out on a Where the Wall walking tour of Bristol’s colourful streets. A local artist will show you his most famous works, including the Mild, Mild West mural in Stokes Croft, and offer an insider’s view on the city’s current scene. If the 2-hour tour leaves you wanting more, have a go with the spray can yourself at one of Graft’s graffiti workshops.
Bristol is also known for its lively art, music and theatre scene. And you don’t have to spend much to experience it. Check out free art galleries, like the Arnolfini and Spike Island, or go to some of the city’s regular gigs - No. 1 Harbourside and the Canteen stage free live music every night. If theatre’s more your thing, you’ll find lots of experimental productions for less than £10 at The Wardrobe Theatre in up-and-coming Old Market and Bristol Improv Theatre in student-friendly Redland. You’ll find more inspiration here.
Bristol is 1 hour 40 minutes by train from London Paddington station. Book in advance for the best bargains. Alternatively, take the coach from London Victoria. It takes from 2 hours 35 minutes but costs less.