29 Apr 19 / Bristol City Centre
Weekend Getaway to the Best Areas in Bristol
If you’re planning a weekend in Bristol, it can be easy to become overwhelmed with so much to see and do. From fiercely independent Stokes Croft to the fabulously upmarket Clifton, there’s plenty to take in. Our definitive guide to the best areas in Bristol is here to help.
Bristol has great transport links. It's less than 2 hours away from London by train and it's an easy drive with the city bordered by the M4 and M5 motorways. The M32 even comes right into the city near Harbourside and the Old City.
The central neighbourhoods of Bristol are surprisingly compact and easy to navigate. You'll find architectural contrasts between Georgian buildings along cobbled streets with contemporary developments.
As you would expect, this is the waterfront area. It was a busy commercial port but is now a modern development filled with restaurants, bars and shops.
There's so much to do at the Harbourside from leisure activities on the water such as yachting, paddleboarding and rowing to visiting noteworthy attractions. The world's first great ocean liner, Brunel's SS Great Britain, is top of the list and the excellent Bristol Aquarium is worth seeing. If you've brought the kids, go next door to the We The Curious science centre. It's also home to Animate It! where there's a set from Aardman's Wallace and Gromit animation, A Matter of Loaf and Death. You can discover the history of Bristol at M Shed and then stop by a working boatyard at Underfall Yard.
The newest neighbourhood along the waterfront is Wapping Wharf. This area is also for eating, drinking and relaxing with those waterside views. Stroll down tree-lined Gaol Ferry Steps for independent food and drink outlets such as Bristol Cider Shop as well as cheesemongers and bakers. Then go shopping at the CARGO shipping container retail area.
This is a cool district to enjoy street food, browsing in an art gallery, join a yoga session or have a drink with friends overlooking the floating harbour. And you can get the Bristol Ferry here to get out and see the city from the water.
BRISTOL SHOPPING QUARTER
Bristol Shopping Quarter has over 500 stores, more than 50 cafes and restaurants, great cinemas and entertainment. This central district has an appealing mix of high street, designer and independent shops. It's also not far from the bars, restaurants and tourist attractions of Harbourside.
From mid-November until late-December, Bristol Shopping Quarter is also home to popular German-themed and local Christmas markets.
Bristol Old City is the pedestrian-friendly medieval heart of the city. You'll find historic buildings such as Bristol Cathedral and St. Nicholas Market. And, inside a series of refurbished 18th-century sugar warehouses, there's Hotel du Vin Bristol.
It's a lovely area to get out and explore as the winding cobbled streets and hidden alleys lead to unusual and independent shops and restaurants. You can still see the remains of the Norman city wall, or rest on the grass in Queen Square where the Bristol Harbour Festival takes place each July.
PARK STREET AND COLLEGE GREEN
Park Street is a lovely Georgian street flanked by excellent independent and boutique shopping, restaurants, cafes and funky bars. At the top of the hill you get impressive views; especially from Cabot Tower in Brandon Hill. The road is overlooked by the Wills Memorial Building, home to the University of Bristol. Next door is the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.
On nearby Great George Street is St George's Bristol, one of Britain's leading concert halls, and The Georgian House Museum, a restored 18th-century six-storey townhouse. Nearby on Park Row is the Red Lodge Museum that has an Elizabethan 'Knot' garden dating back to 1580.
Take a stroll back down the hill to the bottom of Park Street to see Banksy's famous 'Well Hung Lover' on the side of a building opposite City Hall and College Green. On the other side of College Green is the magnificent Bristol Cathedral.
There are plenty of reasons to head out in the evening too as three of Bristol's most famous and popular theatres and concert venues are located in this area. Bristol Hippodrome has huge West End shows, Colston Hall has big name bands and comedy and Bristol Old Vic is the oldest continuously working theatre in England.
Northeast of the Old City, on the banks of the River Avon, Clifton is one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in Bristol. A 20-minute walk from the city centre, this upmarket area has steep stone streets, Georgian architecture and panoramic views. Some come for the chic boutiques and excellent restaurants in a village atmosphere and all get to see the stunning Clifton Suspension Bridge. It's free to walk or cycle across and the Bridge connects with Ashton Court – a beautiful location where the annual Bristol International Balloon Fiesta takes place.
Get to know Clifton Village and head inside the Victorian Clifton Arcade for some of the most unique shops in the city selling everything from vintage jewellery to home interiors.
One of the most popular green spaces in Bristol is The Downs, made up of Clifton Down and Durdham Down. This huge area of protected parkland borders the northern fringes of Clifton and is home to the University of Bristol Botanic Garden.
Running through to North Bristol, St. Andrews, Bishopston and Horfield, you'll find Gloucester Road, a real quirky and bohemian addition to Bristol's shopping areas. A Great British High Street Finalist, Gloucester Road is credited as the longest street of independent shops in Europe. Nearby Gloucestershire County Cricket Club hosts regular cricket features and international matches.
Often referred to as Bristol's cultural quarter, Stokes Croft has plenty of street art including some of Banksy's best known pieces such as the famous 'Mild, Mild, West' which is next to The Canteen. Look out for the giant mural 'Breakdancing Jesus' by Cosmo Sarson on the opposite wall.
Close to Bristol Shopping Quarter lies independent and bohemian Bristol Old Market. This was the first area in Bristol to be built around the castle so is steeped in history and contains over 60 listed buildings.
Now the streets are full of antique shops, vintage clothing, art galleries and cafes. There's also Bristol's largest independent department store, Gardiner Haskins.
Old Market is known as "the gay village of Bristol" for its LGBT-themed shops and pubs such as Old Market Tavern. It's also home to Trinity Centre which is recognised as the birthplace of the 'Bristol Sound' and still hosts live music and club nights today.
A developing area around Bristol's central railway station, Temple Meads station is a historically important building with a stunning architectural facade. The name comes from the nearby 12th century Temple Church. It's now ruins with a public garden and an impressive leaning tower.
On the opposite bank of the floating harbour, Redcliffe is home to the 800-year old Gothic masterpiece St Mary Redcliffe Church.
Beneath the area is a network of caves and the full extent is unknown. It's thought they were used to provide fine sand for the city's glass-making trade and to store goods that were to be shipped to America. It is also thought that these caves could have been used in the slave trade or by smugglers and pirates for hidden treasure. The caves are closed to the public but they are opened as part of Bristol's Open Doors weekend each September.
Planning a weekend in Bristol? Hotel du Vin has two fabulous locations in the city – our Avon Gorge hotel near Clifton and our Bristol City Centre hotel, both perfectly situated for the perfect Bristol getaway. View our exclusive offers and book online today.
Laura Porter - Travel Writer for Malmaison and Hotel du Vin