I’ve been living in Bristol for almost a year now and time really seems to have flown! I was quite intimidated by moving to a bigger city than I’ve ever lived in before, but it’s nice to be somewhere where there is always something going on. I’m aware that this list that I’m about to share is quite limited, but getting to know Bristol better is still one of my aims for this year. It might be because there’s so much to explore, or it might be because I haven’t actually visited that many different areas (I’m definitely guilty of just going back to the same places!), but I know there is still a lot to see.
Clifton sometimes comes under criticism for not being “true Bristol” and it’s true that it has a very different atmosphere to some other areas of Bristol. However, I love it. I’m a sucker for pretty Georgian architecture, green spaces and cute little cafes, and luckily Clifton Village has it all.
Bristol Zoo and Clifton Suspension Bridge were two of the things that I did on my first ever trip to Bristol, and they are still two of my favourite places here. The bridge is every bit as impressive as it looks in photographs, and yes I definitely still get nervous when I walk across it. It provides some great views of Avon Gorge, and sitting on the grass by the observatory is a lovely place to sit back and watch the world go by (as well as lots of tourists taking selfies).
Clifton is also home to several wonderful restaurants. There are plenty left that I want to try but The Ivy, Giggling Squid and Clifton Sausage all come highly recommended.
The harbourside is another favourite that I return to time and time again as it is scenic and there is plenty to do. Just walking along the water’s edge is a good way to see more of Bristol including the iconic colourful houses, or if you fancy doing things differently then take a ferry ride (or go paddle-boarding which seems to be surprisingly popular). If you like boats then the annual Harbour Festival is the best time to come, although it does get very busy!
If you fancy learning more about the city then I’d recommend heading to the M Shed, a museum which allows you to explore the city through time. It’s also free! Further along the waterfront is the SS Great Britain and the new Being Brunel museum. Whilst it is quite pricey, the museum if great and I love walking around the ship and learning more about its history. You could quite easily spend a full afternoon here!
Whilst you are in the area, it’s worth checking out Wapping Warf and potentially stopping for a bite to eat. Wapping Warf is a trendy area which is in the process of redevelopment. There are some great places to eat and some independent shops which are all housed in cargo containers – it’s worth checking out.
St Nicholas Market
Whilst I’ve walked through St Nicholas Market many times, it was only recently that I ate there. I now know why there are always such queues! St Nick’s (as it is affectionately known) has Bristol’s largest collection of independent retailers, so it’s a great place for a mooch around or to try and find a unique gift for someone. Make sure you walk through the Glass Arcade for a selection of fantastic food stalls.
Just a bit further down Corn Street is Stanfords, the travel book shop and possibly one of my favourite shops. I could quite easily lose hours in here! If you’re a travel lover then it’s certainly worth popping in.
Brandon Hill is a hilly park located close to Bristol Cathedral and the university. It’s really pretty, so it’s no surprise that it is also a popular picnic spot. It’s a great place to come to escape from some of the bustle of the city centre. You can also see some fabulous views of the city by climbing up Cabot’s Tower. There are over 100 steps to climb and it feels quite narrow as you go up but it’s completely free and the view is worth the climb!
One of the things I’m enjoying most about living in a city is the number of events that go on. I love going to the theatre (particularly to see musicals) and have already been to Bristol Hippodrome three times this year to see a variety of different things. I’ve also enjoyed going to the much smaller and quirkier Old Market Assembly for Story Slam and am hoping to go and see more in the historic Bristol Old Vic.
I’ll admit now that North Street isn’t somewhere that I’ve spent a lot of time, but what I have seen I have enjoyed and I really like the community feel that the Southville and Bedminster area have. North Street has a great mix of independent shops, cafes (such as the lovely Souk Kitchen) and markets, as well as being home to The Tobacco Factory Theatres.
It’s also a great place to see some fantastic street art. Upfest, Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival, takes place in this area and whilst it gets very busy, it’s really interesting to see the artists at work. Although there is most to see during Upfest, you can visit at any time of year and expect to see some of the larger completed murals on the walls.
Just outside of Bristol, Ashton Court Estate is one of my favourite areas to go with James and his family dog. The historic park covers 850 acres of woods and grasslands in total and provides a tranquil spot for dog walking, going on a run, or having a picnic. There’s also a deer park, which is usually a highlight for young families.
Another reason why I love Ashton Court is because this is where the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is held each year. I’ve been three times now and each time have absolutely loved it. The night glow is always quite fun and exciting, whereas the morning mass ascent takes my breathe away each time. It will be busy, but it is definitely worth coming to see! The Balloon Fiesta helped me to decide that I love Bristol before I even moved here.
I’m moving much further out of Bristol now, but Cheddar Gorge makes for a very easy day trip and is a nice way to escape the city for a while. The surrounding countryside is beautiful and I can highly recommend the Cheddar Gorge walk for great views and a way of exploring the gorge from all angles. Most of the visitors I’ve had in Bristol have asked to go to Cheddar for a day trip so if you are in the area for a little while then it is worth making time to see.
Gloucester Road and Arnos Vale are top of my list to explore next – somehow I’ve never made it to either! I’ve also heard glowing reviews of Bell’s Diner and Bar Rooms in Montpelier. Do you have any recommendations?
I have family in Bristol and even though we visit every year I actually know very little about the city. Need to explore on my own.
The colourful houses by the harbour are always a treat to see.
You should definitely use it as an excuse to explore more of the city and the surrounding area. The colourful houses always make me smile.