I’m temporarily back in my adopted home city of Bristol, the heart of South West England, and am eager to share the Bristol love with y’all: cheaper than London, easy to get around, filled to bursting with stuff to do, home a vibrant alternative cultural scene and the hometown of both Banksy and cider, this is, undoubtedly, one of the best places to live in England.
To those of you considering a UK-bound move, you should really consider Bristol. To the rest of you, a visit will have to do.
Looking for what to see and do in Bristol? If you pay a visit to these tried-and-true favourites (I have spent nearly four year’s downing pints of cider as “research” for this), you should get a good taste of what makes Bristol so great.
Cafes & Restaurants
Boston Tea Party – There are four of these across Bristol, so take your pick as they’re all fantastic. All ingredients are sourced as ethically as possible, mostly from local sources. The brunch menu and chai lattes are especially recommended – I swear their scrambled eggs are the ultimate hangover cure.
Café Kino – a glass-fronted vegetarian/ vegan co-operative café just perfect for people watching working.
Café Amore – In the city centre, this is the perfect place to stop for lunch. The service is great – you pay for the food, then they carry the tray to your table once everything’s ready – and the whole place is decorated with vintage advertisements.
The Thali Café – Again, there are several of these in Bristol, and they do amazing Indian curries. You can eat in, or take food away in eco-friendly reusable tiffin boxes.
Bars & Pubs
The Coronation Tap – Known locally as “The Corrie”, this quaint old cider house in the heart of beautiful Clifton Village serves the legendary – and deadly – Exhibition cider, which is so strong they only sell it in half pints. Trust me: you know when you’ve been corried!
Cosies – A reggae wine bar. Yes, you read that right.
The Duke of York – It’s covered in graffiti and fairy lights and has an old-fashioned wooden bowling alley inside. What’s not to love?
The Star and Garter – Super dodgy but super fun, this is the sort of place where you only tend to turn up when you should have already gone to bed. Dancing to reggae around a pool table whilst clutching a tin of Red Stripe is an integral part of the Bristol experience after all.
Hyde & Co – a secret prohibition-styled speakeasy. Shhhh!
Under the Stars – A café/bar… on a boat! Sitting on the harbourside and bedecked with fairy lights, their weekly free film showing is especially popular.
The Apple – A cider house… on a boat! Yes, we like boats in Bristol.
Clubs and Live Music
Thekla – It’s a club and live music venue… you guessed it: on a boat! It also plays great music, and the novelty of joining the smokers on deck really doesn’t wear off.
No. 51 – a chilled out bar and live music venue on Stokes Croft that also does a handy sideline in wood fired oven-cooked pizzas and other late-night yummies, this place is always packed at the weekends.
Mr Wolf’s – A chilled out, alternative live music venue that serves some damn good noodles earlier on in the evening.
The Canteen – The heart of the so-called “People’s Republic of Stokes Croft”, The Canteen is a café/bar/live music venue that serves local food and drink and is always packed with pleasant New Age types. Upstairs you’ll find Hamilton House, which hosts community-led projects and classes and is often has taster sessions and open days.
Start the Bus – This funky café/ bar/ live music venue has some really cool nightlife events, as well as hosting funky flea markets and other quirky events in the daytime. Check out the listings if you’re in town.
Lakota – A big all-nighter electronic venue, this has a bit of a bad reputation and the amount of time’s it’s been shut down in drugs busts has become a bit of a standing joke, but the facts remain that it hosts some awesome nights. The psychedelic monthly “Tribe of Frog” is probably the best.
Motion – The Big Daddy of Bristol nightlife, Motion hosts the biggest names and the biggest all-nighters throughout the year. Expect big prices to go with them. It’s also a skate park by day, which is pretty cool – and makes its monthly roller disco a must-go.
The Lanes – Styled after a ‘50s era American diner and bowling alley, this place also hosts some amazing nightlife events (think Grease proms and Twin Peaks parties) and has its own vintage shop inside.
The Cube – an independent, co-operative cinema, this is entirely volunteer-run and charges very small prices for its interesting array of independent and obscure films. Showings are often supplemented by documentaries, live performances and events in the bar.
The Tobacco Factory – An old tobacco factory that’s now a theatre, restaurant and bar, its old owner has undergone a similar renovation and is now the eccentric red-trouser wearing Mayor of Bristol. I think that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the city really.
The Clifton Suspension Bridge – Brunel’s giant bridge, that spans the dramatic Avon Gorge, is best viewed at night when the entire city is lit up beneath. Make sure you explore the beautiful Georgian architecture of Clifton Village whilst you’re in the area.
The Harbourside – The old city docks have been renovated and are now lined with awesome independent shops, restaurants and cinemas. Take a boat trip along to the S. S. Great Britain, and keep an eye out for the colourful houses of Hotwells.
Stokes Croft Street Art – Banksy hailed from this area, and it definitely shows: the area is a constantly changing canvas, with its own official practice wall. Bristol is covered with graffiti, and even has its own graffiti festival, but this is where it’s most concentrated.
The Christmas Steps – These twee old steps are lined with old-fashioned shops, and are very atmospheric.
The Downs – These rolling green fields north of the city centre are heaving in summer, with dog walkers and runners competing for space with families on picnics and students tending their BBQs.
The M Shed – One of the city’s newest and best museums, this is dedicated to Bristol’s local history, and has a roof terrace offering fantastic views across the city centre.