Bristol, a city in England's southwest and one of the gems of the country. Extending across the Avon River, this city is home to an incredible maritime history, a vibrant music scene, food & drink to please anyone's palate and views to have you thinking "wait am I really in England?". It's no surprise that I love Bristol, and although it wasn't love at first sight, I have found my way here. I truly have embraced the lifestyle, and all the city has to offer. I have been struggling to write a "Best of Bristol" post for months now when it dawned on me that I couldn't share the best of, if I haven't experienced it all myself, and with that I looked to those who know the city best; the locals. Residents of this gorgeous city since birth, transplants from around the country and even around Europe. The people who make me love Bristol more & more. So here you have it, on top of everything you'll read in a guidebook or through Google, some absolute must see's that will make you jump up and book a trip to Bristol!
International Balloon Fiesta
Picture this- the light is just breaking, it might be just before 5 am and you can hear a rumbling. You look out over an estate to see flames being lit up to inflate what will become 100 + hot air balloons. Dreamy isn’t it? What if I said. You could make that dreamy scene a reality? Yep, I said a reality, thanks to the annual Bristol international Balloon fiesta which takes place in early August at Ashton Court estate in Bristol. As the biggest hot air balloon festival in Europe it attracts balloons & their pilots from around the world for a weekend of amazing sights. This free festival is one that draws thousands of people from around the country and is something not to be missed. From the night glow where pilots light up their balloons to a seriously wicked sound track finished off with a great fireworks show to mass ascents (weather permitting) it truly is one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had thus far in Bristol and one not to be missed! To be able to see 100+ balloons take off into the sky and over the city is something that can only be experienced first hand and if the mood strikes you may also be able to book yourself in for a ride in one over the city to see it all from above. Never fear if you visit after August because you never know when you'll see them in the early morning/late afternoon floating above the city too!
Cabot Tower is set in the beautiful parklands of the oldest park in Bristol, Brandon Hill located just off of Park Street. Standing at 105ft the tower was built in 1897 to commemorate John Cabot's famous voyage from Bristol and the continent of North America four hundred years earlier. It’s steep spiralling staircase leads you to the astonishing 360 degree views of Bristol, these views were what sparked my love of photography and I’ve been obsessed with photography my home town ever since. Cabot Tower and Brandon Hill can be enjoyed for any amount of time from a brief hike up the stairs where you can embrace the views or spend the whole day with plenty of great picnic spots, children’s playground, a nature conservation area, lots of wildlife and beautiful pathways. Spring time boasts incredible blossom trees throughout the park, and the clearest of days gives you one the best panoramic views of Bristol you'll ever need.
Tynstefield has a fascinating history. Originally owned by William Gibbs, who made a huge fortune trading in guano bird excrement for use as fertiliser and as a consequence quickly became the wealthiest ‘commoner’ in England. In 1843, when Gibb purchased Tyntesfield, it was a simple Regency house, however, with great fortune at his disposal he went about creating a Gothic Revival mansion complete with turrets, arches, pinnacles, and bow windows.
The house is wonderful to look round and the National Trust have done a fabulous job restoring it. However, it’s the gardens where I spend most of my time. They’re so varied, ranging from the large open lawns and formal terraces near the house to a working Kitchen Garden next to beautifully restored Victorian Greenhouses and an historic Orangery. Every season brings a different feel to the grounds so there is always something new to explore and admire. Usually when I arrive, I walk straight down the hill to the kitchen gardens. It’s so tranquil and sheltered and importantly has somewhere to buy a cup of tea to enjoy sitting on my favourite bench - those who regularly join me on my wanderings know how high up my priorities a cuppa is!
Next, I weave my way back through the grounds (this time of year I’m filling my pockets with sweet chestnuts) to head to my last stop, the rose garden. It’s really special, with its meticulous manicured box hedges, Victorian summer houses and rose covered archway which bursts into life around June. Magical!
Clifton Suspension Bridge
I love the bridge. I love going over it and under it. I love the views of it and from it. I love the wide open skies above it and I love the river in its Gorge below it (though I often wish it was less muddy, I’m a high tide kind of girl!) I love the side that brings you to the countryside of Somerset and I love the side that brings you to the city of Bristol. I really can’t choose what I love the most, I only know it makes me smile every time. I love that Brunel was the kind of man who took a risk, who said it could be done and did it. At the time it had the longest span of any bridge in the world. But did you know Brunel said it could have been wider? The builders disagreed and built that abutment to shorten it. Modern engineers agree he was right, no abutment necessary. Smart man, that Brunel. I wish he’d seen it finished, even if it was shorter than he designed. He died 5 years before its grand opening in 1864. Most people probably picture the bridge with balloons floating over. I’ve taken a fair few pics of that in my time in the city. It doesn’t stop being magical. It’s also pretty special illuminated at night. It’s had many lighting systems installed over the years but currently is covered in just over 3000 LEDs making it fairly energy efficient- as well as pretty. And sometimes there are fireworks- more of that please! I’ve even been inside it, did you know you could do that? The chambers inside the abutment were lost to history until they were accidentally rediscovered in 2002. Now you can book a hard hat tour through the visitors centre, or take one of their regular fun and informative above ground tours at 3pm on weekends and bank holidays. And once I watched a marching band process across it to celebrate its 150th birthday, local school children dressed as Victorians lined the bridge enthusiastically waving flags in the freezing cold. Afterwards the bridge remained closed to traffic just long enough for me to lie in the middle of it and take car free pics. Happy day!
SS Great Britain
Consistently voted Bristol’s number one tourist attraction, there are so many reasons why the SS Great Britain should be at the top of your list of places to visit in Bristol. If you’re of a certain age, you may even remember this grand old ship being welcomed ‘home’ to the dock in which she was built, on 19th July 1970, exactly 127 years to the day after her launch. Now 175 years old, the SS Great Britain sits proudly overlooking the Bristol harbour, with amazing views of our famous coloured houses from the top deck. The ship provides a great day out for everyone, from tourists to locals alike, and a brand new museum dedicated to the life of the ship’s designer, the enigmatic engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, now makes this attraction a whole day experience. And what an experience it is. It’s truly immersive, from the sounds and smells of the steerage cabins, to playing games on the top deck, to going inside Brunel’s mind in the excellent Being Brunel museum, there always seems to be something new to discover. Want to dress up like a Victorian? Scrub the top deck? Sit in a rickety train carriage as you attempt to draw a perfect circle like Brunel? You can do all of these, plus much more here. It’s a great place to take the kids because not only are they are actively encouraged to get involved by the very knowledgeable and approachable staff, but they also learn a thing or two about engineering at the same time. And if they’re very lucky, they might even meet Mr Brunel himself! I think everyone who lives here rightly feels very proud of this incredible ship. We’re so lucky to have such a world class attraction in Bristol, and it’s somewhere I always recommend to visitors who want to experience somewhere very special, right in the heart of our city.
The sun's shining, the water's sparkling, what could be better than a walk around Bristol's Harbourside? There's loads to see and most of it free, so you can make a day of it or just spend a couple of hours. Start at Millennium square with the fountains and statues of Cary Grant and other notable Bristolians. You'll cross Pero's Bridge, named after the slave of a Bristol Merchant, pass the Arnolfini art gallery and then pop into M-shed to discover everything about the history, people and places of Bristol. Head up to the roof for a view of the talking cranes and the boats in the harbour. Wapping Wharf is close by for lunch with lots of indie cafes, many of them in old cargo containers. Walk along the length of the harbour to SS Great Britain, Bristol's amazing iron clad steam ship and museum built in Bristol by Isambard Kindom Brunel. If you have the energy, continue to the old pumping station at Underfall yard, or take the little ferry that crosses the harbour and return to your start point on the other side.
Clifton Rocks Railway
Clifton Village is one of the Bristol’s prettiest and most interesting areas to explore. You’ve got the gorgeous Clifton Suspension Bridge to gawk at, brilliant Bristol Zoo to visit and the Clifton Observatory to explore, but one attraction still appears to be a hidden gem. Deep within the rock of the Avon Gorge you’ll find Clifton Rocks Railway – a water powered funicular railway which ran between 1893 and 1934. Later it was used as a secret transmission base for the BBC during WWII, but after they moved out it was left empty and unused. That is until a trust was set up by a group of volunteers, with the aim of protecting, and restoring the railway. Together with support from the council and local businesses, restoration work is underway and occasionally the railway has open days where visitors can come in and explore the station for themselves. Also, throughout the year, if booked in advance, visitors can arrange special tours of the site. If you love your history (or trains!) they’re well worth it too, as you can visit the top station and if you book an extended tour you get to see the station master office, then walk down the tunnel – past the air raid shelters and BBC rooms – to the bottom station. These are Bristol’s take on Hidden London’s tours of disused Tube stations! (Images sourced from Maggie at Clifton Rocks Railway)
Dominating the southern edge of the city, Dundry hill is quite a landscape feature. Rising 223 metres above sea level it gives spectacular views of both the city itself and the sprawling Somerset countryside. On a clear day you can see as far as Wales to the north west. And Chew Valley lake to the south.
Dundry isn’t short of history either. To its Eastern end you’ll find Maes Knoll, a Iron Age Hill Fort. It is believed to have been built, around 250 BC, by the Dobuni who were one of the Celtic tribes living in the British Isles prior to the Roman invasion of Britain. The name Maes Knoll is derived from the old English word Maerc meaning boundary.The existing scarp slopes were steepened and, on the north-western edge of the fort is an earthen mound, known as Maes Knoll Tump, about 7.5 metres (25 ft) above the rests of the fort defences, which is 60 metres (200 ft) across and 15 metres (49 ft) above a defensive ditch. As a South Bristol lad Dundry holds a special place in my heart. And is my go to spot for great views of our city in a quiet, relaxed environment. You can spend hours up here undisturbed watching the city lights flicker into life as a beautiful sunset fades.
As a Bristolian born & bred, I only recently found out that the gardens exist, obviously I promptly took a visit!. The gardens are situated off of a busy road but far enough off the road that as you walk off the main road and down the street, it becomes quieter and more serene. It feels like an oasis of calm in a busy city. When I visited there was an exhibition on called The Impossible Garden (13th July – 25th November 2018), this exhibition was created by Luke Jerram. I really like the Chinese garden and the pond had a particularly photogenic duck when I visited! There’s lots of quiet little spots in the garden for time to sit and rest or think. The main garden is situated around The Holmes (not open to the public). There are 15 different areas and the greenhouses to visit which means there's something to see for everyone, and hours to be spent exploring all of it. When you have wandered around the gardens you can go to the Greenhouses, there are 3 greenhouses that are open to the public each one gets warmer as you walk through which is quite nice when it’s cold outside! I really like cactus and they had a good display of the little fellows! I chose to visit the Gardens in September so unfortunately the flowers weren’t all in bloom, I imagine it must be very pretty in the summer. The Botanical Garden is worth a visit, and I would recommend visiting when there is an exhibition!
Bristols Market Scene
Traditionally a cesspit for back-of-a-lorry goods, markets have had a coming of age in recent years, and Bristol’s market scene offer nothing short of culinary delights, unique finds and the opportunity to meet local makers. It’s often said that it’s the people that make a place a home, and that’s certainly true for Bristol. Frequent one of the many markets, and you’ll see an infectious passion from those selling and those buying. Whether you’re a bibliophile, a green fingered goddess or a Mary Berry wannabe, you’ll find it all in a local Bristol market.Trading for over 250 years, St Nicholas Market has Bristol’s largest collection of independent retailers and is a must-do when visiting Bristol. Handcrafted jewellery, vintage clothing, vegan and wellbeing, farmer’s and producer’s and street food – this wide array of quirky stalls saw St Nick’s (as it’s known by the locals) voted Britain’s Best Large Indoor Market in 2016.But don’t put all your eggs in one basket, Whiteladies Market, Tobacco Factory Sunday Market and The Harbourside Market are just a handful of the other local markets that offer a ‘taste’ of Bristol.
Bristol is packed full of beautiful green spaces but nowhere is quite so quintessentially Bristolian as Victoria Park, with its colourful terraced houses and unbeatable views towards Clifton Suspension Bridge and the historic city centre. Located in the heart of Bedminster, South Bristol, Victoria Park has something for everyone: from dog friendly walking paths and running trails to adventurous play areas. There's also a tennis club and bowling green on-site and a small cafe when you can grab a coffee and a pastry. Just steps away from the Park are a number of excellent pubs and restaurants, including The Victoria Park gastro-pub and beer garden - perfect for al fresco dining in the summer - and The Windmill pub, with its eclectic pop-up menus and excellent selection of draft beers.Admission to the park is completely free but there are a whole range of activities running throughout the year, from regular Tai Chi and military fitness classes to annual dog shows and a spectacular bonfire night fireworks display. The Park is also one of the very best places in the city to catch the world-famous Balloon Fiesta in August, when more than 150 hot air balloons take to the skies of Bristol. Make it a perfect Sunday by combining your visit to Victoria Park with a wander along the independent stores and cafes of North Street or brunch at Wapping Wharf.
Some things do last. In Underfall Yard, Victorian machines are kept in working order by the yard’s jobbing shop of engineers and are still able to plane, cut, lathe, and shape. On open days, visitors are able to explore the vast machinery workshops that houses both the more modern 1970s machines (that now maintain the harbour) and these marvels of Victorian engineering. In The Big Shed, RB boat builders can be seen working on gig boats and Bristol pilot cutters, with one or two of these beautiful vessels often moored opposite the workshop, gleaming in a coat of fresh varnish. In contrast to the cast iron brutes found in the machinery workshops, in the forge, blacksmith Joanna Williams transforms iron and steel into delicate ornaments: roses, lilies; the curling, tendrilled scrollwork of elaborate gates.Walking through this living museum—already scheduled as a future ancient monument—reminds you that there are still legacies of wood and iron; wheels and line-shafts that have turned for over one hundred years, will, as long as the current care continues, turn for one hundred more; the skill in the hands that turn them will be passed down.
Tucked away behind the M-Shed there is an unusual shopping area built completely out of cargo crates. Squeezed can be found among those in which is aptly called Cargo 2. Squeezed is the brainchild of Alex of previous Rebel Roll fame. Alex has a real passion for burgers and lemonade which really shines through in his creations.The most famous burger on the menu is the St. Werburger. A colossus of a burger made with 2 handmade beef patties, Monterrey Jack, confit shallots, smoked bacon and caper aioli, and chipotle tomato relish. My personal favourite though is the reverse cowgirl, a single beef patty with smoked bacon, Monterrey Jack, peanut chipotle barbecue sauce, charred scallion sour cream, tomato and lettuce. As well as (in my opinion) the best burgers in Bristol, Squeezed also has the best homemade lemonade. There is a rotating host of different lemonades with 5 different flavours available at a time. The yard sale, a classic lemonade, is always available. My personal favourite lemonade is the Rude Willey (Named after Alex’s children Rudy and Willow) which is a Raspberry lemonade.Vegetarians are also catered for with the Whapper, made with a spiced portabello mushroom, halloumi, potato rosti, chipotle tomato relish, pickles and fried egg. So what are you waiting for, get down to Squeezed now at: Cargo 2, Museum Street, Wapping Wharf, Bristol, BS1 6WE
Stokes Croft is a place between places. Between the edge of the old city wall and the ‘outside’ world. It’s been at the edges of society forever and it loves it. Over 120 years ago they said it was a place with a great diversity. It certainly has kept that. Intersecting lines of people from all walks of life, often united by a desire to do things... differently. Which makes it very Bristol.The street art scene here is legendary but if you spend time here you will realise it’s a community of cooperatives, squats, house shares, cafes, community centres, notice boards, artists, local pioneers and word of mouth that keeps it working so well. Layers of people all sliding in and out of each other’s lives. And ad free! Pretty much. And all those street artists that come from the estates in Southmead, Lockleaze and from all over to ‘rep’ themselves up and over the tags of others add another layer may be the new great mural artists or Street artists of next year. Come visit but don’t just walk down the road snapping with your mates. Have a coffee in the canteen at Hamilton House. Check the notice boards and realise just how much is going on. Give Jeff a fist bump and buy a Big Issue, get a Portishead worthy bit of kit to make that sound just right for you first solo album. Eat food grown on a cooperative farm just a mile away and enjoy.Visit the oldest music shop in the country, still providing guitar strings to the buskers in the Bear Pit as it has for centuries (what did they call them before buskers? No idea). Oldest pub. Yup. More? The story of the area is writ large on the walls, and changes daily. Energy flows here between ancient lay lines, grease stains, sweet smelling spray can residue and winding roads where streams once tumbled.Take a back street and come back at night when it’s a whole different beast. Rita or Slix late at night is a right of passage, and these were the first late night chicken and kebab places around. Locals know the history and put up with the rumble of trundle trollies of the late night air bnb brigades. The music scene here is layered. Reggae, dub and ska from Saint Paul’s fused with the club scene to create the Bristol sound back in the day and it’s still being laid down. Walk into and out of bars like Leftbank and you will always find a player for your band. Drink beer made on the main strip or from dozens of local micro breweries, change the world or get a mug from PRSC with a Tony Benn quote on it so that you can start a revolution at the dining table every morning when you make a cup of tea.It’s just epic. A must see, but more than that, you have to get stuck in.
Bristol Food Tours
A key thing that makes Bristol so special is its ever evolving and fabulous food scene. In particular, I love the celebration of Bristol’s diverse and exciting independents. It’s impossible to keep up with new openings and stay loyal to local faves. There is however one way to efficiently tick off a few in one fell swoop… The Bristol Food Tour. Sample at least eight different places - and get insider foodie info on the way - whilst you wander different areas of Bristol at one of their regular tours (Original Stokes Croft, South of the River or East to West). Alternatively keep an eye out for special tours for specific tastes or dietary needs, such as their Vegan Tours (in Stokes Croft and South of the River), Carnivore Tour or Sweet Tooth Tour. You can even travel around by bike on the Great Bristol Food Tour. I don’t want to give too much away as locations and dishes are often a surprise (you are given your meeting point a few days before). You can however expect to sample anything from scrumptious cheese, locally made and beautiful chocolate truffles, epic burgers, Japanese gyozas and tasty gelato. My biggest tip? GO HUNGRY!!
Bristols Hidden Cocktail Bars
Bristol has lots of amazing bars and pubs to choose from, but there is something special about discovering the secret ones hidden throughout the city that you wouldn't even know were there. First on the list is The Milk Thistle, hidden in the historic city centre this prohibition style bar is one to remember, knock on the door and hopefully there will be room for you...Next is the seductive Redlight, on a side road just off the bottom of Park Street head to the phone booth and dial to be let in, this glam retro-style bar is ideal for a romantic date. Moving on to Hyde & Co hidden just off Clifton Triangle this is Bristol's first prohibition style bar, the sophisticated interiors and drinks will definitely leave a lasting impression. Newly opened Kinkajou located at the top of Whiteladies Road is a hidden gem that needs to be discovered, this classy bar is perfect for a nightcap, just head down the steps to the basement and ring the bell.Lastly, is the wonderful Her Majesty's Secret Service located next to Clifton Down Station, this James Bond-style cocktail bar is one of a kind. The drinks menu is a unique illustrative British travel guide with 11 cocktails based on famous tourist destinations. Now your mission, try to find all of these in one weekend!
Do you ever just need some “me time”? Well, I certainly did when I was planning my summer 2018 trip to Bristol from my hometown in New Brunswick, Canada, so I knew that a visit to the Bristol Lido this trip was a must. I booked the spa & lunch package (£95pp) which was so worth it. The visit starts with a 60-minute back, neck, shoulder & facial Massage. After my glorious massage, I was brought into the spa relaxation room where I was wrapped in a blanket and left to relax with a warm cup of tea. Let me tell you that heaven exists and it’s found in the relaxation room at the Bristol Lido! The coziness factor was a solid 10/10. After I mustered up the energy to slide out of my super comfy chair, I moseyed on over to the restaurant in my terrycloth robe where I was able to choose 2 courses from the set menu. Their set menu is nothing to scoff at. You’re treated to gorgeous culinary eats that have a Mediterranean flair. You will not leave feeling hungry but you will also not leave feeling like you need to let out the belt on your robe a bit more, if you know what I mean. After a quick shower, I then moved on to have a refreshing dip in the outdoor pool which is heated, year-round, to between 20-24 degrees. From the pool I made my way to the sauna and steam rooms because, believe it or not, this Canadian loves to be warm (we don’t all live in igloos, y’know). A visit to the Lido is always beyond delightful. The staff are always so friendly, and I’ve certainly never passed by another guest with a frown on their face.
Bristol Sup Experience
If like me you have an affinity to sea, or any body of water, then Bristol is the perfect place to try stand up paddleboarding and get hooked!!! The award winning SUP Bristol can take you on a taster session from their base near the beautifully restored Underfall Yard, along the floating harbour to catch glimpses of some of the city's best landmarks from a surprisingly peaceful perspective. You'd be well advised to pick up a waterproof phone case to capture the SS Great Britain, the Matthew or the M Shed from the unique view that the paddleboard gives you. Don't worry the team won't leave you behind and are always on hand if you have any questions, like, "How does Tim make it look so effortless?” Now you're hooked (and you will be!) head a little out of town to get your BSUPA Level 1 – Ready to Ride certification with Tristan Bawn of Adventure SUP. This time you'll be getting on the meandering River Avon and learning the skills to keep you safe on the water. Tristan will get your confidence up by giving you challenges to do with your co-sailors and if you're lucky he'll show you his amazing headstand skills or you can have a go yourself! You can also have a little swim to cool off it's a hot day.If you're like me you'll now have your own board, but if not, SUP Bristol and Adventure SUP offer regular sessions.
One of my go-to spots for walking my dog has to be Leigh Woods (or as I call it, Leigh Woofs...). Sitting on the opposite side of the Avon Gorge from Clifton, this woodland covers a huge area and has multiple walking and cycling routes winding their way through the trees. I love how quiet it is here - quite often I'll go for nearly a whole walk without bumping into another person. In Spring there are bluebells and wild garlic but during the Autumn months it really comes into its own, as the leaves turn oranges and reds and the evening light cuts through as the sun comes down. Whilst there are hundreds of routes to follow (of which I've barely scratched the surface), I always find my way to a small opening in the trees at the far side. From here you get a view across the Avon Gorge, looking towards the Suspension Bridge, Clifton and the whole city. It's a stunning viewpoint and one of the lesser known ones in the city. If you visit, keep your eyes peeled for the giant swing hanging among the trees.
Few restaurants in Bristol come as close to magical as The Ethicurean. Entering its unassuming gates leads you towards an unforgettable dining experience - you'll feel like you've been transported to a flower-filled garden in the South of France, when actually you're just moments from Bristol Airport and only about 20 minutes from the city centre. The setting and the food here are just spectacular. Come on a summer's evening, walk through the orchards and enjoy the tranquility of its beautiful walled garden, overflowing with lavender, sunflowers and other fragrant blooms. The kitchen garden, meanwhile, provides the produce for the restaurant which serves some of the most inventive and lovingly prepared food you'll find in the city. Housed in a rustic glass conservatory, I love everything about the Ethicurean - it has a simple, unshowy vibe and the views across the surrounding countryside are just sublime. And did I mention the cocktails....they're literally to die for! If I can't get a table for dinner or lunch, I like to come for a coffee and cake (no booking necessary); lingering over a latte and and a scone in the sun-filled garden is the perfect antidote to the stress of city life. It's my happy place
The Red Lodge
There is so much to see and do in Bristol, when I was asked just to pick one, I instantly decided upon the Red Lodge Museum. It is a hidden gem, so hidden, I only discovered it by chance a few years ago when I saw two people leaving the place. Bristol is fortunate to still have many historic buildings dotted around the city and has a very rich history dating back to the Saxon times. This building dates back to the 16th century and was the lodge for a great house that once stood where the Colston Hall now stands. The Red Lodge is like a Tardis and you truly feel like you are time travelling back through the ages. The building has changed through the times, doubling in size to be a family home then a Victorian reform school for girls. The Great Oak Room is the Tudor showstopper and the last complete Elizabethan room left in Bristol. My advice is not to see what is looks like online but to see it first-hand!You can find the museum on Park Row, Bristol, BS1 5LJ and it is free to enter. Also I would highly recommend visiting The Georgian House nearby on 7 Great George St, Bristol, BS1 5RR (Both Museums are open Saturday – Tuesday 11am – 4pm).
Stoke Park Estate & Frome Valley
You will probably recognise the famous ‘Custard Castle’ as you drive into the city which was built in 1553 by Sir Richard Berkley and later as part of a hospital. This grade II-listed historic park and gardens is alongside the M32 and features many well known landmarks including the custard-yellow Dower House, the fishing lake, World War II gun emplacements and the Purdown BT Tower. A beautiful place for a picnic, watching the sunset, a walk in the woods, mountain biking or a simple stroll to take in the diverse range of wildlife. Covering upwards of 270 acres in Bristol, this park is a public open space for all to experience at no cost which makes it all the more better for your wallet! With walks along the river in the Frome valley below Starting at snuff mills leading on towards Oldbury court or Eastville park. All your senses will be stimulated, by tall trees whooshing in the breeze above, the river rolling and babbling downstream, the sweet smells of wild garlic in spring, and the rich scent of autumnal leaves. But best of all is the local wildlife, you maybe lucky enough to spot one of the Valleys Kingfishers, woodpeckers, herons, various bats and even an otter or two.
Come south across the river for a stroll along North Street. Home to a butcher, a baker and a chocolate maker; artisan, organic and award winning. Here you’ll find an emphasis on local and independent. BS3’s thriving hub, North Street hums along nicely, aiming to meet your needs and your wants. On Sunday mornings it hosts the Tobacco Factory market; a varying collection of stalls and street food offerings. The smell of brewing hops regularly fills the air, the Bristol Beer Company produces and sells beer on North Street, but that’s at the other end. Start at the bottom. The North Street Standard (Nos 11-13) sells a good brunch. Opposite there’s a quirky toy shop; Toyville. Stop for stationery from the long established Wyatt and Ackerman. Further up you find vintage clothing and vinyl records and a pocket park; a slither of a space to stop and contemplate. Albatross Cafe serves coffee in stylish pottery and is millennial hip. Quintessential English would be the afternoon tea at Margot May, home cooked scones with a china pot of loose leaf tea. Shop for gifts in the Independent Design Collective, Casper or the Glass Designs & Gallery; all supporters of local makers. Street art punctuates the walls of North street, this is the home to Upfest (World famous street art festival). Upfest shop (No. 198) sells limited edition prints. While, over the road Mon Pote is all things decorative for stylish interiors. In need of some self care; Health Unlimited sells natural and ethical products. Rebalance at Trika Yoga studio or treat yourself to some blooms from Ivory Florists. Visit in the evening for drama at the Tobacco Factory theatre or comedy nights at the Hen and Chicken pub. The Old Bookshop is a pub unlike most, the walls are lined with curiosities the menu changes frequently and the music is intimate. Learn Spanish with your tapas at El Rincon. Eat Middle Eastern at The Souk Kitchen. Grab a dirty burger from neon lit Oowee. North Street will satisfy your soul and your stomach. I’ve picked just a few of my highlights. North Street is waiting for you to come wander and decide on your own and there is plenty that didn’t make my list.
Badock's Wood in North Bristol is a lovely place to walk and experience the local nature of a riverside, woodland and wildflower meadows. It is a haven for wildlife and contains many birds, butterflies, foxes and spotted woodpeckers. At dusk you can expect to see tawny owls and bats! The Friends of Badock's Wood committee frequently arrange events in the woods including owl prowls and bat walks for those adventures. It’s not the biggest of places but thanks to the nature of its layout it really is a perfect little haven for some great walks. The seasons bring noticeable changes in plant life and wildlife so no walk is ever the same, plants such as hart’s tongue fern, cuckoo pint and wood anemone thrive in the shade under the trees. Look out for bluebells, wild garlic and wood anemones in the Spring. Badock’s Wood is a little oasis of peace with the singing of birds in the ancient trees and the sound of the River Trym which runs through the woodland, it’s the perfect place if your dog likes to go for a paddle. Around Badock’s Wood you will now find some beautiful sculptures by Chainsaw Sculptor Andy O’Neill including a bench covered in woodland creatures intricately carved, a spider, also a man in a tree. Badock’s Wood is a wonderful place for woodland adventures, it really has a sense of magic about it."
You could visit Bristol and completely miss the tucked away Christmas Steps, but you might lose out on the opportunity to do something a bit different. Dating back to the 1600s, you’ll find this historic pocket of Bristol on Colston Avenue. Once there you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a Bristol past, perhaps not unlike Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books, with its cobbled alleyway, Narnia-style gaslight, higgledy houses and quirky merchants. For some a quick pass-through may be fine, simply admiring its historic charm and photogenic gems. But I like to think of it as Bristol’s equivalent to the Magic Faraway Tree; if you take the time to step through its doorways you’re sure to discover something unexpected. So, what will you find? You’ll encounter little art galleries – it’s feasible you could bump into a 6 foot rabbit wearing a business suit should you venture in – and an eclectic mix of shops and bars, including gown makers, stamp collectors and a good pub at the bottom boasting one of the best roasts in Bristol. However, there are two places in particular worth a visit, where you can while away an afternoon like a proper time-lord dodging the universe. Halfway down you’ll find 20th Century Flicks, total film nerd utopia! A miniature private hire cinema and retro-heaven video rental shop, it’s open every day from 1pm. Choose a film and hunker down with a group of friends in one of their plush 11-seat or 18-seat screens, with a proper coke in a bottle and popcorn. Look out for the resident cat manning the till. Alternatively, you could spend an hour or three in Chance & Counters, Bristol’s only dedicated board game café, near the bottom of the steps. They’ve even got a proper bar offering coffee, cocktails and ales, and a pretty impressive menu to snaffle up while you get hammered in an epic Cluedo session. Christmas Steps is worth a detour if you’re out and about – but especially if you want to do something a bit different in a uniquely quirky setting.
From Brunel to Concorde, Bristol’s maritime and engineering heritage is one of the jewels of the city and certainly a reason to visit. Bristol has been a centre for shipping and engineering in the UK for centuries, and still is! Walking around it’s easy to spot the rich tapestry of heritage borne from projects such as the Floating Harbour, Clifton Suspension Bridge all the way through to Concorde and beyond. What’s more, all of these marvels are open to visitors and are dotted around the city within easy reach. Bristol is known as a centre of engineering in the UK; it’s a city that has gone to great lengths to preserve its industrial, maritime and engineering past. The famous Pitt Electric Cranes near M-Shed provide a great backdrop to the harbourside and hark back to a time when the city was a centre for global trade and exploration. They’re even credited with saving the harbourside – a major focal point for Bristol life – from complete redevelopment in the seventies and have a rich history. The Floating Harbour still boasts working yards and docks that anyone can walk around and discover, where independent boat builders work on the multitude of sailing and motor vessels that ply Bristol’s harbourside. One of the 20th Century’s engineering marvels, Concorde, is based at the Aerospace Museum in the north of the city displayed where it was first built in the 1960s. Walking to explore a city is one of my favourite activities, and having settled in Bristol I never get bored of discovering hidden gems from its maritime and engineering past. Few cities can boast such rich and accessible maritime and engineering heritage from throughout the ages. There is something amazing to see from every era whether it’s medieval, Georgian, Victorian or from more recent history.
The Bristol Hippodrome is Bristol city centre theatre. It was first opened in December 1912. There are always great shows being performed from Musicals, pantomimes to Comedians. Many of the west end shows come to the Bristol Hippodrome and being in the heart of the city it is also surrounded by many places to eat or drink making it a great night out in Bristol. I have seen some of my favourite shows at the theatre including Dirty Dancing and Ghost and they are always of top quality. I go to at least 3 shows a year as they always seem to have something great going on. One of my favourite things about this theatre is its accessibility. Having mobility issues myself they cater well for people with accessible problems by having a dedicated contact line to purchase seats to fit your needs and a separate entrance which takes away all the stress that can come with a visit to the theatre for someone with a disability. They regularly hold shows for people with visual and hearing impairments. The theatre still has some of its original fixtures inside which makes it feel as though you are stepping back in time. You can even have a tour of backstage to see how they produce the wonderful shows you can watch at the Bristol Hippodrome. I always get an ice cream in the interval and pick up a show program for memories of the night. (Image sourced from The Bristol Post by Robin Murray)
So, reasons to come to Bristol. One of the key themes running through the recommendations in this post is is food. And while Bristol has been in national press over the last few years around new openings, food festivals and of course award wins, I feel I have to mention Thali Restaurant. A Bristol institution, Thali Restaurant was borne out of a love of Indian food and festivals back in 1999. After a successful stint at Glastonbury festival in the days when festival fare usually consisted of soggy chips and a questionable looking burger, they 'popped-up' on Picton St. At the time, there wasn't a list of not-so-secret supper clubs and pop up restaurants weren't a thing, but here they were in a tiny building that by day operated as a corner shop and at night became a bit of Everyday India. Fast forward to now and each of Bristol's most prevalent neighbourhoods has their own Thali, and as each of these neighbourhoods have their own look and feel so does The Thali that resides there. Totterdown, Southville, Montpelier, Clifton and Easton, these spots call out to Bristol day-trippers and long-term residents alike. Whichever you choose, immediately upon walking through the bright pink doors your eyes can't help wander as every wall and every surface cries out for your attention. An outlandish mural, an exotic plant, walking into a Thali is other worldly. Now to the food, having won awards from the SRA and BBC Food and Farming you can expect a meal that is cooked with care. A meal consists of a main dish (the team cater for all diets) you can choose from fish, paneer, dal, chicken or lamb, which is then served up in the traditional Indian way as a Thali with keralan salad, rice, dal and gunpowder potatoes. Every now and again mid-morning I'll head to The Thali for their nationally known dosa and spend a quiet hour snacking on this huge potato-filled pancake and sip on a chai as I watch the world go past. As a long-term resident of Bristol I love how The Thali Restaurant continues to be a place that I take newcomers, knowing that there's nowhere else quite like it. (Locations can be found in Montpelier, Clifton, Easton, Totterdown and Southville)
Royal Fort Gardens
I find Bristol University’s Royal Fort Gardens to be a sanctuary in the city, out of term time and at the weekend especially. It’s a peaceful, contemplative space where the old meets the new which I think in a sense embodies Bristol with its unabashed mix of architectural styles. The old in the grade I listed 18th century Royal Fort House, overlooking the grounds, is characterful and full of history; the new in the Life Sciences is a feat of contemporary architecture and it beautifully undulates and flows all with an otherworldly shine. The extreme contrast in styles around the ground sit somehow comfortably together. The gardens offer plenty of photographic and creative opportunities starting with the sculpture piece ‘Follow Me’ by Jeppe Hein, a series of 76 mirrors set in a square of which you’re invited to explore and temporarily lose yourself inside, and ending with the artwork ‘Hollow’ created by artist Katie Paterson, an exploratory space built from wood from 10,000 tree species from around the world. I found a personal connection with the Gardens when my partner was in the Bristol Royal Infirmary heavily pregnant with our first born. It offered a peaceful welcome escape from the hot hospital whilst we were waiting for our boy to arrive. Here are two of my favourite photographs from the grounds. The first is of the Life Sciences building (of which I won first prize in a national photographic competition with the theme ‘Architecture’), and the second is double exposure image of the ‘Follow me’ sculpture.
Ashton Court is a historic park which covers 850 acres of woods and grasslands. It’s also home to a distinctive yellow manor house, now owned by the council, which is quite unusual in its design as it has been remodeled multiple times. Ashton Court estate is one of my favourite places to go in Bristol, and not just for the Balloon Fiesta! It's the perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city for a quiet afternoon and is a great location for walking the dog or going for a cycle. The estate first became a deer park over 600 years ago and there is still a large enclosure of red deer today. From the higher ground you can see great views across the city - perfect enjoyed with an ice cream from one of the cafes. There are also special orienteering and mountain biking trails, two golf courses and you can even try Disc Golf! A visit to Ashton Court can easily be combined with a trip into Clifton across the Suspension Bridge so why not combine one of Bristol's best known attractions with somewhere a little quieter?! Although it’s lovely all year round, I’d recommend visiting when the sun is shining and my favourite time of year to visit is during the summer or the autumn. In the summer months it’s a lovely place to head for a lazy afternoon with a picnic, and the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta also takes place during August. On an autumnal morning you might be lucky enough to see the mist gently lifting across the estate and city at sunrise. The old oak trees are also full of colour so don’t forget a camera!
The Harbourside in Bristol is one of the places in Bristol that I head back to all year round and whatever the weather it always manages to look beautiful. Living in South Bristol I always end up parking near to Wapping Wharf or SS Great Britain so I instinctively take a left turn and head round the Harbourside on a clockwise stroll. One of the first places you get to is Baltic Wharf and I just really really love this spot. From here you get the iconic vista of the Cliftonwood Terraces and fabulous views of the harbour filled with vessels of all shapes and sizes and if you stroll a little further you will get to the wonderful Underfall Yard where you can become immersed in the world of boat building in the middle of a city. However the thing that I love the most about this bit of the harbourside is how different it looks in every season and I wanted to share with you a favourite little spot that I like to photograph at different points in the year to capture the change of seasons. A stroll around here is just such a relaxing place to be, I find being by the water has such a calming effect. So when you visit Bristol why not take a little stroll to the Harbourside, I think you’ll be glad you did.
(Top Left- Winter / Top Right - Spring Bottom Left - Summer / Bottom Right - Autumn)
If you’re short on time, I cannot recommend you visit Southville’s North Street more! Not only is it a hidden gem for food, beer gardens and quirky independent shops and cafes, but it’s the best place to see street art in Bristol. This is largely because of Upfest – Europe's largest street art & graffiti festival – which takes place here every year. As a result, North Street boasts some of the most incredible murals: both small and hidden away, and large and dramatic. I’d recommend starting at the Coopers Arms pub (which has a 3D piece this year!) and wandering down to Zero Green Bristol. Whilst you could walk this in 15 minutes, I expect it will take you an hour or so (especially if you want to dip into a few shops along the way!). I’d also recommend looking up the artists and murals as you go. It’s always a delight to find out the artist is Bristolian, see how the piece was made, acknowledge their style, and to understand the message behind the art. For instance, artist Louis Masai created a stunning coral reef scene this year with this message on Instagram “Our oceans are so fragile - they are desperately in danger of becoming empty- over fishing, pollution, rising temperatures and species trade, are all effecting the ocean community!” To get more of a taste of the eclectic mix of art on this street, make sure you check out the Upfest website or browse the #Upfest2018 hashtag – if that doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what will!
By @LouisMasai By @Insane51
By @Diff_artist By @Kobrastreetart
As you walk through the crowded streets of Bristol, you start to get a good idea of how diverse this city is. The pavements are littered with people from all walks of life. A melting pot of multiculturalism at it’s finest this is one of the busiest city’s in the country. When I go into Bristol Iike nothing more than to walk around the streets, snap a few photographs, grab a coffee at a near by cafe and sit and watch the world go by. However if I am hungry and I usually am and would like a dinner reservation there is only one place to go. San Carlos on Corn Street.St Carlos is an Italian restaurant with a reputation for good seafood and attracting a rather star studded clientele. As you peer through the window of the dining room you will see pictures of big name stars tucking into it’s famous dishes. The restaurant hosts an impressive fresh seafood selection as well as freshly cooked pasta dishes. Their carbonara is a particular favourite of mine.There are also the usual suspects you would expect to find on every Italian restaurant menu .Lasagne, pizza, calamari, to name but a few. The dining room itself is very well laid out, with tables spaced equally so that diners are not sitting on top of each other. The service is good and relatively speedy, the atmosphere is vibrant and lively. The bar selection is excellent with every type of whisky, gin, vodka and brandy you could think of?The food is all cooked fresh to order so service can seem a little slow at times but it’s well worth the wait, and while you are waiting you can peer around the room and see what famous stars have graced their restaurant over the years. There is something for everyone here and if you are planning on spending some time in Bristol even if it is only for a short while I would highly recommend this place. However you will need to book so do bare that in mind if your time is limited? It goes without saying that their busiest times are at the weekends particularly Friday and Saturday nights.
Clifton Wood is one of the most gorgeous and instagrammable places in Bristol. The coloured houses have become an iconic part of Bristol’s identity and can be seen from the gorgeous harbourside or explored further by walking the colourful streets. It’s a place that is guaranteed to brighten up even the rainiest of days or the darkest of moods as you can’t help but feel lifted by the vibrant surroundings and it’s surprisingly tranquil considering it’s so close to the centre of the city. The Victorian houses are painted in more colours than a rainbow with their neat white detailing to really showcase the vibrancy of the area.Nobody quite knows who started the trend, with many people claiming it was them, but either way is one of the most beautiful and parts of the city. If you are wandering around the streets of Clifton Wood, make sure to search out the mosaic street art hidden around the neighbourhood, including a few hot air balloons, further encapsulating more iconic Bristol characteristics. If you explore enough round the neighbourhood you might also come across possibly one of Bristol best kept view spots with a 180 degree view down to the sparkling waters of the harbour and the SS Great Britain.
(Images from @shewho_wanders)