One of my favourite UK cities is Bristol, located in the southwest of England and straddling the River Avon. The city has an important maritime history which can be seen by the port, which has become a cultural hub and gathering place for both residents and tourists. A green and alternative city, from art to food, shopping to museums, Bristol has it all. The city is a lovely place to visit, so here are some ideas of how to spend a day there.
1. The Harbourside
The Harbourside area is a great place to start. Once a busy dock bustling with sailors and merchants, the modern development is filled with waterside restaurants, bars, shops and hotels, whilst older more traditional buildings also house local eateries and drinking spots. The area hosts Sunday markets as well a variety of water sports and activities such as yachting, paddle boarding, rowing and cycling. Millennium Square is the central hub, whilst M Shed museum offers colourful exhibits detailing the history of the city and its people from a 1950s’ dockside transit shed. Further along the water is SS Great Britain, another glimpse into the city’s nautical history.
2. City centre
Bristol City Centre and Old City are the heart of the city and offer a variety of cultural and historical attractions. There’s a lot to discover, from the Bristol Hippodrome and Bristol Old Vic, both classic and ornate theatres, to the city’s impressive Cathedral. Park Street and College Green, one of the most recognisable and iconic shopping streets in Bristol, is filled with unique bars, restaurants and shops as well as plenty of galleries and museums to keep you busy, while the nearby Christmas Steps Arts Quarter is a quirky and historic area with beautiful architecture and several independent art galleries and pottery studios, a real feast for the eyes.
3. Lunch at St Nick’s market
Located in the Old City is Bristol’s largest collection of independent retailers under one roof. Most of the surrounding area was totally destroyed during the Second World War, however the 18th-century Exchange building at the heart of St Nick’s market was spared and today is the last remaining building of its kind in the country. The Exchange houses loads of independent traders selling all sorts of wares, and the adjoining Glass Arcade boasts a huge variety of food stalls offering treats from around the world. The perfect lunch spot to cover all dietary preferences.
4. Shopping opportunities
Shopping opportunities in Bristol are not lacking, and you can find something to suit all tastes. Whether it’s the popular chain and designer stores of Cabot Circus shopping centre or the independent artists dotted around the city centre, Bristol provides. Another area further out of the centre but worth exploring for those searching for the more unique shops, is Gloucester Road and Stokes Croft. The largest strip of independent retailers in Europe, this bohemian area offers a great alternative to more mainstream shopping opportunities.
5. Explore Clifton
For a change of scene from the bustling city centre, head to the elegant and leafy neighbourhood of Clifton, sitting calmly on the hills above Bristol. Offering trendy boutiques, cosy cafes, beautiful buildings, iconic attractions and hidden gardens, Clifton is one of Bristol’s most exclusive, picturesque suburbs and is well worth a visit. Explore the Clifton Triangle before heading to Clifton Village, a gorgeous Georgian area with pretty streets lined with boutiques and fine dining eateries. Be sure to visit the Victorian Clifton Arcade, which has some of the most unique shops in the city selling everything from vintage jewellery to home interiors. Maybe a quick stop for dinner here too before heading to the next spot.
6. Clifton Suspension Bridge and visitor centre
Clifton Suspension Bridge is an icon of the city. Spectacularly located on the cliffs of the Avon Gorge, it draws thousands of visitors each year who stroll across it to marvel at the views of the ancient gorge, elegant Clifton and beautiful city beyond. Designed by the great Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, he never actually lived to see his creation finished in 1864, although it was completed as his memorial five years after his death. The visitor centre offers displays and artefacts explaining the history, construction and maintenance of the world famous bridge.
7. Sunset in the Downs
For a brief bit of nature head to the Downs, which consists of Clifton Down and Durdham Down, bordering Clifton Village, Clifton and Redland areas of Bristol. This huge area of protected parkland right on the edge of the city is certainly special, and hosts a variety of major events from charity runs to circuses, funfairs and sponsored abseiling events, as well offering a relaxed environment for residents and visitors of the city to enjoy. It is also home to the The Downs League, a thriving amateur football league. On a summer evening, go for a stroll or spend some time resting after your busy day, as the sun sets over the city.
8. Drinks on Whiteladies Road
The road linking the City Centre with the Downs is the lively mile-long Whiteladies Road, home to excellent nightlife with many bars and restaurants. Enjoy a delicious drink in the trendy area, the perfect way to end a busy day in Bristol.