I love my city and I love recommending places for people to visit. If you’re headed to Bristol and want to know all the best spots that the locals normally keep to themselves, here’s my list.
I definitely recommend staying in the city centre, the Travelodge in Mitchell Lane is tucked away in the business district but just a few minutes’ walk from the bustling city centre.
For places to visit, first up is Spicer and Cole, a five-minute walk from the hotel. Fuel up on bacon rolls and granola and yogurt in this clean, light space overlooking one of the most beautiful open spaces in the city; Queens Square. If it’s a nice day, grab your breakfast to go and sit on the grass.
After breakfast, take a walk. My favourite walk runs around the harbour. It might not be a secret, but it really shows Bristol off in its best light, especially in the sunshine. Stop at the M Shed along the way to find out everything you need to know about the city and, further along, explore Brunel’s SS Great Britain and the unsolved mystery of its disappearing captain.
While you’re here, you might even spot the Matthew sailing around the harbour. The Matthew is an exact replica of John Cabot’s ship, which set sail from Bristol in 1497 in search of a new trade route to Asia. Instead, it found Newfoundland and was therefore the first European ship to discover mainland North America.
If you are lucky and the sun is shining, then you might want to see the city from the water. There are a multitude of companies that do boat tours, but the Bristol Ferry Boats are a much more fun option. They run regularly and are great value for money. The bright yellow boats go from several stops along the river so you can hop on and off wherever you like.
Return to the heart of the city, the oldest part of Bristol, for lunch. Bagel Boy serves the best bagels in town, and their filling menu is exhaustive. Take your time perusing their menu from one of their big wooden shared tables or tucked away booths before settling on your perfect bite. My personal favourite is their salt beef bagel with pickles and mustard.
After lunch, explore St Nicholas Market. You might want to skip the food stalls after your amazing lunch, but don’t miss the vintage clothes, jewellery, souvenirs, and other quirky finds. If you’re still in the mood to spend, head to Cabot Circus, which promises the best shopping in Bristol.
One thing that epitomises Bristol is its hills, and if you have time, wander up along Park Street to the beautiful buildings of Bristol University. Halfway up take a left and you’ll reach the wonderful Brandon Hill Park. If you continue climbing up, you’ll find outstanding views of the city and, if you are feeling extra energetic, climb Cabot Tower (there are over 100 steps in the spiral staircase) for even better views. On your way back down, stop by the Georgian House to see a fully-furnished 18th century home and learn about the property’s rich history.
A stroll back towards the waterfront will lead you to the Arnolfini, a modern art gallery which has a great collection of mind-bending modern art. You might even see some performance art in the lobby. But that’s not why you’re here. After you explore some of the collection, head straight to the cafe for the best cake selection in this part of town, all freshly made, perfect with a big mug of tea.
For dinner, head to my new favourite restaurant, The Ox. It’s only been a few months and is already my go-to for a nice dinner. It’s not easy to find, hidden in a blink-and-you-miss-it basement under a pub, but step down those stairs and you’re carried to New York in a more glamorous era. With candlelight, wood panelling, and leather studded furniture, this is not a place for the faint of heart. Order the biggest steak they have before moving to the bar for a cocktail, made to order.