Old Bristol houses

Get to know the city’s old architecture, new art and waterside gems

You might know Bristol for its long maritime history and the engineering feats of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (including the famed Clifton Suspension Bridge). But it is also a vibrant artist’s enclave with an extensive foodie and fine dining scene. Here are our recommendations for a cracking cultural and culinary weekend in Bristol.

Spot a Banksy
There’s no better way to experience Bristol’s quirky, artistic charm than to wander through the city on foot. It is compact enough to tackle in two days and thanks to the hilly landscape, it’s common for visitors to round a corner and stumble across a spectacular view. Don’t miss the cobbled Christmas Steps, a series of streets dating back to the 1600s which have been voted the prettiest in Bristol. And for a guaranteed breath-taking vista, hike to the top of Brandon Hill where you’ll find Cabot Tower. Take the spiral staircase to the top and enjoy the panoramic views of the city. On foot you’ll also be able to take in the work of internationally renowned (and Bristol-born) anonymous street artist Banksy. Dotted around Bristol – from the ‘Paint Pot Angel’ inside Bristol Museum and Art Gallery to ‘Grim Reaper’ at the M Shed galleries – it’s easy to while away a day spotting his politically-astute stencilled grafitti and ducking into artisan cafes when you get peckish. If you see no others, be sure to find ‘Mild Mild West’. Not only is it located in Stokes Croft, Bristol’s colourful cultural quarter, but it is also next to The Canteen cafe, a Bristol favourite known for its delicious organic and locally sourced menu.
Sample local delights
Of course, all of that walking will likely leave you ravenous. Luckily, Bristol is home to two Michelin-starred restaurants (Wilks and Casamia) and a slew of independent eateries. The historic St Nicholas Market should be an early morning stop. Behind the street stalls selling pretty handcrafted gifts (the Nails market runs every Saturday from 9am) and nestled within the Georgian market building, you’ll find several cafes selling good-quality coffee. For fantastic local fare try Bell’s Diner on York Road. Don’t be fooled by the cosy surroundings (it’s in an old grocery store) and chintzy chipped tables and chairs; the food is cutting edge. If you’re after a quick bite don’t miss Friska. All food – from the chicken and chorizo gumbo to the butternut and blackbean dopiaza – is ethically sourced, homemade and delicious. For an ultra-chic evening out in Bristol, try one of the city’s many cocktail bars. Hyde & Co is a Prohibition-style speakeasy – think low-lit, dark wood interiors, with a stringent door policy that means if there are no tables, then it’s no-entry. Guarantee yourself a space by booking ahead. The Milk Thistle is made in the same vein with an eclectic mix of taxidermy and dark wood. Both have an outstanding range of cocktails.
Wander by the waterside
Of course, no trip to Bristol would be complete without a stroll around the magnificent harbour. The area is buzzing so it’s often difficult narrowing activities down to just one or two. Our suggestions, though, would include a trip to harbourside contemporary arts centre Arnolfini, which has a revolving programme of exhibitions, film screenings and talks. And for a dose of history, Brunel’s SS Great Britain is a museum ship that shows what a passage on an 1850s steamer would have been like. A quick boat ride from outside arthouse cinema Watershed will take you to Spike Island, a gallery and studio space where you can pick up original pieces by the artists who work in the studios.
And relax
Relieve aching muscles with a massage at our Bristol hotel’s luxurious spa or take a dip in the heated indoor pool before a delicious meal at the Urban Bar & Kitchen. With its big, feather-soft beds, though, you might find that a good night’s sleep is the best form of relaxation.
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