Start at Wapping Wharf…
The harbour is one of Bristol’s loveliest features, and Wapping Wharf is located right alongside it, with restaurants, bars and independent shops, most of which are located within small shipping containers.
There’s a terrific Indian restaurant, Sholay Indian Kitchen, a pig-based café, Pigsty, and a gluten-free fish and chip joint. If you’re feeling fancy, go for small plates at vegetarian restaurant Root, bottomless brunch at Harbour & Browns, or sit in for a glass of organic wine at Corks at CARGO. At night the whole area is lit up in fairy lights – it’s just divine.
Down the road is Spike Island, an enormous art space specialising in contemporary design. Their exhibitions are extremely “out there”, but if the art’s too wacky for you, the café is great, with hearty meals available as well as light snacks.
Head across the river…
The Arnolfini Centre for Contemporary Arts is one of Bristol’s biggest assets. All their exhibitions are free *breathes sigh of relief*. It is also home to one of the best bookshops in Bristol, with a selection of art books which are second to none.
Watershed is the place to go for arthouse films, and for those aged 24 and under, tickets are a fiver. The venue also has a cafés and restaurants, and is home to a creative hub for resident artists.
Get into the depths of the city…
Aside from the obvious appeal of shops, the city is a haven of eating and drinking spots.
For those in need of a caffeine hit, Full Court Press or Small Street Espresso are the places for you. FCP has an extensive choice of beans, all excellent quality, but the prices do reflect this and it’s definitely one of the pricier joints in town. Small Street is much cosier with a wider selection of baked goods, but it’s not a long-term sitting spot, with very few tables and otherwise just wooden crates to pop your coffees on.
For value, go no further than Roll for the Soul, the Bristol community bike café. Before 10am, all coffees are £1.50, and it’s all great quality. The pastries are very fresh, and the food is all vegan and vegetarian. Their soundtrack is a surprisingly heady mix of Debussy and Miles Davis and it’s a winner.
Feeling peckish? Tuk Tuck is a brilliant Korean place that won’t break the budget. It’s a simple setup and the food is damn tasty. Grab a red chicken curry for £6.50 and then walk round the corner to The Strawberry Thief to feast your eyes on one of the most extensive Belgian beer menus outside of Belgium. Be prepared to stagger to your next destination.
Plod up the hill to Clifton…
Banksy is everywhere in Bristol – you’ll walk straight past his graffiti without even realising, so it’s best to plan ahead and include some of his work in your route. One you can pass on your way up to Clifton is Banksy’s tribute to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee on Upper Maudlin Street.
Head up to Clifton via Christmas Steps. It’s like entering the Victorian era, with its cobbled steps and quaint independent shops. The pub at the bottom of the steps is well worth a visit – the beers on tap are almost all locally brewed, and it’s a cosy spot to curl up with a book. The board-game café next door is fun too. Halfway up, if you’re looking for a little rest, Osmology is an amazing candle shop. It’s refreshing to know that such a thing exists.
You’ve made it! Clifton…
Clifton is probably the best part of Bristol to just meander around. Nearly everyone here looks like they’ve been plucked from a Barbour catalogue. As a result, the charity shops are some of the best in the UK, with an extensive selection of books, clothes and furniture – all top-end, for very low prices.
Papersmiths is a writer’s dream, with high-end colourful stationery, magazines and books. Be warned – you could end leaving with a £40 leather multicoloured journal.
For lunch or dinner, book a table at Pasta Loco, one of the most popular yet tiny restaurants in Bristol. For this reason, you have to book about 4 months before. No exaggeration. The fresh pasta is apparently well worth the wait.
To get back to your starting point, a beautiful walk is on the cards. After checking out the views of the whole city at Clifton Observatory, walk over the Clifton Suspension Bridge and down through the lanes towards Ashton Court. The estate is utterly beautiful and looks like something out of a Jane Austen novel. Stop off at the mansion for a coffee and watch the deer, and then continue down towards North Street, where you’ll find another delightful row of shops and bars. Pop into the Berlin-inspired Albatross Café to finish your trip for a coffee or negroni. Or both.