Over the past few years, I’ve explored my fair share of UK cities, from Brighton all the way up to Glasgow – I do love taking an easy to get to city break. However, there are plenty of places on this fair isle that I’m still itching to visit – and until recently, Bristol was one of them.
When Jaime and I decided to look for a place to go for a weekend visit after we had to postpone our Maldives holiday, again, due to covid, a weekend in Bristol was a perfect choice. Just two hours from London on the train or about the same by car from our home near Horsham, with a round-up of some cool things to do provided by my son who is studying at Bristol university, we packed up our overnight bags, dropped our puppy to my parents and made our way to Bristol in our little red mini cooper.
After an early-ish start (leaving the house at 10am on a Saturday is definitely early…ish. I stand by this.) and two hours thereabouts by car, we were pretty hungry. Coming into the city was super simple and finding the hotel was too. Added to this, being able to park at the hotel in the ajoining NCP was just so easy.
Before checking in, we went along to a cool and welcoming bar on the dockside to grab some brunch and much-needed coffee, the choice of eating venues along the dockside is amazing and there is definitely something to suit any taste or hankering.
After eating we took a wander through nearby Queens Square, which made for a lovely walk in the Autumn sun. The buildings in Bristol are so delightful and well cared for, with plenty of cute cobbled streets and green spaces to while away time in. Our hotel for the weekend was the amazingly located Bristol Hotel by The Doyle Collection group of UK Hotels. Ideally located between Bristol’s historic cobbled Narrow Quay and elegant Queen Square, right in the heart of the city’s Harbourside district and within walking distance of its main attractions, such as The Bristol Old Vic, Arnolfini, Watershed, SS Great Britain and M Shed, as well as the fabulous shopping area of Cabot Circus.
Check in was quickly sorted by their helpful staff despite all the covid issues of the time and we actually ended up finding out we had been kindly upgraded to a superior room that had a stunning view over the docks and the city rooftops. This provided us with a spectacular sunset as we got ready for our first night in this fabulous city.
Our room was one of the hotel’s deluxe rooms, which is an upgraded version of their standard double, including tea and coffee making facilities, a Nespresso coffee machine and a comfortable work space. It also featured an attractive spacious bathroom with free Temple Spa toiletries and lovely comfy bathrobes and the essential free high speed WiFi. The room, in fact, was so nice the temptation was to not head out at all and call on the extensive room service ! But we didn’t, and ventured out to enjoy the life of the dockside for our first evening.
The next morning we woke early to enjoy an extensive breakfast buffet at the hotel and then a walk before the city had fully woken up. Heading along the river ways towards the main shopping areas was so peaceful and you really got a sense for how special and unique this city really is. Broadmead Shopping Centre, The Galleries and Cabot Circus have pretty much every mainstream shop you need, from Primark to phone shops. If you’re more into independent shops, Bristol’s shopping quarter is definitely the place for you.
One of the things that Ethan, my son, had said we must do was to have some drinks on a floating pub, on a boat docked at the quayside. It was super cool, something you can’t experience with most UK city breaks.
With loads of seating outside the boat by the canalside, I could imagine it getting really busy in the peak of summertime. On the deck of the boat itself, there’s a lovely covered area with comfy seating and blankets. We happily sipped our cocktails and enjoyed the cosy atmosphere of boat and quayside. It’s such a unique space, and definitely a wonderful place to pick up a drink or spend an evening.
After our day of shopping, city sightseeing and drinks we definitely worked up an appetite for dinner at the hotel in their famous The River Grille restaurant. This stunning dockside all-glass restaurant is the perfect place to dine, great service gorgeous dishes and all whilst you watch the life the city walking past, it really is a great spot to feed your inner foodie whilst people watching as the sun goes down and the city moves from day to night.
Our waiters Segio, Victor and Avnona were all lovely, so helpful but also great fun, we were well looked after, that’s for sure, and the food was just devine, all topped off with a beautiful background grand piano soundtrack. For those not wishing to venture out this hotel restaurant certainly doesn’t disappoint.
After a final awesome night’s sleep, breakfast was served in the hotel restaurant to start our last day in Bristol. Again the buffet style didn’t disappoint, and we loaded up on a full English and fruit for a busy day of more exploring and then our drive back to Sussex later in the evening.p
I’d always wanted to see the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge close up and my son’s final must do tip was to take the time to walk across it, which I was pretty excited about as I have a strange love hate of heights. The views over the river and city were amazing, with natural carved cliffs reaching all the way down to the river, and the bridge design itself is awesome. I didn’t know whether to look up or down!
On the other side of the bridge, there’s actually a free visitor centre which was fun to have a nose around in. It offers interactive displays, loads of info on the bridge and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the engineer behind it. After our bridge exploring we headed back into the city and took a walk into the centre of Bristol again, finding more cool independent shops leading up Queens Road to the famous Bristol museum and art gallery.
In the dinosaur section we saw the Thecodontosaurus, known as ‘Bristol’s dinosaur’; and the scelidosaur, the best-preserved dinosaur in Britain, and loads of other interesting dino-related bits and pieces. We also loved the Egyptian exhibition – I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with ancient Egyptian stories and ways of life as has Jaime, and to see genuine artefacts from the period was pretty awesome. The ‘Curiousity’ exhibit was also really interesting, looking at objects from the past and inspiring visitors to think about their uses and meanings to the people who owned them.
We didn’t actually venture upstairs to the gallery as we were pretty short on time, but for such an inexpensive exhibit there’s loads to see in Bristol Museum, so definitely worth a nose around if you’re into history and nature.
As we got towards the end of the day we headed back towards our hotel to pick up our luggage and pack our little mini again for the drive home. We took one last wander around the harbourside area of the city by the hotel, probably my favourite part of the city with stunning buildings, boats and bridges – plus loads of attractions and amenities all with an Amsterdam feel what more could you ask for.
Bristol is such a lovely city to visit, and we found so much to do in a weekend there – we could definitely have stayed longer. It’s easy to get to if you’re in the South of England, plus, our hotel was brilliant and probably the best located hotel in Bristol for exploring all aspects of the city.
If you like interesting architecture, culture, shopping and awesome eats and drinks, definitely pay the city a visit!