A weekend in Bristol: Where to stay, where to eat and what to do

Ellie Ross
Here's how to spend a long weekend in Bristol, one of England's largest cities. [Photo: Getty]

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Lively, creative and packed with history, Bristol is a great place to spend a long weekend.

Despite being one of England’s largest cities, you’re within striking distance of both the sea and the beautiful Mendip Hills.

There are plenty of ways to explore the outdoors, from kayaking to hiking and rock climbing on the Avon Gorge. If art and culture are more your vine, there’s a vivid street art scene, partly thanks to the city’s most notorious son, the mysterious muralist Banksy.

Foodies will enjoy the great cuisine on offer – the city is awash with everything from affordable street food stalls in the central market to fine waterfront dining around the harbour. And watering holes range from cider and craft beer barges to cool cocktail bars and cosy locals' pubs.

There’s also a thriving music scene, plus hundreds of shops, from high street favourites and designer names to independent boutiques.

Bristol: Fun facts

  • Bristol is the world’s biggest manufacturers of hot air balloons (Cameron Balloons in Bedminster makes the most out of anyone in the world).

  • Ribena, the blackcurrant soft drink, was invented by Vernon Charley, a scientist at the University of Bristol, in 1933.

  • The world’s first bungee jump took place on 1 April 1979 from the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

King Street in the historic centre of Bristol [Photo: Getty]
Colourful harbourside houses at Bristol docks. [Photo: Getty]

Here’s our guide to the best places to stay and eat, and what to do while you’re in Bristol – no matter your budget.

Where to stay

If you’re on a budget

Fancy spending the night in a “rocket” on a rooftop overlooking the city? Brooks Guesthouse has a variety of affordable accommodation options, including so-called rooftop rockets. These funky, 1960s-style caravans are kitted out with eco showers and have fluffy cotton towels, flat screen TVs and double beds plumped up with goose down pillows. The family-run guesthouse also has stylish bedrooms available. B&B doubles cost from £99.

Book the hotel here

Stay in a rooftop rockets at Brooks Guesthouse [Photo: Brooks Guesthouse]

If you’re looking for luxury

Overlooking the Avon Gorge with spectacular views of Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge, The Avon Gorge Hotel by Hotel du Vin is a cut above. Set inside a traditional Victorian hotel, it has recently been revamped with plush new rooms, and restaurant, bar and terrace area. The feel is bold and contemporary – think dark teal walls, freestanding bathtubs in rooms and antique artwork. B&B doubles cost from £131.

Book the hotel here

A room at the Avon Gorge by Hotel du Vin [Photo: Amy Murrell]

Where to eat

If you’re on a budget

Head to Cargo, a community of repurposed shipping containers offering a variety of budget-friendly international food outlets, from pies to noodles. Set in Wapping Wharf, one of Bristol’s most bustling neighbourhoods, the area has been expanded over the years, and now contains a host of new businesses, including Josh Eggleton’s ethical fish and chips shop Salt and Malt, WokykoGambas and Cargo Cantina.

The exterior of Cargo [Photo: Jon Craig]

If you’re looking for luxury

Bringing a taste of Andalusia to Bristol, Paco Tapas is a modern, family-run tapas bar that was awarded a Michelin star in October 2017. The constantly-changing menu combines traditional tapas with personal interpretations from chef Peter Sanchez-Iglesias and his team. With jamón ready to carve, padrón peppers roasting over the wood fire and sherry poured straight from the barrel, you’ll feel as though you’ve left Blighty and have arrived in southern Spain.

Paco Tapas prepares Michelin star food [Photo: Nick Hook Photography]

What to do

If you’re on a budget

Discover famous Banksy murals and the work of other world-renowned artists on a guided walking tour. The Banksy Tour covers five of the artists works and includes a ferry boat ride and a visit to the historic harbourside. Listen to the story of Bristol’s incredible creative culture and art scene from the dawn of the 1980s to the present day. From £10.50 for adults.

Take a Banksy tour around Bristol [Photo: Where the Wall]

If you’re looking for luxury

Step into the grounds of the very regal-looking Tyntesfield in Wraxall, around 20 minutes from the city centre. It’s one of the National Trust’s magnificent Victorian-Gothic mansions, set in over 500 acres of landscaped parkland. Gaze up at the country house, then explore the estate with its flower-filled terraces, majestic lake, thick woodland and pretty kitchen garden. From £16.50 for adults.

Victorian-Gothic mansion Tyntesfield is well worth a visit [Photo: National Trust]

How to get there

If you’re travelling by car, Bristol is easily accessible from the M4 or M5. The main train station, Bristol Temple Meads, is just over a mile east of the city centre, with regular services to London Paddington (provided by GWR) and services to northern England and Scotland (mainly covered by CrossCountry). Bristol International Airport is eight miles southwest of the city. UK destinations include Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Belfast and Newcastle.

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