It’s lovely to look chic and fashionable whilst visiting cities, but to see the best of a place a pair of reliable trainers is what you really need. That is certainly a sentiment that should be heeded when visiting the wonderful, but hilly, Bristol. There are so many great corners of this city and, if you’re a happy walker, then these can be explored easily by foot in one intense day or two more relaxed rambling days. Having lived in Bristol for university and spent time visiting there since, here’s my guide to the best bits of Bristol you should explore by foot.
The Bridge (Obviously)
This is a no brainer and will come as no surprise. Clifton Suspension Bridge, as well as being an engineering marvel, is a feast for the eyes and a photographer’s dream. The best way to see the bridge is to head up onto Observatory Hill. If it’s sunny, grab an ice cream enroute, sit on the grassy bank and just take in the view. If you choose to do this towards the end of your day of traversing the city, then you can expect a ‘light show’ as the bridge is illuminated at night. It’s a pretty romantic spot as the sun goes down. For those who are looking for thrills in other more adrenaline related ways, take a walk across, look up and see if you can feel the bridge move.
Yes, it’s a haven of middle class brunching, handbag dogs and charity shops that stock Prada and last season’s Vivienne Westwood, but Clifton village really is a charming little spot to wander around. With impressive Georgian architecture, many a floral window box and an opportunity to observe how the other half live, what’s not to love about Clifton? In all seriousness though, the village feel to this corner of Bristol is quaint and inviting and there are several pubs and eateries of note. If you’re wandering through in the mid-morning, Primrose Café (perched on the edge of the Clifton Arcade with outside seating) does a cracking brunch. If you’re past the hour of noon, then perhaps explore the cobbled back streets and stumble into (you’ll certainly stumble out of) The Coronation Tap. This pub is famous for its 13% cider – a favourite of any true Bristolian. Also, Reg the Veg is my favourite green grocers of all time. Pay him a visit.
Brandon Hill Park
If views, heights and parks are your thing, you’re in luck. There’s a great, and easily missed, place for views across Bristol. On your way back down from the bridge and Clifton, head towards Brandon Hill Park. Not only is the park itself a glorious oasis of green in Bristol City Centre but it also boasts the ‘Cabot Tower’, a striking red brick tower built in 1897. It is free to climb and the views from the top are well worth the steps up. Plus, the park is in easy distance of Park Street (one of the main streets in the city, set on a hill and well worth a wander down).
Gloucester Road & Stokes Croft
To free yourself of the shame of visiting the main stream and middle-class Clifton, head to Gloucester Road & the Stokes Croft area for a more representative take on Bristol. This area has a much more eclectic mix of all cultures and represents a lot of what makes Bristol such a vibrant and open city. It’s got a boho vibe and independent businesses are strongly championed by the locals (so get ready to hide your Tesco carrier bag!). There’s plenty of street art to be seen and great coffee to be enjoyed (from the likes of Spicer & Cole for example.) Like live music? The Canteen is a great spot for the evening, offering a real mix of live music, all for free (with collection box donations encouraged). The food is really good there too – with sustainability at the core of its cooking ethos.
The Harbourside (Wapping Wharf)
Now, if you’re taking your epic stroll of the city on a Saturday be aware: the harbourside is a stag and hen do magnet and often not in a good way. Instead avoid the Pitcher and Piano side of the harbourside and make your way across the bridge, past the Arnolfini (pop in if you’re an art fan), and go towards the new-ish ‘boxpark-esque’ area next to the M Shed. Here you’ll find some great spots to have a drink, coffee or food whilst overlooking the industrial harbour. If you’re here during the day (Mon – Sat), you should also check out the M Shed museum, it’s totally free and will give you an insight into the fascinating, if sometimes unsettling, history to this city.
Hopefully this will keep you (and your feet) busy on your trip to Bristol. Enjoy!