Bristling with history, museums and art, this city is buzzing with fast, creative street food and you can tie up smack bang in the centre of the historic Harbourside
The former city-centre port is now a cultural hub, the Harbourside. The harbour’s 19th-century warehouses now contain restaurants, shops and cultural institutions such as contemporary gallery The Arnolfini.
This city has a long maritime history. Indeed Bristol was a starting place for early voyages of exploration to the New World. On a ship out of Bristol in 1497 John Cabot, a Venetian, became the first European since the Vikings to land in North America.
The city is also associated with Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, whose designs included the Great Western Railway between Bristol and London Paddington and the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge.
In more recent times, in 2015 Bristol was the first city in the UK to be granted European Green Capital status.
From the mouth of the River Avon, the Cumberland Basin Entrance to Bristol’s Floating Harbour lies 10.5km up river. The entrance lock is on port side approximately 0.7km beyond the historic Clifton Suspension Bridge.
We have tied up near Bordeaux Quay. It is a quick caffeine stop first – and what a choice.
My favourite roasters Extract are based here in Bristol and many of the best cafes serve it, including Spicer & Cole, with an outlet handy for the harbour in Queen’s Square, and another up in Clifton.
I recommend Bertinet’s brioche bronzed eggy bread for breakfast, crisp bacon on the side, puddle of maple syrup and a couple of flat whites to wash it down. We also liked Cosy Club, on Corn Street, which we passed on the way to St Nicks market, in a wonderful old bank build, with high, ornate ceilings. It is a reliable stop off any time of day.
Closest to Harbourside first – Small Street Espresso (near St Nicks) and Blue Pig Café up on Colston Street. You will tackle the Christmas Steps to get there; it is near Zerodegrees (see later) and some cool shops.
Bearpit Social is a bit of a hike, but worth the visit if you find yourself in central Bristol and Full Court Press, real specialists, at 59 Broad St (not far from Small Street, but open earlier) are also top notch and run coffee appreciation courses.
Now weave your way over to St Nicholas market – as you can do the circular walk round the harbour later. You will find a few Bristol institutions here such as Pieminister, which surely has the best pies around. Fantastic crisp pastry and a great choice of fillings, witty name, what more do you want?
Also, the queues build outside Matina for their fragrant marinated lamb kofta in springy fresh Kurdish Naan bread. Other stalls include Ahh Toots (coffee and cake), Source Food Café (and shop – good for provisions) and Playground Coffee, not forgetting Pickled Brisket for a warm salt beef roll. You can also find them at Harbourside Market every weekend and there is another market at the Tobacco Factory.
Harts, under the arches at Temple Meads, are so worth the trip. Everything is good here, from huge spicy sausage rolls to their Portuguese custard tarts. Also try Stock Exchange up near St Nicks. Further afield, Park Bakery is renowned for its pizzas on the weekend. There are also some great delis around including Papadelis and Wainwrights up at Clifton and a decent counter back at Bordeaux Quay, which is handy if you are moored there.
If you want a real leg stretch get up to Clifton head for Primrose Café, opposite a mouth watering Wainwrights Deli, and a fab vegetable shop that stocks some top produce. Fill the bags then I dare you to pass Anna’s door without sliding in to try some of her very fine, made on-site patisserie – try the tiny Canelles; they are works of art. You can walk up to Clifton along the water, then back by Whiteladies Road to take in even more food and shopping choices.
I know we do not always cover this, but when in Rome. With a positive rising of craft brewers in this epicenter of creativity you do not need to travel far between watering holes. Try the Grain Barge when you are doing your circular walk, but do not miss Copper Jacks Crafthouse, in one of Bristol’s many rejuvenated banks, Zerodegrees for home crafted beer and lager – try the mango – and a great stop off for a quick wood fired pizza. There is also The Apple, for ciders, next door to Three Brothers. On the Harbour there is the delightfully named Welsh Back.
My favourite, Milk Thistle, is a glorious dark speak easy behind a well hidden door. Top tip – look for the engraved stone thistle above the doorframe. The best drink for a sailor is the Rhum Conference with gold, white, French Blanc Agricole and spiced rums stirred with Demerara sugar and bitters. Another good choice, but further away is Hausbar.
For me Chomp is interesting as I also happen to like Bourbon. You also have Three Brothers on a barge at Welshback, conveniently close to the mooring and great value with a £5 lunch deal. There is Grillstock (seriously meaty) Burger Theory at various markets with good veggie choices, and my favourite chain is still Byron, but a bit of a hike on the Triangle near Clifton, and last but not least Five Guys, which is over at Cabot Circus.
You can tell there is just too much to fit into my usual page but I must add a new opening. Just down from the boat, beyond Three Brothers, is Adelina Yard, modern European and recommended by Xanthe Clay, so well worth a punt.
An easy circular harbour walk starting wherever you are moored up, crossing at the Avon Bridge so you can take in the new and old of Bristol, taking in the pastel coloured houses up on the ridge as you come back round towards Kaskelot and Bordeaux Quay.
Museums/interesting stuff to do:
M Shed (free)
@Bristol – groovy science for all the family
Arnolfini –art, good restaurant and can sit outside
Brunel’s SS Great Britain – ticket lasts 12 months. The world’s first great Ocean Liner
Banksy’s Girl with the Pearl Earring – and look out for others across the city.
Ferry trips across the Harbour
Bordeaux Quay – learn more about wine or real