Ever since I came back from Bristol just over two weeks ago, I’ve been gushing on Instagram about just how much I was surprised by Bristol. I was there for only 2 days, but it has really stolen my heart. It has the quaint and village-like feel of Oxford, the Harbour history like Liverpool, the culture and creativity of Manchester. Not forgetting THE friendliest people. I’m basically 99% sure you’re going to want to visit this beautiful, vibrant city after reading this post. So here’s my guide to 48 hours in Bristol. I’ve featured all the must-dos and my own alternative recommendations along the way!
I was invited to Bristol by Visit Bristol to take part in a self-guided Sherlock Film Locations tour. They supported my trip by providing my accommodation and travel, but of course all views are my own!
48 Hours in Bristol
Bristol is really accessible from all over the UK via motorway and train. Or by plane if you’re coming from afar! I live in Manchester and don’t own a car, so the best way for me to travel to my 48 hours in Bristol was by train.
The only train company that gets me there without changing connections and with frequent service is Cross Country Trains. They were kind enough to give me complimentary first class tickets for my in and outbound journeys to Bristol and I couldn’t have expected better service. I’m personally not used to so much leg room, a plug socket with every seat, free Wifi and of course tea and shortbread galore!
I was really surprised at all of the alternative and quirky types of accommodation in Bristol. When I think of staying in big UK cities, I immediately think of Premier Inn, Holiday Inn, Travel Lodge… And of course there are bound to be alternative options wherever you go, but they often come with a price. And they aren’t usually as cool as what I found in Bristol.
Kyle Blue Luxury Hostel Boat
I stayed at the recently opened Kyle Blue. It’s known as a ‘poshtel’ (a posh hostel) which is actually situated in a houseboat in Bristol’s harbour. It sounds completely mad and unfeasible, but it’s honestly like a TARDIS inside.
The top deck has a reception and common room area fitted with lush soft furnishings and desks, as well as a self-service kitchen with free tea and coffee. Since it’s newly opened, the carpet is the best carpet I have ever stepped foot on. When one of the owners Maddie was showing me to my room, she walked around with bare feet because it was honestly that nice.
The bottom deck is home to 3 private rooms (and they even offer a single person discount which I think is really lovely) as well as an all-female dorm and mixed dorms. As an exclusively all-female dormer myself, this would be a deal breaker for me.
Granted, the private rooms are teeny tiny and don’t offer any amenities, hooks or mirrors. But they are cosy, warm and fit for purpose. And the location is perfect. The bathrooms are all sharing but self contained (each have shower-sink-toilet) and some of the cleanest I have ever seen in a hostel. I definitely recommend Kyle Blue if you’re after a well-located, friendly hostel in Bristol!
I ate at some loooovely places in Bristol that catered for for vegetarians. Firstly, Brunel’s Buttery is situated directly outside the Kyle Blue Hostel and is where everyone goes for breakfast if they can’t be bothered making it themselves. £3.40 for two huge scones and a large cup of tea?! Done.
My go-to for lunch while in Bristol was the Harbourside Food Market, which is open from 11am-4pm every weekend. It’s your usual selection of gourmet burgers and sweet treats but all of a really high standard. I opted for patatas bravas with roasted veggies over the top. It sounds simple but was really delicious!
Another foodie hotspot right on the harbourside is the recently opened Cargo 1. It’s essentially a street full of cafes and restaurants, but one part of it is made up of shipping containers. I chose to go to Lovett’s Pies because I’m on a lifetime journey to find mouth-watering, vegetarian pies. They didn’t disappoint! In fact, I think the whole ‘businesses in shipping containers’ is proving successful as they are opening Cargo 2 at some point.
Landmarks & Attractions
SS Great Britain
The SS Great Britain is one of the most important and experimental ships in the world. It was built in 1843 by Bristol’s adopted son, the civil engineer Brunel. And one of the best things to do in Bristol!
You get to walk all around the ship including the bottom (by going ‘under water’) and inside the ship itself. The whole attraction is run like a tight ship with all of the staff members fully getting onboard with the illusion that you’re going back in time to 1843. It’s well worth a visit, especially if you have kids.
M Shed Museum
The M Shed Museum, on the other hand, is like a pit stop tour of Bristol’s history. It’s a really cool place and explains the different neighbourhoods and what Bristol was like in certain eras. It’s completely free unless you want to see the latest exhibition, and child friendly with a ‘buggy park’ and lockers.
Apparently, according to Visit Bristol’s website, the Banksy artwork ‘The Grim Reaper’ is at the M Shed for the time being. All I have to say is I looked bloody hard and I couldn’t find it so it must have moved. Just something to keep in mind!
Before I completely overwhelm you with how wonderful the Harbourside is with all of the various museums and eateries, I wanted to spend a minute explaining how gorgeous the Harbourside itself is. Cargo 1 and Kyle Blue are relatively new, which makes me think that it’s only going to get better in the coming months.
Harbourside is an absolutely gorgeous part of the city and where I spent the vast majority of my time. There are still a lot of boats and a few of the old rigs and train lines for moving heavy goods up and down. It’s such a cool area and I’m sure it could only improve with more time and investment.
Aardman Animation Studio
A brief note about the Aardman Animation Studio. If you’ve never heard of Aardman before, they are the stop-motion masterminds behind Wallace and Gromit. The Studio was super duper close to my hostel, so I looked it up on Google Street View and it had loads of cool figures outside of their various creations. So obvs I wouldn’t be able to go in, but I’d get a great selfie with Morph. Yah know?
Well, they aren’t there anymore. That was clearly a ruse for Google’s benefit. Though if you are lucky, you’ll see these colourful versions of Shaun the Sheep around the city.
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
Bristol is a fantastic city for art lovers. Not just for the several Banksy’s and the street art, but because of Bristol’s Museum and Art Gallery. It’s a huge building near the University and has exhibitions on everything from the Egyptians to the geology of the South West of England. And it’s free!
In the atrium, as soon as you step into the gallery, you’ll find the charming piece of artwork below. This is ‘The Angel with a paint pot on her head’ and she is one of Banksy’s creations. The little plaque explains that Banksy likes us to question the value we place on high art. Hence… what he did with the statue.
I didn’t go inside the Bristol Cathedral on my trip, but it’s worth a mention purely for how gorgeous it is from the outside. It’s free entry, and probably a must-visit if you’re the kind that likes to visit churches on trips.
Arnos Vale Cemetery + Kate’s Cafe
I know, I know. Visiting cemeteries is weird, I think so too. But this is already the second cemetery I’ve visited this year and it’s barely February. And you have to make an exception for Arnos Vale Cemetery. It’s a bit out of the city centre, but it’s not too far away from Bristol Temple Meads train station.
It’s free to enter and the cemetery is filled with a lot of fantastic history. Half of the cemetery is for people in the Church of England and the other is simply ‘everyone else.’ So, you can see Hindu and Non-secular tombs of all kinds in the cemetery. It’s 45 acres so you probably won’t manage to walk around it all, but it’s a great place to spend an afternoon.
There is also a display of the old crematorium equipment (not for the faint of heart) and it has a fantastic restaurant called Kate’s Cafe. All of the food is made fresh and seasonal, and I thoroughly enjoyed my veggie quiche.
Clifton Suspension Bridge
And last but not least of the Bristol attractions, the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Despite it being buried in the Western edge of the city, the Clifton Suspension Bridge is an absolute must see. It’s a huuuuuge, fantastic feat of engineering. My photo does not do justice how high above the water this bridge is, but it does looks pretty on a bright blue day.
You can get right up to the bridge as you can see below, and I imagine in summer that patch of grass would be a gorgeous place to have a picnic.
Watershed is an arts complex on, you guessed it, the Harbour! It looks like a pretty cool building and I was this close *holds up fingers near to each other* to going to the cinema on my Saturday night in the city had I not got up at 4:30am in the morning and had such a jam packed day!
On the other hand, if live music and high class performance is your bag, you might want to check out what’s going on at Colston Hall. It boasts classical concerts and eclectic theatre performances. However, double check it’s open as I think it’s going under a massive refurbishment in the not so distant future.
Banksy’s Street Art
And finally, the Banksy artworks around the city. I’m not sure if Bristolians actually like the fact people like to come to check out Banksy pieces, because he’s not really done that many in his hometown. A lot of the pieces are also waaaay out of the city in the suburbs. However, the ones below are the accessible ones in the city centre.
There are also loads of other great street art around the city – Inkie is an artist to look into if that’s your thing, otherwise just keep your eyes peeled as you wander around.
The Girl With The Pierced Eardrum
This particular street art is literally just on the back of a building in Hanover Place on Bristol’s Marina. Banksy has delightfully used a building alarm in place of an earring for his mock take on Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring.
The Well-Hung Lover
Possibly the most famous out of all his Bristol artworks is The Well-Hung Lover on Bristol’s Frogmore Street, which is essentially city centre. It’s super near Bristol Cathedral and you’ll definitely pass it on your travels around the city at some point.
The Mild, Mild West
Next we have The Mild, Mild West. This particular work is a bit of a trek from the city centre, but if you’re a bit hipster you’ll be wanting to check out the Stokes Croft neighbourhood. You’ll therefore inevitably pass The Canteen and it’s on the side of the building.
You Don’t Need Planning Permission to Build Castles in the Sky
This finally Banksy piece is NOT a recommendation. Have a look at the picture below and you’ll see why.
On the back of Bristol’s Central Library on Lower Lamb Street is the words ‘You Don’t Need Planning Permission to Build Castles in the Sky.’ Pretty apt I would say for a Banksy that is not completely hidden by scaffolding with no sight as to when the building work will finish. It looks like it’s been sitting there for a long time.
There are a few other Banksy artworks on the outskirts of the city, so if you think you might want to check them out, head on over to Visit Bristol’s full list.
If you need any more ideas for your trip to Bristol, I highly recommend checking out Visit Bristol’s own website. It’s really well laid out with suggestion for places to go with kids, good places to eat and more accommodation options.
So that’s it! My massive, humongous guide to 48 Hours in Bristol. What do yah reckon? Anything I’ve missed out or have I pretty much got it spot on?