Where to Stay in Bristol
From the Harbourside and Clifton to the Old City and the West End
Hey, this is the eighth most-populous city in the UK, don’t you know. So, that’s something…well, not really. But Bristol is the shining light of England's southwestern corner; it’s the largest city in the area, serving as a hub of culture, art and history to those lovely West Country folk. And hey, you like culture, art and history, right? Sure you do. Well, then Bristol is for you, with its impressive architecture - much of its designed by the iconic architect Isambard Kingdom Brunel - its museums and art galleries, and its summer festivals. So, you’ve chosen the destination (well done, might we add: top choice). Now, it’s time to look at our tips on where to stay in Bristol. From the eclectic Harbourside, with its floating harbour, to the vestiges and historic monuments of the Old City, we’ll take you through the range of districts that’ll be perfect for your stay. We are serious travel experts here at Plum Guide after all, so if you're looking for any advice, this is definitely the guide for you.
Straddling the River Avon, this suburb on the western edge of the city centre of Bristol is one of its most charming and scenic areas. And yet, it’s here that you’ll find the most imposing of architectural feats in the form of the Clifton Suspension Bridge that was designed by the aforementioned Isambard Kingdom Brunel. What a name. Anyway, it makes for quite an extraordinary sight, stretching high above the River Avon. Learn in the Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre all about the bridge's engineering prowess and how it was built. Gaze up at the rocky cliffs, and get the best views from the Clifton Observatory, itself a majestic building featuring a tall clifftop tower.
Right by the bridge lies the Clifton Rocks Railway, an historic and defunct underground funicular railway at the foot of the Avon Gorge. Take a look around this ghost station, which is mostly boarded up, but gives off an eerie old-world vibe. ‘Just like you,’ says your child or partner. And that’s not all that Clifton has to offer; not by a long shot. Bring your family (or go alone, why not?) to the Bristol Zoo Gardens, where you’ll get up close and personal with all sorts of animals, including dinosaurs (which are just models - but we can pretend they’re real). Other highlights in the area include the Clifton Downs, the Iron Age Fort and the Sea Walls, which comprise leafy hills either side of the river.
The West End
Not to be confused with London’s eponymous theatre district, this area in the north-western corner of Bristol’s core is home to a flurry of majestic and historic edifices. Explore the works on display in the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. This is an unmissable stop when it comes to things to do in Bristol - it is thought to be one of the largest museums in the region, and has all manner of diverse exhibits for all the family to enjoy. Even you, you difficult being, you. Soak up the rich history with a trip to the Red Lodge, an edifice dating back to 1590. You can even walk around its Elizabethan garden for free. Then, admire the Georgian House, which was constructed for a slave trader in the 18th century. Learn here about the life of the aristocracy and the servants.
The Old City
When it comes to where to stay in Bristol, the Old City is a great place to have a home, in the midst of Bristol’s most iconic attractions. Ideally located in the city centre, you could lodge right by the Bristol Cathedral, with its twin towers and intricate rose window. Take the little ones to the Bristol Aquarium, or enjoy a picnic on a fine day in the Castle Park, where you’ll find the St. Peter’s Church. In the incredibly unlikely circumstances that it is raining or even drizzling in England, don’t fret. The Bristol Shopping Quarter flanks the northern edge of the park, as if waiting for you to run in and take shelter in the lovely shops of The Galleries mall.
Get a sense of the history of the place by visiting St. John on the Wall, which is the last remaining of the five churches that were built into the medieval city ramparts. Pass through the glass arcade to chat with the traders in the St. Nicholas Market. If it’s culture you seek - of course it is - then King Street has you covered, with its Old Vic Theatre and the Old Duke jazz and blues bar.
If you’ve got the sea in your veins, then you might want to stay in the Harbourside area. The Bristol Marina and the Floating Harbour make up one of the liveliest hubs in Bristol, which is among the River Avon’s final stops before emptying into the Bristol Channel. Marvel at the majestic sight of Brunel’s SS Great Britain, an enormous steam-powered passenger liner. If you're in Bristol with kids, they'll love the Explore At-Bristol and the Wildwalk At-Bristol science centres. Watch one of the latest flicks at the IMAX Theatre At-Bristol (they’re a bit obsessed with that ‘At-Bristol’ epithet in these parts). Then, spoil the children’s day with an informative and enlightening look at the Bristol Industrial Museum, because you want to know about history and things, and it's time they learned a thing or two about the world. And there you have it. You now know exactly where to stay in Bristol.