A local's guide to Bristol, England: where to eat and what to do

Assistant features editor Sophie Prideaux might not have grown up in Bristol, but, after five years in the city, it’s the place she now thinks of as home

Powered by automated translation

Bristol might not be England's best-known city, but those who live there like it that way. Smaller than London, but with as much to offer, Bristol is a place for those in the know. Located in the heart of the South West, this compact, edgy spot is buzzing with culture and art, while its food scene is quickly becoming the UK's best.

My ultimate tour

Each corner of Bristol offers something completely different. But any visit should start with a trip to Clifton Observatory, the best spot to take in the city's most famous landmark, the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which opened in 1864 and stands 75 metres above the river Avon. If heights don't phase you, take a stroll across the Isambard Kingdom Brunel-designed bridge, drinking in the sprawling view. From there, wander through the streets of upmarket Clifton, browsing the small independent boutiques and sampling its laid-back coffee culture.

To get a taste of Bristol's true spirit, take a stroll down Gloucester Road into Stokes Croft, Europe's longest unbroken stretch of independent businesses. From home-grown clothing boutiques and antiques stores to record companies and gastropubs, you'll encounter people from all walks of life, and get a feel for the fabric of community that makes Bristol unique.

My top tale 

You may not know Bristol, but you will have heard of its most famous son (or daughter), as it's where world-famous street artist Banksy calls home. It was here that he (or she) made a name for himself during the 1990s, with his earliest works adorning the walls of St Pauls, Stokes Croft and Montpelier. While his style has evolved a lot since those early tagging days, some of his oldest and most famous works are still visible in the city, alongside the generation of street artists he has inspired. It's almost impossible to find a clear wall in Bristol, with the city's liberal, artistic spirit visible at every turn.

And it's not just the walls that are colourful. The city's historic harbourside is lined with picturesque multi-coloured houses on all sides, from Cliftonwood to Totterdown, adding the perfect backdrop to the historic ships that sit in the harbour, such as Brunel's SS Great Britain , is which is now a floating museum permanently homed in the docks, while a wooden replica of The Matthew, sailed by John Cabot in 1497, still ferries passengers around the waterways.

My one must-do

Make it to the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, pictured above. The city is the largest manufacturer of hot air balloons in Europe and, each year, it celebrates this feat by hosting the continent's largest gathering of balloonists. During the four-day event, which takes place in mid-August, about 120 floating vessels take to the sky at once, offering a magical experience that is synonymous with the city.

My favourite eats

Bristol might be one of England's smaller cities, but it punches well above its weight when it comes to food. With five Michelin-starred eateries and dozens more world-class restaurants, choosing where to eat might be the hardest decision you make during your visit. My top recommendation is Pasta Loco, a small, family-run eatery tucked away on Cotham Hill. With only 40 covers, booking in advance is a must for this restaurant, which has repeatedly been named as the best in the UK. Despite its many accolades, prices remain reasonable, with a main dish setting you back about £15 (Dh70).

Foodies should also wander through the historic St Nicholas Market's food court, where stalls sell some of the best vegan, home-grown food the UK has to offer. And for some of the best dining views in the city, shipping container complex Cargo at Wapping Wharf, on the edge of the harbourside, is a melting pot of quirky, independent eateries, serving everything from fish and chips at Salt & Malt, to a la carte vegetarian grub at popular Root.


Read more: