Easy access, exciting attractions, incredible events, iconic festivals, fabulous eateries, and a diverse, multicultural society. All blend together to make your upcoming stay in Bristol, one of new experiences and happy memories.
Accessibility is a big plus when you’re wondering where to stay in Bristol. The city has two mainline rail stations, with links to all the major cities, and is just 90 minutes travelling time by rail from Central London.
By car, Bristol is close to the M4, linking London and South Wales, and the M5, running from the Midlands to the West Country.
The city sits on the River Severn Estuary, and has a maritime history dating back to 1051, when cargo ships would regularly cross back and fore to Ireland.
With a population of some 500,000, two universities with over 50,000 students from around the world, and a community that hails from over 150 countries with 45 different religions and 90 languages, multi-culturalism plays a big part in modern Bristol.
Add in 400 parks and gardens, endless culinary accolades including World Vegan Capital, many visitor attractions, festivals, museums, theatres, live music venues, art galleries, and amazing street art (remember Banksy), and the city has something for every age and interest.
To help you make the most of your city-break, we’ve put together this list of 7 of the best areas to stay in Bristol.
Where to Stay in Bristol: 7 Best Areas
1. City Centre, best area to stay in Bristol
Although choosing a stay in Bristol city centre will likely mean higher hotel prices, on the positive side you will be close to a whole range of attractions, restaurants, shopping centres, music and entertainment venues; and places of interest.
The Bristol Shopping Quarter is made up of Broadmead, The Galleries, The Arcade, and Cabot Circus; and contains some 500 shops, numerous cafes and restaurants, entertainment venues and cinemas.
A great area to enjoy a little window shopping or some retail therapy during your stay in Bristol.You’ll find Harvey Nichols, House of Fraser, and a flagship Primark, as well as all the usual high street and independent brands.
If Christmas is your favourite time of the year, from November to late December, the whole area is a vibrant mix of German and English style Christmas markets.
The ‘old city’ part of the town centre comprises Broad Street, St Nicholas Market, Corn Street, King Street, Welsh Back and Queens Square.
An area dating back hundreds of years, it is old buildings, cobbled streets, and winding narrow alleyways. Much of it dates back to Norman times, and parts of the old Norman city wall can still be seen today.
An excellent selection of independent cafes, coffee-shops, pubs and restaurants around the area will keep the hunger pangs at bay, or you can eat on your feet, from one of the many street food stalls you’ll find along the way.
St Nicholas Market should be a must visit. Dating back to 1743 it is the oldest market in Bristol, and has a regular 60+ stalls spread over a number of different streets.
The indoor market is open Monday to Saturday in Corn Street. The Bristol Farmers and Producers Market is open Wednesday in Corn Street and Wine Street.
The Street Food Market is every Tuesday and Friday in Wine Street, and the Bristol Indies Market is every Friday and Saturday in Corn Street.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN BRISTOL CITY CENTRE
2. Harbourside, a place to trace Bristol’s maritime history
Wherever one travels, the sea and a harbour are always big draws. In Bristol, Harbourside is one of the biggest. Since the 1980s, as the maritime industry moved to Avonmouth, the old Bristol docks have been undergoing major regeneration.
One of the big attractions for both locals and visitors is Millennium Square. Bristol’s permanent memorial to the turn of the millennium, and a focal point for the area.
There are fountains galore for the kiddies to splash about in. You can share a bench with Bristol’s famous sons. Enjoy a picnic by the waterside, or watch major events on the square’s big screen.
With coffee shops and cafes, bars, restaurants, shops, and water-sports, a pleasant few hours can be enjoyed by everyone.
At Great Western Dock you can tour Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s famous steamship SS Great Britain, built in 1843. On Princes Wharf you will find a replica of another famous sailing vessel. This time the ‘Matthew’, sailed by John Cabot and his crew in 1497, from Bristol to Newfoundland.
During the summer you can book one hour see-the-harbour trips, or longer four hour excursions along the Avon Gorge onboard the Mathew.
Also in the docks area at Princes Wharf you can find M Shed. A fabulous interactive museum split into four categories of people, places, life, and work.
A history of how Bristol was, it contains exhibits of everything from slaves possessions through to Banksy street art, and rides on classic steam trains, cranes, and boats are available.
Other places of interest in Harbourside include the Watershed, the Bristol Old Vic Theatre, Bristol Cathedral, Bristol Aquarium, and the music venues of St George’s, and Colston Hall.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN HARBOURSIDE
3. Old Market, where to stay in Bristol for nightlife
Like so much of Bristol, it’s fair to say the Old Market area has had its share of prosperity and depression. One of Bristol’s oldest, most historic quarters, it was the first major development undertaken around Bristol castle, before the castle was ordered to be demolished by Oliver Cromwell.
Now, Old Market is a major conservation area, with over 60 listed buildings. Originally a busy shopping and leisure area, as the city centre underwent major refurbishment and regeneration from the mid-1950s onward, Old Market fell into disrepair.
Since the 1970s however, with the help of conservationists and various grants, it has been given a new lease of life.
If your preferences are away from the glitzy shopping malls and designer label stores during your stay in Bristol, give the Old Market Quarter some serious consideration. If you prefer independent, bohemian, retro, and unconventional shops, you’ll find them all in Old Market.
It has also become Bristol’s own gay village, and a number of pubs, clubs, and shops are LGBT specific. The area is full of independent stores, vintage fashion outlets and antique shops, as well as gyms, health-food shops, bars, clubs and restaurants.
Old Market also offers a number of guided heritage walks, which are an excellent way to discover the architecture, heritage, and history of this ancient area of Bristol.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN BRISTOL IN OLD MARKET
4. Stokes Croft, a place of independent minds and community spirit
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Or at least they did in Stokes Croft, when the area was falling into decay and neglect.
Back in 2007, local residents and others of like mind banded together in community groups made up of artists, activists, and residents of the community, with names like the Peoples Republic of Stokes Croft.
Their aim is to keep large commercial enterprises and international conglomerates out of the area, and so far it’s worked.
Situated in north Bristol on the A38, Stokes Croft very much considers itself the cultural quarter of Bristol, and forms a boundary between Kingsdown and St Paul’s.
It is a haven for independent stores, bars, and restaurants of all kinds. Artists, sculptors, potters, independent dance schools, galleries, and museums can all be found in Stokes Croft, Gloucester Road, and close-by Montpelier.
Stokes Croft is actually a single road, running into Gloucester Road, and is famous for its level of street art. Every wall, alleyway, archway, the sides of shops, all have some form of street art.
It could be political graffiti, or someone’s latest creation. Often, the gallery will change, with new artists overpainting the artistry of someone from the week before.
Even if your intention is just a little window shopping and checking out the latest graffiti, a refreshment stop at Hamilton House and Canteen should be pencilled in. Although a hub for everything going on in the local arty community, they welcome all with open arms.
If you’re looking for totally distinctive, quirky gifts to take home for friends or family, browse the shops, and look out for the local china products, with their quirky patterns and little pearls of wisdom.
Hamilton House also sells local produce and products, has a gallery display by local artists, and a café/bar on the ground floor. There is also a genuine Banksy on the outside terrace.
The majority of accommodation along Stokes Croft is residential, with a high proportion let to students of the close-by university. However there is a selection of popular chain hotels within a short walk of the area.
If you’re interested in an alternative way of life, or a lover of the avant-garde, take a couple of hours out during your stay in Bristol, and see how the other half live.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN STOKES CROFT
Read also: Best places to stay in London, best places to stay in Cardiff, best places to stay in Cornwall, where to stay in Oxford
5. Clifton, where to stay in Bristol for families
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Bristol in the heart of suburbia, but with plenty to see and do, look no further than Clifton. Clifton dates back to before the Domesday book, and sits to the west of the city centre.
It is an affluent area of grandiose Georgian properties, leafy avenues, and quiet crescents. Yet just a short distance from some of the most popular attractions in Bristol.
The Clifton area also includes Clifton village. With its contemporary fashion boutiques, chic coffee shops, independent retailers, pubs, and excellent restaurants, you can spend a pleasant weekend just exploring the village.
Getting out and about, the Clifton Suspension Bridge was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and opened to the public in 1864. It spans the River Avon and Cheddar Gorge, and has attracted visitors for over 150 years.
Enjoy the panoramic view as you walk (or cycle) across the bridge to the Leigh Woods visitor centre, which shows a history of the bridge.
Walking a little further on will get you to Ashton Court. A large open space with a fenced off deer park. It is a popular area with walkers and joggers, and also hosts Bristol’s annual International Hot Air Balloon Festival.
On the northern edge of Clifton you will find Clifton and Durdham Downs, a large protected area of parkland. It is home to the University of Bristol Botanic Gardens, at The Holmes, Stoke Park Road, where over 4500 exotic plant species from 200 families are on display.
Bristol Zoo Gardens can be found on Guthrie Road, Clifton. A long established zoological park, it houses over 400 species of endangered animals in 12 acres of garden parkland.
For a little shopping time, the Victorian Clifton Arcade is great for those weekend away mementos. Its variety of independent shops sell everything from period jewellery, to retro fashion, to home accessories.
With Clifton’s number of high quality restaurants and friendly pubs (check out Whiteladies Road), you have everything you need to round off the perfect day – with the perfect evening.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN BRISTOL IN CLIFTON
6. Temple, best place to stay in Bristol well connected
Temple Meads, Britain’s largest and oldest station, was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and opened in 1840, as part of the Great Western Railway from London to the West Country and Wales.
Through the years, the station has been extended numerous times to keep up with increasing passenger numbers, which today exceed 10-million a year. Along with adjoining Temple Quay, the whole area is in the throws of major regenerative works.
It will see the stations capacity increased to 20-million passengers a year, with improved transport links to the surrounding areas.
A new urban quarter, comprising residential and commercial property, an additional university campus, waterways, shopping centres, clubs, bars, and restaurants, are also included, all designed to provide a better lifestyle experience for residents, workers, and visitors.
Although there is a lot of construction underway, with completion scheduled for 2030, much has already been completed, and a stay in the Temple Meads area means most of Bristol’s main attractions are within easy reach.
The name ‘Temple’ comes from the 12th century Knights Templar, who built the nearby Temple Church – complete with its leaning tower.
Temple Quay also, is welcoming new businesses, bars, and restaurants; and has a weekly food market which is increasing in popularity.
There is a good selection of hotel accommodation at all levels in the area. All within easy walking distance of Temple Meads, Temple Quay, Old Market, and Redcliffe.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN TEMPLE
- ($$) Hilton Garden Inn Bristol City Centre
- ($$) Novotel Bristol Centre
- ($) Holiday Inn Express Bristol City Centre, an IHG Hotel
7. Bristol Airport, convenient hotels close to the airport
While an airport hotel may not be everyone’s first choice of accommodation, there are some sound reasons why it should be considered in certain situations. Not a major problem if you live in the centre of Bristol, being just 8-miles from the airport.
Business travellers are the obvious candidates for airport hotels. Late night flights in for a make or break business meeting the following morning, means a good night’s sleep is paramount.
You can clear arrivals, jump the waiting hotel shuttle and be in the land of nod within the hour. Instead of spending extra time trying to find a taxi to get you to a city centre hotel.
Even if travelling by car, booking an airport hotel on the edge of town means you can easily explore both the city and surrounding areas. At the end of your visit, you can jump straight into your vehicle and be picking up the main road home in minutes.
Instead of having to crawl bumper to bumper out of the city centre with thousands of commuters, all trying to get to work.
If you’re wondering where to stay in Bristol close to Bristol Airport, there are excellent hotels within just a couple of miles. With some offering their own transport to ferry you into the city centre and back during your stay.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN BRISTOL AIRPORT