Straddling the banks of the River Avon, the culture pot that is Bristol is boiling over with hidden gems. Home of Banksy, Cary Grant and Captain Blackbeard, England’s largest south-western city has been churning out artistic individuals since the early days. Stray from the beaten track of the multicultural university city and discover what’s behind its closed doors. Here’s our guide to Bristol’s best kept secrets.
Said to be the steepest street in England, Vale Street has locals tying their cars to lampposts to stop gravity causing accidents. Inclining at a gradient of about 22 degrees, the residential street is roughly a 20 minute walk from Temple Meads Station. Favoured by cyclists as the challenge of the day, the street is also used as the course for Easter Egg races by residents in springtime.
This guesthouse is taking ‘room with a view’ to a new level. Spend your weekend waking up to panoramic views of the city by sleeping in a vintage aluminium caravan on the roof. Coming in various sizes of 16, 18 and 20 feet, these caravans come with all the luxuries of a modern hotel room including a full en suite and television. Sort of like glamping, but much more luxurious, this is the perfect accommodation to match your visit to the quirky hipster hotspot.
Built in the mid 1400s, Bristol’s got itself its very own leaning tower. Temple Church leans out as far as one and a half metres and has survived war bombings. Right in the centre of town, stand underneath and see for yourself as the structure moves before your eyes!
A surprise to most people, a labyrinth of caves exists underneath the Redcliffe area of the city. The red sandstone was originally dug into for glassmaking in the Middle Ages. Take a two hour tour of the underground maze that stretches for over more than an acre and learn about the history in the bowels of the city. Check for any events as the caves are regularly used to host film screenings and theatre productions.
The family-run business has been serving up a slice of the West Country on a plate since 2017. Aiming to cater for every individual, especially those with dietary requirements, they offer an extensive menu of locally sourced produce and plenty of vegan options. Dining at Durty Gurties is all about the experience as they host pop-up themed events on a regular basis and guarantee an evening you’ll never forget.
Taking over a derelict 1950s dockside transit shed, this museum of Bristol’s history tells the story of the city and its people in a new, innovative way. Through interactive displays, historical artefacts and stories from local personalities, the space encourages memorable, immersive learning. Discover the history of the bustling trade industry in the heart of the action and walk around the working exhibits on the harbourside. A fun, interesting day out for everyone, this is definitely one to add to the list of things to do in Bristol.
Perhaps not the most secret activity on the list, if you truly want to discover Bristol you need to book a ride in a hot air balloon. There is no better way to see the city’s sights than from miles above, ensuring you get the ultimate panoramic view of Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge and all the other gems lying below. As the world’s biggest hot air balloon manufacturer, the city hosts the annual Bristol International Balloon Fiesta featuring the launch of over 100 colourful balloons at once.
Plastered onto the side of a sexual health clinic, Banksy’s satirical graffiti sits loud and proud. The anti-establishment street artist has plenty of works scattered round the street of his hometown. The novelty of this one mixed with its location means that once you’ve taken the obligatory photo you can wander up the hill to Park Street and do a spot of shopping.
For all the cat lovers out there, Bristol has the pur-fect place for you. As the city’s first ever cat café, You & Meow is hidden around the side of the Hippodrome and strives to create a slice of tranquillity away from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets. Inspired by the zen Japanese gardens, the café aims to provide the companionship of a furry friend without the responsibilities of looking after an animal. Sip on some tea and play with the rescue cats for an experience unlike any other.
Celebrating Bristol’s link with the Robert Louis Stevenson’s 19th century novel, the Treasure Island trail takes you through eight significant spots in the heart of the historic Floating Harbour. Marked by black spots and planted barrels, the family-friendly walk is a great way to immerse everyone in the dockland’s history and see more of alternative Bristol.
Located just off the famous Park Street, the 18th century six-storey townhouse was built in 1970 for John Penny. It is of notable significance to Bristol’s history due to the fact that it was also the home of Pero. The slave served the house for over thirty years and has a footbridge named after him. Wander round the 11 rooms which have been restored and decorated to their original state and take a glimpse at how the other half lived in the most affluent parts of the city.
Hidden behind a telephone booth and marked with a white flag, the innovative speakeasy has the most creative cocktails in town. Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a haven for fans of the fruity concoctions and their ‘British Passport’ menu features the most Instagrammable drinks served to you in inkwells and wellington boots.
Last but not least, head out of town a little and go in search of the abandoned railway once home to the war broadcastings of the BBC. The water powered underground funicular railway used to run inside the rock of the Avon Gorge as not to spoil the landscape. Go on a free guided tour to learn more about the history of this hidden gem underneath the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge.
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Flights to Bristol
- Lucy Norris