Where To Stay In Bristol: The Ultimate Neighborhood Guide
There are plenty of good reasons to plan a visit to Bristol in the UK. Bristol is a university city in the southwest of England around an hour and a half's train ride from London. It has a similar ambiance and is as architecturally interesting as the more well-known British university cities of Cambridge and Oxford, but maintains a more down-to-earth, less academically-focused vibe.
Bristol sprawls along both sides of a long stretch of the broad and winding River Avon. While the city gives its name to the smallest county in England, it's still an area that covers around 40 square miles. That's a pretty big area.
When you visit this historic harbor city, it's vital that you choose the right neighborhood to stay in or you could spend your entire time here just getting around Bristol. That's easy enough but can prove to be time-consuming so you won't be able to make the best of your time here.
You won't be able to make the most of your stay either if you're dragging a couple of suitcases around with you. Leave your bags at a Bounce luggage storage facility in Bristol and you'll be burden-free to hop on the local public transport and take amazing photos of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol Castle, or Bristol Cathedral.
Where To Stay In Bristol
Bristol City Center
Bristol city center or to use the correct British spelling, Bristol city centre, is one of the best spots to get accommodation if you want to be right in the heart of the city. You will, in fact, get two places in one as Bristol city centre is also the location of the historic part of Bristol known as Old City.
Stay in Bristol city centre and you'll be within walking distance of both modern and medieval architecture. In the city centre you'll find the superb public green space of Castle Park, be right by the River Avon and be in the right location for visiting several of the city's main attractions like the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery or for going shopping in the Bristol Shopping Quarter mall.
There's as much to do in Bristol's city centre at night as there is during the day, and thankfully, the things to do at night in Bristol aren't restricted to sipping pints in a stuffy pub, so be prepared for a few surprises. In Bristol city centre, you'll come across jazz clubs, theaters, and even an urban ax-throwing venue. If that's not diverse entertainment, then nothing is.
There's a good selection of hotels in Bristol city centre that for the most part are reasonably priced. You'll find large chain hotels with three and four stars for less than £100 per night. Breakfast and free wifi are a standard inclusion and if you search carefully you'll even come across a couple with indoor swimming pools.
Bristol Old City
While the district known as Old City in central Bristol is in the city centre, parts of it date back to Norman England. That's around the late 11th century so Bristol Old City has a real medieval feel. Winding cobbled streets lined with vintage buildings, narrow alleyways, and open squares are what characterize this central Bristol district.
Old City is popular with visitors who enjoy that olde worlde atmosphere, but who don't mind wearing sneakers all day so they can cope with the cobbles or the Christmas Steps when they're out exploring.
Bristol Old City is a great part of the city for shopping because as well as hundreds of boutique stores, the St Nicholas Market is located here. It's a market that's been operating since the mid-1700s and takes place six days a week. Next to the market is a shopping arcade called the Glass Arcade, which is crammed with stores, stalls, and pop-ups plus a food hall where you can get the best brunch in Bristol.
Old City may be archaic, but it's a great place to stay in Bristol if you like upmarket accommodation housed in renovated grandiose buildings. There are a few guesthouses and bed and breakfasts in this area too. One even has a deluxe caravan in their garden where you can spend the night. Quirky, but fun.
If you're hoping to be sportingly active consider staying in the Bristol Harbourside district.
Bristol Harbourside is where all the boats once sailed into the city docks and would, in bygone times, have been a place you'd more than likely avoided. Now it's a trendy area of the city with a unique buzz that's also home to many of Bristol's big attractions such as Bristol Cathedral, the Bristol Aquarium, the Bristol Hippodrome, the Watershed, the Arnolfini art gallery, and We The Curious, a type of museum with hands-on exhibits.
There are also lots of opportunities to participate in water-related sports in Bristol Harbourside too. So if you enjoy canoeing, kayaking, or paddle boarding, like to go yachting, or take a leisurely river cruise, you'll be in the right place.
There's an eclectic mix of accommodation available in Bristol Harbourside. It ranges from shared rooms in a hostel to basic rooms in a three-star budget chain hotel or a four-star hotel room that's slightly more deluxe. Harbourside is one of the more popular areas of Bristol for people to stay in so nothing is cheap, not even hostel accommodation.
Wapping Wharf is part of Harbourside, on the opposite side of the river to the main district, that's becoming a fashionable area of the city in its own right. Wapping Wharf has a Bohemian atmosphere that attracts the younger generation in droves.
Spots like Cargo where the shops, cafes, and pop-ups are all housed in renovated shipping containers are favorite go-to haunts as is the store and eatery-lined pedestrianized walkway called Gaol Ferry Steps. The accommodation in Wapping Wharf is pretty much all residential although search hard enough and you may encounter some short-term availability on Airbnb or other similar private rental websites.
Bristol Shopping Quarter
If shopping is the main reason you're going to stay in Bristol, then you should seriously contemplate staying as close to Bristol Shopping Quarter as your budget will allow. This area of Bristol centre is crammed full of stores and is where the Cabot Circus Shopping Centre is located.
There are four distinct parts to the Quarter and they are Broadmead, the Quakers Friars, The Galleries, and Cabot Circus.
Broadmead and Quakers Friars - Broadmead and Quakers Friars are a pedestrianized area that incorporates several streets lined with big-name chain stores, independent boutiques, cafes, pubs, and restaurants.
The Galleries – The Galleries is a glass-roofed arcade-type mall in Broadmead housing over 100 stores.
Cabot Circus – Cabot Circus is Bristol's piece de resistance where retail is concerned. Part indoor and part outdoor, Cabot Circus is an immense mall containing more shops than you could visit in a fortnight.
Accommodation in this part of Bristol centre is mostly on the outskirts of the Broadmead commercial area. You'll find one or two hotels within walking distance of the plaza known as the Bearpit, which are chain hotels offering rooms at moderately reasonable prices.
Old Market Quarter
The Old Market Quarter is Bristol's gay village and one of the Bristol neighborhoods where there's always something going on. Around the Old Market Quarter, you'll find lots of small LGBT-run or gay-friendly businesses.
The Old Market has a lively nightlife scene and hosts many LGBT events throughout the year. The closest hotels to Old Market are the luxury and boutique hotels on the edge of Bristol city centre around Castle Park.
Bristol Airport is less than ten miles from the city center and operates with short-haul European flights and routes within the United Kingdom and Ireland. The airport doesn't have a train station, but the AI Bristol Flyer runs a 24-hour service with departures every 20 minutes from the airport to Bristol city centre and the Bristol Temple Meads station.
The closest hotel to Bristol Airport is the Hampton by Hilton, a modern hotel with spacious rooms and all the amenities including an on-site gym. There are many other guest house-type hotels within a short driving distance from the airport. To get to them you need to use a local taxi service or hire a car.
If you prefer to stay in the Somerset countryside in a small and friendly accommodation rather than in an urban setting, you'll find many of these suitable for your needs. Keep in mind though, that as they're all between one to three miles from the airport, and Bristol Airport ranks in the top ten of the UK's busiest airports, you may experience some air traffic noise. You’ll also need to use taxis or have a hire car to get into Bristol city centre or to get to Temple Meads train station if you want to go anywhere else.
Choose to stay in Clifton rather than Bristol itself and you'll have the best of both worlds on your doorstep. Clifton is a village that practically borders the city's College Green neighborhood and is home to several of Bristol's main attractions, manmade and natural. If you're a golfer, Clifton will be heaven on earth for you as there are several 18-hole golf courses close by.
Clifton is a village with lots of historic buildings, but the one structure most people go there to see is the Clifton Suspension Bridge. The village is also where Bristol Zoo is located, but that has to vie for attention with the beautiful area of open countryside that borders the village known as Clifton Down.
Clifton Down is perfect for hiking or any other outdoor leisure activity and ideal for dog walking if you're traveling with your four-legged friend. Keen gardeners won't want to miss visiting the University of Bristol Botanic Gardens which are on the far side of the down
The spot most people have high on their list of places to go here, though, is the Clifton Observatory. The Clifton Observatory is housed in an 18th century renovated windmill and contains a camera obscura for public use. While the camera does offer views of the surrounding Somerset countryside, the best views are obtained if you climb to the top of the windmill from where you'll get panoramic vistas. Amazing views of the bridge and the gorge it crosses can also be seen from the Giant's Cave.
The hotels and guest houses in Clifton village are few and far between plus very select, so expect to pay quite a high price for the view of the bridge and gorge from the bedroom window of your luxury hotel. The hotels in the Tyndall's Park area, a nearby suburb of Bristol, offer a larger variety of accommodation and are slightly lower priced.
After reading through this guide about places to stay in Bristol, you may have come to the conclusion that it's not the most economical of English cities to stay in. That said, if you search carefully you will come across an affordable mid-range hotel that won't cripple your credit rating.
When you're visiting Bristol, the most important thing to do before booking a hotel is to decide the following things. Do you want to be in a central location close to all the tourist attractions? Do you want the best luxury hotel or just somewhere with a couple of comfy beds? Do you want Bristol accommodation that overlooks Millennium Square or a room with a view of Clifton Downs? Once you've made those decisions you'll be ready to book your room and start packing.