Bristol and Bath; Bath and Bristol.
I honestly can’t separate the two cities in my mind, kind of like when you’re compelled to say someone’s entire name, first and last, out loud due to some pleasing rhythm or alliteration.
I’ve found these city pairings throughout the UK – a small beauty queen of a city near a larger, more Miss Congeniality-type metropolis. Think York and Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow, and now Bath and Bristol.
Base yourself in the larger for cheaper hotels and more food options, and nip over on the train to the beauty queens on day trips. What you’ll miss in tourism trappings you’ll gain in seeing real UK cities just going about their business. Both types have a fond place in my heart, the beauty queens for all the work that goes into maintaining so many layers of history, and the larger cities, not being quite as shackled to the past, have opportunities to grow and evolve, and yes, plenty of their own beauty spots as well. In this creaking metaphor, they did still make it to the pageant, after all!
This was my first visit to southern England that didn’t involve being sucked into the vortex also known as London. Bristol and Bath are in the southwest, Bristol is the last major English city before you hit Wales, while Bath is a short train ride southeast of Bristol.
I was too busy catching up with friends on this trip to take loads of photos, but why sweat it when there tons of great photographers out there? Get started with 39 stunning photos of Bristol and 10 amazing photos of Bristol. And when doesn’t BuzzFeed have an opinion on something? Living in Bristol ruins you for life.
Food, drink and kitties
While scrolling through TripAdvisor I noticed that Bristol pretty much has any type of food you could be craving. The usual suspects are all here, plus a few places I’m happy to pull over for whenever I see them, like Gourmet Burger Kitchen. I’m just going to pretend that the server didn’t hear me yelp in happiness as I bit into The Taxi Driver. But she totally heard me.
If you’re not sure what’s next, and you miss Yorkshire beer prices, deliberate over a pint at the King William Ale House. Cosy and just what you need, especially if it just started to drizzle. It’s on King Street, and you’ll want to walk over to Welsh Back for pretty river views and lots more dinner and drink options.
And if it’s getting late and you all just can’t decide what to eat, stop talking and just start walking to Catch22, where you will be in the opposite of a paradox because all the solutions to any possible craving are on their menu. As they say themselves, ‘100% the best place to go if you’re hungry’. Fish (obviously), burgers, salads, hot dogs, pies from PieMinister, ice cream, booze. You’re good. Just go.
Because I am going to tell you to go check out Clifton Suspension Bridge, I also need to tell you about Boston Tea Party. It’s one of those cafes that just solves all of your problems. Coffee, tea, bottled water, snacks, sandwiches, a loo, and if you grab a spot at the counter upstairs, the window overlooks the busiest t-intersection of Clifton Village for people watching, and you can even keep an eye on the buses that head back to the city centre from there. Super friendly staff too.
And finally, if you like cats and beer, has Bristol got a pub for you. Bag of Nails is at the very bottom of Brandon Hill Park, and well, just go. Yes, I was the kind of imbecile who arrived the second they opened one fine Saturday noon. Worth it for the peaceful pint and cat watching.
Climb up into Brandon Hill Park (you’ll see what I mean when you get there) and enjoy the gardens and another climb up Cabot Tower for even more impressive views of the city. Bonus points if you bring peanuts to feed to the squirrels.
The Last Bookshop – all books are under £3, just try to walk out without a new book.
Clifton Suspension Bridge – mebbe not quite as spectacular as the Brooklyn Bridge, but nonetheless it’s always great to see some excellent Victorian engineering up close and Bristol’s icon and calling card is no exception. Take a look down into the steep gorge the Avon River flows through, and a gander through Clifton village while you’re over that way.
I can honestly say that Bath swept me away not just with its beauty, but with how consistent that beauty is – in my eyes it’s up there with Paris and Venice. No false moves, no ‘who the fuck thought that 1960s monstrosity would look good there?’ moments. Just pure Georgian glory, with a little bit of Roman interest kept around for history. I love Unesco World Heritage Sites. In fact the only thing that marred the day was that we weren’t swanning around in Regency gowns and having British soldiers dance attendance on us. Some stunning shots here
Food and Drink
We just tootled in for a day trip but still managed to hit a couple of tearooms. The famous Pump Room connected to The Roman Baths turned us away at lunchtime after determining (by outright asking us at the door) that we didn’t plan to fork out £26 each for a full afternoon tea, and told us to come back after 2:30 pm. Ah, the cheekiness and confidence of a place that knows the dining room will be filled, so why not with punters willing to fork out the big bucks?
We shook the brief disappointment off quickly and found another tea room that was a little less haughty – Hands Georgian Tearoom. Their menu happened to have lots of delicious things for lunch, and all three of us ended up with their substantial Ploughman’s Lunch. Hey – touring beautiful cities is hungry work!
We did end up having a cream tea at The Pump Room later on that afternoon, and damn their eyes, it was splendid!
Top of your list should be The Roman Baths. Then go for a walk over to Pulteney Bridge, up to the Circus, and over to The Royal Crescent.