Bristol was one of the places I visited while on exchange and I was extremely fortunate to have had Ada’s company throughout my stay in Bristol. In fact, if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have set foot in Bristol at all.
It was my second trip out of France, my base for travelling around Europe, and the most relaxing one yet. I didn’t have any travel agendas to speak of, save for a proper catch up with an old pal of mine whom I have not spoken nor seen at all for 3 years.
- Where is Bristol, UK
- Best things to do in Bristol, UK
- How to get to Bristol, England
- How far is Bristol from London?
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Where is Bristol, UK
Bristol is a city in the southwest of England and it straddles River Avon. Once a maritime port, it is now a cultural hub and also, a university city.
Best things to do in Bristol, UK
This trip was mainly to catch up with an old friend so I wouldn’t say we got to do everything Bristol has to offer. However, the best thing about knowing a local is that you do not waste time and you get to see the city from their perspective.
So on to the exciting part! What to do in Bristol?
1. Awe at the Clifton Suspension Bridge
Like any tourist seeking out the best things to do in Bristol, I visited the Clifton Suspension Bridge. This bridge is the symbol of this city and took 33 years to be completed. That seems like a long time but have you ever thought of how a bridge is built? It actually is pretty fascinating. (You can read more about it here).
If you are visiting on a weekend, they do have free guided tours starting at 3pm (no reservations needed), so be sure to check that out!
The bridge illuminates when the sun sets – look how beautiful it is!
2. Slide down a natural rock slide!
Walk across the bridge and walk towards the Clifton Observatory (the higher tower) and you will pass by this natural rock slide! No gaudy plastic slides that are ubiquitous in every Singaporean neighbourhood, but a slab of rock in its place, polished clean from decades of kids (and adults’) sliding!
3. Check out Clifton Village
After visiting the bridge, you might want to check out Clifton Village where there are a number of independent shops and restaurants. This is a great place to chill after visiting the bridge to grab some English pie and coffee.
For those who enjoy shopping, the main shopping streets are – The Mall, Princess Victoria Street, Waterloo Street and Regent Street.
4. Visit St Nicholas Market
I visited St. Nicholas Market, an open-air but sheltered area (rain, shine, or the occasional hailstone event, fear not!) selling mostly homemade food and craft.
Calling out to all you home bakers and Pinterest enthusiasts, this will be your heaven. If you are here for lunch, head over to the glass arcade where there are a ton of food options and a pretty outdoor seating area to dine in.
I love exploring markets like these all around Europe. It’s inspiring to see homemakers selling their handicraft and tasting local specialty food, especially in such glorious sunny wintry weather.
Think beanie, a steaming cup of brew and some puff pastry to go along. It’s a slice of nirvana on Earth.
St Nicholas Market is on Corn Street and a part of what is considered to be the Old City. Bristol was once a medieval town so wander around and take a look at the buildings. Some of them are pretty distinct and you can tell at first glance.
5. Climb up to Brandon Hill and Cabot Tower
Free of charge? Check.
Beautiful views of the city? Check.
That’s what you get at the Cabot Tower atop the Brandon Hill. It’s a 105 feet tower built in 1897 to commemorate John Cabot’s famous voyage from Bristol and the continent of North America four hundred centuries ago.
It’s a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and a great place to have a picnic or catch up with old friends over a warm cuppa.
6. Explore Stokes Croft
If you are one to take some Insta-worthy photos, then be sure to explore the hipster street art from this outdoor art gallery space.
Besides the colourful artwork, there are a number of independent restaurants and cafes through one of the tunnels.
However, the area does get pretty sketchy with the squatters that are in the vicinity, so try to avoid this place at night!
7. Spend all your money on things you don’t need
While yes, this is not something you can only do in Bristol, but cut me some slack. Coming from Singapore, Marks & Spencer is expensive back home. Thus, coming to the UK, I just had to. I did some crazy (and I mean, CRAZY) Marks & Spencer shopping, for I was sadly deprived of that in France.
But Poundland is my favourite shop. Everything here is sold for a pound. I confess, it is hard to maintain any semblance of self-control here.
8. Bonus – Sneak into Campus grounds
I was lucky to be able to sneak in to University of Bristol‘s main hall and library to get a feel of these English students’ abode. They sure are hard workers!
It is actually very satisfying to see all the books being colour coded.
How to get to Bristol, England
How far is Bristol from London?
If you are coming from London, Bristol is just a 2 hour train ride west. Trains within the UK aren’t exactly cheap, usually starting from at least £25. However, if you book in advance, you might get a good deal.
Trains to Bristol Temple Meads set off from London Paddington. Upon reaching Bristol Temple Mead, you’re just a short bus ride/ 15 minute walk to downtown Bristol.
The cheaper alternative is to go by bus.
Buses are the cheapest way to travel within the UK. A journey can cost as little as £1!
This no-frills way to travel might mean that departure timings are at the crack of dawn and you may not get that coveted window seat on the bus.
The good thing is, these bus coaches have power sockets so don’t worry about your battery running dead en route. 😉Some buses come with Wifi too, so you can save on the data SIM just for that bit.
It totally slipped my mind that daylight saving was actually a thing in Europe and I arrived 1 hour before the time I told Ada. I also woke up 1 hour earlier before my bus departed for Cardiff, an hour that could have been better spent snoozing.
Lesson learnt: Don’t assume the time zones of the neighbouring countries are all the same; daylight saving can mess things up!
Most of my expenses on this trip came from shopping for food (translate: nuts and M&S), a little on clothes (such a pity that the winter sale is over when I arrived) and on overpriced food (Let’s not get into that). But then again, everything is twice the price of Singapore’s regular prices. That means a meal outside would easily cost £13.
I miss my hawker food. Char Kway Teow anyone?!
My greatest takeaways from Bristol were the inspiring poems and The Theory of Everything.
UK, I noticed, is on the forefront of the organic/ bio/ health-conscious lifestyle. Most of their merchandise – food in particular – are plastered with “organic”, “natural” and “gluten-free”.
To my surprise, they are very modern in the way they displaced physical cashiers with self-service machines that can “chomp” up your notes. There’s something about bagging up my own groceries that make me feel like such an adult!
What I miss most about Bristol is Ada’s clean spacious, not to mention the warm, shower, her overstocked fridge and some good ‘ol girl talk. It sure set me up for more fattening sessions in the days that followed. I am grateful for how this exchange gave me an opportunity to reunite with the people I haven’t met in years. Special shoutout to Florian Ze (in Amsterdam) and Clement Cosso (in Paris).
It was heartening to reconnect with the people I was once close to and outside Singapore too! I wish I could have stayed with them for longer but alas, the time had come to part.
Expenses Flight Paris-Bristol: £53, Paris-Bristol Miscellaneous: £60 Accommodation: courtesy of Ada
11 Feb 2015, Wed – 16 Feb 2015, Mon