From high street favourites to indie boutiques, fabulous restaurants to independent cinemas, it’s not surprising that hordes of shoppers regularly descend on Bristol for its shopping.
Local values are strongly promoted around Bristol and there is a progressive and environmentally-conscious theme present among many of the city’s retailers. But while the multitude of independent shops gives Bristol’s shopping it’s unique character, there are also a lot of more commercial areas in which you’ll find all the familiar brands and retailers.
If you’re thinking about heading to Bristol for a day of shopping, here’s a rundown of what you can expect.
Cabot Circus Shopping Centre
Cabot Circus is probably the best place to start to get stuck into some serious shopping. It is located in the Broadmead shopping area, which is itself home to numerous excellent independent retailers.
The shopping centre complex is where you will find many of the best-known fashion brands such as All Saints and Harvey Nichols as well as Zara, Joules, House of Fraser and Fat Face. There are several famous-brand technology stores, as well as classic shopping centre staples such as Claire’s, Burton Menswear and Dorothy Perkins.
The architectural design of Cabot Circus is a sight to behold too, as it is very spacious and airy with a high and mostly transparent roof, which makes it feel almost like being outdoors. There is parking available, but it is also only 20 minutes walk or 10 minutes on the bus from the Bristol Temple Meads Train Station.
There are plenty of options in the food court, so you needn’t go hungry, with pretty much every craving satisfied in one way or another. There are numerous burger bars and chicken specialists, sushi and Chinese food, a Spud-U-Like, Pizza Express and various fancy restaurants if you prefer something a little more upmarket.
There are also many snack and dessert options including Ripple and Roll, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Ben’s Cookies and Patisserie Valerie, to mention but a few.
If you manage to get tired of shopping and eating, there is also a 13 screen Showcase Cinema showing the latest movie releases.
Cribbs Causeway Shopping Centre
Known locally as ‘The Mall’, Cribbs Causeway is located in the north of Bristol, just off junction 17 of the M5 motorway, and is another fantastic shopping experience that brings together many of the best brands and retailers under one massive roof. You can find the likes of Gap, John Lewis, Next, River Island, Topshop, Superdry and White Stuff here.
Cribbs Causeway itself is a sprawling retail park (the mall is just one part of this) and includes many other huge department stores like Oak Furniture Land, Currys PC World and one of the biggest ASDA’s in the UK, as well as a 12 screen Vue Cinema and bowling alley.
The Mall itself has a huge 7,000 parking spaces and there are numerous bus services that can take you straight there wherever you stay in Bristol.
The long winding Gloucester Road is the main event of independent niche shopping in Bristol. The road heads due north from the centre of Bristol and is worth dedicating an entire day exploring and enjoying the many independent shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. In fact, Gloucester Road is one of the most independent streets in the entire country, let alone in Bristol.
The shopping on Gloucester Road is a long way from the likes of Cabot Circus or Cribbs Causeway, with indie retailers such as Katze, a totally unique fair-trade alternative department store, the Playful Toyshop, an independent toyshop ran by a husband and wife team, and Flo-Jo Fabrics, specialists in providing quality fabrics for dressmakers, quilting, home furnishing and craft projects.
There is also one of the oldest exclusively vintage shops in the city in the form of Repsycho, which features two awesome floors of retro goods including clothing and homewares, as well as a basement jam-packed with second-hand vinyl records from all music genres.
You can get a haircut at any of the numbers of hairdressing salons and barbers dotted along the entire length of the road, and food and drink are never far away as there is an abundance of interesting bars and restaurants to tempt you, such as Voodoo Q, which serves authentic smokehouse food in voodoo-inspired surroundings, the family-run pizzeria Planet Pizza, and the Hobgoblin, serving tasty burgers and a great range of beers.
If you enjoy rooting through the second-hand goods populating the many charity shops Bristol has to offer, then try heading west off of Gloucester Road to visit the Henleaze area where there is more cool and quirky shopping to be enjoyed.
Bristol’s St. Nicholas Market (known locally as St. Nick’s) is the oldest market in Bristol and undoubtedly the city’s most famous. It’s located within Grade I listed Exchange, as well as parts of Corn Street, Wine Street and Broad Street. St. Nick’s is home to many independent sellers offering crafts and local produce, while the covered arcade creates a special atmosphere for a unique shopping experience.
The St. Nicholas Market also incorporates many other temporary markets, including the Farmers’ Market on Wednesday mornings where you can buy local produce directly from the producers, and the Nails Market where sellers specialise in photography, artwork and handcrafted items (Friday and Saturday only).
Other temporary markets include the Vegan and Wellness Market on Mondays, and the Bristol Flea Market on Saturdays, where you can rummage through all manner of bits and bobs including antiques, vintage or retro goods, and garden accessories.
Bristol also boasts a number of other interesting markets including the Harbourside Market, where you can find running along the undercover walkway by the waterfront.
This area gets especially busy and exciting on Wednesdays and Thursdays when the street food traders descend on the walkway to offer lots of locally produced snacks and meals prepared and cooked right there in front of you.
Other Notable Independent Shops
There is so much to enjoy about a shopping break in Bristol that we can’t possibly fit it all in here, but other areas worth a visit include North Street in Southville and Clifton Village. The latter features many upscale boutiques and quirky independent shops, as well as plenty of buzzing bars and restaurants.
There is so much to enjoy about a shopping break in Bristol that even if you spent a full weekend shopping in this pulsating city you’d barely scratch the surface. When you’ve exhausted the shops, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues on the likes of Gloucester Road, in Cribbs Causeway and at Cabot Circus, head to the delightful Clifton Village, a 10-15 minute drive from the city centre.
Here you’ll find yet more great shops to browse through and shop till you drop, including the Bristol Trading Post where you can pick up some truly unique home accessories and the Hidden Art Gallery, home to some fabulous artwork by 20th and 21st-century artists. For antique jewellery, antiques and silverware, step through Grey Harris and Co’s doors, one of the principle fine antique dealers in the West Country.
Another ‘must visit’ venue for serious shoppers in Bristol is North Street in Southville. Here bookworms will certainly be at home pawing over the hordes of books in the Old Bookshop. Connoisseurs of fine wine will also be in their element on North Street in the fantastic wine store Corks of North Street (which is actually the sister store of the original Corks of Cotham, just off Whiteladies Road).
In between shopping for books, fine wine, not to mention stylish clothing and exceptional homeware, you can tantalise your taste buds and replenish your energy levels for yet more shopping by enjoying a tasty meal in the many quality restaurants and bars on North Street, including the hugely popular Souk Kitchen with its colourful Middle Eastern tapas style menu.