Southville is a fun and interesting area immediately to the south-west of Bristol city centre, situated on the south bank of the River Avon.
Renowned for its vibrant street art and a selection of bars, cafes, restaurants and independent shops, the area has become increasingly gentrified over the last decade or so.
The resident population these days contains a vibrant mix of young professionals, older retirees and a wide range of artists and creative types. The areas is also incredibly popular for young families, with many of the pubs, such as the Tobacco Factory, being very child friendly.
Visitors will note that the architecture is also interestingly mixed, though still all relatively modern. A lot of properties around Southville were built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, plus many homes were rebuilt in the aftermath of World War 2.
There has also been significant modernisation with a lot of new properties built during the house price boom of the early twenty-first century.
Southville’s Location in Bristol
Southville is often associated with neighbouring Bedminster as they are so close to each other, with the Bedminster train station being the nearest rail link for Southville and Bedminster itself. Positioned on the south bank of the River Avon, Southville enjoys riverside amenities and activities that Bedminster does not, as well as great views of the river itself.
The location of Southville and its hilly streets also provide fantastic views of Bristol’s coloured houses as well as glimpses of the city centre’s tallest buildings, particularly the Radisson Blu Hotel and the Cabot Tower.
The main road is the A370 that runs straight across the top of Southville and links Bristol city centre with Weston-super-Mare and beyond. As well as the main road and nearby train connection, there are several buses that run through Southville helping to connect it to the surrounding suburbs and the city centre itself.
The History of Southville
Most of the oldest buildings around Southville were built around the end of the nineteenth century, though many of those were destroyed during the Second World War.
The nearby docks were a target for bombers and Southville unfortunately bore the brunt of much wayward firing. It has made for an interesting architectural mix in modern times though, as newer buildings were built to replace the destroyed ones and contrast starkly with the older properties.
The area also has some recent historical significance in the form of the Tobacco Factory building, which is the last remaining building of the site that formerly belonged to the W.D. & H.O. Wills company, who were the first tobacco importer in Britain to mass-produce cigarettes. Nowadays the building has been repurposed and houses a family friendly cafe / bar, theatre, performing arts school, offices and apartments.
The Dame Emily Park in the south-east of Southville is also home to a little bit of British history, as it was established on the site of the old Dean Lane coal mining pit which was closed 113 years ago.
Shopping in Southville
Even though it is a relatively small area, there is still plenty of good shopping to be had in Southville. The main hub of commercial activity is on North Street where there are many different stores, including known retailers alongside independent shops selling all sorts of interesting wares.
The actual shopping area is even larger if you include the parts that are technically part of neighbouring Bedminster. North Street is joined by East Street and West Street as hives of commercial activity, with the likes of independent furniture shops and a family-run butchers, as well as fair-trade and organic or whole food stores. There are also lively markets to enjoy, such as the Sunday morning market in the courtyard of the Tobacco Factory.
Including the overlap into Bedminster, the commercial area here is Bristol’s second largest shopping area and only a ten minute walk from the city centre itself.
Southville Bars and Restaurants
There are delicious award-winning Mediterranean dishes available at Souk Kitchen on North Street, classic and unique creations at the hugely popular Pizza Workshop, as well as some flavoursome Jamaican food at Jasper’s Jamaican Diner. And not forgetting Bristol#s very own South Indian Curry chain the Thali Café, which has a large restaurant on North Street.
Perhaps Southville’s most celebrated eaterie has to be the excellent Birch, which the owners describe as ‘one half restaurant, one half garden’. Book well in advance, as this is one of the most popular restaurants in Bristol.
Of course, there is still plenty of good old fashioned British food available too, with a particularly tasty Sunday Roasts available in most of the pubs and bars on North Street. The Old Bookshop and the Spotted Cow are two of our favourites.
There are plenty of bespoke eateries too, such as Earthcake which offers 100% vegan sandwiches and cakes. Then there’s the Old Bookshop which serves a variety of dishes as well as hosting fun or food-themed events such as quizzes and Curry Nights. There’s also the unique Mark’s Bread and Café, the quaint Margot May tea room and the cool and cosy Hennessey’s Coffee Lounge.
No matter how long your stay, you will never run out of good quality bars and restaurants in Southville to visit and enjoy.
Other Southville Attractions and Places of Interest
There are a couple of parks in Southville, though technically Greville Smyth Park is outside of the Southville boundary, but close enough to make little difference. It is popular for sports as well as families enjoying time together and local people walking their dogs.
The other park is the previously mentioned Dame Emily Park off of Dean Lane, which is smaller but also has arguably more character. There is a children’s park there, a designated green space and a skateboard park that is famous for the amazing artistic graffiti it is regularly decorated with.
Southville also helps host a couple of quirky annual events including the Winter Lantern Parade that takes place every December. The parade involves a procession of between one and two thousand people carrying illuminated lanterns while accompanied by music.
Window Wanderland is another interesting event that happens in February when an illuminated walking trail is created via decorations in the homes around North Street.
Southville’s most popular event though is Europe’s largest street art festival, Upfest, which showcases some of the best graffiti artists from around the world and is attended by thousands of people every year (although they’ve decided to give themselves a year off in 2019).