The Ultimate Bristol Suburb Guide: City Centre

The Ultimate Bristol Suburb Guide City Centre
Credit: Photo © Jeremy Bolwell (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Bristol city centre is located in the heart of Bristol, and it is one of the most exciting parts of the city. As you would expect, the city centre is home to many of the best bars, restaurants and attractions in Bristol. There is plenty to see and do including lots of cultural and historic attractions to keep you busy. Whether it’s your first visit to Bristol or you’re planning to move to the city, here’s a guide to everything you need to know about Bristol city centre.

City Centre Location in Bristol

The city centre’s rough geographical area can be described as being the area south of Cotham and Kingsdown and Clifton, north of the New Cut, and west of Lawrence Hill and St Pauls.

Transport to and from the city centre is easy from anywhere in Bristol. Many busses go into the city centre from the outskirts of the city, and Bristol Bus and Coach Station and Temple Meads railway station are also located in the centre.

The History of Bristol City Centre

The city centre in mediaeval times was located to the north of Bristol Bridge. During the 19th century, parts of the River Frome were covered over in various stages, and this area became the main hub of the tram network and now makes up part of the city centre. The area now known as Harbourside has also seen big changes over the decades. Once a busy dock, it has now an attractive development packed with shops, bars, restaurants and attractions.

Shopping in Bristol City Centre

There is lots of great shopping in Bristol. Shoppers will find everything they need in the Shopping Quarter Bristol city centre because there is something for everyone.

Broadmead consists of various pedestrianised streets lined with shops. Located just north of the historic centre, this area was redeveloped after the war and you can find a wide range of high street names here.

The Galleries was built in the 1980s. This modern and unique shopping centre is in the centre of Bristol Shopping Quarter. It is a huge centre with a large glass roof, and it’s home to all the big high street stores.

Park Street is an iconic shopping street in the centre, and is home to big brands and independent stores alike. This buzzing area also has lots of bars, restaurants and cafes.

There are also lots of markets in the city centre, with one of the biggest being St Nicholas Market in the Old City. It has been held here since 1743, and the Glass Arcade is a Grade I listed building. Visit the market to find a range of stalls selling clothes, handmade goods, food and more.

Bristol Harbourside Market is held on weekends and stretches along the waterfront. You’ll find a wide range of creative arts and crafts as well as food stalls.

The street food market on the Broad Quay is held on Wednesdays and Thursdays and is a great place to grab a bite to eat on your lunch break. While Finzels Reach Market is held on Fridays and Wednesdays, and you can discover tasty street food from local producers here.

Bristol City Centre Bars and Restaurants

You won’t be surprised to learn that there are dozens of excellent bars, restaurants and nightclubs for all tastes in the city centre. Here are some of the best.

City Centre Restaurants

Whatever type of food you feel like, there’s a good chance you’ll find something in Bristol city centre.

  • The Bristol Stable, Canon’s Road – Popular pizza restaurant with some unusual flavours.
  • Riverstation, The Grove – Waterside restaurant serving British-inspired food with a terrace and balcony that is very popular in the summer.
  • Old India, Saint Nicholas Street – Award-winning Indian restaurant specialising in slow-cooked Indian dishes.
  • Mackenzies, Canon’s Road – Another venue next to the water with a friendly atmosphere and lots of choice on the menu from tapas to pub meals.
  • No. 1 Harbourside, Canons Road – A very popular bar, which also has a very excellent menu of tasty dishes made with local food.

City Centre Music and Nightlife

There are some top bars, nightclubs and live music venues in Bristol city centre. Whatever sort of night you’re looking for, you’ll find it here.

  • Bristol Beacon (formerly the Colston Hall) – This large concert hall puts on all kinds of performances, from rock to classical music to comedy.
  • The Milk Thistle – Covering four floors in a historic building, this cocktail bar and lounge is one of Bristol’s most popular bars.
  • O2 Academy Bristol – Bristol’s biggest live music venue where all the biggest acts perform.

Other City Centre Attractions and Places of Interest

There are plenty of things to see and do in Bristol city centre, from Museums and art galleries to parks and historic attractions.

To enjoy some greenery, head to one of the many splendid parks like Castle Park next to Broad Weir. This large green area is free to enter, and you can see a bandstand, St Peter’s Church and the remains of Bristol Castle’s walls and keep.

Queen’s Square is a lovely central park between the Old City and Harbourside, and College Green at the end of Park Street is also pleasant. You could also visit Brandon Hill Nature Reserve off Park Street, a historical park with great views where you will also find Cabot Tower.

Take a stroll in the Bristol Old City quarter and discover its beautiful historic buildings along with a good selection of pubs and restaurants.

Two of the most nationally established and recognised of Bristol’s theatres are in the centre – The Bristol Hippodrome and Bristol Old Vic Theatre, both of which offer a wide range of performances throughout the year.

Other interesting places to visit include Arnolfini Gallery on the Harbourside, a top contemporary arts centre; Watershed, a media centre showing independent films and other events; Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, which has some wonderful art collections as well as archaeology and natural history exhibits; and the gothic medieval beauty of Bristol Cathedral.