While travelling, I met a lot of people who had heard of my hometown, Bristol. I was pleasantly surprised, because I had never thought Bristol was the typical city to be on a traveller’s wishlist. However, in total contrast, I have listened to someone argue that the UK was London. They could not be more wrong. London is like a country of its own standing. It certainly does not represent the entirety of the UK. And Bristol is certainly worth stepping outside of London for. Below is a tiny sample of how to occupy your nights in Bristol.
Hyde & Co
Upper Bryon Place
Hailing back to the Prohibition era, Hyde & Co is a classic cocktail bar. It has only a bowler hat to signal its presence and you have to wait to be let in – if you’re classy enough that is, otherwise they may be “full”. Saying that, however, it is a small place so arrive early and well-dressed. The prices are inevitably steep, but they are worth it, because they are exquisite. The sultry interior is also worth the prices paid, including speakeasy low-lighting, a piano, and even a secret room tucked behind a bookcase.
PS If you like secret bars, also check out Red Light (Unity Street), a retro watering hole.
St Nicholas Street
Affectionately small and grimy, this bar is a great hangout if you want to keep the night cheap and easy-going. It has no cover charge and is spread out on several levels, with the dance floor at the top, which can get very hot due to the awesome eclectic music played. The bar offers a variety of interesting shots, including the ingredients of hot sauce and popping candy. Don’t worry if that’s not your thing, they do serve normal, less traumatising drinks at low prices. It’s also worth checking out their website (mothersruinbristol.weebly.com), because they sometimes have live bands playing.
NB The bar’s name is inspired by the UK’s addiction to gin in the 18th century. This addiction permitted women to drink, for the first time, with men in gin bars. Although, this supposedly led to a rise in prostitution and child neglect, and thus gin was named “mother’s ruin”.
A bowling alley, live bands and a bar that serves killer cocktails – where can this bar go wrong? The Lanes is a fun place to go, whether that involves bowling or dancing. The prices aren’t exactly cheap and they often have a cover charge, but the fun music and laidback atmosphere is worth it. Although the place itself is quite big, the different sections are small and intimate, with only four lanes for bowling and a petite dance floor. But that makes it all the more fun to mingle with new people.
Taking inspiration from the Prohibition era (a popular theme in Bristol), Bootlegger plays good music and serves equally good liquor. The prices are in that awkward place between cheap and expensive, but if you arrive during their many happy hours, they’ll swing into the cheap zone. A small bar, it is family run and independent, proving itself to be unique and full of charm. The atmosphere is friendly, cool and laidback, with regular themed nights, usually involving New Orleans-inspired blues and whiskey cocktails. So, if you like to feel classy while sipping chic cocktails and listening to swing and jazz, this place is for you.
The Old Duke
If you like live bands playing all sorts of jazz music, you would like the Old Duke. And it is hard not to like this bar. It is full of character and good booze, with frequent chances to see bands blasting tunes inspired from New Orleans styled jazz to modern swing. The best time to visit the bar is a late summer afternoon, where you can soak in the good music on benches stationed outside the bar on cobbled streets.
The Blue Lagoon Café Bar
Cheap and cheerful, this bar regularly hosts open mic nights and local bands. They have a range of beers, ciders and cocktails, including a fun blue cocktail that should come with a warning label if drunk in excess. The venue is a good size, with a great atmosphere that is fun and relaxed. The covered seating outside is a great place to mingle, or people watch one of the most eclectic streets in Bristol.
The Love Inn
A restaurant by day, club by night, this club is busy until the early hours, especially with the decent cover charge. The atmosphere is full of energy, fuelled by adequately priced drinks and electric beats. However, the allure of this club, for me, is the smoking area. Full of benches and twinkly lights, it is a fantastic chance to hangout and chat with strangers from all over Bristol, whether you’re a smoker or not. Yet the bar is a decent size, so if you did want to get your dance on, there is plenty of space.
There are so many other bars and clubs in Bristol, from fun LGBT nights to cider boats. Bristol itself is a fascinating city, with a fascinating history to match, which definitely merits a visit.