Bristol is famous for lovable plasticine icons Wallace and Gromit and Brunel’s glorious suspension bridge and nautical masterpiece SS Great Britain. But did you know that Bristol is also a hotspot for independent stores and boutiques? Good news for ardent shoppers like Katie Rowe, VisitEngland’s copywriter and shopping pro, who loves nothing more than sifting through hoards of old clothes in search of a rare vintage treasure on a weekend shopping and pampering break.
Shop: stocking fillers
Not everyone likes the idea of wearing granny cardies, so you’ll be pleased to know there are plenty of places for freshly-cut fashions, as well as vintage finds. I drooled my Saturday away in places like Cabot Circus, Bristol’s swish shopping hub that’s home to all the trusty high street brands, and Harvey Nicks for extra-special stocking fillers like Alexander McQueen jewellery. FYI Santa, I’ve been a good girl this year…
Eat: boutique burgers
After spending all day selflessly hunting for Christmas pressies at Cabot Circus and along Park St – a handsome Georgian street lined with shops such as Cath Kidson, Motel, The Boot Room, Love From Random and BS8 – I slipped on my new heels (ok so not completely selfless) to check out Bristol’s nightlife. Sipping on a mojito and tucking into a ‘boutique’ chorizo and halloumi burger at Start the Bus while a DJ in a Hawaiian shirt played Fleetwood Mac remixes, I thought to myself there ought to be more bars like this: cool and arty yet at the same time unpretentious.
Relax: leafy Georgian splendour
Feeling a little groggy the next day, I skipped breakfast and broke away from the crowds by hopping on a bus to Clifton to discover Bristol’s genteel side. With its vast stretch of luscious protected land known better known as The Downs, some of the best views across the city and grand Georgian crescents, there’s plenty of space for a relaxing potter about in this leafy pocket of Bristol. Although the cosy Primrose Café is one particular spot that is always bustling, so I arrived early to avoid the queue that builds up on a Sunday when loyal locals stop by for a leisurely brunch.
Shop: silver screen jewellery
After wolfing down an Eggs Benedict drenched in creamy hollandaise sauce on one of the pavement tables that sprawl across Boyce Avenue, I went in search of more pressies inside Clifton Arcade. My first stop was Jean Jone’s Gallery. Jean is a vivacious local artist with more than a few colourful stories to tell both in person and through her gold leaf and turquoise-hued paintings of Clifton and Bristol. They caught my eye straight away, as did the dazzling window displays of Bees and Grave, whose show-stopping jewellery ranging from 1920s head pieces to modern costume jewellery that’s been featured on the silver screen. Then it was on to Otomi to browse for quirky gifts. Mexican wrestling masks are just the thing for little boys or grown men that have yet to give up their dreams, while Frida Kahlo notebooks make cute stocking fillers.
Relax: the lido life
After a night of pulling shapes at Start the Bus and an exhaustive Sunday filled with more shopping, I thought it only right for a little R&R at the Lido, a lovingly restored Victorian spa where relaxation and indulgence go hand in hand. A real retro treat with its outdoor changing rooms decorated with candy-striped curtains and traditional outdoor heated pool, I opted for a hot stone massage followed by a slap-up dinner at the on-site restaurant. Looking over the pool, it’s one of the best eateries in the city, serving up the likes of wood roast quail and homemade salted caramel ice cream.
Five more Christmas shopping hotspots in Bristol:
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