The Bristol Hotel – a luxurious stopover on thriving harbourside

Staying at The Bristol Hotel, Michael Edwards discovers Bristol’s thriving waterside.

The Bristol Hotel deluxe room

Recently named Britain’s happiest city and acclaimed as one of the best places to live in UK, Bristol folk are smiling.

Twice, like a phoenix, the docklands have risen from the ashes. After Luftwaffe carpet bombing in the Second World War, the cranes and warehouses were rebuilt. Then, when the dockland fell quiet in the 1970s, eventually a new dockland rose again.

The railway lines remain on the quays and the cranes are now sculptural rather than functional.  Once these docks brought the world to Bristol and there’s still a cosmopolitan, even bohemian feel to the waterside.

The Bristol lobby seating area
The decor is modern stylish and very welcoming.

The Bristol Hotel, in prime position on the waterfront since the 1960s, has witnessed the regeneration programme. In fact, the hotel is a historical artefact, the Royal British Institute of Architects recognising the hotel’s design as a prime example of Modern Architecture. The hotel is a member of The Doyle Collection a carefully curated collection of eight Irish-family-owned luxury and urban hotels located centrally in London, Dublin, Washington DC, Cork and Bristol.

Now, The Bristol Hotel, exuding a real warmth and care for its guests, is at the heart of a regenerated harbourside. An area buzzing with bars, buskers, cafes, shops and restaurants. And it’s less than a minute from The Bristol Hotel to the nearest gallery, the Arnolfini Gallery of Contemporary Art.

River Grille RibEye and Sides - The Bristol Hotel reviewed.
The River Grille is famed for its stunning stunning Harbourside views … and its steaks.

A tall glass conservatory hosts the hotel’s River Grille.  Tall floor to ceiling glass windows give views out across the harbourside. As the name suggests, tender steaks and seafood, from the charcoal fuelled Josper Grill, are at the heart of the menu.

Bristol takes green food options very seriously too. The Bristol Hotel’s al fresco Shore Cafe, moving through the day from coffee to cocktails, also has several plant-based options on its small-plates tapas-style menu.

Many of Bristol’s attractions are within a short walk. M – Shed, once a warehouse and now a museum, tells the story of Bristol through its places, people and objects. In fact, M – Shed houses a controversial object from Bristol’s recent history: the statue of slave-trader Edward Colston recovered after protesters tipped it into the harbour.

Curating exhibitions at M – Shed is walking on eggshells. The city’s wealth was built on the profits of slavery. Though in the late 18th century Bristol began to acquire its reputation for protest with some residents boycotting sugar as part of the campaign to abolish the slave trade. Exhibits show how how Bristol has continued to be a city of conscience: fighting for women’s rights, opposing racism and campaigning for nuclear disarmament.

M Shed Bristol harbour - Th Bristol Hotel reviewed.
M Shed at Bristol harbour.

Though Banksy’s famous street art mural of a teddy bear throwing a Molotov cocktail at three riot policemen, entitled The Mild, Mild West questions whether Bristol has lost its cutting edge as The Wild, Wild West.

Until June 5th, 2022, M – Shed hosts an exhibition of 100 images, taking from the World Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Perhaps the most inspiring photographs appear in the “Aged 10 and under category”. With over 50,000 entries from 95 countries the standard of photography is astounding.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was central to Bristol’s development in the nineteenth century. He aimed to make the journey between London and New York as slick as possible. He planed for the Great Western Railway to speed west at 45 mph, steam engines travelling so smoothly that passengers would not spill their coffee.

SS Great Britain
Brunel’s impressive SS Great Britain is restored as a tourist attraction.

At Bristol, they would board the SS Great Britain to cross the Atlantic. After rusting for decades in The Falkland Islands, the rescued and restored ship has returned to Bristol. Today, visitors tour a ship that was virtually a floating town with a baker, barber, butcher and doctor. Even a cow hand as cows were kept on deck for fresh milk.

Part of the “Being Brunel” exhibition at the SS Great Britain shows a film which reveals Brunel’s anxieties. He felt guilt at the number of men who lost their lives fulfilling his vision.

At “We the curious”, looking at contemporary scientific issues with many interactive exhibits, the intellectual spirit of Brunel lives in.

For centuries, ships sailed the seven seas from Bristol. Bristol Aquarium shows the watery world they discovered with its tropical reef fish, octopi, piranhas, sharks and stingray. Unlike many aquariums, Bristol also presents surrounding plant life as well. A hothouse dome showcases the plant life flourishing alongside the Amazon.

Afternoon Tea at The Bristol
No short break is complete without afternoon tea and cake.

Although harbourside’s attractions are all within a short walk of The Bristol Hotel, it is good to have a luxurious base for recharging the batteries. Perhaps with afternoon tea in the hotel’s lounge or a cocktail overlooking the river. Locals would tell you that both the bar and the restaurant are both “gert lush”. That is “rather nice” if you need a translation from Bristol-speak. In fact, nowadays, Bristol’s harbourside is looking gert lush.

The Bristol Hotel fact file

To learn more about tariffs, rooms and menus visit The Bristol Hotel.

For more information on Visit Bristol and Visit England.

If you enjoyed The Bristol Hotel – a luxurious stopover on a thriving harbourside, you’ll find more boutique hotel break reviews on our Travel channel.

Image credit: SS Great Britain

Last modified: March 29, 2022

Written by 5:50 pm Around The UK, Travel

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