High 5: Brilliant Bristol

December 17, 2013

During my three years of living in Bristol, I was constantly charmed, often enchanted and frequently surprised by the quirks and peculiarities of this diverse and character-filled city. A leisurely walk takes you from the grand Georgian terraces of Clifton to the graffiti-spattered walls of rebellious Stokes Croft, home to the longest stretch of independent shops in Europe. I had many favourite haunts dotted around the city, but these are five that I think visitors to Bristol shouldn’t miss.

Now restored to its former splendour after being closed and abandoned in 1990, The Lido in Clifton is one of the UK’s oldest open-air swimming baths, first welcoming water babies in 1846. The restoration was completed in 2008, and the pool is now a beautiful and luxurious place for an outdoor swim, rain or shine (it is heated, but feels pretty bracing during winter!). There is also a poolside bar and restaurant serving up tasty tapas, and a spa with a great range of beauty treatments if you’re after some pampering.

The Cube Microplex
Run by a team of artistic and imaginative volunteers, The Cube is an eccentric combination of cinema and arts centre, housed in a former am-dram theatre and held together by a mixture of enthusiasm and gaffer tape. On the bill are independent films, debates, discussions and cabaret performances, all taking place in an admittedly dingy but vastly charming theatre. The Cube is committed to showcasing the work of local and amateur artists, earning it a place in the hearts of local residents – a place which was surely cemented when the community recently raised a whopping £185,000 so that The Cube could buy its premises and continue trading.

Primrose café
Nestled cosily in cute-as-a-button Clifton Arcade, a quick sashay from the famous suspension bridge, Primrose Café takes great pride in topping up the sugar levels of the residents of this well-heeled part of town. A stroll through the village always seemed to lead me here, and often involved a hefty slice of carrot cake or spiced apple loaf. As well as the café’s treacly treats, there is also a proper restaurant with a good range of bistro offerings. Take a seat by the window or on the terrace and it’s very easy to while away the day, and somehow end up ordering second helpings of that carrot cake.

The Apple
Oenophiles, whisky lovers, gin connoisseurs! Forget your usual tipple in The West Country; this is cider country. The Apple, a converted Dutch barge floating in the middle of Bristol’s Old City, has an astonishing array of ciders and perries to suit every taste, from a dry and crisp classic pint to a blow-your-socks-off potent brew which might send you to bed earlier than you were hoping. Three years and many evenings at The Apple certainly gave me a taste for Somerset scrumpy and I defy anyone to choose a tepid pint of Fosters at their local after a sip of these traditional local beverages.

A Grade II listed converted warehouse in the centre of the city is home to Arnolfini, a space dedicated to showcasing and celebrating contemporary visual arts, dance, film and music. Guests have a choice of five exhibition spaces and a theatre auditorium to visit, which are consistently filled with varied content. It’s a great example of Bristol’s cultural and artistic diversity, and the exhibits I visited were always beautifully curated. Unlike some other galleries, the atmosphere here is always down to earth and welcoming, and I never felt like I needed to be an art critic to enjoy the works on display.

 Matilda Long