Where to Stay in Bristol First Time: 10 Best Areas

The best areas to stay in Bristol for first-timer are the neighborhoods around City Centre, Harbourside, Old Market, Stokes Croft, Clifton, Temple, and Bristol Airport. This blog will help you to decide where to stay in Bristol for tourist and best places to stay in each area.

Bristol is a beautiful, vibrant city in the Southwest of England. Once a busy port town, Bristol is now a fashionable city renowned for its excellent arts and culture, first-class nightlife and entertainment, and brilliantly preserved historical architecture. 

The home of Banksy, Bristol is a mecca for street art, and the thread of artistic integrity and authenticity runs strongly through the city. If you are looking for a modern city rich with charm and character, Bristol is for you.

Bristol Old City is without doubt, the best area to stay in Bristol for first-timers because it has a super central location, within easy walking distance to many famous attractions. The neighborhood offers a wide range not only in accommodation but also restaurants, bars, and shops.

💖 Best Area for first-timers:Bristol Old City
💎 Best luxury hotel:Radisson Blu Hotel, Bristol
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:The Bristol Hotel
💰 Best budget hotel:Bristol Harbour Hotel & Spa

📌10 Best Areas to Stay in Bristol for tourist

1. Old City, where to stay in Bristol for first-timer

Bristol Old City is, as you might expect, one of the most historic neighborhoods in Bristol. Lovers of historical architecture will enjoy wandering the lanes and back streets lined with buildings constructed throughout the various eras since Bristol’s founding. 

Meanwhile, those who prefer indulging in modern culture and hospitality will find plenty of quirky shops and cafes to keep them entertained. One of the dominating features of the area is the Queen Square at the southern end of the Old City. The leafy park provides a calm green area to relax on warm days and makes for a popular meeting point for both locals and tourists.

This end of the Old City is surrounded by the docklands and the local hospitality takes advantage of the lovely views over the water. You can find plenty of fashionable bars and restaurants lining the waterfront, so you can enjoy wining and dining whilst overlooking the marinas. 

The area is full of various art installations and monuments. While they’re each worth visiting in their own right, one not to be missed is the Cascade Steps leading down to the water. The fountain installation features a marble staircase turned into a waterfall, while two public access stairways lead down either side, adding to the illusion.

If you prefer performance art, then you should make sure to check ahead to see what’s on at the Bristol Old Vic during your visit. The iconic theatre is the center point for theatrical art in Bristol and puts on some of the best productions in the city. Booking in advance is heavily advised if you don’t want to miss out on a show. 

If you enjoy shopping but prefer independent shops and stalls over chain stores and shopping centers, you are in luck with the Old City. There are quirky boutiques and artsy shops all over the neighborhood, so spend a while exploring the lanes as you wind your way north to St Nicholas Market. 

Hosted in a beautiful Georgian Glass Arcade, this bustling market boasts an array of stalls and stores, offering everything from street food and baked goods to craft items and antiques. You can enjoy browsing in the historic venue before heading over to the nearby flea market for more bargain hunting.

Continue the historic shopping experience by heading to the Christmas Steps next. The narrow shopping lane has been a Bristol icon since the steep steps were constructed in 1669, funded by a local wine merchant.

To keep you busy, the Bristol city center also offers Cabot Circus, Bristol Cathedral, the Street Food Market, the Bristol Shopping Quarter, Bristol Zoo, Bristol Old Vic, Bristol Central Library, Baldwin Street, The Galleries to explore.

Stay in Bristol Old city if you are visiting Bristol for the first time; you want to appreciate the history of the city; you want to stay close to the waterfront; you prefer shopping at independent boutiques and markets.

Best places to stay in Bristol Old city:

luxury ($$$): Radisson Blu Hotel, Bristol Set in the heart of Bristol’s bustling city center, offers views of the waterfront. Within a short walk from major sights of Bristol such as Bristol Cathedral, Bristol City Hall, Cabot Circus, and Bristol Temple Meads Station. It has spacious rooms with a flat-screen TV, mini bar, tea/coffee making facilities, air conditioning, and free wifi.

mid-range ($$): The Bristol Hotel This 4-star hotel is located on the quayside of the Floating Harbour, within walking distance from Brunel’s SS Great Britain, Queens Square, and the Arnolfini Gallery, Castle Park, the Galleries shopping center, Cabot Circus, and the Bristol Cathedral.

budget ($): Bristol Harbour Hotel & Spa Located just 600 m from Bristol Cathedral, Bristol Harbour Hotel provides an award-winning restaurant, bar, and free WiFi. Close proximity to Cabot Circus, Clifton, Bristol Temple Meads train station.

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2. Clifton, where to stay in Bristol for families

best place to Stay in Bristol: Clifton
Clifton

The north-western suburb of Clifton is an affluent neighborhood that is known for its independent shops and boutiques, high-end dining, and chic bars. But Clifton is more than just a fancy suburb and there is plenty for visitors to see and do here.

The most famous attraction in the area is the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge. The bridge finished construction in 1864 and has stood as both a marvel of engineering and a major landmark ever since. Images of the bridge can be found on most Bristol souvenirs and postcards, so it is an absolute must-see for anyone visiting the city. 

If you decide to actually cross the bridge, you will be able to visit the Leigh Woods visitor center and museum, where you can learn more about its construction and the turbulence surrounding its development.

Just north of the bridge is the Clifton Observatory. Converted from an 18th-century windmill, the observatory offers some wonderful views. Visitors should definitely stop to enjoy said views and a drink from the rooftop café.

A great venue for a family day out is the wonderful Bristol Zoo Gardens. The zoo focuses on conservation and education, with a wide range of animals housed here, from penguins to gorillas to lizards. 

It is a great place for everyone to learn about the animals we share our world with whilst enjoying a walk around the lush gardens. There’s even an onsite hotel, The Lodge, for guests who want to stay at the center of the park.

The north of the district is dominated by the Clifton Downs. The vast fields stretch along the River Avon and then lead away across the top of Clifton, taking up about a third of the region’s area. Comprised of both woodland and open grass, it’s a great place for the whole family to get out in the fresh air for a walk.

Just across the river is the National Trust Leigh Woods. The protected forest boasts several trails winding through the trees and plenty of historic sites and curious structures to discover. 

Other highlights for you to explore are Ashton Court, Clifton and Durdham Downs, University of Bristol Botanic Gardens, and the Victorian Clifton Arcade.

Stay in Clifton if you are visiting with young children; you want to stay in central Bristol; you want to stay in a laid-back suburban area but still have easy access to the Bristol city center; you enjoy spending time outdoors.

Best places to stay in Bristol Clifton:

Beech House These stylish boutique apartments are situated just off Whiteladies Road in Clifton. Free WiFi is provided. Beech House is also within walking distance from the shops and restaurants of Clifton Triangle and Park Street and the Clifton Lido and Spa. Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol Zoo Gardens, and Bristol city center are also within walking distance.

Number 38 Clifton A contemporary boutique hotel set in a Georgian townhouse, Number 38 Clifton offers stylish rooms with views of the Clifton Downs or Bristol city center. With a garden, terrace, and free Wi-Fi, this hotel is within 10 minutes walk of bars, restaurants, and Clifton Down Train Station. It is also close to Bristol City Museum, Art Gallery, and Bristol Zoo.

Victoria Square Hotel Clifton Village is set on a leafy Georgian square in fashionable Clifton Village. It is located 1.6 km from Bristol’s centre. Close proximity to Bristol Zoo, Clifton Suspension Bridge, and Bristol Temple Meads Train Station.

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3. Old Market, where to stay in Bristol for nightlife

Old Market, where to stay in Bristol for nightlife
Future Inn Bristol near Old Market

Just east of Broadmead, Old Market is another of the neighborhoods that date back to the time of the city’s founding. Old Market in particular is so packed full of superbly preserved historic buildings that it has been designated as a Conservation Area of national significance. 

Once a major marketplace lining the road leading to the local castle, Old Market is now a thriving hub of alternative culture. Old Market is well known by both locals and tourists as being home to some of the best nightlife Bristol has to offer. 

With more of a laid-back, authentic atmosphere than many of the party districts in the city center, this is an area where you can enjoy a fun night out away from the fabricated gimmicks of the hyper trendy contemporary bars and clubs in the tourist districts.

Many of the venues here are hosted in converted historic buildings, so you can find plenty of unique locations with an authentically quirky atmosphere.

This Bristol’s Gay Village is also where you will find most of Bristol’s specifically LGBT-friendly nightlife, mostly concentrated around the main A20 road.

Whilst Old Market is relatively close to the city center, it’s still further from the main tourist hubs and attractions than many of the other districts on this list. Old Market is ideal for those looking for a more bohemian neighborhood away from the tourist traps and crowds of the city center. 

However, if it’s your first time visiting, or you are only staying for a shorter trip, then the slightly more awkward location may be a drawback.

Stay in Old Market if A thriving nightlife scene is important; LGBT, gay-friendly bars are a plus; You appreciate historical architecture; You want to stay in a more alternative, bohemian area;

Best places to stay in Bristol Old MarketFuture Inn Bristol ibis Bristol Temple Meads

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4. Broadmead, where to stay in Bristol for shopping

Broadmead is Bristol’s modern City Centre. A hub of multiple large shopping centers, connected by broad pedestrian-only avenues, this is the perfect area for anyone who wants to spend their vacation engaging in a bit of retail therapy.

This area is for those who enjoy the contemporary shopping experience. If you are looking for independent boutiques and local craft stores, you won’t be finding many of those here. What you will find is a host of well-known brands from Zara to Ted Baker, as well as plenty of chain cafes and restaurants to keep you refreshed. 

If you get tired of shopping and want to experience a bit more of Bristol’s modern culture, you might want to see if anything is going on at The Bear Pit. This unusual public park is located in the middle of a busy roundabout, accessible by either the pedestrian crossings or several subways. 

The park is a good place to spot some local art, both in the form of official sculpture installations, as well as street art and graffiti over almost every available surface. 

Street-food stalls are often set up here, and it is a popular spot for public speakers and street performers to draw in a crowd. It also hosts various public events throughout the year, so it’s definitely worth checking out.

But it’s not all concrete shopping malls. At the south of the area is the lovely Castle Park, a large public garden stretching along the length of Broadmead, between the shopping centers and the river Avon. 

Aside from being a charming spot for a riverside picnic, the park is home to the remains of several historical structures, most notably the castle which grants the park its name. Bristol Castle is now largely ruined, but what remains is in remarkably good condition considering it dates back beyond the writing of the Doomsday Book in 1086. 

Despite various attempts over the centuries to tear it down, and suffering under the bombings of the blitz, there is still enough of this once grand fortress remaining to make it worth the visit. 

The center of the park is home to another ruined building, St Peter’s Church. Dating back almost as far as the castle, the church is in somewhat better shape, despite having also been bombed during the blitz. 

It’s not structurally sound enough for you to go inside but it makes an impressive sight, especially when you consider that it is almost a thousand years old.

One last ruin stands in the west end of the park, Saint Mary le Port Church. With foundations dating back as far as the Saxons, the church as it stands today was built in the 11th century and stood the test of time until it too succumbed to the blitz. The church is now surrounded by modern buildings, so you have to make a point to look for it through the trees.

Stay in Broadmead if Shopping is a highlight of your vacation; You want to stay somewhere very central; You enjoy viewing ancient ruins and historical buildings; You want somewhere with a lot of variety as to what is on offer.

Best places to stay in Bristol Broadmead:

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Check out my virtual tour about the best places to stay in Bristol in this video:

5. Harbourside, where to stay in Bristol for sightseeing

Harbourside gains its name from its past as the primary docklands for this once busy port city. In the modern-day it has transformed into a thriving entertainment center, boasting some of Bristol’s top sights and attractions. 

One of the main attractions of both the area and the city as a whole is the magnificent Bristol Cathedral. Dating back to the 12th century, parts of the original structure and even furnishings still remain. 

However, much of the building has had to be rebuilt or renovated over the centuries, and as such the Cathedral stands as a monument to the various architectural fashions through the ages. 

The Cathedral sits just across the College Green from the Bristol Council Building. The curved red brick building is a grand structure in its own right, and the proximity between the two offers a great contrast between historic and modern architecture.

Just south of the cathedral is the Bristol Aquarium. Home to an array of exhibits displaying numerous fascinating sea creatures, the aquarium makes for a fun and educational family day out.

More than just for entertainment, the aquarium is also a conservation center, involved in various breeding programs and awareness campaigns. 

For more maritime fun you can head to see Brunel’s SS Great Britain. The restored and permanently moored 19th century passenger ship has been converted into a museum for everyone to enjoy. 

Visitors can explore the deck and cabins and learn about her construction and journeys. The ship is docked just across the river, so to reach it you can catch a ferry from one of several terminals and enjoy a short cruise. 

Whilst in the area, you should also take the time to visit Millennium Square. The open public square is ringed by shops, cafes, and restaurants, whilst the square itself is full of various art installations and statues of notable Bristolians. 

Along the waterfront, many of the remaining warehouses and port facilities have been converted into trendy restaurants, bars, and cafes. Especially in the summer, it is a lovely place to go for a meal or a drink with views over the river Avon.

If you need a break from the urban jungle, head to Brandon Hill in the north of the district. The sprawling public park is a great place to take a moment to relax. Families with children will appreciate the opportunity to let them run off some energy in the wide-open space.

Follow the paths to the top of the hill and you will come to Cabot Tower. Built at the end of the 19th-century, visitors can still climb to the top of the stone viewing tower for stunning panoramic views across the whole city.

Stay in Harbourside if A central location with a good variety of sights and attractions is ideal; You want to stay close to the river; You are traveling with family; You enjoy a good range of educational attractions.

Best places to stay in Bristol Harbourside:

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6. Temple, where to stay in Bristol near train station

The eastern section of the Redcliffe district is known as Temple Meads, or simply Temple. This area is home to Bristol’s major train station Bristol Temple Meads, which dominates the south sector. There are several hotels immediately next door to the station. 

This is an ideal location for anyone traveling in and out of the city by train, who wants to minimize time wasted traveling between the station and your accommodation.

Temple is a very central location. Just a few minutes north across the Avon are the shopping hub of Broadmead, and the nightlife center of Old Market. Meanwhile, immediately west is the popular central hub of Redcliffe. The train station also provides convenient access to districts of the city further from the center. 

Alternatively, the station also links to various villages and local towns in the area surrounding Bristol. If you would like to spend a day or two exploring more typical, small-town English life, or ramble around the countryside, this is a great place to stay for that convenience.

The area owes its name to the 12th century Temple Church. Whilst partially ruined by bombing during World War II, the outer walls still stand as a testament to the buildings enduring beauty. 

The Church itself gets its name from being built on the site of a previous Knights Templar Church. The circular footprint of that ancient church can still be seen within the walls of the newer square church.

Next to the church, the historic graveyard has been converted into the public Temple Garden. The leafy park is surrounded by pubs, restaurants, and bakeries, and makes a lovely place to relax with a picnic.

There is plenty to keep you entertained after sundown here too. There is a variety of bars and pubs that stay open until late, some with lovely views over the river. If clubs are more your style, then head just across the river to Avon Street where you will find Motion. 

The iconic converted warehouse venue was ranked as the 19th best club in the entire world by DJ Mag and hosts the industry’s top DJs and artists, so you know you will be in for a great night.

Stay in Temple if You are traveling in and out of Bristol by train and want to stay close to the station; You are interested in venturing out into the towns and countryside surrounding the city; Staying central and well connected to other major districts is ideal.

Best hotels in Bristol Temple

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7. Stokes Croft, where to stay in Bristol for street art

Stokes Croft is one of the edgier, cooler neighborhoods in Bristol. Just beyond the contemporary shopping hub of Broadmead, Stokes Croft and the smaller roads leading away offer an ungentrified alternative.

This is the area to head to if you want to immerse yourself in the street arts and culture that Bristol has to offer.

The main Stokes Croft Road is lined with independent boutiques and vintage clothing shops. It is a great place to go if you want to find some unique fashion pieces that you wouldn’t be likely to find in the chain stores. 

There are also plenty of family-owned cafes, restaurants, and pubs that offer a more authentically local experience than what you may find in the city center. The quieter backstreets leading away from the main road are home to a number of artists studios, small galleries, and artisan shops. 

If you love street art, then Stokes Croft will have plenty to keep you happy. Home of the notorious Banksy, some of his first and most famous murals can still be found if you know which walls to check. His mural “The Mild Mild West”, depicting a teddy bear facing off against riot police, has survived here since the 90s. You can check out Hamilton House and Canteen.

The area may seem quite rundown at first glance, and it’s true that it is not known to be one of the most affluent areas of Bristol. However, the buildings in various states of urban decay provide a perfect canvas for the many street artists of the city to work their graffiti magic. 

It’s always worth taking a walk around the neighborhood to see what’s new, since so many artists in the area create a high turnover rate, and new works are appearing and being painted over every week.

This area is one whose development is largely pushed by the local community, rather than outside investors. Indeed, public protests took place in opposition to the opening of a chain supermarket. As such, the neighborhood retains a distinct sense of genuine charm and character. 

For a rather different look at Bristol’s art heritage, you can visit the Charles Wesley House museum. Converted from the poet’s Georgian home, the museum provides insights into the Bristol of the 18th century, as well as the life of the local poet known for writing over 6500 hymns. 

Stay in Stokes Croft if you have an appreciation for street art; you want to stay in one of the trendier, edgier neighborhoods of Bristol; you prefer independent boutiques over chain brands and shopping malls.

Best Places to Stay in Stokes Croft:

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8. Cotham, where to stay in Bristol for local vibe

Cotham is another of Bristol’s affluent inner-city suburbs, although rather less green than Clifton. Distinctly residential, there is little here in the way of sights and attractions, but it is just a short journey to Bristol city center. 

This is an area for visitors looking for a quieter neighborhood from which to explore Bristol without being constantly swamped by crowds. The hospitality and shopping in the area are mostly aimed at the local population, featuring primarily family-run restaurants and small independent cafes. 

Bordering Stokes Croft there is an overflow of independent boutiques and artists’ studios. If you enjoy exploring local art cultures but aren’t fond of the edgy vibe of Stokes Croft, Cotham may be your ideal alternative.

The area is known for boasting a lot of boutique hotels and guesthouses converted from residential houses. If you are looking to forgo the big contemporary hotels in favor of something more intimate and cozy, Cotham may just be exactly what you are looking for. 

These little guesthouses, located down residential streets, will allow visitors to stay at the heart of the local community. This is a great option if you are hoping to experience what everyday life is like in Bristol.

Stay in Cotham if you want a quieter, more residential neighborhood, away from the crowded city center; you would like to immerse yourself in the local community and experience what typical Bristol life is like;

Best places to stay in Bristol Cotham:

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9. Redcliffe, well-conneted with other popular areas

Redcliffe is a large, central district just across the water from the Old City. The area includes the sub-district of Temples Mead, so visitors staying here have immediate access to Bristol’s largest train station. 

With the Old City to the west, Broadmead to the north, and Old Market to the east, it would be hard to pick a more convenient location. The north of the area is largely council buildings and offices, but the south has a leafy suburban vibe. 

It is here that you will find the primary attraction of Redcliffe, St. Mary Redcliffe Church. The majestic 15th-century church is a stunning example of full-scale gothic architecture, with sweeping spires and towering windows. 

Whilst much of the structure has survived the many centuries, the stained-glass windows were sadly destroyed during the civil war, with the current panes dating back to the Victorian period. 

Various unique local cafes and restaurants can be found throughout the neighborhood, including the Kiln restaurant which is housed in a converted glass factory. However, much of the hospitality is concentrated in the southwest corner, near to the marina. 

Here you will find various bars and restaurants where you can enjoy your meal and drinks with a lovely view overlooking the marina or the River Avon. 

For a hidden gem experience, check ahead to see if there are any events going on in the Redcliffe Caves during your visit. The sandstone caves stretch under Redcliffe and are often open to being explored by those wielding a torch.

More notably, they are often used as a venue by local film screening groups, particularly for horror films, so you may be able to catch a unique cinematic experience.

Stay in Redcliffe if you want to stay somewhere central with great connections to other popular areas; you are traveling in or out of the city by train; you want to stay close to the Bristol city center but in a less crowded neighborhood.

Best places to stay in Redcliffe:

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10. Bristol Airport, where to stay in Bristol to catch flights

Hampton By Hilton Bristol Airport
Hampton By Hilton Bristol Airport

Bristol International Airport is located a few miles southwest of the city. Bridgewater Road leads directly into the center of Bristol, so it is fairly easy to get in and out. However, the distance means this is not an ideal location if you are hoping to spend multiple days exploring the city. 

The airport is surrounded by beautiful countryside, as well as a golf course and several campsites. It makes a decent option for those who enjoy spending time outside. Goblin Coombe Woods, immediately west of the airport is a particularly lovely area for a walk. 

Meanwhile, the public road that rings the runway is also a popular spot for airplane enthusiasts who enjoy the excellent views of planes taking off and landing. There are also several small villages around this area, the closest being Lulsgate Bottom and the largest being Felton. 

Lulsgate Bottom is ideal for anyone who just needs somewhere to stay before their flight. There are several options for accommodation in the village, ranging from boutique to budget, and all are only a couple of minutes away from the airport.

Just east, across the fields, Felton is a typical example of a modern English village, primarily filled with residential streets and cul de sacs.

The town pub, The George, is a great place to enjoy a casual dinner and mingle with the locals. It is also one of several B&Bs and guesthouses in the town that cater to travelers using the airport, many of which offer complimentary airport shuttle services.

If small, family-run hotels are not your preference, there are still plenty of options to choose from outside of the local villages, with more contemporary, chain options on the grounds of the airport. 

Stay in Bristol Airport if Staying close to the airport is a priority; you want to enjoy the English countryside; you want to stay in a small local village, whilst still having access to the larger city; you don’t plan to explore Bristol City over several days.

Best places to stay in Bristol International Airport:

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Overall, Old City is the best area to stay in Bristol for tourist due to its central location with a widest range of accommodation options. If you book a hotel here, you will be located in the heart of action, within easy walking distance to city’s most famous tourist atractions, as well as some of the best shopping, dining, and nightlife in the city.

Bristol is a wildly colorful city, blending a fascinating culture and history with vibrant modern energy. There is plenty to love here, and by now you should be starting to understand why Bristol has an ever-growing fan-club from across the U.K. and the world. All that’s left is to experience it for yourself.

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