Bristol’s eclectic shopping experience draws visitors from far and wide – to browse the elegant boutiques of leafy Clifton, the alternative shops lining Gloucester Road, the independent retailers housed in St Nicholas Market, and the well-known high street stores packed into Bristol Shopping Quarter.
The city centre alone incorporates several interconnected shopping areas, each with a distinct personality – from the characterful shops of the Old City to designer names and famous high street brands at the architecturally-striking Cabot Circus shopping centre.
The modern hub of Bristol’s shopping, known as Bristol Shopping Quarter, incorporates two covered shopping areas, Cabot Circus and The Galleries, which are connected by Broadmead, a pedestrianised thoroughfare lined with yet more shops. Just off Broadmead, look out for the Grade 2-listed Victorian St James’ Arcade, where you can find some cool cafés, and boutique jewellery and gift shops, amongst others. It’s in this area of town where you’ll find one of the most exciting new arrivals on Bristol’s shopping scene: music store Rough Trade. Inhabiting a sprawling 4,500 square foot space on Nelson Street, this shop goes all out to celebrate music culture, and also incorporates a café, bar and live performance room.
A short walk away, Cabot Circus is the city’s flagship shopping mall which provides rain protection thanks to its shell-shaped glass and steel roof, yet also gives the welcome feeling of bringing the outdoors undercover, with fresh air circulating through all of the various avenues and spaces. Along with the neighbouring, uncovered area known as Quakers Friars, you will find more than 120 shops in this patch of the city, plus two department stores, numerous restaurants, the 13-screen Showcase Cinema de Lux, and a Jungle Rumble Adventure Golf centre. Cabot Circus houses major outlets such as The White Company, Zara, Oasis, Hollister Co, H&M, Urban Outfitters, The Body Shop, Victoria’s Secret, and a large House of Fraser department store.
The modern hub of Bristol’s shopping, known as Bristol Shopping Quarter, incorporates two covered shopping areas, Cabot Circus and The Galleries
Cool shopping spots
Popular restaurant chains include Wagamama, Nando’s, TGI Friday’s, Yo! Sushi, Pizza Express, Giraffe, Bella Italia, Frankie & Benny’s and Gourmet Burger Kitchen, amongst others. On the opposite side of Penn Street, the Quakers Friars area is known for upmarket stores such as Harvey Nichols, French Connection, Hugo Boss, Michael Kors and Kurt Geiger, as well as high street names such as Fat Face, and a popular Apple Store.
The Galleries, an older shopping mall with more than 80 shops, is also dominated by household names like The Entertainer, Boots, TK Maxx, Argos, Waterstones, Claire’s Accessories, Hawkin’s Bazaar and WHSmith. You can access free WiFi throughout the shopping centre, and receive exclusive retailer offers if you log in between 9am and 11am. The Galleries also has a large multi-storey car park, which is not only conveniently located but is also one of the cheaper central Bristol parking options. On the fringes of this area you will find Castle Park, surrounding the few lasting remains of Bristol Castle’s Grade 2-listed keep, walls and vaults and a ruined church. This is a good place to escape for a picnic on a fine day, taking in views over Bristol’s Floating Harbour.
Just along from Castle Park you can begin your journey into Bristol’s Old City, which is full of charm and character. This maze of narrow streets is lined with historic buildings, focused around the Grade 1-listed Corn Exchange Buildings on Corn Street, which today house St Nicholas Market. Established in 1743, the market is undercover and open six days a week. It packs in more than 50 colourful stalls selling a whole array of goods – from clothing, jewellery and accessories to Fair Trade gifts, art, cards and bric-a-brac.
At the rear, the beautiful glass arcade is dedicated to street food stalls and tiny eateries, showcasing mouth-watering cuisine from all over the world – whether you fancy Moroccan tagine, slow-cooked meat, comforting pasta or Caribbean wraps. The traffic-free streets surrounding the market building also host a variety of interesting street markets, including Wednesday’s Farmers’ Market (8.00am to 2.30pm), focusing on locally-produced food, and the Street Food Market on Tuesdays and Fridays (11am to 2.30pm). Also worth a browse is The Nails Market, on Fridays and Saturdays (10am to 5pm), which showcases wares from about 30 independent traders, including original artwork, photography, vintage clothing and hand-crafted jewellery.
On the opposite side of Penn Street, the Quakers Friars area is known for upmarket stores such as Harvey Nichols, French Connection, Hugo Boss, Michael Kors and Kurt Geiger
Stroll to the end of Corn Street and you’ll spot the central fountains and lively Harbourside area to the left. A 10-minute stroll from here – past the Arnolfini gallery and across Prince Street Bridge – will take you to Wapping Wharf, home to CARGO, Bristol’s first-ever retail yard made of converted shipping containers. This cool shopping spot is a great place for those who appreciate good food and drink, with The Bristol Cheesemonger, Bristol Cider Shop, Meat Box, Corks, Better Food and Beer Necessities all taking up residence there. Amongst other goods you can shop at CARGO for ethically-produced menswear at Brothers We Stand; bikes at Temple Cycles; jewellery at John Kelly 1880+; extra soft bamboo clothing at Mabboo; quality gifts and homeware at Fig1; and even bouquets and plants at The Mighty Quinns Flower Emporium.
If you decide to head from the central fountain area in the opposite direction, you will reach a much older part of Bristol: the historic area known as the Christmas Steps Art Quarter. This cluster of unique streets packs in a diverse range of art galleries, bars, cafés and independent shops. Wander along Perry Road, Lower Park Row, Colston Street, St Michael’s Hill and Christmas Steps, through a tangle of narrow, tucked-away alleyways, and you’ll stumble across an interesting array of establishments.
On Christmas Steps alone you can admire brass and woodwind instruments at Trevor Jones, add to your philately collection at West Region Stamps; get your hair cut at Tano’s traditional barber; or eat Chinese at The Rice Box. And, if you have time during your stay, you could drop into 20th Century Flicks to book their tiny private cinema for a film evening with a group of up to 11 friends.
Next up, Colston Street is home to yet more unique shops and establishments. These range from second-hand bookshop Bloom & Curll to specialist beer and home-brew supplier Brew Bristol. You can see artwork by Norwegian illustrator Bjørn Lie, hunt for vintage and antique furniture at Dig Haushizzle, and nip into Urban Fringe Dispensary for herbal medicine and treatments. Other options include flowers from Les Fleurs, old coins from Potter’s Antiques and Coins, new and used bikes at Bike Workshop, and hand-made ceramics at Blaze. As you explore the other streets of the Christmas Steps Art Quarter you soon get a feel for the diversity of Bristol’s amazing independent shopping scene.
This cool shopping spot is a great place for those who appreciate good food and drink, with The Bristol Cheesemonger, Bristol Cider Shop, Meat Box, Corks, Better Food and Beer Necessities all taking up residence there
Take a break
Nearby, Park Street runs up a steep hill and is also well-known for its many independent retailers. At the bottom is the Harbourside with its weekend market stalls selling books, jewellery, toys and cakes. Nearby, College Green is a pleasant green space next to Bristol Cathedral and City Hall that makes a great spot for picnics on a sunny day. As you huff and puff your way up Park Street you’ll pass the three-storey art and stationery shop Cass Art, numerous quirky gift and clothes shops, and the city’s longest-running vintage clothing store: Uncle Sam’s American Vintage, which opened in 1984, importing hand-picked stock direct from California. Popular with students, nearby BS8 offers vintage clothing, too, alongside fresh, new fashions at reasonable prices. Running for more than 20 years under the same ownership, the vintage section at the rear of the shop stocks a wide range of styles, with all of the stock hand-picked – including Levi’s jeans and jackets, unique printed silk shirts, sheepskin jackets, and much more.
On Saturdays you can often also check out local DJs while you shop between about 12 and 5pm. The Guild – a small, design-focused independent department store established in 1908 – is a mecca for those with discerning tastes. With kitchenware, toys, toiletries, jewellery, ceramics and food, it is a great place to hunt for unique gifts, including iconic, Bristol-themed homeware made by established designers and some lovely traditional children’s toys.
If you fancy a tea or coffee-break, drop into historic Woodes Café, a traditional café established in 1966, if you’re around the bottom of Park Street. At the opposite end of the road you’ll find Boston Tea Party, with a hidden tiered rear garden, which is another popular snack and lunch spot. Alternatively, if you need a more substantial meal, Park Street is also home to a wide choice of restaurant chains such as Wok to Walk, Mission Burrito, Nando’s, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Pizza Express. You will also stumble across a couple of decent charity shops, including an excellent Oxfam Bookshop if you fancy picking up a bargain. Once you reach the top of Park Street, dominated by the impressive Wills Building, you arrive at the area known as The Triangle, which has its own set of shops and restaurants such as Wagamama, Paperchase and Jones Bootmaker.
If you love browsing independent shops and have already managed to get around those inhabiting the Old City, head a little north of the centre to Stokes Croft – known for its famous street art, including some of Banksy’s most famous pieces – then wander along Gloucester Road. This is said to boast more independent shops than any other street in the country. Whether you’re charity shop scavenging, looking for unusual vintage clothes, sourcing hard-to-find health foods, or shopping for traditional toys, Gloucester Road offers a genuinely impressive mix of small retailers and a lively atmosphere. Well supported by the local community, these businesses also attract shoppers from across the city and visitors from further afield, with plenty of great cafés where you can recharge your batteries. If you don’t fancy the hike back into the city centre after walking the whole length of Gloucester Road, hop on a bus: it’s on a main bus route, with frequent services back to the centre.
Once you reach the top of Park Street, dominated by the impressive Wills Building, you arrive at the area known as The Triangle, which has its own set of shops and restaurants
Those on a mission to find upmarket clothes and gifts, or gourmet deli food, will find Clifton Village is a great destination. Perched next to Brunel’s famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, Clifton is a popular shopping detour known for its high-end boutiques selling antiques, jewellery, clothes, homeware, gifts and quality West Country-inspired souvenirs. This elegant suburb of the city has a distinct identity and a pleasant, village-like atmosphere, despite being just a few minutes’ drive from the city centre.
Head to Princess Victoria Street, Boyces Avenue and The Mall to explore the main shopping streets, and admire the immaculate Georgian and Regency architecture along the way. The two-storey Victorian-era Clifton Arcade is home to a vast collection of shops selling vintage clothes, jewellery, art and furniture – for starters, you can browse Antique Chinese Furniture at Nook Deco, contemporary gifts at Terrapin, jewellery at Bees & Graves, and couture accessories at Hermione Harbutt. Grey Harris & Co on Princess Victoria Street specialises in antique jewellery and silver from all periods, while My English Home is a delight with beautiful items for, er, well, your English Home!
And if you’re shoe shopping, Fenice on the same road stocks around 3,000 pairs on its premises, including merchandise from Italian, French, Spanish and German designers, alongside a range of accessories such as handbags, gloves, scarves and hats. A feature of this area is Nicholas Wylde’s jewellery store. Wylde is one of the few designers in the world with his own patented diamond cut, the beautiful Wylde Flower Diamond.
On the opposite side of town, immediately south of the centre, you’ll reach fashionable Southville and neighbouring Bedminster, where the main shopping streets to explore are East Street, West Street, North Street and Bedminster Parade. The hub of activity, however, is most definitely along North Street: home of the well-established annual Upfest street art festival, and shops selling Fair Trade gifts right through to delicious locally-produced deli treats and health foods.
The two-storey Victorian-era Clifton Arcade is home to a vast collection of shops selling vintage clothes, jewellery, art and furniture
There are heaps of cafés and bars where you can sit, eat and drink, and watch the world go by – and there’s quite often something happening at the Tobacco Factory venue if you have some spare time, including the popular Tobacco Factory Sunday Market. If you make it onto Bedminster Parade during your time in this area, look out for The Grant Bradley Gallery where there’s a shop selling books, hand-made jewellery, ceramics and prints by local artists. Once again, there are several bus routes that link Bedminster and Southville to the city centre if you don’t feel like walking back – ask a local and they should be happy to point you in the right direction.
If you fancy visiting an out-of-town shopping centre, The Mall at Cribbs Causeway is the obvious choice – particularly on a rainy day when you want to stay undercover. Situated on the M4/M5 interchange, Cribbs is a huge mall with heaps of free parking and an excellent choice of restaurants, from basic establishments such as KFC, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut to popular restaurant chains like Cafe Rouge, Carluccio’s, Wagamama, Nando’s and Yo! Sushi, which makes it a popular destination for a full day’s shopping trip.
It is also ideal if you’re looking for department stores such as John Lewis or Marks & Spencer, alongside clothing retailers such as Gap, Fatface, Coast, Next, New Look, H&M, Topshop and River Island. You will find footwear at Schuh, Sketchers, Clarks, Dune, Office, Timberland and Sole Trader; cosmetics brands such as LUSH and Molton Brown; technology stores like the Apple and O2 shops; and a huge choice of hats, bags, scarves and other accessories at Radley, Accessorize and larger stores like Marks & Spencer.
Bristol is widely regarded as one of the UK’s top retail destinations, and it’s no surprise – whether you shop indoors or outdoors, centrally or in the suburbs, there is such amazing variety on offer, regardless of your shopping tastes – much of it within easy walking distance of the heart of the city.
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