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Be spontaneous in Bristol

Read London blogger Lloyd Griffiths' wing-it trip to the arts heart of one of the UK’s most creative cities


Time Out and handed travel blogger Lloyd Griffiths a mission: unearth the best of Bristol’s art scene using just your instincts and a great hotel booking app.

Whether you’re escaping to another part of the UK or you fancy a jaunt abroad, makes it easy to travel spontaneously and still stay somewhere great without advance planning. To show just how easy it really is, Time Out and sent Lloyd Griffiths (writer for the aptly-named Hand Baggage Only blog) on a mystery trip, armed with just the Booking Now app and a list of three challenges to explore the art scene in… Bristol! If you’re inspired by his experiences, check out the city’s top rated hotels on and see our list of cool things to do while you’re there.

You can also be in with a chance of winning a wingit trip to Amsterdam!

Lloyd Griffiths blogger at Hand Luggage Only

Introducing Lloyd Griffiths

London-based Lloyd Griffiths writes alongside Yaya Onalaja-Aliu on the blog Hand Luggage Only. Visiting over 50-plus countries, they confess that their driving passion is exploring and experiencing new places.

Bristol Royal

I’m off, with my own ‘personal assistant’

I didn’t know where I was going until I got to the station but that’s OK – we like that kind of challenge for Hand Baggage Only. My destination? Bristol! Time to use the train journey (and the app on my phone) to secure a great place to stay so I could get back to the challenge of my three art-related tasks.

Bristol is filled with great places to stay – the hardest part for me was to choose just one! I knew I wanted to experience a sense of grandeur and luxury during my stay, but I also knew that I would love to take advantage of being able to use a spa! Booking Now made it really easy for me. I was able to choose from their premium selection of hotels based on their star rating and user reviews. My choice was made even easier by being able to swiftly and easily choose my ‘must-haves’ for my stay. The impressive Bristol Royal Hotel had all of these! In as little as four steps I had booked a room fit for a king!

The best aspect of the app is that it recognises that someone like me, who’s always up for spontaneous getaways, is also the kind of person who wouldn’t have bothered about the logistics of the trip (e.g. how to get to the hotel, info on what to do in the city, etc) and so the app sorts all of that for you automatically including routing to your hotel from wherever you are. Like seriously, even from London, when you open the app, it (if you grant it permission of course), it geo-locates you and has a door-to-door guide to get you to your hotel. I swear it felt like I had a PA for the day – it was brilliant!

Bristol Royal spa

Where Lloyd booked

I stayed at Bristol Royal Hotel, in the heart of Bristol city centre and just a few minutes’ walk from the Harbourside. The hotel itself was luxurious and elegant. The main-lobby and net-gothic architecture of the building really give the hotel a breathtaking charm and the beautiful Romanesque spa is included in your stay. They have an impressive pool, an incredibly large Jacuzzi, alongside menthol steam rooms and a traditional Finnish sauna.

Bristol Museum & Gallery

Challenge one: Find a local art gallery

Time Out had issued me with three tasks to achieve on my wing-it trip away. This was the first and happily for me, not too arduous, given my hotel’s location – a mere 10 minutes stroll to Bristol’s Museum and Art Gallery. I had heard a tale that there was a gallery and museum that not only housed some of the most impressive paintings in the UK, but also some dinosaurs too! The building is magnificent with big open spaces where the art seems to come alive. The Gallery and Museum are free to enter and open seven days a week. You can literally spend hours exploring the multitude of different pieces and works that are housed here.

It was awesome to see some truly priceless and captivating works of Philip James de Loutherbourg, Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable all in one place. The Lucien Pissarro works are truly beautiful!

Banksy Bristol

Challenge two: Find some amazing street art that has a dark undertone to it

Street art? Bristol? One name springs immediately to mind. Not surprisingly, you can find Banksy works all across Bristol, in all sorts of neighbourhoods. The first Banksy I visited was the ‘Well Hung Lover’, visible from Park Street and just a two-minute walk from the hotel. It is situated on the wall of a Sexual Health Clinic and it’s one of Banksy’s most infamous works in the city. With all of his installations there’s a hidden meaning and a dark-undertone that sheds light on different aspects of society, inequality or political power that I love.

Banksy Bristol

A large Banksy deposit

As my enthusiasm grew on seeing more of his work, I took a 20-minute walk to the Stokes Croft area of Bristol, where Banksy’s anti-establishment message with ‘Mild Mild West’ is easily spotted. My last port-of-call was to see ‘The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum’ in the Harbourside area of the city. Banksy re-interpreted Vermeer’s world-renowned work of the ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’. Thankfully, the literal point of a piercing ear-drum was not part of my visit!

Reto Pulfer Spike Island

In living colour

I was fortunate enough to see some of Reto Pulfer’s work. Pulfer is a self-taught artist who allows visitors to immerse themselves within his art. It was great to walk around, inside and through his colourful and abstract installation. He tends to mix materials such as traditional paints with spices, mud and even crab claws and clam shells – all positioned within the installation. Next to his very large installation are some of his hand-drawn maps and works on cities. 

I was also able to watch Patrick Staff’s powerful film and installation on queer intergenerational relationships through the medium of historic film. ‘The Foundation’ is screened in a totally dark, but very large area of Spike Island, with mats to lay and watch the film in complete darkness. Outside the door they had a warning of sexual content. A great experience!

Reto Pulfer Spike Island

Challenge three: Find a lesser known exhibition

I hadn't realised Bristol has such a prolific fringe art-scene - it reminded me of the Lower East Side of New York! Housed in Spike Island (don’t worry, it’s much less scary than it sounds, and it isn’t an island) is a collective of about 80 artists’ studios, exhibition spaces and interactive installations. It’s become a vibrant hub for presenting some of the world’s new and exciting conceptual art.

Reto Pulfer Spike Island

I Spike... with my little eye

One of the things I liked most about Spike Island is that they allow the general public, i.e. me, to see artists in their creative space. Ask nicely to the artist at reception and they will permit you to wander through a maze of interweaving work-spaces, works in progress and even meet some of the artists using Spike Island. This was my favourite gallery and it was the perfect place to end my adventure on a high.

Cocktails at Hyde & Co speakeasy

Hyde & Co touts itself as Bristol's best kept secret prohibition bar. The cocktails are always on point, the crowd is laid back and discerning and it'll make you feel like you're being a bit naughty with its speakeasy-inspired atmosphere.

Dine out by the Lido

When the sun's shining sometimes all you want to do is go for a swim and cool down. Bristol's lido is ideal for a refreshing summer swim and they also lay on a rather tasty selection of food at their restaurant. Delicious!


Enjoy some Bristol beats at Cosies

Cosies is an infamous late-night spot in Bristol, located in the heart of St. Pauls and providing an intimate environment where you can drink and chat until the early hours (and beyond). The music policy is, as you might expect, irresistable. 

Party, festival style at the Love Inn

The Love Inn certainly lives up to its name, with a tight-knit crew of Bristol-based bods at its foundation. The same team put on the annual Love Saves The Day festival and their impeccable attention to detail is ever present at this wondeful little venue.


M Shed Museum

Add a whole bag of Bristol-related knowledge to your repertoire with a visit to the M Shed Museum, which focuses on all things Brizzle. You'll come away a veritable expert on the West Country city... 

Sunday roast at Wilks

After a long night at Cosies there's no better way to reconfigure your mind and body than to stuff yourself full of Sunday roast at the legendary Wilks. They were finalists in four different categories at the Bristol Good Food Awards this year. Nuff said.


Go vintage shopping

Bristol is a absolute treasure trove for vintage shoppers, with an abundance of thrift shops full to the brim with retro houseware. You're bound to find a quirky bargain or two.


A school for circus performers and physical actors is always going to be worth a visit for the entertainment value and Circomedia is high on the list of essential venues to visit for just that kind of thing. A jewel in Bristol's crown.


Drink on the Apple barge bar

Water is an important part of Bristol's wonderful make-up and the quayside has been utillised by several businesses. The Apple bar is one of those. Located on a barge, it has a relaxed, quirky Bristol appeal with a fine selection of food and drink on offer.


Aunthentic Spanish cuisine is the order of the day at Bravas. Not only have they collated a strong wine list, but you can also take your pick from a menu packed with tasty tapas treats.

SACO Bristol - Broad Quay

These serviced apartments overlook Harbourside, so they're right next door to the Bristol Hippodrome and only a short walk from Cabot Circus and Broadmead shopping centres. Colston Hall isn't far, either. 

All apartments enjoy wi-fi, flat-screen TVs, fitted kitchens and an open-plan living area. Some boast a balcony, too.

Book with

Radisson Blu

A great example of the brand, this city centre hotel offers an enviable waterfront location that's easily seen from many of the rooms. The Filini Restaurant boasts impressive renown, and each of the rooms boasts all the creature comforts you should need. 

Book with

DoubleTree by Hilton

The DoubleTree brand comes from the Hilton group, so there's a certain standard to expect from this four-star stay. Its proximity to Temple Meads station makes it a popular choice, with its own restaurant and bar (with sport events on the big screen) sealing the deal. 

Book with

Mercure Bristol Holland Street

This chic hotel and spa is just a short stroll from the centre of Bristol, with many of its rooms enjoying great views out across the harbour. All rooms boast en suite facilities, and access to an indoor pool, an award-winning restaurant, a fitness suite and 14 beauty rooms offering an assortment of pamper packages and therapeutic treatments. 

Book with


Bristol Marriot

This 4-star family-friendly hotel offers spacious accommodation and modern facilities, including an indoor swimming pool. There is free WiFi in public areas. There are 300 spacious en suite rooms, each with air conditioning. The hotel has an indoor swimming pool and a fully equipped gym. The Terrace Grill restaurant features a selection of international cuisine and fine wines. 

Book with

Future Inn

This four-star hotel is right next to Cabot Circus shopping centre - so just ten minutes from Temple Meads station, too. Each of the 149 rooms boasts air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs with pay-per-view movies, internet access and en suite bathrooms. 

Book with

ibis Bristol Centre

This simple three-star hotel overlooks Millennium Square, and is located right in the midst of Harbourside - so there's plenty to see and do locally. Each room boasts a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, wi-fi access, tea and coffee making facilities and a work desk. Breakfast is served downstairs, too.

Book with

Holiday Inn

You pretty much know what you're going to get with a Holiday Inn but the location of this city centre spot gives it a bit of a fillip. It's right next to Cabot Circus shopping centre, Clifton Village is only a mile away, and Temple Meads station is little more than a 15 minute walk away. The hotel has its own restaurant and bar, too.

Book with

Victoria Square

This attractive hotel is set in a pretty Georgian square in Clifton Village, just a mile from the centre of Bristol. Many of the en suite rooms enjoy views over the square, and each has a digital television, telephone and complimentary tea and coffee. There are plenty of restaurants and bars within an easy walk.

Book with

Avon Gorge

Set above Avon Gorge, this hotel overlooks Brunel's famous suspension bridge. It has free parking and a large terrace for al fresco dining with excellent views.

Located in Clifton, the hotel is about 2 miles from Bristol city centre, which can be reached on foot. A wide range of restaurants are available within a few minutes’ walk.

Book with

Bristol media wall


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