If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll know just how much both Keri and I enjoy visiting Bristol. It’s our closest major city and we both love heading over there regularly – there’s always so much going on and Christmas is no exception to this. So last Friday, I skived off work for the afternoon and met up with some other local bloggers so that Visit Bristol could give us the lowdown on what’s happening in the city during Christmas 2017. Here’s a list of some of the places that we visited, along with some of my other favourite Bristol festive highlights.
Hit the Christmas Markets in Bristol
The first stop on any festive day out in Bristol should, of course, be one the city’s festive markets. We visited the Bristol Shopping Quarter Christmas market, which is slap bang in the middle of the city centre. It’s a traditional German-style market with a range of different types of stalls. There’s plenty of traditional Christmas treats and gifts such as gingerbread and confectionary and a range of food stalls selling snacks such as bratwurst, hot crepes and noodles. There are also more than 40 wooden chalets selling artisanal products such as local cheeses and gifts from Bristol Blue Glass.
If it’s a bit chilly during your visit, you can stop off at the covered Jägerbarn for a mulled wine or a hot apple cider.
There’s also loads of other markets dotted around the city that you can visit. For the Harbourside Christmas Market (weekends, 25th Nov – 24th Dec), the 45 stall Maker’s Market takes over the harbourside’s covered walkway, while a street-food market, with covered seating area and live music, can be found at the top of Cascade Steps. Bristol’s famous St Nicholas Indoor Market is already home to over 60 independent traders and from 19th November to 24th December, these are joined by a number of market stalls in the adjacent Corn Street and Wine Street.
In addition, there’s a huge number of shorter markets at venues such as The Underfall, Colston Hall and The Folk House. To find out dates and further info, head over to the Christmas market page on the Visit Bristol website.
Enjoy christmas lunch with a difference at Pieminster
If all of that shopping has left you hungry, swing by Pieminster and sample their delicious Christmas pie menu – go traditional with The Cracker (turkey and ham with parnsnips, cranberries, or sherry) or sample one of their other festive pies such as Deer Santa (venison, bacon, wine and lentil), Mistlemoo (beef, bacon, port and chestnut) or the vegetarian Christingle (parsnip, cheddar, leek and chestnut). I plumped for The Cracker, which was really tasty – and the perfect set up for the afternoon of festive activities ahead of us!
Pieminster’s two course festive feast includes any Christmas pie, mash, spiced red cabbage, a festive stick and gravy, followed by dessert – all for the bargain price of £15. And if you book a table for six or more, they’ll throw in a free bottle of prosecco.
For more information, including locations, check out the Pieminster website.
Have some festive fun at Millennium Square Winter Fair
The harbour area of Bristol is one of my favourite parts of the city and it’s even lovelier than usual at Christmas. From 18th November to the 16th of January the Millennium Square Winter Fair fills the habourside with a shedload of festive fun.
Right next to We The Curious, there’s the fabulous 35 meter-high Sky View wheel. I must confess that I’m a bit of a wimp so was a little nervous before jumping on this, but it really is fun and gives amazing views of the city. It’s definitely worth taking a ride in the evening as all of the lights look beautiful.
Right next door to the wheel, there’s an outdoor ice rink, where a 45 minute skate will cost £9.50 adult/£8.50 Conc/£7.50 children (discounts for pre-booking online). I didn’t have time to enjoy the ice rink, unfortunately, as I had to head off for my train but some of the rest of the group did and I know they had a grand old time.
If you need to sit down and relax after all that activity, you should definitely head over to Après Bar – a pop-up alpine-themed bar made from shipping containers. Think full-on après ski cosiness decked out with fur loungers and vintage ski kit, serving a range of winter drinks and mountain snacks.
Indulge in a winter warmer at Swoon Gelato
I’m not sure that gelato is the first thing that you think of when it comes to a Christmas treat but even though the weather is a bit chilly, Swoon has you covered. As well as their usual full range of tempting flavours – including my absolute favourite, cherry cheesecake – they’ve got some Christmas specials including mince pie, panettone, chocolate orange and mulled wine sorbetto. You can have them on their own or have a scoop served alongside a warm chocolate brownie or brioche.
For the ultimate indulgent winter treat, have a Swoon cioccolata calda – Italian-style hot chocolate. Perhaps one of the best hot chocolates I’ve ever had (yup, even beating the one that we had in Bruges), this thick, creamy dark chocolate comes with cream or a scoop of gelato (or both!) and is the perfect way to chase away the winter chills.
Get yourself bundled up and enjoy some outdoor film screenings of festive classics. Over at Millenium Square, they’re playing Happy Feet, The Nighmare Before Christmas, The Muppets Christmas Carol and Frozen. Up at Bristol Zoo, you can catch Elf, Home Alone, The Nightmare Before Christmas and How The Grinch Stole Christmas.
Theatre and Music
Bristol’s cultural scene is second to none and there’s loads of festive shows on across the city.
For some traditional choral music, St George’s Bristol have a range of special events including A Carnival of Carols (18th December) and A Baroque Christmas (23rd Dec) with seasonal music from Handel, Bach and Telemann.
For a complete change of pace, head over the the magnificent Speigeltent for a range of Christmas parties, live music, DJs and theatre, including a masquerade ball, Sunday Socials, and the vintage harmonies of the Puppini Sisters.
Victorian Christmas Weekend at SS Great Britain
If you’re in town on the weekend of 9th/10th December, it’s definitely worth popping over to the SS Great Britain for their Victorian Christmas Weekend. The history of Bristol is closely tied to Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and his steam ship is one of the city’s best tourist attractions (and one of my personal faves). It’s even more special during their Victorian Christmas Weekend, when their dockyard area is transformed into a period winter scene (with falling snow) and there’s numerous activities to enjoy including carol singing,craft workshops and Christmas tales from the archives. There’s also festive food at the café and, if you’re feeling brave, the chance to climb the ship’s rigging!
Pizza at Pi Shop
If all that festive fun has you worn out by dinner time, might I suggest that you stop off at Pi Shop for your evening meal? We visited during our trip to sample some of their wood-fired Napoli-style pizzas.
The restaurant is in a fantastic location – in the redeveloped Bristol General Hospital site (now converted to luxury apartments with a number of restaurants on the ground floor). The airy restaurant is minimally styled with whitewashed brick walls and wooden bench seating. The copper-colour of the beautiful pizza oven is picked up throughout the rest of the restaurant in places such as their lighting and metal storage baskets.
The pizzas themselves are delicious – thin, crispy bases and thick fluffy crusts (which are perfect for dunking in their signature fresh herb dip). The meat feast, made with artisanal cured meats, the aubergine & ewe’s curd and the carbonara pizzas are particular highlights.
And if you really want to test the quality of their ingredients, order the marinara – simply a base served with their tomato, garlic and oregano sauce (with no cheese), there’s really nowhere to hide on this one!
Drinkwise, they have a range of wines and classic cocktails such as negronis, manhattans and sidecars. They also have a decent gin menu with choices including Sipsmith, Plymouth and Psychopomp, all served with Fever Tree tonic.