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A Love Letter to Bristol: Places to Visit as you Settle into University

Often with change comes feelings of uneasiness and displacement; I invite you to visit these places when you are seeking comfort and homeliness.

By Meg Stoneman, Second Year English Literature

To everyone arriving or returning to Bristol this September, I extend a hand to you, to step into the lovely spaces that our city has. What a special position to be in, to see Bristol with fresh eyes! Often with change comes feelings of uneasiness and displacement; I invite you to visit these places when you are seeking comfort and homeliness.

First, we have East Village Café in Clifton Village. This pastel-coloured haven will hold you in its sugary embrace and make you feel at home in its loveliness. Try the iced popcorn latte or the strawberry matcha and have a look at their fairy postcards and beautiful glassware. Opposite East Village we have Primrose Café. Full of serenity, I chose to sit outside here with my sister when moving to Bristol. My greatest recommendations are the orange juice and waffles. The Clifton suspension bridge is a short walk from here and is a lovely place to find clarity and perspective. Brandon Hill elicits the same grounding effect. If you choose to walk there at dusk, you will be greeted with the most beautiful colours of sunset, and the lights of the city too. A friend of mine told me that being there reminds her of why she chose Bristol - I hope it can do the same for you, as it certainly does for me.

The St. Nicholas outdoor market is held every Saturday and this gem of Bristol shines the brightest for me; it brings me the most supreme happiness to be surrounded by its treasure. Just around the corner, you can escape the bustle of the market by stepping into Stanford’s bookshop. I find it to be calm and clear, like an oasis. On the topic of bookshops, and those who may be book fanatics, the £3 bookshop on Park Street offers an affordable abundance of both modern and vintage books and posters. A few doors down is Mrs Potts Chocolate House, where you can get decadent in your indulgence! At the bottom of Park Street, you will find College Green, a space for peace and to be among the greenness and open air. I like watching the trees there; keep an eye out for how they will change colour within your first term. Heading onto Queens Road you’ll find the Royal West of England Academy art gallery, a delightful place to go for some quiet and reverence. Try inviting someone from your course to go with you to explore their annual open exhibition, returning for its 169th year in 2022 to showcase a variety of pieces from established and emerging artists.

Courtesy of Milan Perera

On Fairfax street - Strange Brew, the place which will hold space for you in your entirety with open arms - dance dance dance! It feels like the beating heart of Bristol’s uniqueness, with its DIY bar, exhibition space and record shop, affirming that there is a place for you here. For a similar energy, try Mr Wolfs. Enjoy the jazz music and perhaps a photobooth strip with your new flatmates! My favourite place for a drink is the authentic and all accepting The Mother’s Ruin, on St Nicholas street.

However, the most special place, of course, is your own space, your new room - make it safe, make it lovely. Connect with yourself and the new people around you. Remain open to what they have to offer you - it will be beautiful. Be open to things changing, to your feelings towards your experience changing. Find solace in your new space. All the places that I have directed you to say the same thing: step outside of yourself and you will find it all already there waiting for you.

The flower stall outside of Temple Meads Station always makes me smile and feels like an apt entrance to all the brightness that will bloom for you in Bristol. Arriving or returning, get yourself some flowers! Even if it’s just one - gift yourself some colour.

The list could go on forever because Bristol is one big hug. I hope you enjoy my favourite places and love finding your own, as you certainly will. As Mary Oliver would say: “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, Bristol offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like wild geese, harsh and exciting, announcing your place in the family of things.”

Featured Image: Courtesy of Melissa Braine

Where in Bristol do you find the most comfort?