iQ in the city: Bristol

Bristol City guide

Students in Bristol have what is arguably the south west’s most creative, influential city on their doorstep. There is no shortage of entertainment in Bristol – it’s packed with live music venues, arts centres, innovative restaurants and funky street markets… you just need to know where to find them. If you’ve arrived in the city recently, we think these places are well worth checking out.


The iQ city guide to Bristol


The Louisiana – 20 min walk

It might be a little cliché to describe a music venue as ‘legendary’, but The Louisiana certainly comes close. This place near trendy Wapping Wharf started pretty much by accident, when a fire at another venue led to the pub offering its upstairs room to host some gigs. They saw 90s icons Placebo and Super Furry Animals play in the first week, and while not every act is a big name – yet – you’ll find quality entertainment there every night. The Louisiana prides itself as an open-minded, safe and friendly venue, and has signed up to the Bristol Zero Tolerance initiative, so you should have a hassle-free evening.


Tobacco Factory – 40 min walk

A little further away on the other side of the River Avon, the Tobacco Factory (you can guess the origin of the name) is a multi-purpose space which is a great place to make some new discoveries. A creative hub, it showcases the work of local artists and works with a range of theatre companies to stage some intriguing productions. Sundays are made for mooching about the weekly market, packed with eco-friendly produce, while Tobacco Factory’s café bar with covered terrace is perfect for chilling morning, noon or night.


Thekla – 19 min walk

Thekla is a club and music venue with a noticeable difference – it’s on a ship. Originally used to haul cargo across the seas of Europe, the mighty vessel has since had quite a history as an entertainment venue of various types. All the local music royalty (Portishead, Massive Attack, Roni Size etc) have played it, and plenty of international artists have got onboard too. Good vibes, excellent DJs and an eclectic range of acts make nights at Thekla a staple of the Bristol student experience.


Bristol Museum & Art Gallery – 17 min walk

One of a family of museums around the city, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery holds impressive collections of classic and contemporary art, and its archaeological and natural history exhibitions are a real education. Far from just a museum of local history, you can learn about Egyptian civilisation, dinosaurs, Japanese art and much more – and better yet, it’s all free. Special events like museum nights, film screenings and lectures keep things (even more) interesting.


Food and drink

Hart’s Bakery – 23 min walk

The food you find at railway stations might not always be top-notch, but Hart’s Bakery at Bristol Temple Meads is certainly the exception to that rule. An artisan bakery where everything is made on the premises and before your eyes, you can be assured your morning croissant has been lovingly crafted and is as fresh as can be. As well as great single-origin espresso, Hart’s serves up a lunchtime menu of pasties, sausage rolls, tarts and more – they’ll Tweet what treats you can expect out of the oven as the day begins.


Bertha’s – 23 min walk

Wapping Wharf has become a great foodie destination, with all sorts of interesting eateries to discover. One of these is the highly rated Bertha’s – a serious pizza place that always turns the goods out. Wood-fired, sourdough fermented for days, fresh local ingredients… These guys care about delivering a high-quality pizza, and it shows. A carefully curated menu slides in tasty vegan and veggie pizzas alongside meaty options. Leave room for some of their yummy homemade gelato, too.

Bristol's packed with live music venues, arts centres, innovative restaurants and funky street markets…

St Nick’s Market – 9 min walk

With more than 275 years of history, it would be fair to call St Nick’s Market a Bristol institution. As well as several permanent food stalls, there’s a Street Food Market held every Tuesday and Friday, a Vegan Market on Mondays, and a Farmers’ Market every Wednesday. Between them, they cover a wide range of international cuisines, from Iranian to Italian and Chinese to Caribbean. The gorgeous naans at Matina and Eat a Pitta’s handmade falafel are among the highlights – you might need to queue, but it’s worth it.


The Bristolian – 10 min walk

Within easy strolling distance of iQ Bristol, The Bristolian on Picton Street is renowned for its great breakfasts. A good-looking bistro with a menu to match, this is the place to start your weekends in style, chomping on anything from muesli or Eggs Benedict to a full-on cooked breakfast – with special additions like sesame-infused spinach or grilled halloumi. Come back later and you can try the lovely homemade burgers, quesadillas or a tapas platter, and maybe a cocktail on the side.



Dreadnought Books – 20 min walk

Despite its size, there aren’t that many independent bookshops left in Bristol, so Dreadnought Books is a name worth remembering. This little shop on St George’s Road stocks a wide range of second-hand and antique books, with a focus on arts and humanities – history and politics students are going to love this place, which manages to source some real curiosities. It also gets extra points for its resident cat – you don’t get that online.


Beyond Retro – 6 min walk

Managing to be simultaneously ‘back in time’ and ‘fashion forward’, Beyond Retro offers vintage shopping on a grand scale. Located on Broadmead in the city centre, the store offers a huge range of pre-loved items selected by its expert team, with every kind of garment and accessory you could imagine. Beyond Retro LABEL gives a new lease of life to items which didn’t make the cut for the shop floor by reimagining and reworking them, part of the business’ commitment to sustainability.


Rhubarb Jumble – 35 min walk

If you fancy bagging something really quirky, Rhubarb Jumble might be the vintage shop for you. The beauty of this place is that it’s not just fashion on offer – Rhubarb Jumble also keeps an eye out for old-school furniture and homeware too, so it’s the ideal place to give your room that mid-20th century vibe with a quirky object or two.


Idle Hands Records – 7 min walk

A city with a musical heritage like Bristol has got to have a few decent record shops, right? Happily, yes – and Idle Hands is one of them. Supportive of local artists and DJs, this place on City Road specialises in dance and all its sub-genres, so head here for techno, house, dubstep and grime. If you’re after obscure soul, jazz or world music rarities, try vinyl obsessives Wanted at St Nick’s Market. And if neither of these places have what you’re looking for… well, maybe it never existed.



Bristol’s main railway station, Bristol Temple Meads, is located south east of the city centre, about 20 minutes’ walk from iQ Bristol. Direct services run to Bath (only 12 minutes away), Cardiff, Exeter, London Paddington and many other destinations. Various bus routes run close to our location, including to the University of the West of England. The University of Bristol is within easy walking distance, around 15 minutes away.

Your iQ team will be happy to help you get to know Bristol better, so please ask at Reception if you need any help.

If you find somewhere in town that you think everyone else should know about, let us know on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using hashtag #MyiQLife


Meet the Team: iQ Bristol

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