Our microguides series is inspired by the slow travel movement, encouraging travellers to relax their pace and take a deep dive into one particular neighbourhood in a well-loved city. Rather than a whirlwind itinerary which aims to hit up every must-see attraction, these compact, close-up guides encourage you to zone in, take your time and truly explore like a local.
Stokes Croft feels a world away from the mainstream – and not only because of its abundant, in-your-face street art. Carving a boundary between St Pauls and Kingsdown just north of central Bristol, the area is literally (and figuratively) on the fringes. It has long been a sanctuary for those living unconventional lifestyles – including creatives, squatters and the homeless – giving rise to a palpable counterculture and strong sense of community.
But change is afoot. Some 11 years after locals rioted in response to the arrival of a Tesco Express (many still boycott the chain), luxury developments and all the trappings of gentrification are beginning to encroach, and the future of Bristol’s most characterful neighbourhood hangs in the balance.
Luckily, this bohemian borderland isn’t just a street, it’s a state of mind – a welcoming, one-of-a-kind spot that encourages all who enter to let loose and embrace the unusual. Its independent spirit is infectious.
From a Banksy classic to Bristol’s newest boutique, here are some of the best things to see and do in and around Stokes Croft.
The Cube Microplex
Get your culture fix with an indie documentary or an international short at The Cube, a volunteer-run community arts space and cinema. Other events to watch out for include musical improv workshops and performances from eclectic live acts.
Yoga with the locals
Wannabe yoga teachers will love the in-depth courses on offer at Bristol School of Yoga – but you don’t need to be devoted to daily down dogs to fit in. Classes for all abilities run daily in the cosy, light-filled studio.
A graffiti masterclass
Channel your inner Banksy at a stencil art session, run by arts organisation Where the Wall, where you can take your best creations home with you. Prefer to leave it to the pros? Join one of their Bristol-wide street art tours instead.
Plant-based Bristolian diners swear by Cafe Kino, a not-for-profit community co-op at the top of Stokes Croft. Menu highlights include the full cooked breakfasts (hello hash browns), bean burgers and fudgy brownies. Good news for remote workers, too: it’s laptop friendly.
String hoppers, coconut sambol and dosas as long as your arm… Nadu’s menu is an ode to Tamil cuisine. The veggie kothu (a spicy dish of chopped roti and greens) is a dream for stodge lovers and took us back to the south coast of Sri Lanka.
Jamaica Street Stores
With its high ceilings, industrial features and hanging plants galore, the grade II-listed Jamaica Street Stores is lovely to look at – but it’s the boozy brunches here that are a real marvel to behold. Those bloody marys, that naughty beef cheek hash dripping with golden yolk… no hangover stands a chance.
Poco Tapas Bar
You’ll feel more than un poco satisfied after sampling the nose-to-tail and root-to-fruit menu at Poco Tapas Bar. Dishes are seasonal, sustainable and almost entirely zero-waste – not to mention tasty. Trust me, the things these people can do with potatoes…
A few minutes walk north of Stokes Croft, Italian indulgence awaits in the form of Bianchis – think crisp, garlicky arancini, rich pasta dishes and unforgettable focaccia. It’s perfect for a romantic meal or special celebration, but book ahead to avoid missing out.
Grab an oat milk latte or homemade take on Orangina in a jar at Emmeline, a hip cafe on the ground floor of a coworking space and creative hub, Hamilton House. From the terrace, you can admire Banksy’s Mild Mild West artwork up close.
Next door, The Canteen’s bar is stocked with local brews. Try Wiper and True’s margarita gose or a cloudy Iford cider. There’s also free live music almost every night. Outside you can’t miss the mural featuring Black Lives Matter protester Jen Reid, who hit headlines during the 2020 George Floyd protests.
Forget Turtle Bay – this Black-owned independent restaurant and bar serves up the best authentic Caribbean experience in Bristol. With more than 120 rums on the menu and regular two-for-one cocktail deals (make mine a Jamaican mule) you’ll soon be feeling “irie”.
Stokes Croft China
In this neighbourhood, even the crockery’s unconventional. Stick it to the man with an “eat the rich” teapot or anti-austerity mug from Stokes Croft China, run by the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft. Sales support the organisation’s community activism and workshops.
Showcasing the wares of over 50 Bristol-based independent designers, That Thing is the place to go if you’re looking for statement earrings, snazzy socks, a sequinned face mask or other kitschy knick-knacks. Don’t miss the racks of vintage goodies.
Dig through the crates at Idle Hands, a small record shop where music lovers come to find all things techno, disco and dub. Staff are friendly, and if you’re low on luggage space, they can ship your new vinyl babies direct to your home.
Bed down at Artist Residence, a boho-chic boutique housed in a former boot factory overlooking Portland Square. The best rooms have rolltop tubs and oodles of space – one even has its own roof terrace. Need a souvenir? Check out the retro photobooth in the bar. Doubles from £182, room only.
The Full Moon
Beer garden? Check. Budget-friendly? Check. Emblazoned with murals inside and out? Well, you are in Bristol after all. If you like late-night parties and cheap and cheerful digs, you’ll feel at home at the friendly Full Moon hostel at the southern end of Stokes Croft. Dorm beds from £28, doubles and twins from £60.
Trains run direct to Bristol Temple Meads from London Paddington, Manchester Piccadilly, Edinburgh Waverly and Leeds, among other major UK stations.
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