I love this time of year – mulled beverages, warm jumpers and stodgy, comforting food. So it was with zero hesitation that I accepted my invitation to Visit Bristol‘s Christmassy day out, to show off the best the city has to offer during the festive period.
You can see a full list of the pictures and excitable videos by searching the hashtag #MerryBristmas – but here are just a few of the ways that you can make the most of Christmas in Bristol…
1. Try the festive menu at Pieminister
Pieminister is one of those Bristol institutions, and with good reason. Not only was the company founded in Bristol back in 2003 (their original shop can still be found on Stokes Croft), but they’ve managed to expand both their locations and menu over the years while still keeping the quality of their pies first rate.
I’m usually a Heidi (goats cheese, spinach & sweet potato) or Chicken of Aragon (chicken, smoked bacon & tarragon) gal, but on this day we were encouraged to go festive, so I went for the Mistle Moo (beef steak, bacon, port and chestnut), although the other Christmas specials looked good too:
- The Cracker (turkey & ham with parnsips, cranberries & sherry)
- Christingle (roast parsnip, cheddar, leek & chestnut)
- Deer Santa (venison, bacon, red wine & green lentil)
As I expected, the pie came out looking epic (we went for the Christmas Fest meal option which consisted of any festive pie, mash, spiced red cabbage and gravy, plus a festive stick – see below – PLUS dessert, all for the tidy sum of £15), I mean who wouldn’t want to see their pie arrive with a pig in blanket on top?
The pie was generously filled and just the right level of rich flavours without being too much. The gravy was spot on, and the mash nice and creamy. The spicy red cabbage made the whole shebang that bit more festive.
Now, I’m a greedy one, but we all agreed that we couldn’t manage dessert if we were going to eat anything else that day, so this is a great option whether you want to refuel after a busy day hitting the shops and Christmas markets, or just want some serious winter stodge to bring a smile to your face.
I washed my pie down with the Pie PA (Pieminister’s custom made beer), but there are a number of festive cocktails and soft drinks available to choose from.
2. Browse the mega Christmas markets
If you really want to get into the festive spirit, pay a visit to the Bristol Christmas Market, home to over 40 wooden chalet stalls (with more arriving for the Local Christmas Market from 1st-23rd December), a covered food village and a large beer garden.
At the central beer garden you can choose from the traditional options of Glühwein (mulled wine), warm cider, hot chocolate or a sturdy pint of German beer. If you’re feeling brave you can even top up your mulled wine with rum or amaretto for an extra £1.50, or add Baileys to your hot chocolate to make it extra grown up.
The stalls at the market sell everything from sweets to local produce and gifts. One of the stalls looks just like Hansel & Gretel’s cottage – quite fitting that it’s stacked full of chocolate, candy canes, gingerbread and other sweet treats!
The covered food village also has a good selection of munch on offer, from mighty Yorkshire pudding wraps (!) to hog roasts and the usual German sausages (veggie alternatives are available).
3. Explore the Old City
Whilst the majority of your high street brands and traditional Christmas shopping can be found in Broadmead and Cabot Circus, it’s also worth wandering over to nearby St Nicholas Market to peruse the stalls at the oldest market in town (trading since 1743!).
Not only is there the covered section of the market which houses stalls such as Dr Burnorium’s Hot Sauce Emporium (the best range of chilli sauces you’ll find in the city), Jewellery Lane and Be Natural – plus oodles of other clothing, art and local products – but there are also different outdoor markets throughout the week, from the Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays to the Street Food Markets on Tuesdays & Fridays.
Speaking of food, the Glass Arcade in St Nicks is also home to some of my favourite food stalls in city, should you find yourself feeling peckish!
One of my favourite spots in St Nicks is Source Food Hall, which sells local meat, fish, dairy and other produce. I usually pick up a few stocking fillers from their shelves, and the team who work here can always offer expert advice on what to buy, or how to best prepare/serve what you’ve bought. They also do bespoke Christmas local hampers and gift vouchers!
4. Refuel at Swoon
If you’re like me and find shopping entirely exhausting and can’t wait to get away from the bag-laden hoards, I can’t think of a better place to reward yourself than at Swoon on College Green.
You may think that it’s a bit odd to recommend gelato in the winter months, but oh no no – these guys have got you covered whatever the weather.
Whether it’s their festive flavours (mulled wine, biscotti, chocolate orange or mince pie – the mince pie was my favourite), gelato cakes or silky smooth hot chocolate (the best I’ve had in my life to date – I’m being serious, you need to go and try it), Swoon is still the ultimate in sweet-toothed luxury that Bristol has to offer.
5. Visit the Winter Fair
So you’ve eaten your way around town, ticked off your shopping list and even managed to find time for a cheeky mulled wine or two…so what’s next? Well if you want to appreciate the twinkly Christmas lights of the centre in all their glory, you can take a trip on the big wheel in Anchor Square.
The SkyView Ferris Wheel costs £5 for adults (£4 for children) for a 5 minute ride, and takes you up 35m to see views across the harbour and city centre. You can buy tickets from the kiosk next to the wheel.
The ice rink is open to all ages (children under 11 will need to be accompanied by an adult) and there are special sessions for young skaters, and even disco skating sessions!
6. Procure perfect pizza at Pi Shop
We were lucky enough to end our day of festive frolics at this top notch pizza joint, and if you’re planning on sticking around for dinner, I can heartily recommend Pi Shop.
Run by the Sanchez family who now have two Michelin-starred restaurants to their name (handily located either side of Pi Shop – Casamia and Paco Tapas), Pi Shop embodies the classic adage of ‘Do one thing, and do it well’. Pizza is the only thing on the menu here, but it’s good. Really good.
We shared a couple of the Pi Shop classics such as the Marinara (tomato, garlic, oregano, no cheese – one for the dairy dodgers), Margherita and Meat Feast (topped with a selection of light but very flavoursome cured meats), before being treated to some of the winter specials: their famous Carbonara pizza and one topped with soft, smoky chunks of aubergine & ewe’s curd.
I was particularly fond of the aubergine pizza (the carbonara was delicious, but a bit too rich for my tastes after a couple of slices – it was probably the most popular among our group though!), and felt very well looked after by the friendly & attentive Pi Shop team throughout.
Hopefully that has given you a taster of what’s on offer across the city over the coming weeks – many thanks to Visit Bristol for such a fun and inspiring day out!
I should also mention that the Tourist Information Centre on the harbourside sells a great range of goodies if you’re on the hunt for locally made gifts – from chocolates to T-shirts, as well as the usual fridge magnets and mugs (or find their online shop here).
For more information, go to Visit Bristol’s website, which includes information on Christmas Events, Christmas Markets and Special Offers (it’s also worth entering their Christmas Competition, the prize is immense – including a food tour & spa day!)
Disclaimer: This was a free day out, courtesy of Visit Bristol and the venues listed above, but this didn’t affect my opinion and all of the keener statements above are mine alone!