When I lived in Bristol I didn’t often venture south of the river into Bedminster. Partly I didn’t really think I was cool enough, but also I wasn’t convinced there was any reason to visit. Bedminster is the grotty bit of Bristol right?
Okay sure, some parts of it are still ‘up and coming’, but in terms of shopping, eating and entertainment it actually has a lot going on. I should probably feel more of a soft spot for it as an area too as Bedminster used to be its own town, separate from Bristol, and until 1831 was part of Somerset. Fun fact for you there.
Nowadays I can’t stake any claim to it geographically, but I went to have a wander around to see how things have changed since 1831, (hint: a lot), and to give you some tips for places to visit the next time you’re in Bedminster, especially if you’re heading to Bristol to do some Christmas shopping.
I’ve been into south Bristol quite a few times, mainly to see shows at The Tobacco Factory or to visit their outdoor market, but I’ve never ventured much past the immediate area around the theatre. The top end of North Street definitely has plenty going on, including the new Greta artwork, painted for Upfest this year, and the amazing Souk Kitchen where I ate possibly the best flatbread I’ve ever tasted.
Head away from The Tobacco Factory though, and follow North Street across the mini roundabout, and you’ll discover that although at first glance it might look like a lot of taxi offices and kebab shops, there are actually some amazing independent businesses thriving in Bedminster.
There’s the Upfest gallery for example, where you can buy artwork from artists involved in the annual street art festival, and where I found one particularly apt print, given that I visited on the day of the general election.
Next door to the Upfest gallery is Zara’s Chocolates, a warm, sweet smelling chocolate shop where everything is made in the kitchen on site and where you can get a cheeky hot chocolate if you’re flagging from your shopping. The glass jars of chocolate cups in all kinds of different flavours would make a lovely gift for anyone with a sweet tooth, or how about some solid chocolate baubles or a chocolate Christmas pudding?
Of course I have one extra person to buy for this Christmas in the form of baby Joey, so an excellent excuse to go into Toyville, Bedminster’s independent toy shop and have a play with the Brio and the musical instruments. It’s a sign of a fashionable area when you have soft toy versions of croissants and avocados.
No YOU put on a fox puppet and made him play a teeny piano.
If you prefer your toys with a quirky or vintage edge then Trylla is worth a visit. Trylla also has a ceramics workshop space where they run a weekly clay club and they offer the option to hire out their kiln by the hour if you’re a budding potter but lack your own facilities. They sell a lot of handmade ceramics in the shop alongside vintage toys and collectables.
I was less convinced by the ‘upcycled’ teddy bears but I’ll let you be the judge of those.
If you are fond of vintage and second hand as an eco-friendly gift choice then you shouldn’t miss a stop off at Zero Green, Bedminster’s Zero Waste shop. From the front it looks relatively modest, but it goes back for what seems like miles and stocks everything from spices to toilet paper. Absolutely everything, apart from some banana ketchup (?), is vegan, so if you’re considering veganism but are worried that it would make shopping too complicated then this is the shop for you.
Highlights for me including the rainbow stairs and the ‘make your own peanut butter’ machines. Honestly, pay them a visit and prepare to be impressed.
As well as shopping, there have been loads of Christmas activities going on throughout December in Bedminster and you’re not too late to join in the fun should you fancy it. El Rincon still has its Spanish Christmas Quiz and bingo and a Navidad Flamenco evening coming up, The Tobacco Factory is having a silent Christmas disco in their garden and Friendly Records, which is a record shop AND a bar (random), has its Christmas party this week.
This is just a taster of everything that Bedminster has to offer and I haven’t even mentioned the plethora of cool looking cafes – you could easily spend an entire day here mooching about the shops, having lunch, a spot of afternoon tea maybe. Bedminster has late night shopping going on this Thursday too so do pay it a visit and discover the independent and local businesses working hard to make BS3 an exciting destination.
Disclosure: I was treated to lunch at Souk Kitchen but otherwise am just writing this to show my support for a fantastic part of Bristol.