Hotel spotlight: The Bristol Hotel

The Bristol Hotel's bar offers great views of the city

Simon Willmore enjoys the modern yet opulent hotel which features waterfront dining, lavish guest rooms – and complimentary gin

The lights of Bristol cathedral hover majestically above the effervescent pubs and clubs of the city’s Harbourside party area, the golden glow of the 12th century church and the vibrant neon of the bars below both perfectly suited to their style of illumination.

We look out over the whole scene from our sixth-floor bedroom, the cityscape stretching from the marina past the iconic Hippodrome to the water fountains in the square near Broad Quay. It’s been a while, probably a decade, since I’ve visited Bristol and I’d forgotten how beautiful the city is. Either that or the recent developments in the city, including the futuristic Explore At Bristol museum, have blended into and enhanced the existing historic landscape tenfold.

 But it’s not just the view outside the window that’s aesthetically pleasing; our  bedroom in The Bristol Hotel, part of the Doyle Collection, is just as alluring, with its  king-size bed and glass-framed headboard, pink and white décor and modern metallic  bathroom. The flat-screen TV and Nespresso coffee machine add technological luxury  to classic comfort provided by duck-down duvets and huge dressing gowns and there  is adequate space for an armchair and desk, too.

 Plus, one can never underestimate the value of complimentary spirits; in this case, a  mini-bottle of Hendrick’s gin (part of the hotel’s ‘Take Me to the Bar’ package), to be  brought to either the hotel’s bar or lounge, where it can be mixed into a cocktail and enjoyed with canapés – a quite brilliant twist on a the standard ‘free booze’ format (not that anyone is fed up of that format just yet…).

Continuing through the hotel, the décor throughout is just as attractive as in the rooms, and in fact the corridors are perhaps the most well-appointed I’ve seen. The grand yet contemporary feel incorporates circular sofas, large free-standing lighting features and elegant wallpaper, so that even that stroll to the bar is an enjoyable experience.

The hotel's River Grille restaurant

Past the large lobby area and reception are the hotel’s River Lounge and beyond that, looking out over the waterfront, the River Grille restaurant. This is where breakfast is served in the mornings, and the huge floor-to-ceiling windows provide a light airy space in which to enjoy the usual continental and Full English fare – including black pudding, which I haven’t seen at a hotel breakfast buffet for some time. It made a very tasty change, and when added to the Harbourside setting and matching nautical design scheme with blue wood panelling, made for a really satisfying and relaxing start to the weekend.

For the energetic, there is a gym with running and a few weights machines, plus a rowing machine with paddles inside a water tank to imitate the real feel of rowing on a lake, just like our Olympic heroes of the last few weeks. With the inspiration of London 2012 in mind and the exciting new experience of rowing against water while still inside a building (and that’s from someone who used to row four times a week), it wasn’t hard to knock a few seconds off my PB. 

Another unique benefit of staying at The Bristol Hotel is the complimentary weekend parking at the neighbouring NCP car park. Not only will the staff at the hotel’s reception take a guest’s unpaid parking ticket and swap for a validated one in a Blue Peter ‘here’s one I paid earlier’ style, but the car park has a separate entrance to the hotel, so that you can pop out to the car and a back to your room without needing to leave the storey you’re on.

As for other facilities, the hotel has another dining area, the more casual Shore Café Bar, which also affords a waterfront vista but offers food and drink like light lunches and coffees in more relaxed atmosphere. And for business visitors, there is a self-contained Meeting and Events centre for meetings of up to 400 guests, with equipment including high-speed internet and state of the art presentation software, illuminated by Waterford Crystal chandeliers.

Evidently, The Bristol Hotel is not just named after its location – it’s named after what Bristol has come to represent: modern enthusiasm juxtaposed with historic achievement. Even right outside the windows of the River Grille restaurant, timeworn cobbled paving stones run along the old harbour to the Arnolfini Gallery of contemporary art. It’s this combination of old and new – like the cathedral watching over the Harbourside bars – that make Bristol and The Bristol Hotel so enthralling.

Double rooms at The Bristol Hotel start from £89 per room per night, on a B&B basis; for more details visit

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