I once spent a night behind bars in London – at a hostel in a former court house. But this time I find myself to be on the good guy’s side, as I check in at The Bristol Wing in downtown Bristol. This relatively new boutique hostel is set up in the city’s former police headquarters, in a building dating back to 1928. It has now been developed and is run by YMCA Bristol, stating that any profits made are reinvested to support the city’s homeless young people. And to me that fact alone is reason enough to spend a night here.
From my first step in to the hall with the checkered floor and the beautiful old lift, I sense this is a special place for more reasons than its charity value. The multi functional reception-kitchen-lounge area to the left of the lift confirms my good first impressions. It has a lovely open and welcoming feel, while ‘The Snug’ on the opposite side beckons me to curl up with a book or a good movie.
I can only imagine how much work it has been to develop a boutique hostel in a grade II listed building like this. To refurbish it completely and even make it environmental friendly, while still keeping within the restrictions that come with such a “badge”. Excellent job!
Another badge – a police badge of course, is found along the stairways to the floors above, which are all decorated with cool street art features and quotes. A nod to the city’s vibrant street art scene, that through the years has turned from vandalism to major tourist attraction. These colourful features along the hallways are also a cool contrast to the stylish architecture and the minimalism of the rooms.
I settle into my private room for the night, overlooking the street and fittingly the new police station just down the road. Then I head out under my umbrella to revisit colourful Bristol. A city I have had the pleasure of exploring many times before and which is always a great inspiration to me whenever I stay here.
I’m very pleased with the location of The Bristol Wing, right in the heart of the buzz and with plenty of shopping opportunities right around the corner at the Broadmead area. I’m especially fond of The Arcade, where I always pop in for a cappuccino at my favourite café whenever I’m in town. This time I also check out a few of The Arcade’s great independent shops. Besides, the beautiful shopping arcade is a good place to be on a rainy day.
It’s easy to pop back to the hostel for a break, before I head back out in the opposite direction, down towards the harbour area where there is always something going on. As I’m travelling alone I’m looking for a bit of entertainment for the night, and I’m in luck as I stumble upon a small live concert in one of the popular bars along the waterfront. A great place to enjoy a bit of music and to hang out with the locals.
Bristol has such an open-minded and creative vibe, and I think that is one of the reasons why I always come back. And if you come purely for tourism there is plenty to discover, like the amazing Bristol Balloon Fiesta, the free city museum at the M Shed, the SS Great Britain exhibition, the street art of the Bedminster neighbourhood and the spectacular Clifton Suspension Bridge, just to mention a few personal favourites.
Bristol city centre is very walkable, and with the central location of The Bristol Wing, everything is close at hand.