In the charming, cobbled St. Nicholas market district of Bristol, the Harbour Hotel Bristol – comprising a centrally located boutique hotel with a subterranean, speakeasy-like spa set in an old bank – captures the vibe, heritage and eccentricity of this youthful, creative British city.
The Harbour Hotel Bristol occupies a striking 19th-century former bank building (believe it or not, architecturally inspired by Jacopo Sansovino’s High Renaissance library on St Mark’s Square, in Venice) with a beautiful facade on historic Corn Street. Its location is enviable, as Corn Street is among the most historic and iconic thoroughfares in Bristol’s city centre, lined with a mix of regal Georgian and Victorian edifices.
In the hotel, it was nice to see that many of the building’s original period embellishments are still present, a homage to the city’s heritage and boom as an Industrial Revolution port town and mercantile hub. But the old Victorians would not recognise the interiors of what has now been converted into a small hotel of just 42 rooms and suites. The decor has been entirely contemporarised to reflect the city’s vibrant and colourful atmosphere.
However, the old banking theme endures at the Harbour Hotel Bristol. Its drinking den, ‘Gold Bar’, is located in the old bank manager’s office and punters are asked to make an ‘investment into liquidity’ (buy a cocktail… or five). Take it from us, they’re delicious, so we know it’s a good return on investment.
The grand bank hall has been transformed into the Harbour Kitchen, where breakfast is served each morning. Bristol is not short of great places to eat and has a great culinary scene. That said, we found that the Harbour Kitchen punches well above its weight for dinner as well. The unpretentious, but well-curated menu features British West-Country flavours (from farm-fresh meat to catch-of-the-day seafood, to amazing vegetable produce) and other seasonally inspired dishes, cooked with flair.
Right on time
While you’re Out There
Right on the doorstep, arty (and sometimes downright quirky) Bristol awaits. St Nicholas Market, a covered Victorian market hall, hosts a maze of bohemian stalls, vintage shops and artisanal food outlets. Other grand buildings like the Glass Arcade and Corn Exchange offer more of the same. Throughout the day, but especially in the evening, this area is alive with bars and restaurants. There’s even a street market at weekends.
Down in the old bank vaults, we thoroughly enjoyed the Harbour Hotel Bristol’s HarSPA, where hydrotherapy and innovative treatments will put your well-being in balance, or in the black.
The hotel’s individually appointed rooms are a little on the small side, but that’s to be expected of a property of this location and layout. The top pick is a Corner Suite, with tall bay windows that front Corn Street. Ours came complete with an inviting rolltop bath where we soaked in 100% all-natural Bramley botanical bath products while sipping Harvey’s Bristol Cream from a crystal decanter: a welcome amenity!
As one of the UK’s most culturally diverse and creatively inclined cities, Bristol exudes a palpable sense of creativity. This arty vibe was reflected in our room’s decor. Like the colourful murals that dot the city’s urban landscape, there was equally eye-catching wallpaper in the room. And like the city’s eccentric art scene, furnishings were also non-conventional. It’s not always going to be to everyone’s taste, but we enjoyed that the hotel played up its vivid personality.