I was excited to visit Bristol again, my home for three years during my university days almost a decade ago. This time, rather than slumming it in my basic student digs, we were booked to stay at the 4* Bristol Harbour Hotel, just a couple of minutes’ walk from the bustling waterfront.
The hotel opened just five years ago and has embraced the building’s history whilst creating a space that is both modern and fun.
The Grade II listed building has a colourful history. In a previous life, the hotel formed two grand old banks that opened in the late 19th century, and before that one of the banks was a popular tavern dating to Bristol’s chequered slave trading days.
Reminiscent of the magnificent architecture of Venice and Tuscany, the buildings are impressive. Take a peek at the high ceilings and Grecian columns in the hotel’s Sansovino Hall (popular for conferences, parties and weddings) and you’ll see what I mean.
The service here is excellent, and all members of staff were so friendly and accommodating.
The hotel is well suited to business and pleasure, and even romance. During our stay, we had a Hollywood celebrity in our midst (hint: he loves a cornetto), but sadly meeting your own celebrity cannot be guaranteed.
It’s an adult vibe, although children can be catered for (I didn’t spot any kids during my three-night stay).
There is a small lift in the hotel, however, the stairs to the spa are a bit tricky if you have a mobility impairment. There is help – just contact the hotel in advance if you have questions relating to accessibility.
The hotel has 42 brightly furnished rooms, all en suite with at least a double bed. Every room has a Nespresso coffee machine, 400 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and minis by The White Company.
As a bonus, every room also comes with complimentary gin and sherry in glass decanters with crystal glasses – a surprise luxury that we really enjoyed.
We stayed in one of the two corner suites – several of the members of staff said it was their favourite room. This comes as no surprise, as when I walked through the door my eyes popped in wonder at the magnificent bathtub nestled in the corner of the main bedroom, overlooking Corn Street.
The artsy, but classy, décor added a welcome burst of colour to the room, and the bathroom was spacious, with two sinks and a monsoon shower. A box of Maltesers (my favourite chocolate) sat on the bedside table, adding even more to my happiness.
The King-sized bed with its candy-striped cushions was so comfortable it was a trial each morning to peel myself out of it. We loved the room so much, we booked another night’s stay. It may be a 4* hotel, but to me, this felt like 5* luxury.
Food & Drink
Breakfast is served in the hotel’s Harbour Kitchen, a large and bright room with wooden floors and blue chairs with funky patterns and a few cosy booths.
The breakfast was delicious, with plenty of choices. We started with pastries and a hot pot of tea, and I chose poached eggs on toast with smashed avocado (plus a bonus side of bacon) while my husband opted for the full English. Other options included a continental breakfast, Eggs Benedict/Royale/Florentine and pancakes with maple syrup and bacon.
The restaurant is open all day, running a popular seafood bar and grill offering 10oz rib-eye steak with Béarnaise sauce and triple cooked chips, or catch of the day.
The hotel is also home to The Gold Bar, a quirky speakeasy-inspired bar serving classic cocktails with a twist, plus a good selection of craft beers and an extensive wine list. The blue room, next door, is an extension of the bar and used to be the bank manager’s personal office in the hotel’s past life.
There is a stylish spa, which was once the home of the bank’s vaults (the hotel has retained the original doors from this era). The main spa facilities are free of charge for hotel guests, including a whirlpool, sauna, steam room and a dinky swimming pool – better suited to relaxing than swimming lengths.
There is also a selection of treatments, including massages, manicures and facials. I decided to treat myself to a 25-minute shoulder, neck and back massage, and it was pure bliss.
There is also a very good gym with a separate weights room and several running/cycling/cross-training machines.
WiFi is also available free of charge, but in our corner suite we didn’t have a particularly strong connection, so opted for mobile hotspot instead.
If you are planning to drive to Bristol, there is no parking at the hotel, but they do offer a voucher for the nearby NPC Car Park (for £20 per day).
Prices fluctuate based on day, season and availability, but standard doubles usually start at around £142 per night and the corner suites start at £240 per night during weekdays.
Although not quite located on the harbour itself, the hotel is just a few minutes walk away. Within 20 minutes you can walk along the harbour to SS Great Britain, the We The Curious museum and Cargo at Whapping Wharf, a community of re-purposed shipping containers that have been converted into a variety of international food outlets.
You can also book a paddle boarding session with SUP Bristol along the harbour, which we highly recommend.
Away from the harbour, there is also the popular shopping centre, Cabot Circus, and on route, you can admire Bristol’s incredible street art.