‘An ace caff with quite a nice museum attached’ was how a Saatchi & Saatchi advert described the Victoria and Albert Museum back in the 1980s. It raised quite a few objections, with many believing the museum to be selling itself short. But the British are the best at being self-deprecating, and nowadays, I think we can all appreciate the tongue-in-cheek creativity of the campaign, especially considering the spectacular interiors of said V&A ‘caff’.
So then culture vultures, can one feed one’s mind as well as one’s stomach at Bristol’s best cultural institutions? But of course! Here are some ace cafes in Bristol with quite a nice cultural venue attached.
Ace cafes in Bristol with quite a nice cultural venue attached
Arnolfini Cafe @ Arnolfini
Arnolfini is one of the leading international contemporary arts spaces in Europe, presenting a diverse programme of performance, dance, music, cinema and artistic events throughout the year.
Along with its thought-provoking exhibitions, Arnolfini holds one of the best waterfront positions of all cafes in Bristol – on Bristol Harbourside. The art space’s cafe/bar (managed by independent brewery Bristol Beer Factory) has indoor tables as well as outdoor tables on the quayside where you can soak up the views and the buzz.
Alternatively, you can make like the locals and dangle your legs over the Harbour wall on a sunny day, while quenching your thirst with a takeaway beverage.
M Cafe @ M Shed
Located on the dockside, inside a former transit shed, the colourful objects, art and archival materials inside M Shed tell the story of the people of Bristol from prehistoric to modern times.
M Café, located on the ground floor of the museum, overlooks the Harbour, city centre and independent eateries housed in refurbished shipping containers next door. As well as Fairtrade, organic drinks and local brews (the coffee comes from artisan roasters in Clifton), there are cakes, sandwiches and teatime treats for your delectation.
Emmeline Cafe @ Spike Island
Spike Island is an international centre for the development of contemporary art and design, and a hub of creativity based at the southern end of Bristol’s Floating Harbour. A working space for artists, creative businesses and designers, Spike Island showcases contemporary art exhibitions all year-round, alongside lively talks and events in its expansive gallery spaces.
To get you in the art-perusing mood, check out the fabulous onsite community cafe, run by Emmeline Cafe (who also have a site on Cheltenham Road). The focus here is on wholesome food and drink and you’ll find organic, free-range nosh on the menu in bright, spacious surroundings.
Cafe @ Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery houses a wonderful mix of arts, natural sciences, archaeology and world cultures dating back thousands of years ago, up until the present day.
The museum’s permanent collection includes jaw-dropping examples of curiosities, Old Master paintings, contemporary works (including a couple from Banksy himself) as well as impressive ceramic and glassware.
If all that culture-devouring leaves you famished, the museum’s cafe will let you gawp at mesmerising sights (a giant pliosaurus and stone lion sculptures nonetheless) while tucking into fresh, homemade, Fairtrade and organic food. Located towards the rear of this beautiful Grade II* listed building, it’s a fascinating setting, with lofty ceilings, comfy seating and family-friendly vibes. One of the most family-friendly cafes in Bristol.
Tobacco Factory Cafe Bar @ Tobacco Factory Theatres
Located in one of the remaining ex-Tobacco Factories in the city, the theatre is an energetic performance venue that features classic and contemporary performances, as well as comedy, dance, puppetry, film, opera, music and family shows.
The Cafe Bar is the proud owner of a solar-powered coffee machine, so you can sip an eco-friendly cup of joe (from local roaster Clifton Coffee) while discussing thrilling plots and performances. There’s also an outdoor terrace, should you find yourself in need of caffeine in warmer weather.
Bristol Folk House is a music venue, gallery space and adult education centre all rolled into one. Inside you’ll also find a cosy cafe with outdoor space – a bohemian haven in the heart of the city.
Whether you’re stopping in after attending one of their many courses, or seeking refreshment after an exhibition or gig, expect delicious coffee and a menu full of organic goodness.
Did you know Bristol Old Vic is the oldest continually-running theatre in the English-speaking world? Following a huge refurbishment project, BOV opened a bar and kitchen onsite – 1766 (named after the year the theatre opened) – where you can soak up some of that pre-theatre atmosphere, sip a coffee and tuck into some delectable treats against the impressive backdrop of the theatre’s original façade.
Harbourside Kitchen @ Brunel’s SS Great Britain
Built by one of the greatest figures of the industrial revolution, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the SS Great Britain became one of the most important historic ships in the world. Visitors can explore the magnificent vessel, as well as the fascinating Being Brunel museum, which takes a look into the mind of the man behind some extraordinary feats of engineering. Afterwards, digest 175 years of history over a cup of coffee, watching the world sail by on Bristol’s Floating Harbour.
Unbeknownst to many, tucked away in Bristol’s Shopping Quarter is the oldest Methodist Chapel in the world, John Wesley’s New Room. Inside, there’s an award-winning, interactive museum to explore where you can find out what life was life in Georgian Bristol and how Methodism spread through the UK, USA and rest of the world.
Visitors will also find a cafe under a large glazed roof, serving Fairtrade and a good pedigree of organic coffee (it’s called Grumpy Mule!), tea and tempting bakes.
360 Cafe @ Clifton Observatory
As far as cafes in Bristol go, Clifton Observatory, perched on the cliffside of the dramatic Avon Gorge, has some of the best views in the city. Drink in the views of Clifton Suspension Bridge and Mendip hills over a coffee at the fabulous 360 Cafe. There’s indoor seating in the glass cafe, plus a rooftop terrace with breathtaking panoramic views.
They also do some cracking hot chocolate combos – I highly recommend!
The Old Market Assembly has many strings to its bow. Home to the Assembly Bakery, Wardrobe Theatre, regular live music and open mic nights, there’s also a fantastic restaurant space creating flavourful, flexitarian and sustainable dishes, and cafe/bar stocked with the finest local brewers, winemakers, cider producers and distillers in the region. The best part is, you can order a coffee and slab of cake to munch while you enjoy the show.
The stunning Georgian building of St George’s Bristol is one of the country’s finest concert halls, boasting superb acoustics that attracts thousands of music-lovers to hear classical, jazz, blues, folk, world music or spoken word events.
The cafe, on the ground floor of their pavilion-style extension, serves a locally-sourced menu for breakfast and lunches coupled with home-made cakes and Triple Co Coffee, where you can unwind after treating your eardrums to a musical feast.
Underfall Yard Cafe in Bristol
Another one to add to your ‘waterside cafes in Bristol’ list is Underfall Yard, a working boatyard with a historic visitor centre and cafe overlooking the water.
Keep yourself shipshape and Bristol fashion with coffee in the Underfall Cafe or take it away to enjoy on the Knuckle with lovely views out over the Harbour. Deck chairs are put out on sunny days.
Multi-arts venue Watershed houses three cinemas alongside a waterfront bar and cafe that prides itself on its ethical approach to food and drink. Sourcing as many ingredients as possible from people they know and trust in the South West, everything is freshly-made and the coffee is top notch. It’s the perfect place to natter over art-house movies and be part of Bristol’s electric Harbourside atmosphere.
This exciting, interactive science centre is a state-of-the-art visitor attraction offering creative, hands-on exhibits, the UK’s first 3D planetarium and year-round events and activities to fire imaginations and embolden curious minds.
If all that wild discovering leaves your brain in need of re-energising, the award-winning onsite cafe has great views of Millennium Square. All food waste is composted where possible, which then gets used on the Millennium Square Community Garden.
Bristol Loaf at Bristol Beacon
Taking up a light, bright corner of the lower ground floor of Bristol Beacon (formerly Colston Hall) concert hall, is artisan bakery, Bristol Loaf. White tiles, natural wood and foliage dangling from the ceiling make this cafe look a little like my old bathroom, save for the freshly-baked pastries, cakes, artisan loaves and smorrebord lining the shelves. More than that though, the decor matches the ‘good, clean, fair’ ethos of this Bristol indie.
Breakfast, lunch and small scandi-inspired evening plates and sharing boards are served here, and the food and coffee are worth stopping by for, whether you’re watching a gig or not.
Tucked away at the end of the Cloister, past the Chapter House, is Bristol Cathedral’s cafe, offering drinks, simple lunches, home-made cakes, cream teas and vegetarian and gluten free options. Take your treats into the beautiful, peaceful garden, and courtyard in fine weather – you might be serenaded by the practising choir (in an adjacent room) while you munch.
St Nick’s Market
Trading since 1743, St Nick’s is one of Bristol’s oldest markets and has been named one of the top ten markets in the UK. Under its glass roof you’ll find many independent food stalls and several outdoor markets taking place on various days in the streets running adjacent to The Exchange Building. Visitors are spoilt for choice on places to pick up lunch and a treat in this vibrant Georgian arcade.
Cafes in Bristol with a nice cultural venue attached: further afield
No National Trust visit would be complete without a slice of cake or a freshly-baked scone, washed down with a mug of tea or coffee. Both Dyrham Park and Tyntesfield have transformed their former stables into atmospheric, family-friendly cafes where visitors can refuel after touring the sprawling grounds and fascinating mansion houses. If you don’t want to sit in, there are also kiosks open on both sites, where you can grab a coffee to go.
Teatro Lounge, Curzon Cinema, Clevedon
The Curzon opened its doors in 1912 with a fundraiser for the survivors of the Titanic disaster and is one of the oldest working cinemas in the world. Today, the vintage movie theatre offers a unique cinematic experience, screening everything from mainstream to arthouse, live streamings of opera, exhibition and theatre, as well as live comedy and music.
The art deco-inspired Teatro Lounge occupies the same building as the Curzon cinema, so you catch a flick and grab a flat white in this historic spot.
Tiffin at The Beach @ Clevedon Pier
Clevedon Pier, Britain’s only Grade 1*-listed pier, offers visitors the chance to stroll along the Victorian landmark and discover its fascinating history through hands-on exhibitions.
For spectacular views across the Severn Estuary and the pier itself while you dine, it’s hard to beat the glass-fronted cafe, Tiffin at the Beach. Treat yourself to high tea, coffee, cake and swoon-worthy coastal panoramas.
The Hideout @ Berkeley Castle
You don’t need to buy tickets for Berkeley castle to dine at the pretty Walled Garden Yurt, but we highly recommend it! The medieval castle (which is still inhabited today) has a fascinating past. Inhabited by the Berkeley family for 27 generations, the impressive fortress has been embroiled in significant historic events, from a murdered king to a wedding that inspired Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to a modern day film location, there is much to discover within its walls.