Journey south: Totterdown & Knowle, Bristol

by Amy & the world

colourful Totterdown houses, Bristol
With all these entries about far-flung adventures, I’ve been neglecting the ‘Bristol’ bit of this blog recently (again!). It’s not an excuse, but sometimes I take living in such an exciting city for granted, to the extent that I become uncertain whether what I’ve enjoyed recently is really worthy of a blog post.

And then something happens, like Bristol being named as the best city to live in the UK by the Sunday Times, that makes me appreciate how lucky we are to live here, to have so much right on our doorsteps.

In the spirit of ‘right on the doorstep’, today’s post is all about the first Bristol neighbourhood I called home, Totterdown and Lower Knowle. Although they may not be the most well-known areas of Bristol, both have a lot to offer. And, if you first visited Bristol by train, they also may have even given you your first impression of the city (hopefully a more positive one the beautiful Parcel Force building, too!). If you sit on the left of a carriage, look out for the rows of brightly-coloured houses peering over the cliff edge, marking the start of Totterdown.

These communities may be a little out-of-the-way for the average Bristol visitor (or even anyone who lives north of the river), but here are just seven reasons they’re worth turning left out of Temple Meads station.*

The Office

This tiny bar opened in 2012 and has fast become a local favourite. It looks ‘cool’ (exposed brick, industrial-style lights – you know the drill) yet feels welcoming rather than try-hard.  It’s a particularly lovely spot on a warm day, when they open up the glass screen-fronts onto the patio  and the sun streams in. And while a patio set not-too-far-back from the busy Wells Road, one of the main routes out of Bristol, doesn’t sound like the most pleasant of spots, somehow it manages to be a really relaxing place to wile away the hours with a pint (or two). They also serve tapas, which I’ve heard a lot of good things about.

 A Capella, Wells Rd, Totterdown, Bristol

A Capella

Whether you want a full English breakfast, a light (or not-so-light) lunch or a huge pizza, this award-winning restaurant is the place to come for tasty, good value food at any time of day (the pizzas – which can be eaten in or taken away – may not look cheap, but even those with huge appetites would be hard-pushed to finish one on their own). Other bonuses: friendly staff, it’s bring your own and they will put their (amazing) cake in a take-away container if you’re too stuffed to eat it there (or if you’re just walking past and have a craving for a slice or two, but don’t have time to stop). Incidentally, while all the cakes are excellent, I particularly recommend the carrot and ginger ones.  

Interior of Thali Cafe, Totterdown

Thali Café

I may have written about this restaurant before, and it’s not unique to Totterdown, but a list of my favourite places in the area wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the amazing Thali Cafe.

Farrows Fish and Chips

If there almost always being a queue isn’t enough to convince you of how good this takeaway is, the fact that it’s won a number of awards – most recently storming away with the title of Bristol’s best budget eatery – should do.

Victoria Park, Bristol

Victoria Park

Not a local BS3/4er and looking for somewhere to sit with your Farrows chips (or A Capella cake/pizza)? Or just fancy a post-breakfast/lunch/dinner walk? Head down to Victoria Park, one of my favourite spaces in Bristol. It even has a table tennis table (though you do have to supply your own bats and balls). Watching the sun set over the city from the top of the hills is particularly special.

Perrett's Park allotments + balloon

Perrett’s Park

That said, views from Perrett’s Park are arguably even better.

Gaines Greengrocers

This might look like a bit of an odd addition to this list, but I couldn’t not mention Gaines. You’ll recognise it from the bright array of fruit and vegetables spilling onto the pavement (not literally! They have crates and boxes and tables, you don’t have to pick produce off of the floor!). But Gaines doesn’t just sell your five-a-day. This tiny store is a bit like Mary Poppins’ bag, packing in more foodstuffs than you’d ever think possible, including (but not limited to) freshly baked bread (or baking ingredients to make your own), organic grains, fairtrade chocolate, tofu, tasty peanut butter and even matzah. The owner, Jason, and his co-workers are genuinely friendly and helpful, too. Good food served with a smile – sums up the spirit of this part of BS3 and 4 for me!

Totterdown houses from Albert Road railway bridge

*This is far from an extensive list of things to do in Totterdown and Knowle – there are plenty of places that are still on my ‘to visit’ list but I’m assured are really nice (in particular the Star & Dove, Duchess of Totterdown and Assilah Bistro). And I haven’t even started mentioning the many pubs, either!

Image Credits

Colourful Totterdown Houses (first pic): The Guardian

Office Bar and Canteen, A Capella: Courtesy of Tripadvisor

Thali Totterdown: Thali Café website

Victoria Park: Toulouse and the Vegetable

Perrett’s Park: Gaelallan on Panoramio More Totterdown houses (last pic): Rwendland via Wikipedia

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