Number Thirty Eight

Bristol, Bath & Somerset, United Kingdom Book from £130

An elegant B&B in buzzing Bristol, with vivid artwork, panoramic city vistas and a sought-after Clifton address
Once the home of shipbuilding, seafaring and industrial engineering, Bristol is a city transformed. Its waterfront warehouses are now cutting-edge galleries, restaurants and boutiques, and its media and music scenes are buzzing with creativity. It was amidst this melting pot that Adam Dorrien Smith and his brother Michael found this grand merchant’s townhouse, and when it comes to balancing old and new, Number Thirty Eight - like the city itself - treads the tightrope beautifully.

There’s nothing bland or corporate about this boutique B&B, set in sought-after Clifton, just north of the city centre. We enter through the lounge (there’s no formal reception), where delicious breakfasts and cream teas are served at solid wood tables beside enormous bay windows; there’s also a suntrap terrace to the rear, ideal for cocktails and snacks in summer. Upstairs in the 10 bedrooms, calming shades of Farrow & Ball dress nautical wood-panelled walls, and vibrant Anthony Frost artworks are scattered around the communal areas. But what really draws our eye is the sweeping cityscape through the windows: rainbow-hued streets to the rear, the leafy expanse of Bristol’s famous Downs to the front, and the cathedral-like tower of the university in the distance. For stylish city stopovers and weekend breaks, it's hard to beat.

Highs

  • A home-from-home feel, with friendly yet discreet service and rooms you can relax in
  • You get a lot for your money: bathtubs and/or rain showers, retro Roberts radios, robes and REN products, plus a hearty cooked breakfast
  • Perfectly placed, close to the eateries on Whiteladies Road, with the Downs on the doorstep and easy access to the city centre
  • Lots to look at: a bespoke Tom Leaper sculpture on the coiling staircase, a nonchalantly placed Hockney in the downstairs bathroom - not to mention some of the best views in the city

Lows

  • No meals other than breakfast are served, but there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance
  • The House Rooms have limited space, but this is reflected in the price
  • Set on a fairly busy road and parking is tricky due to council restrictions. Thankfully, effective secondary glazing means traffic noise is minimal
  • No under 12s
  • This is a typical Georgian townhouse, with lots of stairs to contend with (and no lift). Equally, Bristol is full of hills, so exploring the city can be strenuous at times

Best time to go

Bristol is a vibrant city with plenty to offer all year round. In summer the world-class Harbour Festival (tall ships, music, dance and markets) and the International Balloon Fiesta (mass balloon ascents, air displays and fireworks) draw big crowds, while in winter the combination of Cabot Circus, Harvey Nichols and upmarket boutiques makes it a popular choice for Christmas shopping and January sales.

Our top tips

Keep an eye on Bristol Zoo's website in the run-up to your visit, it's just a 10-minute walk from the hotel and often hosts special evening events during summer.

Great for...

City Style
Honeymoon
Spa
  • = Makes the grade
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique B&B
  • 10
  • Breakfast and drinks only (restaurants nearby)
  • Over 12s welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Superior House Room

Rooms

The 10 bedrooms are all equally elegant. Shades of pigeon-grey and mizzle lift the wood-panelled walls, carpets are stylish sisal, and distressed leather trunks, battered wooden boxes and industrial-chic tables hark back to a Bristol of times gone by.

The most luxurious rooms are the 2 Loft Suites on the top floor, which run the depth of the house, enjoying open views of the Downs to the north and the city to the south. They have enormous copper bathtubs, hidden waterfall showers and super-kingsize sleigh beds. We stayed in the East Loft Suite and loved the soothing décor and natural light. By contrast, the West Loft Suite is painted dramatic petrol blue, creating a cosseting refuge.

Also spacious with tubs and separate showers are the Luxury Double Rooms. If you can, book Room 3 - it’s the only other double-aspect room, and its freestanding bath is perfectly placed for enjoying the view. Room 7’s basement window lacks aesthetic appeal, but its bathroom does offer rooftop views.

Available as doubles or twins, the Superior House Rooms are ideal for friends sharing or children over 12. Both have showers; in Room 5 you get a bathtub, too. The smaller House Rooms are located on the lower ground floor, closest to the noise of the terrace, but they're beautifully presented, with walk-in showers in their ensuites (a couple have tubs, too).

Bathrooms in all rooms are stocked with waffle robes, snow-white towels and REN products, while bedrooms have comfy goose-down duvets and woollen blankets from Feather & Black. Each room also has a flatscreen satellite TV, WiFi, tea- and coffee-making facilities and a retro Roberts radio.

Features include:

  • Terrace
  • Wifi internet
  • Satellite tv
  • Radio
  • Wifi internet
  • Central heating
  • Fan
  • Bathrobes
  • Toiletries
  • Minibar
  • Coffee tea making
  • Hairdryer
  • Irons/ironing boards (on request)
  • Phone (internal use only)

Eating

The Number Thirty Eight team excels at breakfast. Continental delights, including granola, pastries, fruit, yoghurts and stewed fruit compote, are all laid out in the elegant reception rooms. You can also select from various cooked options: the Full English will keep traditionalists happy, while garlic mushrooms with poached eggs on toast will tempt vegetarians. For me, the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and chives were perfect.

Available until 8pm are coffees, cream teas, wines and cocktails, best enjoyed in front of the fire or on the terrace as the sun sinks behind the rooftops. And in your room you’ll find a minibar stocked with drinks and nibbles to satisfy any impromptu cravings - Tyrells Crisps, Green & Black’s chocolates, locally produced apple juice and various tipples (we liked the Chateau Lavanau Merlot).

Adam decided not to offer any other meals at Number Thirty Eight, choosing instead to encourage guests to explore Clifton’s fabulous range of eateries. A welcome pack in each room provides plenty of suggestions, and staff will happily book tables for you. A couple of minutes’ walk away on Whiteladies Road is Rockfish, which serves super-fresh seafood. Further down the hill, The Cowshed offers tender locally sourced steaks, while the Deco Lounge on Cotham Hill has great tapas and a sociable candlelit interior. After dinner, wind your way back via the dark and decadent Hausbar (book a table in advance), only moments from Number Thirty Eight and perfect for late-night cocktails.

Clifton also has plenty of spots for lunch. Head down Whiteladies Road for artisan treats at Papadeli and contemporary British cuisine at Flinty Red. Or make a beeline for upmarket Clifton Village (20 minutes’ walk), where you’ll find everything from Indian feasts to ethically sourced eats and eclectic afternoon teas.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Food and wine
  • Minibar
  • Coffee tea making
  • Walk to restaurants
  • Drinks until 8pm
Eating:
Activity: Clifton

Activities

  • No weekend in Bristol is complete without a visit to Brunel’s iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge. Walk across the Downs to the Clifton Observatory for elevated views of the bridge and the gorge beyond

  • The upmarket boutiques in Clifton Village are a shopaholic's heaven, and the many eateries provide ample opportunity for refreshments

  • Park Street has an impressive array of independent shops and don’t forget to look out for Bristol-born Banksy's street art at the bottom. It's 25 minutes’ walk downhill from the B&B, so the walk back is considerably more strenuous

  • Climb to the top of the 400-year-old Cabot Tower, behind Park Street, for endless views. Then enjoy a picnic in the pretty park beneath it

  • Head to the harbourside for cafés, bars and galleries. Take in an art-house film at The Watershed, see a multimedia exhibition at The Arnolfini, and explore the city’s past at the M Shed museum. Boat trips are also available

  • Tour Brunel’s vast Victorian liner, the SS Great Britain. Built in Bristol, it shipped emigrants to the USA and Australia, and now sits in splendour on the waterfront

  • Visit eclectic St Nicholas Market for some of the best food in the city centre; try a Pieminster pie, a Moroccan tagine or a fresh falafel wrap

  • Step out of the B&B and onto the Downs; at approximately 400 acres you'll easily forget you're in the middle of one of Britain's largest cities

  • Cabot Circus is Bristol's resident shiny mall; yes there’s one in every city, but the impressive glass roof, outdoor squares, converted friary and Harvey Nichols outpost make this one better than many

  • Clifton’s refurbished Victorian Lido has an outdoor swimming pool, a sauna and steam room, a Jacuzzi, a stylish poolside restaurant and bar, and a long list of treatments

  • Culture vultures should head to Bristol Old Vic, Colston Hall, the Tobacco Factory, [l:http://www.stgeorgesbristol.co.uk:St George's] and the Hippodrome for theatre, dance, comedy and live music. For nightlife and live gigs, try the O2 Academy or Thekla

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Food and wine
  • Hiking
  • History religious
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Museum
  • Nightlife
  • Swimming
  • Shopping
  • Theatre/music
  • Comedy

Kids

Number Thirty Eight welcomes children over 12, but there are no extra beds or interconnecting rooms, so you will need to take a separate room for your child/ren.

Kid Friendly: Terrace

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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