A vibrant and colourful neighbourhood, Bristol’s Independent District is known for its non-conformist, bohemian vibes. The area, which includes Gloucester Road – the longest high street of independent shops in Europe – is also jam-packed with buzzing cafés, greengrocers and well-loved pubs.
We asked District Manager Anne-Louise Perez to give us her suggestions for top Bristol merchandise to get your hands on in the area. And don’t forget you can use your Bristol Pounds at many of the shops!
Cox & Baloney Tea Rooms, Gin and Tea – 182 & 184 Cheltenham Road
Begin your shopping trip on a sugar high at the start of Bristol’s Independent District, Cox & Baloney, recently listed in the Top 10 for Best of British and Best Café at the 2018 Bristol Good Food Awards. This vintage-style tea rooms serves a scrumptious afternoon tea alongside their own beautifully-brewed leaf teas. They also host gin and cheese evenings as well as regular cocktail and pudding clubs (what’s not to love!). Pick up a bottle of their tea-infused gin (choose from lavender flower, forest berry or orange blossom), take away packets of their loose leaf tea or if you’re feeling generous, buy someone special a tea for two gift voucher. It’s also all available at their online shop.
7th Sea – An independent Emporium of Bristol Art, 198 Cheltenham Rd
7th Sea is an emporium of handmade creations made with love by local artists and designers. Selling everything from T-shirts, prints and cards through to unique ceramics and jewellery, it’s the perfect place to pick up a gift or souvenir like a wall plaque of the ‘Ursa’ bear by Jamie Gillman. The original sculpture was unveiled in the Bearpit in 2013 and is symbolic of the bottom-up approach to regeneration for which Stokes Croft is increasingly renowned. Or check out this A4 print, ‘Bristol Wild Life’ by Susan Taylor – this particular design was used on a Bristol Pound note.
Reason Interiors – Birds and art, 73 Gloucester Rd
A family affair, this shop is run by two sisters and their mum. Here you’ll find a blend of authentic vintage and retro delights from local talented artists, many of whom live in this area. Look out for the delicate Wildflower Cards and Prints – a combination of botanical, ornithological and local city studies, inspired by the arts and colours of the 1930s. Or how about coasters made by Linen Prints, a small Bristol design business run by Jaqui Watkins. The studio concentrates mainly on hand-printed lino cuts, fabrics and etchings which then translate on to different homeware products and an extensive greetings card range.
Image – Jaqui Watkins Black Bird Coaster
Grape and Grind – Chutney-mania, 101 Gloucester Road
Discover an exciting range of delicious wines, craft beers and artisan spirits, plus coffee beans from one of the best roasters in the country. There’s also local home-made chutneys from Bishopston Preserves – the fruit are grown and picked from local allotments around Bishopston and Ashley Down to make these delicious condiments. If the weather’s nice – why not pick up a few bits for a picnic in nearby St Andrews Park? Or hunt out Bristol-made choccies from ‘Ooh Chocolata’, a company founded by a husband and wife team who live just a few miles down the road in Nailsea.
Playfull – A Bristol fable, 87 Gloucester Rd
Have you ever heard of The Bristol Giants? Head to independent toy and book store, Playfull to pick up a copy of the tale. This colourful children’s’ story explores Bristolian Folklore and the fable of how Bristol giants, Goram and Ghyston, shaped the landscape of our beautiful city. Both the author Oliver Rigby and illustrator Tom Bonson live locally in Bishopston.
Scoopaway Health Foods – 113 Gloucester Road
Scoopaway have been at the forefront of eco retail, reducing packaging and food waste by making their best selling lines available loose, enabling the customer to scoop as much or as little as they need. They are well known for their organic, natural whole foods. Pop in for a pot of their Bristol Honey or a pack of the Bristol-founded Pukka Teas.
Brewers Droop Home Brew Supplies – The strongest beer in the world, 36 Gloucester Rd
This shop has been here since 1984! Mike, who runs the place, is famous for breaking a Guiness World Record for the strongest beer (called Uncle Igor’s Famous Falling Over Water. With the craft beer revolution in full flow (Bristol has over 15 independent breweries producing quality craft beers and is fast becoming the UK’s leading beer destination outside London), it’s worth popping in here to pick up a local brew. Look out for Bristol brewers Wiper and True or Arbor Ales based in St Werburghs and Easton respectively. Or see if you’ve got what it takes to become a master brewer and pick up a beer making kit.
Co-LAB – Books, politics, art, graffiti and protest in Bristol, 123 Gloucester Road
This shop’s message is loud and clear ‘Shop Social, Shop Local’. Inside, its edgy clothing, jewellery, cards and books offer a taste of Bristol’s art and makers’ scene. Pick up a copy of the new Gold edition of Politics and Protest is put together by Don Pedro, an anonymous photographer who roams the streets of Bristol recording how people express their opinions through subverting advertising billboards, graffiti, producing stickers and putting notes in windows. A visit to Bristol wouldn’t be complete without a Banksy memento. Co-LAB stocks the book, Banksy’s Bristol: Home Sweet Home which explores the infamous graffiti artist’s formative years in his home city.
Romantica – A postcard of Bristol and other treats, 139 & 309 Gloucester Road
Romantica is an independent gift shop that has been running with Nik at the helm since 1989. It has a massive variety of cards and postcards. Watch out for limited edition signed prints, like The ‘Blueberry Bear’ – an iconic image of the Bristol Bear – by local visual and digital artist Jess ‘TKLS’, who has produced a series of characters called the City Animalz, Also on the animal theme is the lovely ‘Arches Fox’ by Toni Burrows, who makes large mosaics from recycled tiles.
Image – Blueberry Bear (cropped) – by Jess ‘TKLS’
IOTA – Bristol coasters and art prints, 167 Gloucester Road
IOTA have been selling gifts for the home and personal accessories in Bristol for 20 years and their shop is full of all sorts of lovely locally-made bits and pieces. These coasters from popular Bristol artist Susan Taylor reflect different Bristol neighbourhoods. You’ll also find gorgeous books, scent-sational candles, ornaments, jewellery, bags and lots more!
Room 212 – local arts and crafts, 212 Gloucester Road
Gloucester Road is something of a mini art sector – you’ll find a treasure trove of local arts and craft in Room 212, modern designer-makers wares in Paper Plane, contemporary jewellery in Artemis. Snap up a souvenir to remind you of this proudly creative city!
Image – Sarah from Room 212