Last updated on January 4, 2024
I spend a lot of time in cafes writing this blog, meeting with friends, and eating cake (of course!). So this post on the best cafes in Bristol was an obvious one for me to write, and one that I’m updating often.
As with restaurants, we’re spoilt for choice with Bristol cafes and there’s a whole smorgasbord of independent coffee shops to choose from, be it doughnut specialists or the perfect spot to work from. Many even serve local coffee.
So here’s my guide to the best independent Bristol coffee shops and cafes. There are so many great ones to choose from that even this best-of list amounts to 50! I’ve chosen a smaller list of my favourites below. Plus a friend wrote a guest post on the best places for speciality coffee in Bristol.
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The Best Cafes in Bristol
Bridges and Balloons’ favourites
This is a long and pretty comprehensive list, so here’s a quick round-up of my top five…
- 1B Pitville – the epitome of a friendly neighbourhood cafe, serving top notch and thoughtfully prepared coffee, pastries, sandwiches and soup
- Ahh Toots – home to the best cakes in Bristol
- Interlude – one of the city’s best spots for coffee aficionados
- Lido Cafe – a poolside cafe that makes you feel like you’re on holiday
- Orchard Cafe – this one has a hippy vibe, making me feel as though I’m in a bohemian corner of Barcelona
Best Bristol Cafes: Citywide options
The Bristol Loaf fast became a Bristol favourite when it opened in St.George. So much so that it now has a second, bigger branch in Bedminster, and another in the Bristol Beacon. The bread and baked goods are among the best in Bristol. And the Bedminster café also houses Native Vine, one of Bristol’s best natural wine spots.
Society Café is one of my favourite spots in the centre, especially when I’m with the kids as it’s plenty spacious enough for a pushchair. It has a bright and airy, somewhat hipster design and serves up excellent coffee, sweet treats and light lunches.
The original site is on the harbourside, and they now have a second Bristol branch on Baldwin Street (as well as other in Bath and Cheltenham).
One of the obvious contenders for best cafes in Bristol is Fed, which has three locations across the city: in Cotham, Gloucester Road and Fishponds. They always have a stacked counter of incredible sweet treats (I’ve never had a bad cake from there). And the Fed Bowl has become an iconic lunch in Bristol, stuffed with freshly made salads and humous.
All the cafes also serve a short brunch menu with some excellent toasties, yoghurt bowls and changing specials. It’s always busy so service can be a bit detached, but the food is always a winner.
Tin Can Coffee started as a festival truck and now has two shops in Bristol – one in Southville and another on Gloucester Road. They have a cool aesthetic with nods to their trucking past, and the one on Gloucester Road is a particularly cosy spot for a coffee. For coffee, they serve a house blend as well as Triple Co (a popular Bristol roastery).
Food isn’t their strong point, but they do have a small menu of salads, crumpets and sandwiches. And they source good cakes from all over Bristol.
Burra is a self-described antipodean cafe run by some local rugby players from the Bristol Bears. It immediately became popular when it launched on Whiteladies Road, and they now have a second site on North Street. The coffee is top notch, and they have a good food menu (although not quite as innovative as I’d originally hoped from an Antipodean place – you know how much I love a Melbourne brunch!).
While at the Whiteladies branch, be sure to pop into the Bristol Artisan two doors down, one of Bristol’s best independent shops.
Restore by Spoke and Stringer
Adventure specialists Spoke and Stringer have rebranded their cafes as Restore, places to relax and enjoy a menu of smoothies and other snacks focused on sustainability. We like the College Green location, which is within the Spoke and Stringer store and benefits from its cool surf-style aesthetic. The harbourside location is also picturesque, right next to the water, but there’s not much else around there so we don’t often visit.
Boston Tea Party
Boston Tea Party is a Bristol born and bred institution that now has cafes all across the city and west country. It has a big focus on sustainability and was one of the first UK cafes to stop using single use cups.
It’s ideal for families with a great kids menu, including pancakes and build-your-own breakfasts. I’m a huge fan of their breakfast muffin, which is like an elevated version of a classic McMuffin! Nowadays BTP does have the feel of a chain, so lacks the intimacy and Character of some of the other Bristol cafes, but we are still big fans of it for a family outing.
Spicer and Cole
Spicer and Cole is another Bristol coffee shop chain and a reliable stop for cake or lunch. I’m especially fond of their giant muffins, and their frittatas for lunch.
Spicer and Cole has a few locations across the city – my favourite is the one in the RWA, which benefits from the gallery’s grand architecture and high ceilings.
The menu varies slightly across each location with some offering a fuller, cooked menu and others focussing on a deli-style counter with sandwiches, salads and frittatas/pies.
Pinkmans is famous for its filled sourdough doughnuts, which have gained a cult-like status in Bristol (personally I prefer Crosstown). They also serve a range of other pastries and cakes, which err on the side of modern French patisserie while retaining a laidback vibe.
The original was based on Park Street, but suffered a fire in 2023. They now have locations on Gloucester Road, Clifton Down and near Old Market (this one in collaboration with Anna Cake).
Best Cafes in Bristol: Clifton and Cotham
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that 1B Pitville is pretty much my second home. The whole place has a wonderfully welcoming neighbourhood vibe, and I’ve made a gorgeous multi-generational group of friends from among the locals and staff. It’s a bit like “Cheers” and I wish more places like this existed.
The guys who run 1B – Matt and Mikey – have created the perfect recipe for fostering community. I’m not entirely sure how they’ve done it, but if I had to guess the ingredients, I’d say it’s a perfect blend of the following: their own personalities, dedication and care; excellent coffee; a thoughtful food menu; a layout that encourages conversation; staff that embody the ethos; and a little bit of magic. It’s unofficially known as Cotham Hill’s Community Centre.
Alongside its atmosphere, the coffee is the star of the show at 1B, and they can always be trusted upon to provide a perfect brew (it’s top of our list for best coffee in Bristol). The menu is short but always delicious with a thoughtful attention to detail and suppliers. I’m a particularly huge fan of their grilled kimcheese, and the toasted banana bread is one of my favourite treats in Bristol.
The prize for prettiest doorway (and possibly cakes) in Bristol definitely goes to Anna Cake Couture, which specializes in macarons, exquisite cube cakes, iced biscuits and giant, chunky cookies. They also do cake and biscuit decorating classes, which I’ve done a few of – Marianne Bakes is a brilliant teacher.
Mercy Mercy Mercy
Everything that has ever been on this site in Boyce’s Avenue has been gold since Kyle took ownership of Papersmiths with then parter Sid back in 2013. I mourned the loss of Papersmiths, but liked its replacement Sunday General, and now Mercy Mercy Mercy is the new winner.
It’s a beautifully designed cafe with spot-on branding and gorgeous attention to detail (as you’d expect seeing as Kyle runs a successful interiors and branding company). They serve excellent coffee from Hard Lines and the menu is evolving with full and hearty brunch options as well as occasional evening openings.
One of the friendliest cafes in Bristol, Bake Away is a popular bakery on foodie central Chandos Road, serving strong coffee and excellent baked goods. It’s run by Ece and Kerem from Instanbul, so has a Turkish influence, including filled olive/cheese Turkish buns and chocolate agma, which is similar to (and maybe better than) a pan au chocolat.
Run by Lawrence, the former Head of Coffee at Full Court Press, and chef Chloe, Interlude was a wonderful addition to Bristol’s coffee scene in 2023.
It’s based inside the former Psychopomp gin distillery in St Michael’s Hill, which still runs weekend workshops there, and has gin bottles lining the walls. That, along with the vintage signage, provides an instantly atmospheric backdrop for the cafe.
As you can imagine, it’s all about the coffee here and they serve local brands as well as coffee from Lawrence’s own roastery Dino’s, which he runs with his wife in Easton.
It’s one of those rare places where you feel instantly welcome and it very soon became part of the local neighbourhood scene.
They often run special events, including Picky Bits, a Sunday event filled with wine, small plates by Chloe and copious amount of coffee.
The Primrose Café is a Clifton Village institution, set on the pedestrianised Boyce’s Avenue opposite Reg the Veg. It’s a lovely place to sit outside on a sunny day. And they serve a good menu of classic breakfast and lunch fare, such as sandwiches, burgers, a full English and more. To be honest, there are probably better places to eat, but you’d struggle to find a more picturesque setting.
As the name would suggest, Foliage Café is filled with plants and has a sunny, welcoming vibe. It’s a popular spot for casual food in Clifton Village, and serves a good selection of cakes including pastries, cupcakes and vegan and raw options. They don’t allow you to use laptops.
East Village Café has a beautiful location at the end of Boyce’s Avenue in a bright space that’s shared with French Grey, a shop selling eco-friendly homewares and gifts. . Everything on offer in the cafe is vegan, including sandwiches, cakes and a selection of rainbow lattes. It’s lovely to sit in, but I also like getting a takeaway iced almond coffee and drinking it in the nearby Victoria Square. The shop has increased in size over the years, so there’s now less indoor seating.
This authentic Italian deli, Divino, just off Whiteladies Road is the ultimate place for creating an Italian-theme hamper, filled with sweet treats, oils and all your Italian favourites. They also have a small amount of seating if you want to drink your coffee in. And don’t miss the cannolis.
Bakesmiths is a huge airy café on Whiteladies road with an open kitchen and on-site bakery. They have a sister company, Cakesmiths, who provide the cakes – I’m a big fan of the Victoria sponge slice. The breakfast baps are also excellent. And they’ve recently re-instigated their full brunch menu, which is as good as what I remember from their pre-pandemic days. I loved the avocado and eggs on toast with a delicious chipotle sauce. They’ve also re-opened the upstairs, which is a handy place to work with a laptop.
Odd Shop is Bristol-based Oddkin Coffee Roasters’ own cafe in the city. On the site of what used to be Wayland’s Yard, they maintain a nod to the past with signature topped crumpets, as well as other breakfast and brunch classics.
They only serve Oddkin coffee, but always have four single origins on offer at any one time. I particularly like that you can do a coffee flight, sampling a few different brews.
The Downs Café
The main selling point of The Downs Café is its location on Durdham Downs, making it the perfect place to stop for coffee and snacks while out for a walk. And they also serve some excellent lunches, including flatbreads, pastries and soup. And in the summer, they sometimes do pizza nights too.
The Colombian Company
As the name would suggest, The Colombian Company serves up speciality Colombian coffee. It started in Bath and now has a branch on Whiteladies road that’s a big hit on Instagram for its striking black and white tile floor. Great homemade cakes too – the vanilla and passionfruit loaf gets an A+ from me.
The Bristol Lido is one of my favourite places in the city – it’s the ultimate place to go to relax, and even if you’re not using the pool or spa, you can still go to the cafe for some poolside drinks. After five years on the waiting list, I’m finally a member! The Lido is at its best on a sunny day when you can sit outside, but I’m a big fan at any time of year as it’s also cosy inside, offering a peaceful sanctuary within the city. You can visit the cafe even if you’re not a Lido member.
Best Cafes in Bristol: City Centre and Harbourside
One of the best places for coffee in Bristol is Little Victories in Wapping Wharf. It has a classic pared-back coffee-forward hipster vibe.
And the cakes are delicious – don’t miss the cinnamon bun slice (one of my favourite treats in all of Bristol). They are the sister cafe of the popular Small Street Espresso, which is also on this list. And Small Goods Bristol, which sells fantastic donuts.
Farro achieved cult status at the Whiteladies Farmers Market, always selling out quickly. So Bristol rejoiced when it opened as a full-time shop in Brunswick Square. The pastries definitely live up to the hype, and the soft serve (only served in summer) is amazing!
Small Street Espresso
Small Street Espresso rightfully has a reputation for serving some of Bristol’s best coffee. They do local coffee as well as specialist varieties from across the world. And the cakes are also top notch. It’s the sister venue of Little Victories.
For small batch, bean-to-bar chocolate in Bristol, there’s no better place than Ruby Hue. Their cafe in Finzels Reach also houses a small chocolate factory where they make their wares. As you can imagine, it always smells divine. It’s my favourite place for a hot chocolate in Bristol, especially with one of the many toppings on offer (Sorrento orange is my jam). Owners Ruth and Tom are lovely, and the 70s-style branding is spot on.
Coffee Under Pressure
Coffee Under Pressure on Park Street is another place that takes its coffee seriously. Originating in Reading, it came to Bristol in 2020 and can be relied upon for a good brew. Seating is limited, but it’s a good place for a takeaway with Brandon Hill and College Green nearby.
Full Court Press
My coffee snob friends swear by Full Court Press for the best coffee in Bristol, which is a high accolade as they’re difficult to impress (a little like me with cakes!). The cafe has its own roastery, which is well regarded as one of the best Bristol coffee roasters. Two out of three of the original owners have now opened their own ventures – Interlude and Greytone, which are also on this list and our guide to the best coffee in Bristol.
Mrs Potts Chocolate Shop
There used to be no better place for a chocolate treat in the centre of Bristol than Mrs Potts Chocolate Shop. And while they now have competition from the excellent Ruby Hue, Mrs Potts is still a fantastic option.
They serve the most amazing cookie sandwiches, brownies, cookies and cakes. And the hot chocolate is amazing. In the summer, the ice cream sandwiches are a must.
The Cloakroom Café
Housed in an old Victorian public toilet block, The Cloakroom Café is a quirky little place serving a delicious array of homemade cakes, plus specialty coffee, freshly made juices, smoothies and pastries. It’s more than just a novelty location as the space is genuinely perfect for a cafe. There are some good little nooks for working with a laptop.
It’s the epitome of hip, lab-style cafes, and as such a little too “cold” for me, but Greytone is perfect if that’s your vibe. Run by husband and wife team, Charlotte and Ernest from Hong Kong, the focus is squared firmly on coffee. They both worked at Swevern and Full Court Press respectively before branching out on their own.
As you’d expect, the coffee is excellent, made with a special machine all the way from Seattle. And I was also impressed by their cakes, which are mostly homemade on site (somethign that’s becoming ever rarer on the Bristol scene).
Baristas Coffee Collective
Baristas Coffee Collective is a tiny little shop near Finzels Reach serving its own blend of beans alongside an excellent selection of homemade cakes. Coffee lovers won’t be disappointed as this is some of the best coffee Bristol serves.
One of the loveliest cake shops in Bristol is undoubtedly Ahh Toots. It began as a market stall in St.Nick’s market but now has its own bricks and mortar café, serving an even bigger mountain of baked goods. They also do decadent afternoon teas.
Another cafe that doubles as a roastery, Wogan is the most lab-style experience of them all, partly because the cafe is right next to its training campus where you can see baristas learning the trade. There’s also an on-site shop selling beans, and the whole palce is coffee-centric. That said, they also have great food with a menu by the Bianchi group – it’s similar to the sandwiches and pastries they served at the temporary Bianchis Deli during the pandemic, which is fantastic news for me as that place kept me going during lockdown.
It’s a somewhat off-putting location next to M32, but a visit there is worth it for the excellent coffee and now food. I did a fun tasting there, trying different beans from around the world.
Playground Cafe is instantly memorable for its swing seats you can see from the window. As the name would suggest, it has a playful vibe throughout and there are over 150 boardgames to get involved with. They serve craft beer and cocktails as well as coffee. Chance and Counters is another good Bristol play café in the centre of town.
No train ride from Temple Meads is complete without a stop at Hart’s Bakery where you can find some of the city’s best pastries. The tiny little café and open-kitchen bakery is always busy, and the perfect place to stock up on pre-trip treats. The pain au chocolate is my favourite in Bristol.
A true Bristol institution, Steve has been going here since he was a child. The walls of the no-frills city centre cafe in Broadmead are covered in traditional painted signs and the service is second to none. Go there for a hearty lasagne or jacket potato and a break from the city’s more hip cafe scene.
Best Cafes in Bristol: Gloucester Road and Stokes Croft
While Bristol has lots of different sides to its character, The Bristolian epitomises the city’s old-school independent hippy vibe. It’s colourful, laidback and serves up hearty breakfasts and lunches, as well as a large selection of cakes. The covered patio, spilling out onto Picton Street, is particularly nice on a summer’s day.
Café Kino is another place that epitomises Bristol’s character – this time its more activist side. It’s a co-op run café serving no frills vegan food and there’s even an activist bookshop downstairs.
The Tea Garden
Not strictly a café, but I’m a big fan of The Tea Garden trailer in St.Andrew’s Park, which helps make it one of the best parks in Bristol. What more do you want from a park snack than a toastie, crumpets, homemade cake and good coffee? The Cafe on the Common in Horfield is a similarly good park cafe.
Elemental is one of my favourite cafes to work from, sitting in the window, watching the world of Stokes Croft passing by. It has a homespun, stripped wood style with striking high ceiling and windows. The local coffee by Triple Co Roast is excellent.
Elemental also doubles as a deli and bakery. Their cheese twists are amazing, but I’m not a huge fan of the rest. They also sell a great selection of local deli items, such as jams, pickles, chocolate, eggs, milk and veg.
Best Cafes in Bristol South of the River: Bedminster, Southville and Totterdown
When I said Mrs Potts and Ruby Hue were the best place for chocolate in the city centre, I didn’t say the whole city because there’s also Zara’s Chocolates, which is equally as good, or some might say better.
On North Street in Southville, Zara’s is a chocolatier selling homemade truffles, bars and hot chocolates. Their ice cream is also amazing.
People kept telling me I needed to go to Sweven to try the cakes, and when I finally did, I understood the accolades. They have a small but perfectly formed selection, including vegan options – the lemon loaf is A+.
It’s very much a coffee-forward cafe with a lab-style vibe that can feel a little austere. That said, I reckon the cakes make it worth a visit.
I wish I lived closer to Albatross as this is the kind of place I’d go to everyday. It’s everything I like in a café – cosy, cute, plant-filled, with great cakes, and to top it all off: homemade ,crumpets.
Another Bedminster favourite is the Toast Room, a friendly little cafe filled with Formica, and inspired by the owners’ travels around Europe. They serve hearty dishes with a focus on simple, fresh ingredients. The hash is a speciality.
Emmeline is a hip and friendly plant-filled café serving a menu of fresh juices and smoothies, toasties and cakes. There used to be one in Stokes Croft, but that one is now closed. The one in Spike Island gallery remains.
Windmill Hill City Farm
One of Bristol’s best hidden gems is Windmill Hill City Farm, a perfect place for a family day out with littluns. The onsite café in the middle of the farm reflects the whole place’s ethos and serves home-cooked, ethically sourced food. Where possible, produce from the farm is used in the café. There’s an enclosed kids’ play area as part of the café too.
Best Cafes in East Bristol: Easton, St.Werburghs, Old Market, St.George and St.Phillip’s
No.12 is an Easton favourite, famous for its waffles and excellent coffee. It also functions as a deli, grocer and off-licence. And they’re open in the evenings, serving tapas. It’s super popular so arrive early if you want the waffles.
The Garden of Easton
The Garden of Easton is on the site of old favourite, Cafe Maitreya, and is run by the same people as Bristol stalwart, The Bristolian in Montpelier. The plant-filled oasis brims with greenery inside and out, and it has a similar hippy vibe to its sister. It’s one of our favourite spots for brunch in Bristol.
Mark’s Bread is another North Street institution, serving up some of the city’s best speciality breads, mostly using natural yeasts. They also do excellent homemade and hearty pastries, cakes and lunches. The whole place smells amazing.
25a Old Market
25a Old Market is the little sister café of the popular Number 12 in Easton. It doubles as a deli and has a warm, friendly vibe with communal seating and shelves of quality, local goods.
St Werburgh’s City Farm Café
The Farm Café is in St. Werburgh’s City Farm, East Bristol’s answer to Windmill Hill City Farm. It’s a much smaller farm, but the café is just as a good and has the same down-to-earth hippy vibes (it is in St.Werburgh’s after all), with a focus on local produce. It also looks like a hobbit house!
To me, the Orchard Cafe feels like stepping into the sort of bohemian enclave you find in European cities like Barcelona and Copenhagen. High ceilings, fairy lights galore, comfy sofas and a distinctly hippy vibe make it a cosy place to spend an hour or two.