Pillow Talk: Between the Sheets of Mollie's Motel & Diner, Bristol

Mollies Motel and Diner is the second foray by Soho House into the world of American motels, and features a 50s-style diner complete with cushioned booths and tomato-shaped ketchup dispensers
Mollie's Motel and Diner is the second foray by Soho House into the world of American motels, and features a '50s-style diner complete with cushioned booths and tomato-shaped ketchup dispensers | Courtesy of Mollie's Motel and Diner / Expedia

Bristol’s industrial history as a transport hub steered Soho House to open a roadside motel here – bringing a sleek slice of Americana to the West Country’s buzziest city.

After the decline of Bristol‘s maritime industry, it was the British port city’s cutting-edge music scene that put it firmly back on the map. Since then, Bristol has become synonymous with street art – spawning secretive spray-can-toting artist Banksy – and a world-class dining scene. But you don’t have to stay central to dip your toe in its warm cultural waters. The Soho House-owned Mollie’s Motel & Diner is an uber-hip roadside inn that transports the motel model to one of the biggest crossroads in Britain, paving the way to the West Country, Wales and beyond.

1. Mollie's Motel & Diner


Room at Mollies Motel and Diner, Bristol, UK
Courtesy of Mollie's Motel and Diner / Expedia

This is the second Soho House foray into the world of iconic American motels, having set the satnav first for Oxfordshire and now turning to Bristol, with a location in Cribbs Causeway. You’ll find no coin-operated TVs or scratchy bedsheets here, mind: only superfast wifi, Egyptian-cotton sheets and stylish interior design by the people who exported the Soho House look around the world. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without the most quintessentially American of restaurants: a ’50s-style diner, complete with cushioned booths, juicy cheeseburgers and tomato-shaped ketchup dispensers.

2. M Shed


Exterior of M Shed in Bristol, UK
© Njarvis / Depositphotos.com

What better way to get to know Bristol than a museum that’s all about the city? The M Shed is just that, and more. Housed in a former dockside warehouse, this top attraction recounts the story of Bristol from prehistoric times to the present day. The thousands of items on display include the likes of local artworks, archaeological finds and vintage vehicles – you can even drive a steam train and operate one of the electric cranes outside.

3. St Nicholas Market

Market, Farmers' Market, British, Healthy

St Nicholas Market, Bristol, UK
© eye35.pix / Alamy Stock Photo
This rather lovely maze of vintage collectables, second-hand clothes, street food and numerous other browsable stalls has been a fixture on the Bristol scene since 1743. Also known as St Nicks Market, it boasts the largest collection of independent retailers in Bristol, and is centred around a Georgian arcade in the heart of the Old City. Open every day except Sunday, it also features a weekly market specialising in local farm produce, stocked with the best of the West Country larder.

4. Watershed

Bar, American

Watershed in Bristol Harbour, Bristol, UK
© Njarvis / Depositphotos.com
Watershed is another repurposed waterfront warehouse, but this time, a lively arts hub. At its heart is a diverse programme of film, events, festivals, workshops and conferences, often plugged directly into the local community. A three-screen cinema shows mostly arthouse and more progressive movies, and there’s a great cafe, too, with a mostly veggie and vegan menu, or you can grab a drink and snack at the outside Undershed bar downstairs.

5. SS Great Britain

Historical Landmark, Museum

SS Great Britain ship in Bristol, UK
© Chris Dorney / Depositphotos.com

One of the top tourist attractions in Bristol, the former passenger steamship SS Great Britain now serves as a museum telling its own story and that of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the engineering genius behind it. It was rescued as a beached wreck in the Falkland Islands, and parts of the Victorian vessel have been meticulously recreated, including the first-class dining saloon, brought to life with recordings of passengers’ diary entries. Head under the glass sea to get a close-up of the hull and the groundbreaking screw propeller.

6. Bristol Old Vic

Building, Theatre

The exterior of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre, Bristol, UK
© Andrew Michael / Alamy Stock Photo
Built in 1766, the Bristol Old Vic is the oldest continuously working theatre anywhere in the English-speaking world. And if that wasn’t reason enough to pay it a visit, it puts on a fabulously eclectic mix of shows – from plays and comedy gigs to live music and experimental theatre. Beyond the performances, you’ll also find a raft of community-centred workshops, classes and family-friendly events. Its cafe-bar is a real highlight, too, boasting a glass-raising selection of beers and gins.

7. Thekla

Music Venue, Theatre

Converted cargo ship and live-music venue Thekla, Bristol, UK
© Keith Ramsey / Depositphotos.com
Continuing the theme of all things maritime and repurposed, Thekla was once a German-built cargo ship and since 1984 has been one of the best-known and best-loved music venues in Bristol. Moored just along from Prince Street Bridge, it’s hosted some of the biggest names in music in its atmospheric innards, while also running top club nights. Banksy’s Grim Reaper once graced the hull, but you’ll now find it on display at the M Shed museum.

8. Tobacco Factory


While it’s set away from Bristol city centre, in the Southville neighbourhood, this last vestige of the huge Imperial Tobacco site was saved from demolition in the ’90s and converted into a multipurpose building and community hub. Most visit for its Sunday market, full of quirky stalls and local produce, while its cafe-bar opens every day with a vegetarian menu, top local craft beers and regular live music. They run a pretty good theatre, too, so keep an eye out for their next production.

9. Lido Spa and Restaurant

Restaurant, British

Pool and dining area at Lido Spa and Restaurant, Bristol, UK
© Christopher Jones / Alamy Stock Photo

You won’t find too many open-air swimming pools in Bristol, but here’s one. It’s a glorious 24m (79ft) long and always heated just right for the weather, plus chlorine levels are kept as low as possible. It’s popular, so book ahead if you want to bag a two-hour swimming slot, or treat yourself to a package that includes a swim, spa session with massage and a meal in the excellent poolside restaurant.

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