Since I became a freelancer, from time to time I force myself to wash, dress, go out and work from a café or a public library, just to spend some time surrounded by other human beings.
Luckily, English people are used to working from their laptops in cafés, so it’s unusual to be hounded by passive-aggressive baristas (although that did happen to me in Bristol, you won’t find those unwelcoming places on my list). Here you will find some of my favourite co-working spaces and work cafés in Bristol, selected not only for the free Wi-Fi (which is available almost everywhere), but considering whether they have ubiquitous power sockets, friendly staff and a suitable noise level.
Bristol Central Library || College Green (BS1 5TL)
My favourite place to go writing in Bristol is the Central Library’s Reading Room. Housed inside a historic Edwardian-style building next to the Cathedral, Bristol’s main public library opened in 1906 replacing the one in King Street, from which it kept the antique furniture and fittings. The interior is largely Neoclassical, with round-arched vaults and different kinds of marble, and the Reading Room is tunnel vaulted, with glass above. Here you can work from your own work station, a wooden desk boxed into an elegant cubicle, surrounded by architectural beauty and the pristine silence of libraries. The only con is that you won’t find sockets, so your working session will only last as long as your battery.
Arnolfini reading room and café || The Old City (BS1 4QA)
Housed inside a converted tea warehouse, Arnolfini is a contemporary art museum at the heart of Bristol Harbour. On the second floor of this beautiful building, next to the exhibition rooms, there is a reading room with some desks, couches and many shelves full of contemporary art books, magazines and catalogues. The place is quiet and the Wi-Fi connection is good. As an alternative, there is also a nice café downstairs, which is a bit noisier but perfect if you like to sip a coffee or tea while working. Arnolfini café is best known for its brunch, but the craft beer and cider selection is great as well.
Watershed and Pervasive Media Studio || The Old City (BS1 5TX)
Opposite Arnolfini, there is this cultural and creative-economy hub with a particular focus on cinema and digital creativity. It has three cinemas, which always have a very interesting programme, and a huge café with many tables where you can work. In the same building there is the Pervasive Media Studio, a research space that brings together a network of artists, technologists and academics. Here, I used to attend their lunchtime Friday talks, a very interesting event featuring a different speaker every week. After the talk, visitors are welcome to stick around and work from the studio, mingling with the resident community.
Redbrick House || Stokes Croft (BS1 5DS)
This is a co-working space in the hipster area of Stokes Croft. Unlike the previous ones, it is not free, but the membership fee gives you the comfort of a space equipped with a number of conveniences and technical facilities such as meeting rooms, kitchens, phone lines and lockers among other things. It claims to be the perfect place to network with fellow creative entrepreneurs and freelancers but, when I was invited to try a test-day, the place had just opened so I was the only one working from there.
Cafes with Wi-Fi in Bristol
At the Well: Laundrette & Café || Stokes Croft (BS6 5RR)
The eccentricity of this place is that it has several washing machines where you can do the laundry while having breakfast. That’s because this café opened inside Bristol’s first coin-operated laundrette.
It has a lovely shabby-chic design, and it serves super-tasty pancakes and great teas. They also have a scanner and a printer, in case you need to use them. The music is soft and low volume, making it the perfect place to work from.
Bakers & Co. || Gloucester (BS7 8BG)
They define themselves as a place for California-inspired brunch and coffee. I liked their simple style and the substantial brunch, which is one of the best in Bristol, and they even won the ‘Best Breakfast’ in the Bristol Good Food Awards in 2015. The brunch is so good that the place can be quite crowded at weekends, but can be a great place to work during the rest of the week.
Beese’s Bar & Tea Gardens || Hanham (BS4 4SX)
This is one of my favourite places in Bristol, especially as somewhere to work in the sunshine surrounded by a beautiful park. It is a bit far away from the city centre, but totally worth the trip. On Sundays, you can reach it by hopping on a Bristol Packet Ferry and cruising the river Avon upstream, which is also a great way to enjoy Bristol from a different point of view and take pictures of beautiful stretches of rural Avon. Surrounded by nature, this place is so beautiful that it is also used as a wedding location.
Boston Tea Party || Stokes Croft (BS6 5RL)
This is a chain of cafés scattered around the UK. My favourite ones were, firstly, the one in Stokes Croft -whose facade was painted by the talented street artist Alex Antics and whose walls are covered with varied artworks- and secondly, the one in Clifton Village, which to be honest is too small to provide a proper working station, but still a great social hub where you can hang out with friends.
Café Kino || Stokes Croft (BS1 3RU)
Café Kino is the quintessence of Stokes Croft, the place where everything is organic, fair-traded and ethically sourced, not to mention vegan or –at the very least- vegetarian. It is a workers’ co-op, so the business is run collectively. Here the food is good and the atmosphere is laid-back, they have a wide window for people-watching and a basement where several activities take place, from yoga classes to live music nights.
The Canteen || Stokes Croft (BS1 3QY)
This is a great place to work from, but an even greater place to have a party or simply spend some time. Besides the organic food at the café on the ground floor, I liked their mix of “drop-in” classes, a formula that allowed me to try many different things, from hula-hoop to Bollywood dance. The restaurant is good as well, but the music is too loud to focus on a proper writing session; perhaps it is better to come here simply for a beer or a live music event.
The Cauldron || St. Werburgh’s (BS2 9XW)
This is a restaurant, and I guess I was the only one using it as a work station. The music is loud, but the food is good and the staff are very welcoming. The peculiarity of this place is that the kitchen equipment comes from traditional cookery methods used all around the world and throughout history, from the classic wood-fired oven to the Japanese grill.
The Faraway Tree || Redfield (BS5 9HH)
This is a family-friendly café near St. George’s Park. I liked the Scandinavian style of white walls and vintage mirrors, and the Sunday roast is good as well. Although the place is a bit too crowded with children to be the perfect working environment, it is very quiet during the rest of the week, especially in the afternoon.
Folk House Café || College Green (BS1 5JG)
This is a warm and inviting café with a wide window, soft music, colourful tables and chairs, and a seasonal and organic menu. Besides the lovely café, the Folk House is well known for its creative classes of all kinds, from arts & crafts to music and drama.
Hydra Books || Old Market (BS2 0EZ)
Proudly serving coffee grown by the Zapatistas in Mexico, Hydra is a community bookshop and café that grew out of the Bristol Radical History Group and managed as a workers’ co-op. The books that can be found here are those by independent and non-commercial authors and publishers, focusing on topics ranging from politics, feminism and history, and they have some comfortable couches to work from.
Mocha Mocha || Kingsdown (BS2 8BS)
This is an independent coffee shop at the top of St. Michael’s Hill, not especially quiet but they serve good coffee. The venue is bright and the staff are friendly.
N°12 Easton || Easton (BS5 6DL)
I’ve already written how much I love this airy corner café, but it can take saying twice. This place is cozy and –therefore- quite noisy, but the atmosphere is relaxed and food is delicious. It sums up the community spirit of the neighbourhood. Besides indulging in a super-tasty breakfast and getting some work done from the large communal tables, at this food shop you can find some high quality products to bring back home (I used to come here to buy my daily bottle of Good Chemistry Brewery beer).
The Old Bookshop || Bedminster (BS3 1ES)
This is the place where I used to take shelter and get some work done during Upfest 2016, when Dale Grimshaw painted its sidewall and Sokar Uno painted on the opposite building. The venue is nice and its rooms are full of antiques, taxidermy and other curiosities, so come here only if you are confident that the temptation to gaze around won’t distract you.
Poco Tapas Bar || Stokes Croft (BS2 8JP)
Run by the Eco-Chef Tom Hunt, Poco recently won the ‘Restaurant of the Year’ award at Food Made Good 2016. The place is crowded in the evening, but very quiet and relaxed during the day. They serve good English food in a tapas-style.
Tobacco Factory || Bedminster (BS3 1TF)
The atmosphere is welcoming, although the place is often too noisy to work comfortably. The food is great and they serve Bristol Beer, the glorious craft beer produced on the other side of the street.
World Peace Café || Gloucester (BS7 8NX)
I don’t consider myself Buddhist, but I do often go to a Kadampa centre when I’m travelling. I especially loved the one in Bristol, where I used to attend the lunchtime meditation and then spend the rest of the afternoon there, working from their lovely café or their sunny garden.
Find these cafes and many more cool places in Bristol on my Bristol Google Map!
For more coffee shops suggestions, check out my Bristol food guide!
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