The UK might not be the first destination you think of for someone who can work from anywhere to locate to. It’s expensive and the weather generally sucks, which are usually the two key things many laptop warriors look for when deciding on a remote location.
That’s only part of the truth though and for around half the year (Apr – Sept) the weather doesn’t always suck and the cost of living isn’t quite as bad as it once was, particularly compared to up and coming regions in the world. Indeed I have on many occasions paid more for a beer in Bangkok than I have in Bristol!
Being from Britain I feel duty bound to put forward it’s case as a great European nomadic hot spot focusing particularly on my home city Bristol, located in the South-west of the UK (approximately 2 hours west of London).
Bristol has been transformed in the last few years and is unrecognisable from the place I once came to for a meeting back in the late 90s. I remember stepping out of the mainline railway station and already dreaming of the 1h 40 mins train back to the civilisation of London.
Bristol is awash with places to work, coffee shops, libraries, bars and some reasonably priced shared work space. I am going to focus on ‘free’ places to work rather than renting space. I did rent a desk a few years ago hoping to mingle with other freelancers and creative people but no one was ever there and I spent most of my time in isolation! I would have been just as better off working from home (for free).
Working from home is something I generally avoid. I am much more productive when I am away from the fridge, kettle, TV and other distractions.
So here is my list of my favourite places to go and work, meet friends for coffee/beer, sit about reading or generally hang out.
BRISTOL CENTRAL LIBRARY
College Green, Bristol BS1 5TL
My go to place to work and from where I have written this piece. It has free wifi, it’s peaceful and there is always somewhere to sit. Even though the students have flooded in this time of year I have always found a desk. Slightly annoying that they leave their work out on the desks and go for long lunches, in the same way people leave towels on sunbeds!
It’s in a grand old building bang in the centre of the City, it has toilets and a cafe too! You are not allowed to eat or drink in the main library but you can bring in water. It has everything including long opening hours e.g. 7.30pm most nights.
1 Canon’s Rd, Bristol BS1 5TX
The Watershed opened all the way back in 1982 and was the United Kingdom’s first dedicated media centre. Based in former warehouses on the harbourside distric at Bristol, it hosts three cinemas, a café/bar, events/conferencing and fast wifi 🙂
This is not a free space as such so you should buy a drink or food and there are sometimes some annoying restrictions on where you can sit if you are there with a laptop but generally this is not an issue. A great place to hang out and my second favourite go to place.
Raleigh Rd, Bristol, Avon BS3 1TF
The Tobacco Factory is the last remaining part of the old Wills Tobacco site located in Southville which is just south of the City Centre. It houses a theatre, shared spaces, a huge bar/dining/coffee shop area and holds a weekly farmers market on a Sunday.
Things I like; it’s spacious and there is always a table free in the daytime. Coffee is one of the cheapest in Bristol (£1.60 for a latte!) and the wifi is good and fast. It’s often frequented by Mums and their screaming precious little ones but a good pair of earphones cuts them out of the equation. Breast-feeding is common!
THE LOUNGE NORTH ST
227 North Street, Bristol BS3
Part of a small chain of ‘lounge’ type bars these places are good spots for working from. They have a very reasonably price menu including a great Tapas deal and fair priced coffee. They can be very busy in the evening but no problem finding a desk in the daytime. Free wifi but bring the ear phones for protection from the screaming brats. Sells beer too.
THE BOSTON TEA PARTY
75 Park St, Bristol, BS1 5PF & 97 Whiteladies Rd, Bristol, BS8 2NT (two locations)
Again part of a small chain of coffee shops the BTPs are a great place for nomadic workers. They offer a great value menu at a number locations across the city and wifi is available.
They can be very busy though and would be the first place mentioned in this list where finding a table is not always possible so I tend to only frequent occasionally.
66-68 Bedminster Parade, Bristol, Avon BS3 4HL
Grounded are another small chain of cafe bars in Bristol and the surrounding area. This one in Bedminster which is walking distance from the centre is a huge place.
One major drawback is lack of free wifi, you would need to be signed up a national mobile network. However if you have work to do that can be done offline this is a great place to go due to lots of space and lovely vibe. Their pizza is amazing too but their coffee is too weak for me (in fact a problem throughout the UK!).
COFFEE NUMBER ONE
Gloucester Road, Bristol
I use to live near Gloucester Rd and it’s a great part of the city, full of independent shops and cafes. Coffee number one is a small chain of cafes around Bristol and they do the best flat whites outside of New Zealand!
They do have wifi but always a bit iffy to be honest but a good place to do some offline work or get your dongle out.
Paintworks Central Trading Estate, Bath Rd, Paintworks, Bristol BS4 3EH
Bocabar is a really cool place, just one mile from the mainline railway station near the suburb of Brislington. It is by the river and has a real ‘you could be somewhere more exotic than Bristol’ vibe about it.
Wifi is free and fast, you are competing for space with yummy mummy types but there is always enough space to go around in the daytime.
At night it’s a cool bar that does great pizza!
BRISTOL IN CONCLUSION
Bristol is often being voted number one place in the UK to live and is a great place to be based. It is a smallish city of half a million people but has a good enough international vibe of a second-tier city.
It certainly doesn’t have the same digital nomad vibe that somewhere like Chiang Mai would have due to sheer cost and relatively poor weather but there is lots going in Bristol and culturally it beats many other cities hands down.