With daring décor and charismatic cocktails, prohibition style bars have popped up in various locations around the city, tempting visitors (or those who know about them, anyway) in on any day of the week. From bars with secret entrances and payphones to call the waiter, to an espionage themed speakeasy, we’ve picked Bristol’s best secret bars.
Red Light Bar
Blink and you’ll miss it, the Red Light Bar in Bristol is an adult-only drinking den concealed in the basement of a worn-down looking building. To find it you’ll have to locate the red light coming from a graffiti- splattered doorway. Then you’ll need to pick up the payphone, press the button and await admission. If you’re granted access, you will descend into a dark den with bar staff dressed in vintage attire and you’ll be transported back to the 1950s. Enjoy the unique atmosphere with one of their custom cocktails.
Getting there: From Bristol Temple Meads Station, you can walk to Unity Street in 20 minutes. There are also several buses which will get you to the bar 5 minutes quicker.
Her Majesty’s Secret Service
The clue’s in the name - Her Majesty’s Secret Service takes inspiration from British heritage. Once inside, it’s all about espionage and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d snuck into MI6. You may not get to see James Bond, but you can certainly enjoy a martini or three (shaken not stirred) in one of Bristol’s best secret cocktail bars. The menu comes disguised as a pocket travel guide with each drink themed around a location in the UK and served with a recipe attached to it – neat! Popular choices include the Strawberry Field, served inside a giant strawberry, and the Greenhouse Project, served inside a glass terrarium cube with plenty of greenery inside.
Getting there: Based in Clifton, this secret bar is a little further from the centre than the others (MI6 must be discreet after all). You can still hop on a bus from Bristol Temple Meads and be sipping a cocktail within half an hour.
Brick vaulted ceilings, flagstone floors and old church pews – Cosies is full of character. And whatever time of the day you decide to visit, the underground den will most likely be lively. During the day, Cosies serves excellent home-cooked food in a chilled-out atmosphere, but as soon as darkness falls, the bar transforms into a lively little lair. With an emphasis on reggae, dubstep and drum and bass, this underground music hub is always a big night out. You’ll find Cosies nestled in the vaults beneath 34 Portland Street.
Getting there: From Bristol Temple Meads Station, you will find several local buses servicing the bar. Total journey time is around 15 minutes.
The Milk Thistle
A four-storey emporium in the heart of the city, The Milk Thistle is hidden in one of the finest historic buildings in the old city. If you find it, you’ll discover a swish restaurant, a gin parlour and a cracking cocktail bar. Juggling a relatively busy events rota - think anything from live music to circus nights - every evening has a different vibe. Whichever night you choose, you will find expertly mixed drinks, unique decor and tonnes of taxidermy – great for Instagram!
Getting there: The Milk Thistle is a 10-minute bus ride from Bristol Temple Meads Station.
Hyde & Co
Bristol’s first speakeasy, Hyde & Co, is one of Bristol’s best secret bars. When the bar opened in 2010, it had no website, no social media and no marketing; rumours about Hyde & Co were spread by word of mouth alone. It’s now a multi-award winning ‘must-visit’ location on Bristol’s celebrated cocktail scene. As the sister venue of Milk Thistle, it has a similarly eclectic, low-lit, gentleman’s club vibe going on. Located just by The Triangle, look out for a bowler decoration and ring the doorbell to gain entry. Handsomely decked out with a piano in the corner and vintage lampshades throughout, sink back to the 1950s as you sip on a classic cocktail.
Getting there: From Bristol Temple Meads, Hyde & Co is a 20-minute bus journey.
Nestled away in the heart of Clifton amidst a row of inconspicuous terraced houses hides the Clifton Lido. More than just a secret bar, this unusual establishment houses a spa, restaurant, outdoor heated pool, sauna, hot tub and steam room! But that’s not what we come for. The bar here has an extensive list of speciality spirits, and a well thought out cocktail list, with old classics (such as a Martini or Manhattan) as well as their own, more modern creations. Their pomegranate whiskey sour is a must-try! This Bristol secret bar is something special.
Getting there: From Bristol Temple Meads Station, jump on a bus towards Clifton. The Lido is around 25 minutes away.
Staying in Bristol for the weekend? Find out more about the city by visiting our handy Bristol guide. And remember to book an Advance ticket via our website or our CrossCountry app to enjoy zero booking fees.
Written by Abby