Bristol or Manchester: Which British Riverside City Is Better?

Balloons over the Cliffton Suspension bridge
Photo by Nathan Riley via Unsplash
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When thinking about visiting the UK most people immediately think of London, but there are so many more towns and cities to explore. From Manchester to Liverpool, to Cornwall and Devon, you’ll find a quaint vacation destination to remember. We have two very different cities that are worth consideration: Bristol or Manchester. Both riverside cities play an important role in British History.

Bristol is known for its iconic suspension bridge thriving music scene and flourishing street art, whereas Manchester is known as a major cultural hub with many fantastic nightclubs, extensive libraries and renowned sporting history. Each city offers a different aspect of British life, that’s waiting for exploration and discovery.

We’ve put together a list of the most important areas you should be considering when deciding on a vacation destination. We discuss prices between the two cities, the nightlife, things to do, as well as the food to help you decide which one to visit, Bristol or Manchester?

Bristol or Manchester: Accommodation

Manchester City
Photo by Zach Rowlandson via Unsplash

You’ll never be short on places to stay in Bristol and Manchester. Whether you’re looking for hotels, hostels, cottages, or even one or two-bedroom apartments, there will be something out there that will meet all your requirements.

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Websites like airbnb will help you live like a local for very reasonable prices. The average cost for a one-bedroom apartment or vacation rental is anywhere between $67 to $81 per night in Manchester and $89 to $109 per night in Bristol. You’d expect to pay between $107 and $130 per night for a two-bedroom vacation rental in Manchester, whereas, you’ll pay between $125 to $174 per night in Bristol. 

Some people would prefer to pay for a hotel room because it’s often cheaper, but you’re also on vacation so why not treat yourself and have everything done for you. You won’t have to cook any meals, and most of the time breakfast is included in the price of your hotel room.

The average cost per night for a single or double occupancy hotel room is around $40 to $70 in Manchester and around $62 to $77 in Bristol. This is based on rates from a 2 or 3-star hotel. If you prefer 4 or 5-star hotels you’ll expect to pay a little more than this. The average cost per night for a family of four staying in a hotel in Bristol ranges from $124 to $154, whereas in Manchester the cost ranges from $80 to $136 per night. 

Winner: Manchester. Accommodation prices are slightly cheaper.

Bristol or Manchester: Prices

Manchester City
Photo by William McCue via Unsplash

Average costs per day for a solo traveler in Bristol range from $140 to $276 which is a little bit more expensive when compared to Manchester. The average costs per day for a solo traveler in Manchester range from $110 to $231.

The price all depends on the type of holiday you are going on. While some may decide a budget holiday is better for them, others will prefer to splash out on a fancy upmarket holiday instead. Your costings per day will also depend on the activities you do, where you stay, and whether you decide to go out for all three meals a day. 

When traveling around Bristol you’ll expect to pay between $36 and $66 per day for food, transport, and sightseeing. Whereas you’ll only expect to pay between $27 and $61 per day for the same things in Manchester.

Depending on the time of year you are traveling and where you are traveling from your flights to Bristol will cost you anywhere from $360 to $815 for economy class. Flights to Manchester on the other hand will cost anywhere from $343 to $704 for economy class. You may find some cheaper deals out there if you check for package holidays or search price comparison slights like or Kayak. 

Average Cost Per Day$208.00$170.50
Average Cost Per Week$1455.50$1194.50
(Average costs for a solo traveler. Table Created by Author)

If you’re looking to go away with your significant other you’ll need to budget a little bit more each day for your holiday. You can expect to pay anything from $305 to $516 per day in Bristol and between $261 to $443 per day in Manchester.

The average costs per day for food, transport and sightseeing in Bristol for a couple are between $72 and $132 and between $54 and $122 for the same things in Manchester. The table below shows the average costs you could expect to spend per day in each British city. These average costs include flights and accommodation as well. 

Flights to Bristol will cost between $714 to $1628 for a couple in economy class, this is dependant on where you are flying from and which season you are traveling in. Flights to Manchester are slightly cheaper and will cost anywhere between $686 to $1408 for a couple in economy class. Checking price comparison sites will ensure you get the best deal for your flights and holidays.

Average Cost Per Day$410.50$352.00
Average Cost Per Week$2872.00$2463.00
(Average costs for a couple. Table Created by Author)

There is nothing better than going away with your family. While this will mean you’ll need to increase your budget, it will also be a really fun and rewarding experience for you all. For a family of four going to Bristol, you’ll need to budget between $454 and $878 per day. Meanwhile, if you decide to go to Manchester you’ll only need to budget between $373 and $763 per day. These costs include accommodation, sightseeing activities, food and drink, flights, and local transport. Your daily expenses for food, sightseeing, and transport are between $144 and $264 in Bristol and between $108 and $244 in Manchester.

Flights to Bristol for a family of four can cost you anything from $1,428 to $3,256 for economy class. Flights to Manchester for a family of four can cost you anything from $1,372 to $2,816 for economy class. If you’re a frequent flyer you may find some good deals with Airmiles. Checking price comparison sights are also another great way to find the cheapest and best deals around.

Average Cost Per Day$666.00$568.00
Average Cost Per Week$4664.00$3704.00
(Average costs for a family of 4. Table Created by Author)

Winner: Manchester. You’ll end up saving yourself a lot more money as things are generally a little cheaper in Manchester. It’s not so touristy. 

Bristol or Manchester: Food

Photo By Artur Tumasjan via Unsplash

Bristol is regarded by many as one of the best places on the planet for food and drink. This riverside city was crowned Best Food or Beverage Destination of The Year in 2019 at the Food Trekking Awards. As well as winning some awards, Bristol is continually opening new and exciting restaurants across the city. From upmarket bars to reused quirky shipping containers serving some of the best street food around; from family-run cafes and generations-old Italian restaurants to Michelin-star fine dining establishments, Bristol has it all. 

Bristol restaurants cater to all dietary requirements, you won’t have to look too hard to find restaurants like Oowe Vegan or Koocha which are two of the best vegan restaurants on offer in Bristol. That’s not all Bristol has to offer though, you’ll find all sorts of cuisine from Mexican to Italian, from French to traditional British classics.

Manchester also has a lot to offer when it comes to food. From friendly neighborhood bistros to exquisite street food, you’ll find something to satisfy every appetite big or small. 

Some of the best restaurants in Manchester offer a range of cuisines from Indian to Japanese to traditional British dishes. Restaurants like Osma offer a fusion of flavors and styles from Oslo and Manchester whereas Greens is Manchester’s oldest and best vegetarian restaurant, whether you’re a vegetarian or not, it’s well worth the visit just for the delicious food and relaxed atmosphere.

You’ll also find restaurants with french cuisine and strong European influences throughout Manchester, so no matter your tastes or cravings you’ll be sure to find something that even the fussiest of eaters will find appealing. 

While Manchester may have a wide choice of restaurants, wine bars, and cafes, nothing can take away from the fact that Bristol has won awards for its food and beverage scene. 

Winner: Bristol. They won awards for the incredible food choices they offer.

Bristol or Manchester: Nightlife

DJ playing in a nightclub
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Manchester is known around the world for offering a diverse and dangerously addictive nightlife, however Bristol offers an even more legendary night out. While each city offers something different, you are bound to have a night out to remember (or not).

Bristol offers huge nightclubs hosting top DJs as well as underground live gigs and a whole manner of bars, comedy nights, karaoke, and a thriving LGBT scene. Manchester is famed for its sell-out warehouse parties, hidden dive bars, VIP soirees, and DJ-led raves. 

Some of Manchester’s clubs can be likened to London offering a show-stopping night out where you may find a long list of celebrity clientele and an even bigger queue outside the door. You’ll find several wine and cocktail bars like Lola Lo Manchester to start your evening before heading down Revolution de Cuba Manchester to enjoy Latin Style dancing and tasty Tapas to really get your night started. 

Bristol has just as much to offer as Manchester, if not a little bit more. You’ll be able to enjoy concert evenings at Bristol Beacon where you can see major names in rock, pop, jazz, and folk perform for the masses, or surround yourself in the heart of Bristol’s rich and longstanding music scene at Lakota Bristol. For those that love speakeasy-style bars, you’ll want to make sure you head down to Hyde & Co where you’ll enjoy a gentleman’s club vibe with cocktails. There are many bars along the harborside in Bristol that are perfect for starting and ending your night out with an epic backdrop.

It’s not just the nightlife that gets the party started in Bristol, you’ll also find a sun-soaked paradise and some of the best day parties located at Stokes Croft Beer Garden, so you can keep the party vibes going 24/7. So, if you’re looking for the best night out and want the party to keep on going, Bristol is the place to be.

Manchester may offer celebrity clubs, but Bristol offers a much better nightlife scene that none other can match.

Winner: Bristol. The party keeps on going 24/7. 

Bristol or Manchester: Things to do

Bristol Hot Air Balloon Festival
Photo by Kevin Lofthouse via Unsplash

There are plenty of things to do in Bristol from seeing animals at the zoo to stroking sheep at a city farm you’ll find plenty to keep your children entertained. Why not marvel at the wonder that is Clifton Suspension Bridge or be awed at the sight of hot air balloons during the annual Bristol Hot Air Balloon Festival that’s sure to get your spirits lifted. Bristol has plenty of green spaces for you to walk around and explore, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you were out in the countryside. 

If boats and ships are more your thing you may enjoy the history surrounding the SS Great Britain, located in Bristol Harbor. For those that love shopping, take a walk along Wapping Wharf where you’ll find a number of different shipping containers turned into shops, bars, and restaurants for a unique and quirky experience. Bristol has so much to offer, including Aerospace Bristol – the birthplace of the Concorde – you’ll be able to fill your vacation to the brim. 

Manchester also has a lot to offer from indoor go-karting and adventure golf to bus tours, museums, and treasure trails. You and your whole family will never get bored. Just like Bristol, Manchester has petting zoos, Safari Parks, and zoo’s for animal lovers. You’ll also find several things in Manchester that you can also do in Bristol, however they may cost you a little less for entry fees. What Manchester doesn’t have though is the annual Hot Air Balloon Festival which is well worth the visit, as you’ll never have seen so many balloons in one place before. However, Manchester does have one thing that Bristol doesn’t, a giant vertical ice wall you can climb to give yourself a real challenge. 

Winner: Draw. There is a lot on offer in both cities that will keep everyone busy and entertained.

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Justine King is from the UK and has been a full-time traveller and freelance writer since 2020 after a 6-year career in Hospitality. Clients benefit from her love and knowledge of the sector as she creates informative and inspiring articles to help guide readers totheir next travel destination.