The weather is turning in Bristol. The days are getting shorter, rain is falling more frequently, and not every evening can be spent gloriously soaking up the sunshine in a pub garden. We have to accept it: Summer is coming to an end. It’s not all bad, however, as that just means we’ll have to start spending more time indoors at our favourite drinking holes. Bristol’s pubs showcase some great musical entertainment too. Often for free, often every night of the week. We’ve gathered up some of the best pubs to grab a drink in, catch some free music and keep spirits lifted during the changing of the seasons.
One of our favourite spots on the iconic Gloucester Road. The Gallimaufry hosts live free music every night of the week. Start your week off right with open mic nights hosted by Bristol’s rapper-violinist Mike Dennis – with performers, poets and spoken word artists all turning up – and finish it with the weekly Hip Hop Jam hosted by MĀDŁY & Binbags. There’s plenty of gigs and DJ sets – covering a diversity of musical styles, from jazz to prog, hip hop and folk – packed in between too. The food menu is equally worth checking out. Particularly their generous Sunday roasts.
26-28 Gloucester Rd, Bishopston, Bristol BS7 8AL
2. The Canteen
We’ve highlighted The Canteen’s spectacular vegan-friendly dishes before. What we failed to mention was that this restaurant-cum-bar is probably just as well known in Stokes Croft for its music events. Six nights a week and always free (before 9.30 on Friday and Saturday), The Canteen hosts some of the best free music around. They blast it loud too. There’s a heady mix of styles as well from jazz to funk and soul, dance music to rock. If you’re up for nice surprises, then The Canteen always has one in store.
Hamilton House, 80 Stokes Croft, St Paul’s, Bristol BS1 3QY
3. The Old Duke
If you’ve been looking for a drink in Bristol’s city centre, chances are you’ve ended up on King Street. Well-known for its many historical pubs that once housed many famous Bristolians, such as Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island. When it comes to music, however, we have only one destination on our mind: The Old Duke. One of the oldest pubs on this list, it specialises in all things blues, jazz and country. The New Orleans-style pub is often packed to the brim with people trying to catch a glimpse of the small stage. Don’t worry though, as the music bleeds onto the street if you can’t get in. You’ll find music on most nights.
45 King St, Bristol BS1 4ER
4. The Golden Lion
A bit further up from The Gallimaufry on the Gloucester Road, you’ll find The Golden Lion. It’s hard to miss thanks to its graffiti-exterior and regular, lively music emanating from inside. The focus is mostly on jazz, funk, blues or folk, but expect an eclectic range when you arrive. There’s plenty of room inside too to get up on your feet with a pint and dance. The Golden Lion has hosted some fantastic local talent over the years and was notably the debut venue of Bristol heroes Idles. They also put on regular quizzes on the quieter nights.
244 Gloucester Rd, Bishopston, Bristol BS7 8NZ
5. The Mother’s Ruin
Inspired by the ruin bars of Budapest – a collection of pubs in abandoned buildings filled with graffiti and overgrown plants – The Mother’s Ruin offers a unique atmosphere to Bristol’s pub and music scene. Situated in St Nick’s Market, this raucous pub has a unique style and is regularly frequented by indie kids, rockers and students. Regular free indie and emo discos quite often spiral into debauchery. But the pub also hosts free live jazz, country and blues every weekend afternoon.
7-9 St Nicholas St, Bristol BS1 1UE