As a medium sized city, Bristol’s small enough to get around on foot, but large enough to keep you entertained. Its distinctive character mixes together some of the best parts of Britain’s South West — cider, gorgeous green countryside, a thriving music scene — not to mention Blackbeard the pirate (said to have been born here) and a fascinating marine history from its days as an important harbour.
The famous phrase ‘shipshape and Bristol fashion’ comes from here (obviously) and refers to Bristol’s reputation for building extra-strong ships to cope with a peculiarity of the tides in its harbour. Incidentally, Blackbeard is said to have later settled in nearby Bath after receiving a full pardon. Take one of Bristol’s pirate tours if you’d like to learn more.
Bristol definitely gives you the best of many worlds, and as it’s built across a series of hills, they’re quite literally on many different levels. At the top there’s Clifton Village, where you’ll find Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s great suspension bridge across the plunging Avon Gorge, so get your camera ready: it’s one of Bristol’s most photogenic spots.
(For a more modern, and equally spectacular feat of engineering, head just out of Bristol to the Severn Crossings).
Clifton is just the place for a wander. Take in the elegant Victorian, Georgian and Regency buildings, stop into a cosy café or two, and enjoy the gentle pace of life at the top of the city.
Further down you have Montpelier, well known as a bohemian hub full of colourful murals, music venues, and plenty of creative bustle – not to mention some great views over the city itself. Head to Picton Street for organic and vegetarian food, or down to Stokes Croft for some great, laid-back eateries and later on, buzzing clubs and gig venues.
Famous as the birthplace of trip-hop in the 90s, with seminal acts Massive Attack and Portishead among the best known, Bristol still has a rich music offering, with everything from drum and bass to house, hardcore, psychedelic rock and metal on offer in the clubs.
Down in the city centre you’ll find a rich seam of galleries and museums, including Bristol’s popular centre of contemporary arts, the Arnolfini and the science museum: At Bristol. Don’t miss the Cube, Bristol’s local-artist-run cinema which as well as films hosts music events, air guitar competitions, and all kinds of art-community-centred events.
The harbour is a great place to walk and take in the sights, or just stop by a pub and unwind with a cool drink beside the water. If you fancy something different, stop by another of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s engineering feats, the SS Great Britain.
No talk of Bristol would be complete without mentioning Banksy, the Bristol-born street artist who is today a global phenomenon. Keep your eyes peeled for his originals around Bristol!