Brunel, Banksy, Balloon Fiestas and everything inbetween
ristol continues to effortlessly mix urban cool with green credentials, making it the beating heart of the West Country. Synonymous with Brunel, drum ‘n’ bass and Banksy, the city continues to blaze its own trail, bringing together a rich maritime heritage with cutting-edge culture.
History and Heritage
Bristol’s most famous adopted son, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, still casts quite a shadow over the city, and today you can experience life aboard SS Great Britain , his authentically-restored ship. Elsewhere, you can further explore Bristol’s maritime history around the waterfront including links to the slave trade and the occasional swashbuckling pirate. The cobbled streets and historic buildings of the old town are also well worth a wander, so you can soak up that rich past.
Arts and Culture
As you walk around Bristol’s streets, keep your eyes peeled to spot an original Banksy. You could even take a free tour to really get under the skin of the city’s favourite graffiti artist-cum-fine artist. For more traditional art and antiquities, check the collections at the City Museum and Art Gallery , while lovers of the avant-garde will enjoy the Arnolfini, which showcases the finest in visual arts. Anything else? Bristol’s Old Vic has been thrilling audiences for over 200 years.
Must See Attractions
It is all about that man Brunel again, so once you’ve covered SS Great Britain, make sure you visit his most famous achievement, the still-spectacular Clifton Suspension Bridge above the Avon Gorge. Once you’ve had your fill of Brunel’s engineering cleverness, visit the Llandoger Trow on King Street, the inspiration behind Treasure Island’s Spyglass Inn, or opt instead for some quiet contemplation among the gothic arches of St Mary Redcliffe’s church .
Food and Drink
Hidden in the hip Montpellier area, Bell's Diner continues to deliver dishes full of idiosyncratic flair. For authentic Indian flavours, enjoy tasty tiffins at the Thali Cafe . Cider drinkers shouldn’t miss the chance to sample the region’s finest scrumpy at the Apple cider boat , although be warned: these thirst-quenchers have percentages that would make even famed hard-drinking local musicians The Wurzels think twice.
Park Street has hip designers selling their latest collections, record shops such as Rise and Fopp, and classic retro clobber from American Vintage. You won’t even notice it is a hill. For boutiques and antiques, explore the Clifton Village , or if you want quality as well as quantity, roll your way up to Cabot’s Circus .
The International Balloon Fiesta is a real spectacle as hundreds of balloons of all shapes and sizes take to the skies above the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge - the night glow is worth sticking around for. With sound systems pumping and the sensational smell of Caribbean cooking, St Paul’s Carnival is the highlight of the Bristol summer.
Music and Nightlife
Massive Attack and Portishead both hail from Bristol, giving you some idea of the musical pedigree on offer in the town, so be sure to check out the latest wave of local talent at the Thekla or Louisiana . For gigs on a larger scale, Colston Hall is Britain’s largest concert hall. Clubbers should head to Motion or the legendary Lakota and see why Bristol remains at the forefront of the drum ‘n’ bass and dubstep scene.
You can’t go wrong at Bristol Zoo , which has over 450 species of animal for the children to coo over. If they’re a bit more tech savvy, get hands-on at @Bristol which manages to make science and technology cool with intriguing exhibits for all ages. Or, for a more timeless trip back through the geological ages, take a road trip to Cheddar Gorge and enjoy the combination of caves and cheese.
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More about... Bristol
Visit Bristol - The official tourist guide to Bristol.
Things to do
From events and attractions to fine dining and nights out; discover all things to do in Bristol.
The SS Great Britain
...and all things Brunel.SS Great Britain