Green at heart, the city of Bristol offers a wealth of arts, culture, marine heritage and worldwide cuisine, whilst the UNESCO World Heritage city of Bath is famed for its stunning architecture, 2,000 years of history and the only naturally hot spring water in Britain.
Combine both for a weekend city escape and you will sample some of the best history and culture Britain has to offer.
Bristol’s history stretches back over centuries. Start your day at the harbour , once a great port, Bristol’s historic Harbourside is still home to illustrious Victorian Engineer, Brunel’s ss Great Britain – the world’s first great ocean liner, now one of many top family attractions in the city.
Catch ferry from the Floating Harbour to Arnolfini - one of Europe’s leading contemporary arts centres. Compare modern art of the Arnolfini with the classics exhibited at the Royal West of England Academy or Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.
Home of Banksy and other iconic artists, Bristol boasts an incredible street art culture. Street art tours are a Bristol ‘must-do’, with the artists themselves guiding visitors around the city's ever-changing urban outdoor galleries.
Check out Bristol’s M Shed near to the Floating Harbour. This free museum tells stories of the quirky history and people of the city, housing many interesting industrial exhibits. At Bristol is one of Britain’s largest science museums and well worth a visit for families. There is even a 3D planetarium to check out. Nearby is the Bristol Aquarium and the Aardman Studios - home to Shaun the Sheep, Morph and Wallace & Gromit.
The Bristol restaurant scene has been shaped by people from many different cultures. Bristol is home to award-winning restaurants, including three Michelin starred venues; The Pony & Trap, Casamia and Wilks. Enjoy lunch at one of these Michelin starred winners or atone of the award-winning cafes and restaurants – everything from the conventional to the eccentric.
In the afternoon hit the shops. From Harvey Nichols to the high-street bargains of Bristol Shopping Quarter, the city is a world-class shopping venue. Take a stroll around the independent boutiques in classy Clifton Village, shop for retro clothes on Park Street and Gloucester Road or hit St Nicholas Markets for organic food, clothes and antiques.
Bristol loves festivals and has a diverse and eclectic mix throughout the year including slapstick, to food, kiting, puppetry, music, art, street art, dance and theatre. One of its most famous festivals is the annual International Balloon Fiesta, which sees over 150 hot air balloons take to the skies in early August.
In the evening visit one of Bristol’s oldest pubs: the Llandoger Trow and be transported back to times of pirates and secret tunnels. This was Pirate Captain, Blackbeard’s drinking hole. It is also believed that Daniel Defoe met Alexander Selkirk here, his inspiration for Robinson Crusoe as well as being Robert Louis Stevenson’s inspiration for the Admiral Benbow pub in Treasure Island.
The Hole in the Wall Pub is believed to be the inspiration for the Spyglass Tavern in Treasure Island. Situated along the quayside, the pub even its own spy-hole feature which was originally used by a lookout in the 18th Century to warn sailors drinking inside of any Press Gangs. The pub sits just off Queen Square and has great views across the Harbourside to Pirate Captain Blackbeard’s alleged birthplace and childhood home in Redcliffe.
Getting to Bristol
If flying from Europe, conveniently arrive into Bristol Airport, southwest of the city. A short bus trip on the Airport Flyer Express will take you directly into the centre of Bristol for just £11. Alternatively, if arriving into London Heathrow, take the Heathrow Express train for 20 minutes to London Paddington and then the direct train to Bristol Temple Meads for 1hr 45mins. If driving, take the M4 westwards for 115 miles, arriving at Bristol in around 2 hours.
Getting Around Bristol
Bristol is renowned for being ‘green’ and was the first city in Britain to be named European Green Capital 2015. It’s laid-back city lifestyle makes Bristol a pleasure to discover by foot or bicycle. Take a stroll through one of the 450 parks, and for spectacular views, walk over Brunel’s world-famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, spanning the impressive Avon Gorge.
Bristol is one of the most bicycle friendly cities, being named as Britain’s first Cycling City. It’s a hub of national cycle routes with a network of city bike lanes and has a 20mph speed limit throughout the city. There are many bicycle hire companies operating throughout Bristol.
Thermae Bath Spa. Copyright VisitEngland
Bath is located just 13 miles from Bristol. Either take a 30-minute train journey from Bristol Temple Meads to Bath Spa or drive along the A4 for approx. 40 minutes.
A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bath presents some of the finest architectural sights in Europe including The Royal Crescent, the Circus and Pulteney Bridge.
At the heart of the city next to the Abbey is the Roman Baths – one of the best preserved Roman remains in the world. The Museum gives insight into the bathing complex and the great Roman temple of Sulis Minerva, goddess of wisdom and healing. Above the baths is the 18th century Pump Room where you can taste the spring water and listen to musicians.
Thermae Bath Spa is a modern spa complex involving the restoration of 5 historic spa buildings and a new state of the art building in glass and stone is also open to the public all year round. Enjoy amazing rooftop views across Bath whilst bathing in the city’s natural thermal spring waters. Another exciting new development is the 5 star The Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel, boasting access to Bath’s mineral-rich thermal waters.
Once you’ve relaxed at the spa Bath also offers seventeen museums and galleries including the Fashion Museum, No. 1 Royal Crescent, Victoria Art Gallery and the Jane Austen Centre, which celebrates the life and times of this famous writer who lived in the city for six years and based two of her novels in Bath including Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.
For lunch Bath offers many elegant and charming cafes, great gastro pubs, funky bars and the very best in fine-dining, including three Michelin-starred restaurants.
Pay one of the oldest houses in Bath, Sally Lunn’s a visit and sample her traditional sweet bun which has been popular since the 17th Century. Choose from toppings such as cinnamon butter, lemon curd or milk chocolate butter. Alternatively, take afternoon tea in the historic Pump Room for an indulgent speciality in Bath, accompanied by the infamous Bath Bun topped with currents and filled with lump of sugar.
After lunch, visit one of the many museums or galleries or wander through the city centre with familiar high-street brands along with an amazing number of independent stores selling items you won’t find anywhere else. This compact city makes Bath an enjoyable shopping experience for all.
Bath’s year-round calendar of festivals, theatre and vibrant street entertainment, bring life and excitement to this beautiful city. Festival themes include music, literature, food, fashion and even Jane Austen.
In the evening head to one of the oldest pubs in Bath, The 16th Century Star Inn, for a refreshing pint of Abbey Ales’ Bellringer. Abbey Ales can also be sampled at the Coeur De Lion, The Trinity and the Assembly Inn. Bath Ales is another local brewery and you can sample the ales at three lovely pubs; Graze, The Hop Pole and the Salamander. The Electric Bear Brewing Co is an artisan brewer specialising in craft beer. And if you’re not such a beer buff, then it’s got to be a visit to the Canary Gin Bar to sample Bath Gin.
Getting around Bath
Bath is a very compact city and best enjoyed on foot. There are guided walking tours, open top bus tours and even balloon flights for a unique view of the city and surrounding countryside. River and canal trips are also a great way to explore, while the waterside is a picturesque setting for rambling, cycling along the tow path. For amazing views of Bath, walk the stunning 6-mile Bath Skyline.
Travel back to London
Conclude your Twin City Escape by returning back to Bristol Airport, just 19 miles away or by an hour and a half direct train trip to London Paddington. Alternatively, drive 115 miles along the M4 to London Heathrow.