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  • Balloons from the annual festival floating over Clifton Suspension Bridge
  • Bristol's floating harbour
  • The Bristol Cathedral in the sunshine
  • Hotwells from Spike Island
  • Nearby Cheddar Gorge with its limestone cliffs
  • You could happen on a Banksy artwork at any time in Bristol!
  • Outside the Bristol science centre
  • Brunel's SS Great Britain at night

Bristol City Guide

Bristol History

The original town was listed in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 1051 as a port trading regularly with Ireland. And in fact Bristol played an extremely important role in sea trade for hundreds of years following this, but as the scale of business and trade grew in the city, so did the need to develop the narrow and relatively small harbour. Nowadays more hi-tech businesses are at the heart of this thriving city's economy.

Bristol Today

Welcome to the city of bridges, balloons, boats, Brunel and Banksy (if it's true that he's the most famous local resident).  Of course, with it's history as a major seaport Bristol has a strong maritime history and it's sailors had trading links right around the world, but nowdays it's home to many happy university students and hi-tech businesses.

Bristol Leisure

The Clifton Suspension Bridge's spectacular setting on the cliffs of the Avon Gorge has made it the defining symbol of Bristol, drawing thousands of visitors a year who come just to stroll across for views of the ancient Avon Gorge, elegant Clifton and the magnificent city beyond. This world famous bridge was designed by the great Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, although he never lived to see his creation as it was finally finished in 1864.

BanksyBristol's home-grown and anonymous graffiti artist is known all across the world for his satirical, anti-establishment and thought-provoking street art. Several pieces remain in various locations around Bristol, so you can see his amazing work firsthand.  Banksy's Mild Mild West artwork is located on Stokes Croft, with the best views being from the Jamaica Street Junction.  Stay at the luxury 2 or 3 bedroom serviced apartments in Hamilton Court on Bristol's Dighton Street and you could pass this famous artwork every day!

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery tells the story of our world in every display, from the beginning of time to the present day. The 19 galleries over 3 floors reveal fascinating cultures, ancient civilisations, human invention and creativity, as well as showcasing our beautiful and fragile natural world. World-class collections of art, archaeology, geology and natural history are displayed inside this beautiful Edwardian building. One visit isn't enough to see all of the treasures and therefore if you stay at the serviced apartments in Marsh House Apartments in Bristol you're going to be close enough to pop back as often as you like! 

Bristol's historic harbourside has many attractions and is now a tourist attraction with museums, galleries, exhibitions, bars and nightclubs. There's the Bristol Aquarium where visitors embark on a fascinating journey from the British coast through warmer waters to exotic tropical seas; Brunel's SS Great Britain, the world's first great ocean liner and one of Banksy's works which can be viewed on the side of the Thekla Social boat moored in Bristol harbour.  All these could be on your doorstep when you stay at West India House Apartments, which offer serviced studios and one and two bedroom serviced apartments in Bristol's waterfront district.

Bristol Top 5 Eats

Wallfish Bistro
Located within spitting distance of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Wallfish is surprisingly large inside, with a downstairs dining room that’s about twice the size of the upstairs area that’s visible from the street. Finishing touches include fish-shaped water bottles and lampshades made from colanders, while the wine list is one that Keith Floyd himself would have approved of – criss-crossing the globe from Lebanon to Argentina. You can even bring your own bottle on a Wednesday.

The Pony & Trap
The Pony & Trap has held a Michelin Star since 2011 and was ranked 2nd in the Publican Morning Advertiser's Top 50 UK Gastropubs in 2015. The pub champions a “field to fork” ethos serving food sourced as locally as possible from suppliers around the Chew Valley and the South West.

Chomp
Once a mobile business, Chomp's quality fare now has a permanent home. Expect a simple formula of tasty beef, specially brewed beer and a long list of bourbon. The battered old French number plate that hangs on one wall hints at Chomp’s humble origins as a mobile business, serving bacon baps and burgers from a converted Citroën horse van.

Sky Kong Kong
Influences of old and new, local and global, all come together in playful harmony to make chef Wizzy’s Sky Kong Kong. The restaurant is designed to accentuate qualities indigenous to the surrounding location, creating a unique, balanced relationship with an exploration of Korean culture.

With chef Wizzy’s multiple Michelin-starred restaurant experiences, she has introduced a clean, modern cuisine based on her heritage of traditional Korean food and culture, to create food that’s not only delicious and good for the body and mind, but affordable, too. Every day, Wizzy puts together a brand-new menu, using vegetables from her allotment, fresh fish and lots of other delicious organic ingredients from local producers.

Chai Shai Kitchen
A short menu of freshly made Indian meals offers the likes of rich lamb, succulent chicken and lighter veg dishes that are free from grease. The small potted herb garden outside is an indication that Chai Shai isn’t your standard curry house. Instead, this is Indian food via Bangladesh, that won’t leave your hands dripping with oil. A menu of no more than 20 options means you’re guaranteed to enjoy freshly cooked food.

Bristol transport Tips

  • By plane

    The nearest airport is Bristol Airport from where you can catch flights to other major European destinations such as Brussels, Madrid and Frankfurt.
  • By train

    Bristol Temple Mead station is well connected to London with regular trains running to London Paddington station which is less than a two hour ride away. From Bristol station you can also catch trains to Manchester, Portsmouth and Cardiff.
  • By car

    If you're travelling to Bristol by car then Bristol city council have got some very good information about car parks as well as motorcycle parking.
  • By bike

    Bristol has been crowned the UK's first Cycling City, so it's no wonder then that Bristol has cycle routes on almost all of its major roads, and there are plenty of places to lock up your bike too, making cycling a great way to explore the city.  If you'd rather try an organised tour, take a look at the Adventurous Activity Company, who run organised tours of the city for groups with bike hire included. You can make it as challenging or as easy going as you choose.

    Some really great information about cycling in Bristol can be found here - with all kinds of helpful hints about cycling locally, cycle routes, and there are maps and a journey planner too.
  • By bus

    Buses in and around Bristol are operated by the First group and for ticket information, routes, maps and a journey planner, check here for more information. It's also worth exploring Bristol's latest innovative service, provided by Bristol FreeBus. Bristol Temple Meads is the main railway station, situated approximately 15 minutes' walk from the City Centre and the 8 and 9 bus services run frequently between Temple Meads and the city centre, Broadmead and Cabot Circus.

What to do in Bristol

Listed below are some of the great places to visit in Bristol. Click one to find out more.

Balloon Fiesta and Balloon ride over Bristol

The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta in August is Europe's largest annual Hot Air Balloon event and one of the UK's top five outdoor events.

With mass Hot Air Balloon ascents at 6am and 6pm, the famous Nightglows on both Thursday and Saturday evenings, arena and air displays, over 250 trade stands, and a variety of other entertainments, the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is an event not to be missed.

For more information visit: www.bristolballoonfiesta.co.uk

If you want have a go yourself all year round with Bristol Balloons, you're unlikely to get a better perspective of the Clifton Suspension Bridge than when taking off from Ashton Court Mansion in the west of Bristol and floating gently away to reveal a panoramic view of the bridge spanning the beautiful Avon Gorge.

For more information visit: www.bristolballoons.co.uk

Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge, to the south west of Bristol, with its 450 foot high cliffs, is the most dramatic geological formation in Somerset. Created by ice age melt-waters over millions of years, it carves a deep 3 mile long ravine in the south side of the Mendip Hills. 

Enjoy the stunning views from the top of the Lookout Tower or follow the Cliff Top Walk or lower down, deep within the Gorge, are two of the finest stalactite caverns you could find, which were home to our Stone-Age ancestors 40,000 years ago.

For more information visit: http://www.visitcheddar.co.uk

The Avon Valley Railway

The Avon Valley Railway steam trains run right to the edge of the scenic Avon Valley, providing spectacular views. There are special events arranged throughout the year too, including courses on how to drive a steam engine, monthly Sunday lunch trains and children's parties.

For more information visit: www.avonvalleyrailway.org

Westonbirt - The National Arboretum

Nature lovers will enjoy a visit to Westonbirt, an internationally renowned tree collection, heritage landscape and fantastic location for playing, walking, relaxing and learning about nature.

Westonbirt is home to the the National Arboretum, which is managed by the Forestry Commission and is one of the finest collections of temperate trees and shrubs in the world. The 600 acre arboretum is home to 3,000 different species of trees and over 16,000 individual specimens, and is a place of environmental and historical importance. Its Victorian creator Robert Holford was fascinated by rare and beautiful plants and helped finance expeditions to collect specimens from around the world which can be enjoyed today in this amazing landscape.

Westonbirt attracts over 350,000 visitors per year and is known worldwide for its spectacular autumn colour and the spring rhododendron, azalea and magnolia displays.

For more information visit: www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt

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