Bristol: Britain’s Smiliest Place

Bristol is a great city to visit. Easy to get to by car, train or plane, it’s less claustrophobic than the crowded confines of London but manifests more vitality than most of the larger cities in the UK. Recognised as England’s first cycling city; the home of the world’s first commercially produced chocolate bar, and with a population reportedly in the top ten percent of the happiest people in the country, here is just a small slice of the unusual things the city of Bristol has to offer.

Local Attractions & Activities:

If you’re looking to discover first hand the melting pot of cultural diversity that Bristol is celebrated for, look no further than St Pauls Carnival, a yearly African-Caribbean festival usually held on the first Saturday in July. If you’re in the neighbourhood, you can’t afford to miss the dazzling masquerade procession, combining elaborate and colourful costumes, dancers and floats designed and made by local schools and volunteers. Wherever you go there will be music, from the strategically placed stages boasting local and big name performers, to the huge sound systems that the locals set up in their front gardens, selling beers, soft drinks and delicious home made jerk chicken.

Not even a few weeks later, just when you feel like you’ve actually recovered from the carnival,  the Bristol Harbour Festival is underway, another annual event that starts on the waterfront and stretches out across other parts of central Bristol. Hugely popular with Bristolians and out-of-towners alike, the festival regularly attracts over 250,000 people a year and combines live music, street performances, dance troupes, and a vast array of market & food stalls serving dishes from every small corner of the globe. Bristol encompasses a myriad of events, both big and small, making listing all of them a near impossibility. Other festivals worth checking out include the Bristol Balloon Fiesta (Pictured top left), BrisFest and The Bristol Folk Festival.

Museum and art buffs can enjoy quieter surroundings at the multitude of free exhibitions open to them, including the Arnolfini, the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery (where previous exhibits have included work from the world famous, Bristol-born artist Banksy) and the M-Shed, which hosts a collection of artefacts from the city’s past and present.

Bristol is a historic gem nestled in the rolling hills of the South West of England. One of its most famous landmarks, the world renowned Clifton Suspension Bridge was designed by the great Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and completed in 1864. Providing spectacular views over the cliffs of the Avon Gorge, this unique architectural wonder draws thousands of visitors each year and costs nothing to stroll across and enjoy the breathtaking views.

Quirky Walking Tours:

 Bristol is certainly big enough to get your teeth into, but not nearly as overwhelming as other major English cities. Walking tours are a great way to see the city up close and personal, allowing you to really explore a district steeped in history. For those who are looking for a highly unusual way to spend the day, Arnos Vale Cemetery is a vast and beautiful site just a short bus ride from the train station, steeped in local history and positively teaming with wildlife. Entry to the cemetery is free and Heritage and Wildlife tours can be booked for a small fee. For those who might not know, Bristol is synonymous with pirates and the Bristol Pirate Walk is a fun and educational tour explaining everything you could ever want to know about the city’s infamous maritime history, including its part in the slave trade and how it’s the birthplace of the notorious pirate, Blackbeard…Aspiring photographers take note – the Bristol Photography Walk aims to unravel the mysteries of your digital camera, whilst appreciating the natural and man made aesthetics that the city has to offer.

Shopping Destinations:

A bustling local community comes out in droves to visit Gloucester Road, a lengthy thoroughfare that boasts the UK’s largest string of independent retailers. Along this lively street, trendy cafe’s and restaurants serve everything from homemade cakes to Kangaroo burgers, whilst a wide selection of original and vintage clothing, music and homeware shops make Gloucester Road an essential place to visit.

Established in 1743, St Nicholas Market was named as one of the 10 best markets in the UK by The Guardian in 2010. The beautiful Georgian architecture encompasses a huge variety of foods from around the world and it houses a vast selection of stalls selling unique clothing and gifts. Anyone wanting some truly unique souvenirs and gifts should visit Beast Clothing in the middle of the market, which offers plenty of educational apparel for those wishing to study the more choice phrases of the local dialect.
For a more contemporary shopping experience, Cabot Circus provides a string of well known brands and restaurants, housing over 120 shops including the super fashionable Harvey Nichols department store, where even the smallest purchase will cost you an arm, a leg, and quite possibly that left kidney you were saving… A relatively new addition to central Bristol, this huge complex was opened in 2008 and curious locals flocked under its domed roof to sample some of the finer things in life.

Where to Stay:

At The Full Moon and Attic Bar Backpacker Hotel prices start from as little as £10.00 a night (sharing) in this eco-friendly backpacker’s hotel. Nestled between central Bristol and the lively area of Stokes Croft, the Full Moon is a stone’s throw away from Bristol Bus Station with links to and from the airport. It has everything required for an easy life onsite, including Wi-Fi throughout, a restaurant with a great selection of local and organic foods, a laundry service and for music lovers, the fully licensed Attic Bar sits just opposite, regularly hosting great live bands and DJ’s.

Party animals looking for somewhere in the middle of the action can find comfort at the Rock and Bowl Motel. This 1930’s building sits on the corner of one of Bristol’s graffiti hotspots and encompasses trendy bowling & karaoke bar, The Lanes. Guests staying here can enjoy all the basic amenities the Rock and Bowl Motel has to offer, including free Wi-Fi and a large communal kitchen, plus discounted prices on mouth-watering pizzas, beers, bowling and karaoke at The Lanes. Those looking for an early night however, beware, as the motel is right next to a series of popular nightclubs that can get pretty noisy at the weekend; to counteract this, the kind folks at the reception desk hand out free ear plugs to all guests.

For more information on what to see and do in Bristol, check out their official website at

April 12, 2012

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