According to guide book publisher Dorling Kindersley, Bristol is one of the top 10 cities to visit in 2009. Having lived in Bristol for the last 15 years, I already knew that it was not only a fantastic place to live but a great place to explore for a couple of days if you’re touring the UK. So let me do some introductions.
Bristol is a fine old city with a proud maritime heritage and some dark connections with the slave trade. She can be just as chocolate-box pretty as her near neighbor, Bath, but scratch below the surface and you’ll find a dynamic and slightly subversive street culture. She’s a university town and has always welcomed visitors from far and wide. Her harborside has been given a face-lift and her city center’s buzzing but climb one of her many hills and you’ll glimpse the green fields and countryside on her doorstep.
In Clifton, enjoy the fine Georgian architecture and designer boutiques in the village, stroll up to the observatory for a view of the Avon gorge or introduce yourself to the penguins at Bristol Zoo Gardens. The Clifton suspension bridge is Bristol’s most famous landmark and was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel to span the Avon Gorge. It was opened in 1864 and up to 12,000 cars still cross it every day. The green spaces near the bridge are a good place to view the hundreds of balloons that drift over the city during the Bristol International Balloon fiesta – it’s Europe’s largest hot air balloon festival.
Take a ferry around the harbourside where the harbor festival takes place every August, cool off in the fountains in Millenium square and treat the family to some hands-on science at at-Bristol. At the other end of the harbor, you’ll find the SS Great Britain, built in 1843, as the world’s first ocean-going, propeller-driven iron ship. After seeing service as a luxury liner, she was abandoned in the Falklands Islands then brought back to Bristol in the 70s where she was restored to her former glory.
If museums are your thing there are a couple of free ones that will show you a glimpse of Bristol’s historic past. The Georgian House was built in the 1790s for a wealthy Bristol Merchant and has been preserved to show how a family of that period would have lived. Red Lodge was built in the 1580s and takes you back in time with it’s Tudor paneled rooms and knot garden.
You won’t be going hungry in Bristol, with many bars, pubs, and restaurants all over the city. For a view of the harbor try Bordeaux Quay with bistro and deli downstairs and fine dining upstairs, or the Olive shed for Mediterranean style food & tapas. On Park St, Goldbrick House has stylish eating and cocktails and Rocatillos is a small family dinner with the best breakfast and milkshakes in Bristol. In the center for a break from sightseeing pop into St Nicholas Market with many different vendors of hot food from Indian, Moroccan, Jamaican or traditional English pies and bangers to eat in or take away. In Clifton village, I like to take a break from the retail therapy at Bar Chocolat for a restoring hot chocolate.
I hope I’ve whetted your appetite to visit my home city of Bristol – she’s waiting for you to come and discover her for yourself.
See more photos of Bristol from Heather on her travels on Flickr
Check out the Visit Bristol website to help you plan your visit to Bristol.
This is an entry for January’s Your Favorite City – Blog Contest. Heather has been a guest on Travel to Valencia, Spain – Episode 137 of the Amateur Traveler.