Bristol Travel Guide
Bristol is the largest city in the south of England after London and is also the largest shipping port in the country. The River Avon and floating harbours carve the centre of the city up into various parts. Bristol is one of Britain’s most progressive cities mainly due to the vivacity of its youth culture.
Blessed with a flourishing economy, the city of Bristol is sustained by the thriving British Aerospace industry, Rolls-Royce and its ship-building industry.
This prosperity is linked to the commercial Port of Bristol, which originated in the city centre. The Maritime Heritage Centre is also a magnificent manifestation of the city’s glory and affluence.
As one of the two administrative centres of South West England, Bristol is an excellent base for exploring the West Country of England with accommodation and transportation relatively inexpensive compared to others such as Bath in the county of Somerset.
Bristol lies on the River Avon between Somerset and Gloucestershire. The River Avon runs through the centre of Bristol and forms part of the system of waterways that transformed the city into a great inland port. Bristol extends to the Bristol Channel coast and includes Avonmouth. Cities in and surrounding the city include Clifton, Filton and Patchway.
Bristol has a comparatively moderate, but changeable climate due to the cool sea breezes drifting up from the Bristol Channel. Winters, from November to March, are generally cold and the city is well known for its high rainfall.
Ethnic groups include English 81.5%, Scottish 9.6%, Irish 2.4%, Welsh 1.9%, Ulster 1.8%, West Indian, Indian, Pakistani, and other 2.8%. Bristol also has a population of more than 399,243, being the eight most-populous city in England, and the eleventh in the United Kingdom.
Bristol has its origin in Anglo-Saxon times when a settlement grew up between the Rivers Avon and Frome, known as Brigstowe (place of settlement by the bridge). As trade with Ireland and the ports of South Wales increased, the settlement grew in importance.
The 18th century saw the rise of Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade, a history that the general population is not very proud of.
And in 1831, Bristol saw the uprising of social unrest known as the Bristol Riots which occurred as a reaction to disappointing parliamentary reform.
The great Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel is responsible for some of Bristol’s most magnificent features. Credit to his work includes the Clifton Suspension Bridge, “the great iron ship”, “the SS Great Britain” and “Temple Meads” old station.
Bristol harbourside renaissance began with the opening of the Arnolfini in the late 1970s. Then in the 1980s, the restoration of the miles of harbourside continued rapidly with the 1982 opening of the Watershed, which is also Britain’s first media centre.
Bristol’s emergence as a major cultural centre is credited to these two developments. In 2000 Bristol centre was opened to the public.
During the World War II bombings, Bristol’s city centre suffered severe damage an the original central area, near the bridge and castle, still features two bombed out churches and some tiny fragments of the castle. However, because of the construction of aircraft, including Concorde, at Filton which became an important post-war industry, and being the home of Rolls Royce, Bristol has now become one of the world’s most popular cities for business relocation.
The Bristol International Airport is located nine miles from Bristol city centre and twenty-two miles from the city of Bath. Scheduled flights are available from major European cities, including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Glasgow, Paris and Prague (but not London).
Bristol Temple Meads station, the main terminus has regular inter-city and regional train services from Bath, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, London, Manchester, Plymouth, Southampton, Swansea and York. However, Bristol Parkway station is principally aimed at suburban residents.
National Express operates services to Marlborough St Coach station and MegaBus operates budget coach services from London to a stop outside the Hippodrome theatre.
Bristol Ferry Boat runs several ferry services around the harbour, which is a good way of getting around and for sight-seeing. The boat stops at various quays on route, and provides a commuter service between the city centre and the main rail station.
Main Places of Attraction
Clifton Suspension Bridge
Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and completed long after his death, the suspension bridge is Bristol’s most famous landmark.
Clifton Observatory and Caves
The observatory houses the Camera Obscura itself which allows you to see a panoramic view of the grassy area directly surrounding the observatory, and also of Clifton and the central area of Bristol.
SS Great Britain
The world’s first iron hulled, screw propeller-driven, steam-powered passenger liner, built by Brunel in 1843 and now preserved in a dry dock alongside the floating harbour.
St Mary’s Redcliffe Church
One of the most famous parish churches in England.
Bristol Industrial Museum
The old-fashioned industrial museum has a good selection of working and static exhibits and is located in one of the old harbour transit sheds.
This magnificent estate houses 850 magnificent acres of park and woodland, with superb views across Bristol.
At-Bristol is a collective name for the IMAX cinema, the Wildwalk and Explore science centres.
The oldest working theatre in the country still displays many of its original Georgian features today.
Festivals and Events
Lloyds TSB Harbour Regatta
The July festival offers hundreds of boats on display at this event. Food and craft stalls, musical performances, kids’ entertainment, a reverse bungee jump and fireworks are all a part of the day.
Bristol Community Festival
Held in July at Ashton Court Estate, the festival includes a performing arts marquee showcasing cabaret and comedy, bungee jumping, fairground rides, and a huge children’s area.
Bristol Balloon Fiesta
This festival is held netx month with Hot air balloon enthusiasts from across the world gathering at Ashton Court every year.
Held in Glastonbury, this is an annual summer festival with famous bands and musicians, comedy, dance, a circus and various other stage activities.
The Royal West of England Academy Autumn Exhibition
Founded in 1844, the city’s first fine art gallery is one of six royal art academies in the United Kingdom. The Autumn Exhibition features an array of high quality art from promising artists.
This annual festival is a celebration of the art of film, featuring short films from new and established artists. Retrospective and lectures are also given by the best in the industry.
Held at Watershed, this event celebrates the world’s finest animation with screenings of short animations over three days.