Bristol, in Southwest England, is a colourful and vibrant city with an alternative streak. Known for being progressive and creative, it was here that Wallace and Gromit, Banksy, and musical innovators like Portishead, Massive Attack and DJ-producer Julio Bashmore all began their paths to stardom. The city has a vivid history, with elegant Georgian buildings and historic docklands overlooked by row after row of brightly painted houses. Have a listen to a track from Julio Bashmore as you run your eyes over 7 reasons to visit Bristol:
1. Bohemian neighbourhoods
In the bohemian neighbourhood of Stokes Croft find colourful murals, awesome independent shops and community-led initiatives like the not-for-profit Cube Cinema. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon wandering about between vegan cafes, record stores, vintage clothes shops and pubs serving locally brewed ale.
2. Amazing street art
World-famous street artist Banksy comes from Bristol and it's here that you can spot several of his most recognisable works, along with those of other artists. Instead of considering his work as graffiti, forward-thinking Bristol embraced the artwork and each year you can experience Upfest, Europe's largest street art and graffiti festival. Between 25-27 July you can see artists from 25 countries painting live onto 30,000sq ft of surfaces around the city.
3. The colourful Harbourside
Bristol’s harbourside is a reinvigorated hub of culture slap-bang in the middle of the city. You can jump on a Bristol Ferry Boat right from Temple Meads railway station and glide by the bars, restaurants and pubs that line much of the waterfront. It's here you’ll also find the M Shed and the Arnolfini. M Shed exhibits fascinating accounts of people’s memories of the city through dynamic interactive displays, and the Arnolfini is one of Europe’s leading centres of contemporary arts. The incredible Brunel's ss Great Britain, the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic, is also here in the dry dock in which it was originally built. It's a globally significant engineering artefact that can be stepped aboard.
4. All the green spaces
Bristol is the European Green Capital of 2015 and it’s not hard to see why this progressive, independently minded city took the title. It's home to Sustrans: a charity which makes it easier for people to travel by foot, bike or public transport. In fact, you should check out their website and chose one of their routes in this cycling-mad city. Rent a bike and head to the Downs, a 1-mile sq (1.6km2) green area where you can have a picnic and enjoy views of the city, and even right out across the sea to Wales on a clear day.
5. The resplendent Georgian neighbourhood of Clifton
Clifton is just minutes from the city centre. It’s here that you’ll find yourself wandering about elegant Georgian buildings with high-end boutiques, jewellers and antiques shops. Make sure you go into The Clifton Arcade. This Victorian building first opened in 1878 and now houses an eccentric array of shops including antiques and bespoke furniture. You’re also right next to the Brunel-designed Clifton Suspension Bridge: an engineering marvel with incredible views. If you time it right you’ll be here as hundreds of bulbs decorating it blink on and set it sparkling against the night sky.
6. The startling hot air balloon fiesta
If you need another excuse to pay a visit to this city, it’s the Bristol International Balloon Festival (every August). Witnessing hundreds of colourful balloons of every shape and size float up from Ashton Court Estate and sedately out over the city is a mesmeric sight.
7. The gorgeous Bristol Lido
Built in 1849, Bristol Lido is an enchanting little azure gem set amidst Georgian houses. You can enjoy open-air swimming here year-round, but also on offer are mouthwatering meals served in the superb restaurant and poolside bar. There's a spa too. It was just 7 years ago that the Lido was reopened following community-led action after 20 years of lying in disrepair. And, this being Bristol, even the swimming pool gets its own cool little film made by Harvest Films and funded by HTV and The Arts Council:
There’s a load more to Bristol. It’s a city bursting with colour with a unique atmosphere and energy that you really need to experience first-hand. In the meantime, get a bit more of taster with this excellent film from Jamie Brightmore:
Bristol is just over a 2.5hr drive/ around 1.15hrs by train from London.