Bristol, Clifton Suspension Bridge

16 Reasons why you have to visit Bristol: Bridges, Brunel & Banksy

Set in the south-west of England, straddling the River Avon and River Frome is the picturesque city of Bristol. Boasting a vibrant culture and a great range of attractions, the city has a lot to offer visitors.  We have found more people choosing weekend breaks in Bristol, and with so much to see and do here, it is easy to see why.  From bridges and bikes to Bansky and Brunel, there is something for everyone – so read on to discover 16 reasons why you have to visit Bristol.

1. Food

Cheese burger
Head to the Triangle area in Bristol for great burgers

Any food lover should definitely plan a visit to Bristol. With such a wide variety of eating establishments, from quirky street food vendors and cafes, to gourmet Michelin starred restaurants; there is something for every appetite.  Bristolians love good food, and with seven restaurants featuring in the 2020 Michelin guide – it has the most of any city outside London.  The rich mix of culture in Bristol is reflected in the array of food quarters the city has.  St Mark’s road is the place to go for Asian food, Clifton is great for seafood and classic British, the Triangle is perfect for burger lovers, and there is a mix of authentic Italian restaurants scattered across the city.  No visit to Bristol would be complete without a trip to one of the many food markets the city has to offer: St Nicholas Market and the Harbourside Street Food Market are our particular favourites.

Did you know?

The first-ever chocolate bar was invented in Bristol by Joseph Fry in 1866.

2. History

Bristol has a rich history and the city dates back to Anglo-Saxon times as far as 1051.  The River Avon and Docks played a key role in the development of Bristol with the port being a key focus for industries in the city. Engineering, aviation and shipbuilding also contributed to the success and growth of Bristol, evidence of which can be found across the city today. When visiting Bristol you can see what a historic melting pot it is, from the impressive buildings, informative museums and iconic architecture. 

Did you know?

St James Priory is the oldest building in Bristol, having been built in 1129 and, although over 900 years old, it is still a place of worship and a key visitor attraction in the city.

3. Isambard Kingdom Brunel

One of (if not) the most famous British engineers, Isambard Kingdom Brunel created some of his finest engineering feats in Bristol. A key figure in the industrial revolution of the 19th Century, Brunel designed the Great Western Railway linking Bristol to London, as well as the floating harbour, first propeller-driven iron ship ‘SS Great Britain’ and the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge.  Those who visit Bristol can still see some of Brunel’s work, with the SS  Great Britain being one of Bristol’s most popular visitor attractions.  Board the boat and discover how this ship helped change the maritime world.

Did you know?

The SS Great Britain was designed, built and had its maiden voyage in Bristol in 1843.  At the time it was the largest and most advanced ship in the world.

4. The Clifton Suspension Bridge

Clifton Suspension Bridge and Hot air balloons.
The emblematic Clifton Suspension Bridge

Emblematic of the city itself, the Clifton Suspension Bridge deserves a mention in its own right!  Spanning the Avon Gorge and River Avon, this Grade 1 listed structure and visitor centre attracts visitors to Bristol from all over the world.  Designed by Brunel, it now acts a memorial to the Victorian engineer as he sadly never got to see the bridge completed as he died before it was finished in 1864.  Now over 150 years old the bridge is still going strong and is vital for many Bristolians as it links Clifton in Bristol to Leigh Woods in North Somerset. 

Did you know?

The World’s first bungee jump took place in 1979 off Clifton Suspension bridge as was carried out by members of Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club. 

5. Nightlife

With two universities in Bristol, it is no surprise Bristol nightlife is well renowned.  Offering a vast range of bars, speakeasies, nightclubs and music venues, there is plenty to keep you entertained into the early hours.  The city hosts some great comedy nights and has a thriving LGBT scene.  Whether you are thinking of visiting Bristol with a group of friends or more of a romantic trip the nightlife in Bristol will help make a memorable city-break. 

Did you know?

Bristol has a floating night club – Thekla is a former Cargo ship which is now moored in Mud Dock Bristol.

6. Music

Bristol has a varied music scene covering a whole host of genres.  There are some great live music venues in the city including the O2 Academy Bristol, Colston Hall and Motion Bristol. Whether you are into classical music or happy hardcore there will be a venue and event for you!  The summer months are a great time to visit Bristol as the city hosts a wide range of festivals such as Bristol Sounds, The Downs Festival and Love Saves the Day. All of which see some impressive live music acts perform.

Did you know?

Bristol is particularly famous for hip hop music with Massive Attack, Roni Size and Portishead all stemming from Bristol.

7. Banksy

The Girl with a Pierced Eardrum , by Banksy,Bristol
Banksy original street art- The Girl with a Pierced Eardrum , Bristol

The iconic street artist Banksy hails from the Bristol area and the city is home to many pieces of his early work.  No visit to Bristol would be complete with seeing some of his thought-provoking street art.  Some of his most famous pieces on display are the ‘Grim Reaper’ which can now be seen in Bristol’s M Shed, and  ‘Mild, Mild West’ which was one of Banksy’s first large wall murals. It can be found next to the Canteen in Bristol’s Cultural Quarter.  A Banksy walking tour is a good way of exploring Bristol and taking in Banksy’s Art.

Did you know?

The most expensive piece of Banksy work ‘Devolved Parliament’ sold at auction in 2019 for £9.9million.

8. Shopping

Bristol is a great place to shop. Not only does it offer all the main high street stores and designer boutiques, it also has a vast range of independent retailers and quirky markets offering more unique items.  Bristol Shopping Quarter is a popular place to go and has the convenience of having hundreds of shops, cafes and restaurants all in the vicinity.  For unique stalls and gifts, Bristol’s Old City is well worth a visit; this historic shopping area has been trading since 1743! There is a great range of serviced apartments in Bristol perfect for a shopping break.

Did you know?

Bristol has its own currency – ‘The Bristol Pound’ which can be spent in a wide range of independent retailers and outlets across the city.

9. Green City

Back in 2015, Bristol became the first UK city to be recognised as a European Green Capital.  Inhabitants worked hard to create a healthier and happier Bristol by focusing on sustainability and low carbon living.  Those visiting Bristol can relish the outdoors and enjoy over 400 parks and gardens perfect for walks, sports and picnics.  Cycling is also a popular pastime in the city and with a vast map of cycle routes, Bristol has been named as one of Europe’s most bike-friendly destinations.

Did you know?

Bristol has a poo bus – Britain’s first-ever bus powered by biomethane, which is made from human sewage and waste runs at Bristol Airport.

10. The Harbourside

Sunrise over Bristol Harbourside with the SS Great Britain
Bristol Harbourside with the SS Great Britain

The Harbourside is a reason in itself to visit Bristol.  This historic location was once buzzing with sailors and merchants, making it imperative in the growth of the Bristol we know and love today.  Now transformed into a pretty waterside development, it offers a whole host of activities and attractions.  SS Great Britain is docked here, and you’ll also find a range of museums and art galleries including M shed, Spike Island and Bristol Aquarium.  You can even take a boat trip and explore Bristol from the water. The Harbourside also boasts an array of shops, bars and restaurants making a great destination for a day out.

Did you know?

Bristol harbour has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world; to combat the challenges this brings to the docks a floating harbour was developed in 1809.

11. Nature & the great outdoors

Not only is Bristol a thriving city, but its unique location means it combines an enviable balance of city life and countryside.  Visitors to Bristol only need to take a short trip from the city centre and they can be immersed in the great outdoors.   There’s a great range of parks and walking trails to choose from.  The Frome Valley Walkway, Brandon Hill and the Downs are all popular areas to soak up some fresh air.  The Avon Gorge and Leigh Woods are also worth visiting to explore nature trails and provide postcard views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. 

Did you know?

The Avon Gorge is an important botanical site and has some flora and fauna that is totally unique to the area, including the Bristol Whitebeam tree.

12. Sights and attractions

Concorde at Bristol Aerospace
Board Concorde at Bristol Aerospace

Whether you are visiting Bristol with family or a group of friends it is packed with sights and attractions to keep all ages entertained.  Some of the top things to do in Bristol include: Bristol Zoo Gardens, with over 400 different species of exotic and endangered animals, set in 12 acres it makes a great day out; We the curious, a unique hands-on science centre which aims to create the culture of curiosity; Aerospace Bristol, discover Bristol’s aviation’s feats and even gives you the chance to walk aboard Concorde, and Bristol Aquarium, popular with all ages you can find out about life under the sea.

Did you Know?

Bristol Zoo was founded in 1835 and is the fifth oldest zoo in the world.

13. Hot air balloons

Every August, Bristol hosts the international balloon fiesta, filling the skies with bright coloured hot air balloons from all over the globe.  With over 150 balloons, this is the largest meeting in Europe and is such an impressive sight.  The four-day event also offers a range of family entertainment, stalls and fairground rides.  Bristol has a range of ballooning companies if you fancy trying out a hot air balloon ride; it makes a unique way of seeing the city!

Did you know?

One of the world’s biggest hot air balloon manufacturer’s is based in Bristol.  Cameron Balloons was established in 1971 and now develops bespoke hot air balloons that are sold across the world.

14. Coffee

Coffee beans
Good Coffee has always been a key part of Bristol life

Any coffee lover has to visit Bristol. This city has a vast range of independent coffee shops, roasters and trained baristas.  Some have even been ranked among the best coffee shops in the UK. Whether you are an espresso drinker or a soya latte, fan you’ll never be too far away from your next caffeine fix in Bristol.

Did you know?

With Bristol being a key trading port, coffee has been part of Bristol life for over 350 years.

15. Architecture

Town houses at Royal York Crescent in Bristol England
The pretty Royal York Crescent in Bristol

Bristol is a picturesque city and showcases a range of architectural styles dating back from medieval times.  It even has its own style of building known as Bristol Byzantine which featured on many industrial buildings in the 19th Century and is characterised by simple outlines, decorative bricks and archways.   Some examples that visitors to Bristol can see today are the Granary, Robinsons Warehouse and Victoria Court. 

Did you know?

Royal York Crescent in Bristol is a stunning street of Georgian terrace townhouses and is one of the longest terrace crescents in Europe.

16. Awards & recognition

If we still haven’t convinced you to visit Bristol, here’s what some other people say! Bristol was named the best city to live in Britain by the Sunday Times in 2017, as well as one of the top 10 happiest cities to work in in the UK by the Guardian.  It has also been named World Vegan Capital, the kindest city in the UK and the most artist city due to the amount of museums, art and entertainment on offer.  So don’t just take our word for it – go and see for yourself!

Where to stay in Bristol?

Living area Paintworks Apartments in Bristol
The vibrant living area of Paintworks Apartments in Bristol

Citybase apartments have a range of serviced apartments in Bristol perfect for a city-break, some of our favourite apartments for a weekend in Bristol can be found here.  For more information visit Citybase Apartments and our friendly team will be happy to help.

Lorraine Evans

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