- Harbours and history
- City life
- Cool bars and a mellow vibe
Bristol is a great metropolis without the stress. There are friendly bars, amazing restaurants, and a cleaned-up harbourside with art galleries and many a bar-with-a-view.
Upmarket Clifton provides the Sunday afternoon shopping opportunities: the east side is where to head for a bohemian night out. Still not convinced? A 15-minute train ride will take you to the living museum that is the city of Bath; 45 minutes in the car and you’re in Cardiff. And you’re in the midst of some of the finest countryside in England: the West Country, with its great pubs, ancient monuments and, thanks to the Gulf Stream, temperate climate. ‘Brizzle’, as the locals have it, is a fabulous city.
If you’re wondering why the city centre is such a town-planning monstrosity when the rest of Bristol is all Georgian loveliness, it’s because of bombing raids during WWII. Bristol was a major port and lots of the city centre was flattened and subsequently rebuilt. Badly. However, there are plans for major urban regeneration of its ugly concrete shopping arcades. There are other less obvious signs of the bombing too; check out the walls of Temple Meads station if you arrive by train and you’ll see the unmistakable imprint of shrapnel.
- Taxis cannot be flagged down in the street, so ask your hotel to book one for you. There are usually plenty of taxis outside the train stations.
- Tipping culture
- As per the rest of the UK, tipping is discretionary, but 12.5 per cent is appreciated.
- Packing tips
- This city is so laidback it’s pretty much having a lie-down, so don’t worry about packing a suit and tie or cocktail dress for dinner.
- Recommended reads
- Read Steven Brindle’s fascinating Brunel: The Man who Built the World to learn more about Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the engineer and British icon who designed Bristol’s beloved Clifton Suspension Bridge, as well as the train station you probably arrived at, Temple Meads.
- From cutting-edge cool to BYO trencherman joints, Bristol seems to have far more decent restaurants than is reasonable for such a small city. Not that we're complaining.
- Pound sterling.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for the UK: 44. Code for Bristol: (0)117.
- Do go/don't go
- There are plenty of cosy pubs, cafes and restaurants in which to take refuge from the rain in the winter, but June through to September are the best months to visit. The westerly Gulf Stream climate keeps it a degree or two warmer than most of England, but this can make for excess drizzle in winter.
Don't go home without...
A snoop around the shop at the Soma Gallery (0117 9739838) in the Clifton Arcade, which sells designer creations ranging from Soop ceramics to Tatty Devine kitschery.