Built on the banks of the River Avon, Bristol was devastated by bombing in the Second World War but has gradually rebuilt itself into one of Britain's most attractive cities. The largest city in South West England, it is well known for its spectacular Georgian and Victorian architecture and the engineering legacy of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which includes the Clifton Suspension Bridge spanning the Avon Gorge. Bristol boasts a vibrant nightlife, a music scene known for trip hop and drum and bass and a thriving street art community.
A charming, hilly city of unique districts, Bristol is also rich with maritime history. For most of its lifetime, dating back almost a millenium, it was an important hub of sea trade. In modern times it has become a center of high-tech industries like aerospace and electronics. It’s also at the forefront of the sustainability movement–the city is being recognized by the European Commission as European Green Capital 2015 for its commitment to energy efficiency, clean transportation and green tourism, and is the UK’s first official Cycling City.
Must see: Be sure to visit Brunel’s SS Great Britain, accounted “the world’s first great ocean liner,” salvaged in 1970 from her resting place in the Falkland Islands and towed across the Atlantic to dry dock in her original home. Visitors can explore the ship, now restored to her Victorian grandeur, from the opulent first-class accommodations to the cramped steerage quarters.
Lodging: The Bristol Hotel–This modern, luxurious boutique hotel is conveniently situated by Bristol’s famed “floating harbor,” the network of docks that was once a center of shipping and now houses an array of restaurants, museums and cultural institutions. It allows easy access to many of the city’s historical attractions.
Cuisine: Bristol offers a virtually unlimited array of cuisine. To experience stunning views of the harbor along with some fine dining, try the Floating Harbour’s Glassboat Restaurant, a converted, restored two-deck barge.
Ground Transportation: Due to heavy traffic, getting around by taxi in Bristol can be difficult. While the city is walkable, ferries offer an excellent way to take a sightseeing tour on the river or to get from the main city center to the rail station; private charter trips around the harbor offer you an extension of the comfort and privacy you experienced with your private jet.
Packing Tips: Bristol is one of the warmest, sunniest cities in the UK, with its proximity to the Atlantic keeping winter temperatures above freezing for much of the winter.
Recommended Books: The Spyglass Tavern from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island is supposedly based on The Hole in the Wall, a well-known Queen Square inn. Stevenson’s novel is one of the most popular adventure stories ever written and highly influenced modern images of pirates.
Currency: The British pound is the local currency.
Calling Code England: 44
Best Travel Dates: The city offers an array of outdoor festivals throughout the summer, and is known for its hot air balloon festivals. April to September is the best time to visit.