BRISTOL might not be the first place which springs to mind when you think of a weekend city break in the UK – but after sampling its quirky side, we’re glad we did.
The city might be dominated by the magnificent steamship the SS Great Britain, but that was just the start of our adventure.
Nestled on the Severn Estuary at the gateway to south-west England, Bristol is most famous for its seafaring, aviation and industrial heritage – it was a leading trade port in the 17th-20th centuries, is the UK home of Concorde, has a name synonymous with the innovative Bristol aircraft of the 50s and 60s and is the birthplace of the great Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who built the great ship moored in the harbour.
But it’s more than that these days.
Bristol continues to effortlessly mix urban cool with green credentials, making it the beating heart of the West Country.
HEAD FOR THE HARBOURSIDE
Bristol’s harbourside is bustling with things to do – and it’s a good place for a great night out. The first port of call should be Bristol Beer Factory’s floating gastro pub, the Grain Barge. As the locals will tell you, it’s a good idea to eat a hearty meal before embarking on your night out and the Barge certainly delivers in that respect.
Take a seat out on deck and enjoy the views of the illuminated SS Great Britain with your grub and a pint of Exhibition or a bottle of yummy Milk Stout. Then follow the unruly rabble of seafaring swashbucklers out on one of Pete the Pirate’s guided tours towards town.
Cider drinkers shouldn’t miss the chance to sample the region’s finest scrumpy at the Apple cider boat, although be warned: these thirst-quenchers have percentages that would make even famed hard-drinking local musicians the Wurzels think twice.
SHOPPING IN BRISTOL
Park Street has hip designers selling their latest collections, record shops such as Rise and Fopp, and classic retro clobber from American Vintage. You won’t even notice it is a hill. For boutiques and antiques, explore Clifton Village, or if you want quality as well as quantity, head up to Cabot’s Circus.
Massive Attack and Portishead both hail from Bristol, giving you some idea of the musical pedigree on offer in the town, so be sure to check out the latest wave of local talent at the Thekla or Louisiana. For gigs on a larger scale, Colston Hall is Britain’s largest concert hall. Clubbers should head to Motion or the legendary Lakota and see why Bristol remains at the forefront of the drum ‘n’ bass and dubstep scene.
FAMILY FUN IN BRISTOL
You can’t go wrong at Bristol Zoo, which has over 450 species for the kids to coo over. If they’re a bit more tech savvy, get hands-on at @Bristol which manages to make science and technology cool with intriguing exhibits for all ages. Or, for a more timeless trip back through the geological ages, take a road trip to Cheddar Gorge and enjoy the traditional combination of caves and cheese!