Get away! Bris­tol

This com­pact his­toric city has such a cre­ative spirit

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Iconic sight

1Stretch­ing 702ft over the Avon Gorge, the Clifton Sus­pen­sion Bridge is the city’s most spec­tac­u­lar land­mark. Built by fa­mous Vic­to­rian en­gi­neer Isam­bard Kingdom Brunel (though he died be­fore its com­ple­tion), it took 33 years to fin­ish. Boast­ing the best city views, it’s a great selfie spot.

Go har­bour­side

2Bris­tol has been an im­por­tant port since the 1300s, and much of the city’s wealth was a re­sult of sea trade – most no­to­ri­ously the slave trade in the 1700s. To­day the re­de­vel­oped har­bour is buzzing with restau­rants, gal­leries and bars. It’s easy to spend hours just tak­ing in the at­mos­phere, but there are plenty of places to visit too. A pop­u­lar sight is the SS Great Bri­tain, built by Brunel and launched in 1843. Hailed as one of the first great lux­ury lin­ers, it’s fas­ci­nat­ing to ex­plore its faith­fully re­con­structed decks and see how crew and pas­sen­gers lived dur­ing the long voy­ages to dis­tant shores.

Animal an­tics

3In the heart of the city lies Bris­tol Zoo, the world’s fifth old­est zoo, which opened its doors in 1836. Although rel­a­tively small (they don’t keep large an­i­mals here for that rea­son), there’s plenty to see, in­clud­ing go­ril­las, lions, red pan­das and the Seal and Pen­guin Coasts, where you can watch these crea­tures swim and dive from an un­der­wa­ter walk-through.

Hands-on her­itage

4Lo­cated on the dock­side, M Shed is a great place to dis­cover the city’s past and present, through per­sonal sto­ries, trea­sured ob­jects and work­ing ex­hibits, in­clud­ing the en­gine rooms of elec­tric and steam cranes, steam trains, fire boats and tug boats (check the web­site for when these are op­er­at­ing). Open ev­ery day ex­cept Mon­day, en­try is free and there’s a café with lovely har­bour views. Another win­dow into the city’s past can be found at The Ge­or­gian House, built in 1790 for John Pin­ney, sugar mer­chant and slave plan­ta­tion owner. Set over four floors, the prop­erty shows what life was like above and be­low stairs. Open 1 April to 31 De­cem­ber, en­try is free.

Take a tour

5The city is well known as a cre­ative hotspot – Banksy was born here and there are plenty of places to see his work (as well as that of other graf­fiti artists) on the streets. Find a self-guided walk­ing tour at bris­tol mu­se­ums.org. uk/m-shed/.

The­atre trip

You can catch some world­class the­atre in Bris­tol, with many pro­duc­tions trans­fer­ring from Lon­don’s West End. Built in 1766, Bris­tol Old Vic is the world’s long­est con­tin­u­ally run­ning the­atre and has re­cently un­der­gone a multi-mil­lion pound refurbishm­ent. Its pro­gramme in­cludes both clas­sic and con­tem­po­rary pro­duc­tions (bris­tolold­vic.org.uk).

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Take a leisurely stroll round the har­bour

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