Get away! Bristol
This compact historic city has such a creative spirit
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.
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.
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.
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/.
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).
Take a leisurely stroll round the harbour