Laid back, full of fascinating museums, beautifully situated, and welcoming to everyone who visits, Bristol is one of the UK's most attractive vacation destinations.
Cross the stunning Clifton Suspension Bridge, perched high above the River Avon. Tour the incredible street art of Stokes Croft, attend a play at the Bristol Old Vic while the Shakespeare Festival is on, or just head to the Harbourside area for a waterfront meal and a few local beers.
There are excellent museums like the M Shed, a dynamic music scene, and Michelin-starred restaurants like Casamia to indulge your taste buds. It's all a couple of hours from London Heathrow airport, so why not give Bristol a try? You'll love it.
Modern Bristol is a great place to learn about the city's past. M Shed and the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery feature plenty of exhibits, but much of the history is to be found elsewhere in the city. Head to engineering marvels like the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the SS Great Britain for a sense of what Bristol was like when it was the starting point for voyages of exploration and a trading metropolis.
Stokes Croft is an incredible place to walk around. Nowhere else in the UK (and maybe even Europe) has such a concentration of high-quality street art, and the area is constantly acquiring new masterpieces. Take a street art tour or choose your route around a truly fascinating neighborhood.
Bristol is proud of its independence and free-thinking attitude, and nowhere is this more evident than Gloucester Road in Stokes Croft. You can shop all day at boutiques like Pink Lemons, and vintage stores like the Reclaimers Reclamation, before enjoying a well-earned pint at the Green Man.
Bristol is lucky to have some vast woodlands and parks within easy reach. Leigh Woods offers stunning views across Clifton Gorge, there are tea gardens to relax in at Conham River Park and superb views of the city from Cabot Tower on Brandon Hill.
Bristol is definitely a foodie destination, offering high-end restaurants like Casamia, the bustling street food and fresh produce of St Nicholas Market, and great-value delicious meals at local favorites like the One Stop Thali Cafe.
Bristol is at its best in the summer months (late June through to early September) when the town's festivals tend to take place, and you can wander the markets and shopping streets in warm weather. A good time to go is July, when the Shakespeare Festival is in full swing.
Bristol International Airport (BRS) is around seven miles southwest of the city and provides a connection to most of Europe's largest cities. If you are taking a flight from the US, a connecting flight should be available. From there, take the 24-hour Airport Flyer Express bus service into town, which takes 30 minutes and costs £11 for a return.
The oldest continually operating train terminus in the world, Bristol Temple Meads is a couple of hours from London, Birmingham, and Manchester. Companies serving the station include CrossCountry, South West Trains, and Great Western Railway.
Getting to Bristol by car is extremely easy. If you are driving from London or Heathrow Airport, take the M4 motorway and then change to the M32 at Stoke Gifford. Those coming from the north or southwest can take the M5 and change to the A4 at Avonmouth.
Buses to Bristol are provided by National Express and Megabus. National Express stops at the Marlborough Street coach station, while Megabus stops nearby on Cabot Circus. Both are within walking distance of the city center.
Bristol has plenty of different neighborhoods to choose from and a wide range of hotels as well. If you want a cozy B&B, Number Thirty Eight Clifton is ideal. The Bristol Hotel has great views of the harbor, while the Wellington offers comfortable luxury rooms above a fine pub in the popular Gloucester Road shopping district.
Harbourside - for hundreds of years, Bristol was England's gateway to the Americas, handling an endless stream of trade goods (and, at times, slaves). Nowadays, the harbor is the city's focal point. Take ferry services across the "floating harbor", visit the At-Bristol Science Centre, and clamber aboard the SS Great Britain, the world's first iron-hulled passenger liner.
Stokes Croft - Bristol's creative hub, Stokes Croft has an edgy, bohemian attitude that maintains its distinctive identity. See murals by the area's many talented graffiti artists, check out works by Banksy, the city's artistic superstar, visit nightclubs like Blue Mountain, and wander down Gloucester Road, a mile-long stretch of independent stores.
The Old City - up the hill from Harbourside, the Old City is still enclosed by stretches of city walls and includes ancient churches like St John on the Wall. St Nicholas Market is a great place to shop for food, the Old Vic is Bristol's premier theater, while Broadmead shopping center is right next door and has all of the chain stores visitors could need.
If you want to see the sights efficiently, a trip on the City Sightseeing bus is a must, but First Bristol's public buses are almost as useful. In particular, bus numbers 8 and 9 will take you from the center of town to scenic Clifton, so keep them in mind. Single tickets cost £1.55 each. Bristol ferries are another option, and cost between £1.70 and £3.80 for single tickets. Bristol is also a great city for cyclists (and the Avon Cycleway is an idyllic way to get from Bristol to Bath).
Taxis are often an expensive way to get around Bristol. The city operates a fixed set of rates within the city itself, with charges of £2.60 for the meter drop, then £1.80 for every mile (though prices rise at night and weekends).
Renting a car is an excellent way to have access to central Bristol, suburbs like Clifton, and day trip destinations like Bath, and rental companies in the city include Hertz, Enterprise, and Avis. Rates can dip as low as £10 per day for a compact vehicle.
Bristol offers a mixture of conventional shopping malls and streets packed with independent stores. The most exciting retail district in the city is definitely Gloucester Road, where artisan jewelry stores like MAKE rub shoulders with gift boutiques like Fig, and second-hand stores like Reclaimers Reclamation. The Bristol Shopping Quarter around Broadmead offers more conventional stores, with big names like H&M and Primark.
The cheapest places to shop for groceries and other essentials in Bristol are supermarkets like Tesco, Sainsbury's, and Morrisons, all of which have city center branches. For more upmarket groceries and street food, head to St Nicholas Market, which also hosts the city's farmers' market. Expect to pay around £2.80 for a gallon of milk and £1.90 for 12 eggs.
Bristol has plenty of acclaimed chefs and high-end eateries. Some of the most popular are the Michelin-starred Casamia, No Man's Grace, and Birch. For cheaper, but no less tasty Indian meals, check out the One Stop Thali Cafe, the Latin American dishes at Las Iguanas, or the pizza and microbrewery combination at Zerodegrees. Expect to pay £8-15 for a mid-range meal and over £30 per head at upscale restaurants.