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Central Bristol is happily compact enough to explore on foot – or, if you want to take your lead from the environment-minded locals, by bike. You won’t need to walk far before you stumble upon fascinating architecture, historic properties and amazing new attractions. Get a sense for the city’s past, present and future at museums including M Shed, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and The Architecture Centre. Don’t miss Bristol Cathedral – a rare example of a city centre cathedral - and other major attractions such as The Red Lodge Museum and The Georgian House Museum. Make time for the Old City, too. Its atmospheric cobbled streets are now home to shops, cafes and bars that show-off contemporary Bristol’s cutting edge creativity and entrepreneurial flair. With St Nicholas Market at its heart, it remains focused on trade – just as it has been since medieval times. And if you do decide to hire a bike be sure to whizz off and explore some of the city’s colourful enclaves such as Southville, whose walls play host to graffiti festival Upfest, and St Pauls - famous for its spectacular Caribbean carnival.
There’s so much going on in Bristol, the challenge is deciding what to see first! You could spend hours just exploring the Harbourside. The historic dock is now home to Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s ss Great Britain, The Matthew, the Arnolfini art gallery and M Shed museum. Nearby, on Millennium Square, you can also check out Bristol Aquarium, At-Bristol Science Centre and all the many markets, festivals and events that take place here throughout the year. Venture a little further uphill and you’ll discover the stunning Regency architecture of Clifton, with one of Brunel’s most astounding engineering feats, the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and one of the oldest zoos in the world – Bristol Zoo Gardens. The best way to see all this and more is via the hop-on-hop-off Bristol Insight open-top tour bus. As an added bonus, Bristol is within easy reach of some stunning English countryside. To see what we’re talking about, head to the historic Berkeley Castle, set in rural Gloucestershire, or to the dramatic Cheddar Caves & Gorge, surrounded by walking trails. You also find the World Heritage city of Bath just a 15-minute train ride away.
Bristolians love their food and have access to the best produce the West Country can provide - so you’re sure to be well-nourished here! Good meals abound, whatever your budget or dietary preference. There’s American inspired BBQ joints, Japanese noodle shops, French fine dining and Caribbean soul food. As host each year to one of Europe’s biggest vegan and vegetarian festivals – VegFest – Bristol is also a rewarding place to go meat-free. And if you really want to make an occasion of mealtimes, try one of the city’s superb Michelin-starred restaurants such as Casamia and The Pony & Trap.
Bristol has all sorts of wonderful local cafes, whether you’re looking for a decent cup of coffee to start the day or a leisurely afternoon tea after all your sightseeing. There's also plenty of places to grab a bite to eat at lunchtime. On sunny days, you’ll be please to find lots of Bristol's cafes have outdoor seating – perfect for soaking up the Harbourside views, as well as the rays.
If you’re looking for a good night out, Bristol has it all. There’s chilled-out pubs, secret speakeasy bars, cool nightclubs and gigs galore. The experimental city is renowned for its underground music scene and The Bristol Sound, thanks to 90s trip–hop and drum ‘n’ bass acts such as Massive Attack, Portishead and Roni Size.
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to shopping in Bristol. You can take a walk down Gloucester Road and Stokes Croft, famous for their alternative, independently-owned shops and boutiques, or stroll up Park Street and The Triangle for vintage fashion, music and books. Then there’s Clifton Village, with its charming Victorian shopping arcade, and the colourful Christmas Steps Arts Quarter, where you’ll find specialist art, jewellery and… a cider shop! In the Old City you’ll find the brilliant St Nicholas Market – great for local handicrafts and souvenirs as well as food – and in the city centre, there’s all the High Street stores and designer brands you could want at Bristol Shopping Quarter. Finally, for the ultimate indoor shopping experience look no further than The Mall at Cribbs Causeway.
Need to know about transfers from Bristol International Airport? Or how to get around on public transport once you’re in town? Here’s the local know-how you need to plan your trip...
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