Bristol is England’s sixth biggest city, home to nearly 450,000 people. The area has been populated since the Iron Age with evidence of ancient forts and Roman villas in the surrounding countryside. Bristol has thrived throughout the centuries, once a popular port for journeys to America, and now a hub for culture, aerospace and industry. Today, Bristol is a colourful and welcoming city with easy access to coastline and natural countryside, making it a great place to start exploring England.
Start your Bristol experience with a trip to Bristol Harbour. The harbour has stood since the 13th century due to its excellent location upon the River Avon. In the past, this was the departure point for ships sailing to the ‘New World’ and a popular arrival destination for Europeans. Today, the main port has been moved further downstream but the harbour remains full of activity, with a number of arts and exhibitions spaces on-site, as well as cafes and interesting attractions. Take a river cruise on a ferry to learn more about Bristol, the River Avon, and nearby towns. Or time your trip to coincide with the Bristol Harbour Festival to see a grand array of boats on display, including Royal Navy vessels and tall ships.
Royal West of England Academy
The Royal West of England Academy is Bristol’s first art gallery, built in the 19th century in order to celebrate local and international artists. The academy continues to dedicate itself to promoting arts and culture in Britain, and the gallery features work by important artists such as Vanessa Bell, Julian Trevelyan, and Gilbert Spencer. The gallery also features regular temporary exhibits and one-off events, showcasing subjects such as landscape paintings, female artists, and even hosting workshops to get visitors into creating their own art! This is the perfect place to experience some culture in Bristol.
St Mary Redcliffe
Completed in the 15th century, St Mary Redcliffe is an imposing gothic-style church with beautiful historical architecture. The church was built on an important site of Christian worship that has been used for centuries. Praised by Queen Elizabeth I, St Mary Redcliffe is a delight to witness and a great way to explore some of Bristol’s history. The church features stained glass windows dating from the 14th century all the way up to the 1960s. Inside you will also find a number of statues and monuments, as well as 15 bells in the church tower, dating from the 17th century. Today the church is still used as a community space and for prayer, as well as hosting regular choir and organ performances. Bristol is full of Old World charm, and in keeping with that spirit you might consider using a chauffeur service such as Cars Exec for your transportation to the city. Nothing says "Old England" quite like being driven about by a private hire chauffeur.
Arnolfini is Bristol’s hub for contemporary art, showcasing international and local art and culture. Located on the harbourside, the gallery has featured works by Paul McCartney, Bridget Riley and Jack Yeats. It is regularly used as an events and exhibition space for art, dance, music, and even lectures. Be sure to check the week’s listings as the gallery hosts film screenings, archive displays and art installations. Stop by the Reading Room for an extensive library of art books, magazines and resources, available to peruse in a quiet environment. Visit the shop for one of the country’s best collections of art books, or grab a bite to eat at the café. Arnolfini is one of the best places in Bristol for contemporary arts and culture.
Bristol Zoo is a lovely place to spend a day out, with a huge variety of animals on show, including Asiatic lions, red pandas and seals. Since 1836, the zoo has been committed to conservation and research. Bristol Zoo was the first in the world to breed okapis, and is also one of the few zoos in Britain where you can find aye ayes and lowland gorillas. Visit the Twilight Zone for a unique indoors experience that guides you through artificially-created night-time habitats, offering an opportunity to see nocturnal creatures in their natural setting. For the brave, tackle ZooRopia, an adventure rope course that leads you through the zoo alongside gibbons, lemurs and gorillas. And for a truly special zoo experience, book a stay at The Lodge to see the zoo after closing hours, with a private tour and delicious food.
Spike Island is a creative space, dedicated to developing and promoting contemporary art and design. Spike Island was once a man-made island but has since been joined to the mainland and is now a hub for Bristol’s active culture scene. Spike Island has a weekly roster of arts events and exhibits, featuring work from modern artists around the world. There are also talks, activities, workshops, performances and screenings on offer every week so there is always something new and exciting to engage with. Visit the Spike Island Café for organic, sustainable food with plenty of veggie options and delicious baked goods on offer.