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A Bristol city guide – industrial relics, quirky shopping streets and vibrant street art

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Combining spectacular Georgian architecture, remnants of its gritty industrial past and some of the UK’s best creative scenes, Bristol is a city which packs a punch. Explore its history through engineering marvels turned museums, then experience some of the UK’s most innovative up and coming culture, from colourful graffiti-adorned streets and an ethically focused food scene to acclaimed shopping, museums and bars - independent is the key here and a DIY ethos runs throughout.

Emily Wilson

My Destination local expert on


Explore its heritage


Climb over the Clifton Suspension Bridge for a spectacular view of the city and an insight into this colossal engineering project. The late great Victorian engineer Brunel created it over the craggy Avon gorge, as well as designing the SS Great Britain  - the world’s first luxury ocean liner. If you want a glimpse of some of Bristol’s Georgian gems, walk back through Clifton. Located fairly close to the bridge, Royal York Crescent is England’s longest Georgian crescent. Afterwards, head to central Bristol to sun yourself in Queen Square, a Georgian park situated next to the River Avon.


Contemporary culture


There’s something in the water in Bristol – it’s been a hub of innovative art and music for years. Perhaps Bristol’s most famous resident artist is street scribbler Banksy, whose early work can be found all over the city. Music-wise, trip hop and drum and bass began here in the 90s, and a stream of talented musicians still emerges today – not just encompassing dance music trends but quirky folk and leftfield acts. Visit music venue Thekla for the newest acts on a converted Dutch barge or visit the Bristol Folk House for home-grown folk musicians.


Local food


Farms criss-cross the surrounding Somerset countryside and masses of fresh, seasonal produce make its way into Bristol’s markets, shops and restaurants. There is a culture of sustainability here, and this well and truly enters into Bristol’s food scene. It’s a theme that’s found in every type of food – go to St Nicholas Market for an array of different cuisines, from falafel-filled pittas to smoky pulled pork sandwiches – each venue heralding the seasonal and local produce movement. If you feel like indulging, eat at a gourmet restaurant in Harbourside, where fine dining also has an organic, eco-friendly focus.


Quirky shopping


Head to Gloucester Road or Park Street for alternative high streets filled with independent shops. Stokes Croft is the newest area to be gentrified, and remains the most bohemian district of Bristol; its antique shops, record stores and street art galleries are great places to hunt for one-of-a-kind souvenirs. For high street fans, the central shopping quarter has over 500 stores, housed in 2 shopping centers and the bustling streets around Broadmead. Antique collectors should try the Christmas steps, where you can find rows of ramshackle antique shops in the Old City, or stroll up to the Clifton Arcade - the perfect place to find vintage clothing or retro-inspired homeware.