Bristol: historically important port, modern-day university town. With the largest circulating community currency in the UK and loads of local events and institutions, Bristol is doing its own thing, comfortable in its own, quite hip but unselfconscious, shoes. I took a quick trip to Bristol by train from London last year– maybe my meandering will inspire you to do the same.
This is just one waterfront area in Bristol’s city center.
Just along this stretch of the Avon River, there’s an arts complex, an aquarium, and several museums. The pedestrian walkways calmly buzz with activity.
In the other direction, along the path to M Shed, a museum of local culture and history, stand remnants of Bristol’s more sea-oriented days:
I do love a good local museum– you learn much about a place from what it treasures and what it sweeps under the rug. Bristol’s M Shed is particularly good: engaging and varied but not overwhelming. Artifacts from the World War II era– bomb shelters, transport bits and bobs– stood out.
Moving west across the river from M Shed, visitors can climb Brandon Hill, a lovely steep park, all the way to the top of Cabot Tower for 360-degree views of the area around Bristol. The tower looks like a fairytale transplant: you half expect Rapunzel to lean out the window.
Further west still, around a bend in the river, lies the Avon Gorge. Suddenly the water is far below, flanked with green cliffs and parkland and straddled by the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Ready for a re-fuel after all the climbing, I headed back into the shop- and cafe-lined city streets to find a treat. I found many: the lines of colorful cakes in window of Anna – Cake Couture beckoned, and I’d soon dragged the poor guy manning the register into an agonized debate over which ones I should try. They were offering “cake flights,” but I somehow restrained myself and tasted just two flavors.
Side note: Alas, looking at the bakery’s website, it seems they might have done a bit of a re-brand since I visited… but I’m sure it’s still worth popping in.
Less tasty but still well-worth a visit is Bristol Cathedral, even if just to get a look at the absolutely eye-popping ceiling.
Finally, back toward the university area, indie bookshops and record stores and pubs sit all along Bristol’s busiest streets. Last but not least, a handful of early Banksys hide in plain sight, waiting to be discovered. For example, “Well-Hung Lover”/”Naked Man”:
Bristol is laid-back, but bustling and dynamic, decidedly cool but unpretentious, and deserving of at least a day or two if you’re looking for a quick break from London.