City in the spotlight: Bristol

Summer is here, and we are back with another addition to our ‘in the spotlight’ series. Programme Officer Rebekah Palmer shares historical information about Bristol’s famous sites and gives us her reasons for why you should visit one of the best places to live in the UK, according to her sources.

Bristol is one of the few cities in the UK with an elected mayor. The city even has its own currency, the Bristol Pound, launched in 2012 with the aim of supporting the local economy – you can even pay local taxes in the Bristol Pound! The local currency contributed towards Bristol being named European Green Capital in 2015. 

A historically important port, John Cabot set sail from Bristol to become the first European since the Vikings to explore the Americas. John Cabot was an explorer and navigator who set sail in 1497. You can visit a replica of his ship, The Matthew, in the docks, as well as the SS Great Britain, the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic. SS Great Britain launched from Bristol in 1843. Nowadays the docks are surrounded by cafes, restaurants, and great independent cinema called The Watershed. You can also take a boat trip around the docks to see the city from the water.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge, which spans the Avon Gorge, is synonymous with the city and is a must-see on any visit to Bristol – go for a drink on the terrace of the White Lion Bar for amazing views of the bridge. You can also climb Cabot Tower, near the city centre, for great views of the city.

Bristol comes alive in the summer, with locals sitting at the waterside with a cold drink or paddling in the fountains in Millennium Square in the centre of Bristol, part of the centre’s redevelopment for the millennium. The city also hosts several festivals over the summer months, including the Bristol Harbour festival, the Bristol International Kite Festival, several food and music festivals, and the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. I especially recommend a visit to Bristol for the Balloon Fiesta, the largest in Europe, which takes place from 11- 14 August this year. A particular highlight is the nightglow, where the balloons light up in time to music followed by fireworks. But it gets busier every year, so make sure you arrive early to get a good spot!

The city is also home to a lively cultural scene, from numerous museums (like the M Shed) and art galleries to street art including works by Banksy (you could even take a Banksy guided walking tour of the city). It is also a hub for the creative industries, including Aardman Animations, the creators of Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep.

Meet anyone from Bristol and they will tell you what a great city it is! Known for its rich history, creativity, and distinctive accent, it also possesses a relaxed atmosphere and independent spirit.

And it’s not that I’m just biased…Bristol was voted the best UK city to live in in 2014!  

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