- Lifestyle & Sports
- 11 Nov 13
One of Europe’s greenest cities and a historic centre steeped in Victoriana, Bristol is also a beer-lovers’ paradise with some of the liveliest nightlife in the UK.
Where exactly is it?
Bordering the counties of Somerset and Gloucestershire, Bristol is South West England’s centre of culture. Though owing its current profile to high-tech and artistic innovations, initially its status as a busy port was the main reason for its prosperity. Ships from all over the world docked at this bustling city, making their mark upon it in much the same way as people from all walks of life do today.
How do I get there?
Return flights from Dublin can cost a mere €59 with Ryanair or Aer Lingus. Bristol airport offers a Frequent Flyer bus service to the city centre just eight miles away.
What language do they speak?
Bristol is richly multicultural and thus multilingual. The native English, when mediated through a hefty Bristolian accent, can become a little challenging. In fact, the city was originally named Brigstow. Though nobody is quite certain when or how it happened, the local dialect somehow morphed the word into ‘Bristol’. It’s a distinctive tongue, and you may be baffled by such phrases as ‘ark at ee’ (listen to him/her) or ‘this zider’s gert lush.’ (This cider’s very good.)
What’s the local beer like?
The cobbled streets of the historical, compact city centre make Bristol a pub crawler’s paradise. With a profusion of brew bars boasting an abundance of lovingly crafted local beverages, fans of a good pint will not be disappointed. The tasty fare available at The Grain Barge (which, as the name strongly hints, used to be a grain barge) includes Southville Hop, the UK’s liveliest and boldest bottled beer. If you make it back down the gangplank without having a swim in the docks, take a brisk, sobering walk to the Royal Navy Volunteer, which got its name from its back door facing the docks through which many a drunken sailor was thrown back to work. We promise you’ll get better treatment these days, however, as the staff are eager to offer friendly advice to customers bemused by the bewilderingly expansive beer selection. The famed Bath Ales, which are brewed nearby, are generously stocked at Beerd, a fun, brightly painted bar also offering delicious stone-baked pizza.
Cider consumption per head in the UK is the highest in the world, and it’s very likely that much of it is guzzled in Bristol. There’s even a chart-topping song devoted to this favoured tipple, the chorus of which goes ‘I’m a cider drinker, I drinks it all of the day, I am a cider drinker, it soothes me troubles away’. The Apple, a Dutch barge converted into a waterborne cider pub, has around 40 unique, locally-made ciders on tap. Try the traditional pulpy and potent Scrumpy (much tastier than the poor imitation found in supermarkets), which will have you regaling your friends with the cider song in no time. Another legendary location for sampling the enchanted apple is the Coronation Tap. Known locally as The Corrie, it’s famous for its ‘Exhibition’ cider, a deceptively innocent and ruthlessly strong beverage that should be enjoyed with caution.
What is the transport like?
The city centre is easy to navigate, with most key locations only a scenic walk away. FirstGroup operates a decent bus service. If you plan on visiting multiple locations you can save a bomb by asking the driver for a Travelcard. FirstDay gives you unlimited travel throughout the day for £4.00 ($4.69) while FirstNight, costing just £2.90 and lasting from 7pm to 4am, is essential for a night out.
What is the food like?
When it comes to eating out in Bristol, half the pleasure is in the endless choice. Our personal recommendations begin with budget friendly and utterly delicious Pieminster, which, like Wallace and Gromit, Banksy and Massive Attack, began its life in Bristol. The second greenest city in Europe, Bristol also prides itself on eco-friendly, locally grown deliciousness, particularly in the case of the Cowshed Bar and Grill. Foodies will appreciate the multicultural delights of Easton or St Nicolas market, a tiny labyrinth of world food stalls and unusual shops. Booking in advance is recommended at the stunning Glassboat Restaurant, a romantic affair with an impressive wine list and an atmosphere as warm and luxurious as a fluffy bubble bath.
What’s the nightlife like?
Regardless of your musical tastes, Bristol delivers a seriously good party. Oceana, Bunker and Rehab are just a few of the most popular venues featuring clubbing classics, dance, and R&B. For something a little different, hop aboard the Theckla (Thursday nights include an unbelievable two-for-one drinks offer) or head to The Lanes and enjoy a unique and distinctly retro mix of DJs, live bands, bars and bowling. Laid-back and effortlessly rock’n roll, The Louisiana is also highly recommended. Their cosy little upstairs room has hosted intimate and informal gigs from the likes of Coldplay, Amy Winehouse and The White Stripes.
When should I go?
Festivals are Bristol’s favourite way of showcasing its impressive musical and performative talents as well as its wacky sense of humour. Some of the best events, like the Harbour Festival and the legendary International Balloon Fiesta, take place in the summer. Expect infectiously energetic locals and impromptu dance-offs.
What are the touristy things to do?
The Clifton Suspension Bridge is an internationally famous feat of Victorian engineering designed by the pioneering Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and definitely worth a visit. Brunel’s other iconic creation is the ss. Great Britain, the world’s first great ocean liner. Today it’s an immersive interactive museum. Not just a Banksy fan’s heaven, the streets of Bristol are also an ever-evolving canvas for street artists from all over the world. Nelson Street, Britain’s largest urban art project, is a particularly impressive visual feast.
A short climb up Brandon Hill off Park Street and you can bask in a view of the city that more than makes up for aching legs. The gorgeous old landscape park, with Cabot tower in its centre, was built to commemorate John Cabot’s voyage from Bristol to North America over 400 years ago. Find a moment of repose among the flowers and streams before climbing the tower for a superb (and entirely free) panoramic view.
What should I bring home?
Quirky and cool is something Bristol does especially well. The Christmas Steps Art Quarter has unusual gifts of all sorts. Many items are hand made by the independent traders who bring a burst of modern innovation to the winding alleyways of this ancient shopping area.