Why fly somewhere for a weekend when you could visit one of Britain’s loveliest culture capitals instead?
Bristol is the Brighton of the Westcountry, although Bristolians are probably even more laidback than their Brighton counterparts, some of whom are Londoners in disguise.
Bristol loves cider and music with a strong beat and lazy Sundays. There are museums and galleries and even ships to visit, so there’s no shortage of things to do either.
Bristol’s most famous and influential resident was Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Brunel was responsible for the first major British railway, Great Western Railway, which is of enormous historical significance. For example, the vast railway network in India was introduced during the times of British rule using this newfangled feat of engineering. When you come into Bristol by train, you are entering Brunel’s Bristol Temple Meads, and if you look at the track, you will see that the spaces between tracks are wider than on more modern lines, as they were designed this way in the beginning. Brunel also designed the SS Great Britain, the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship. Today, you can visit the SS Great Britain and climb aboard it in Bristol’s docks. From there, access to the other major attractions in the city is easy. A lovely way to get to the ship is to take a Bristol Ferry Co. ferry along the docks.
Near to the docks is science centre 'At Bristol'. Here there is an IMAX cinema and planetarium as well as the main learning centre where kids and adults can discover all about people and the world we live in.
Also in the centre is a relatively new shopping area, Cabot Circus, which had a lot of money invested in it and is more attractive than the Broadmead area where shoppers used to go.
At the bottom of Park Street, which is the left turning and up from the end of the docks in the centre, is College Green. This was often used as a location for the filming of popular teenage television drama Skins. By College Green is the city’s cathedral and the library.
At the top of Park Street is the City Museum and Art Gallery. This Victorian museum was given a huge platform when Bristol artist Banksy decided to host his first exhibition in it. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie visited the museum during the exhibition, which for Bristol is a big deal (although the comic book convention did bring in Stan Lee once).
The museum has a decent collection of exhibits. There are quite a few stuffed animals, including a gorilla called Alfred, who once lived at Bristol Zoo. The Egyptian section is excellent, with its very own exposed mummy – not for the faint hearted.
The aforementioned zoo is a bus ride away in Clifton. It is a great place, also Victorian, with large enclosures, particularly those for the Meerkats and the Penguins (one very dry, one very wet). It has lost some of its Victorian charm with a handful of modern additions but makes for a wonderful day out.
Sophie Collard (@sophontrack) writes about fascinating places to visit and people she’s met while on her travels. She’s travelled in the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia and loves the sense of distance and changing landscapes.