the great western rail
take the train. in just under two hours, you'll stay comfortable as you speed west of london on the great western railway. i was lucky enough to travel first class - a perk that's available to all with an upgrade if you so decide on the day, but book enough in advance and you can save up to a third on the standard fares. it's half the time of the coach and less stressful than the drive, so what's stopping you?
swoon worthy gelato
summer by the water can only mean one thing: ice cream. or, gelato if you prefer your dairy confectionery to be a little lighter. artisan gelato-arians swoon gelato have their very own flavour-lab on site that means mixing and making new flavours is as simple as jumping in the lab and experimenting. they use the finest and freshest locally-sourced (where possible) ingredients, and i can wholeheartedly recommend the peach and prosecco and salted caramel gelatos. ermergerrrd.
the college green
with gelato in hand, you'd be silly to not pop across the road and sit and eat it on the college green. nestled between the bristol library, the town hall and the cathedral, the green is surrounded by bike tracks and walking trails, and feels like the heart of the city. if flowers and trees and water fountains are your thing, then you'll love chilling out here on a warm summer's day - you might even spot an original banksy from the comfort of your grassy knoll.
the bristol pound is very much a thing, and is there to encourage local economy. mainly used by local businesses, the bristol pound is the most widely used alternative currency in the uk, and - obviously, can only been used in bristol. the idea is that you use the alternative currency in local shops or at market stalls, and then those spent pounds can only be spent again with local produce suppliers and traders. it keeps the local economy strong and encourages the community the buy locally instead of from chain stores and suppliers.
keep looking up
according to a reliable source, bristol has more georgian buildings left in it than bath, which is known for its georgian architecture. the difference being that bath has only georgian buildings left, while bristol - being a port town, lost a lot in world war two, with reconstructions and adaptions going up in their place. what's left now is a hodge podge of architecture from way back then until right up to now, and an incredibly detailed and colourful skyline. to get the full picture, remember to look up; you'll love what you see.
look back down
a ten minute walk from the college green is brandon hill park. in the oldest park in bristol, you can enjoy 360 views over the city and harbourside area, out towards clifton's famous suspension bridge. there's a play area for the kids, beautiful walking and cycle paths, a nature conservation area, and of course, the icon of bristol's skyline: cabot tower. the 105ft tower (130 steps up - i counted) tower was built in 1897 to commemorate john cabot's famous voyage from bristol to what's now north america, some 400 years earlier. it's totally free to climb, and i can't recommend doing it enough.
a cathedral city
there are a number of churches in bristol, but none more grand than it's cathedral. the grade one listed building was completed in 1140, and has changed hands many times since then; it became the seat of the bishop of bristol in 1542, and remains that way to this day. in addition to the beautiful gothic architectural features, it contains several memorials inside its stain-glassed walls, as well as a historic organ. little of the original stained glass remains, with some of it being replaced in the victorian era, and further more since the bristol blitz in world war two. the hall is preeeeetty big. go have a look.
eat all the food
one simple rule for visiting bristol: eat all the things. there are new, independent restaurants popping up across the city all the time, like pi shop, which literally opened the day before i arrived. from the same family that brough bristol michelin-starred casamia, this fancy pizzeria is nothing short of delicious. a local u.s.p.a and the one with the courgette on it (actually delicious) by the bathurst basin in the fading sun is what it's all about. or if pizza's not your thing (why are we friends?), head over to the colourful thali cafe for some banging indian street food (get the special of the day - ours was pea mint and potato filled giant roti, i mean.. stop), and get some fruity i.p.a in you.
by gum, i learned a lot in a few days. bristol is home to a number of "europe's best" museums, attractions, and relics. like s.s great britain - isambard brunel's greatest achievement, and the first passenger cruiseship to cross the atlantic. she did it in 13 days back in the 1850s, which put brunel in a fantastic position; he designed the railway and had the monopoly on the only railway west of london. he designed the ship and had the monopoly on cross-atlantic travel. he designed the suspension bridge over the avon and had the monopoly on road travel into bristol too. some would say he was a forward thinking man... i'm not normally a sea baby, but that ship is mighty impressive, and i can't recommend visiting her more. if it's a clear day, climb the mast too! though, i wouldn't. other notable learning places: the m shed, the arnolfini, the planetarium, and bristol art centre.
street art scout
bristol is well-known for it's impressive street art scene, among other colourful things. to celebrate the eclectic mix pf artists, promote a little community spirit, and show off the incredible talent from around the world, bristol plays host once a year to upfest - europe's biggest street art and graffiti festival. the urban paint festival brings upwards of 300 artists and more than 30,000 visitors to the small suburb of bedminster every year, and this year was no different!
speaking of festivals, extra bonus tip here for you that there's always something happening around bristol in the way of festivals. the hot air balloon fiesta is coming up (140 balloons of all shapes and sizes flying over bristol at once!) in august, and the shakespeare open air festival is just about wrapping up for the summer too. there's grillstock for the foodies, and the jazz festival and let's rock (the retro festival) for the music lovers. there's slapstick, fashion, cary grant comes home weekend, craft beer, christmas markets... you name it, there's a festival for it in bristol.
seriously, these guys love a good shin dig, and i don't blame them. in a city that diverse and colourful, they really don't need much of a reason to want to show it off to their friends and neighbours across the country. i was so lucky to have a weekend full of sun to explore this pretty city in, and even some sunburn to come home with! bristol had very much on my bucket list for the longest time, and i am mighty glad i got to experience it the way i did. massive thanks to visit bristol for being incredible hosts and tour guides, and for the plethora of local businesses who stepped up to the plate and spent time showing me around and welcoming me to their city! i'll definitely be back - will you?
**thanks to great western railway for graciously supplying me with a return first-class trip to bristol so i could enjoy my weekend without fear of holiday traffic, and to doubletree by hilton for giving me a comfy bed to rest my weary head.**
**a lot of my stay was complimentary, but all thoughts are my own**