Travel Guide to Bristol

Bristol is a prime example of what a modern, flourishing British city looks like. It is located near the sea, has a rich history of commerce and was once a major hub for the manufacture and trade of tobacco, paper, print and packaging.

There are about 400,000 people in Bristol (and 550,000 in the metropolitan area) and they have learned to take full advantage of the city's close proximity to the Costswolds, Mendips, Forest of Dean and its sister city Bath.

Overall, Bristol ranks as England's sixth most populous city and the UK's ninth most populous as well as being the heavily populated city in South West England. For about half a millennium, Bristol was the second or third largest city in England before the rise of Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham in the 1780s during the Industrial Revolution. In 1155, Bristol attained a royal charter and received country status in 1373. The city straddles the Bath and North East Somerset unitary districts as well as North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

Traditionally, Bristol has been one of South West England's centres of culture, education and employment. Since its early days, the city's economy has been largely dependent on the Port of Bristol, which was once the main hub of the city centre but has since transferred to the Bristol Channel coast. Recently, Bristol’s economy has been tied into the aerospace industry,

While Bristol has ceased to be a major port, its docks still represent a major facet of life in Bristol, particularly as an urban centre for the arts, dining and entertainment, and other facets of city life. The docks have become a centre of heritage and culture. Meanwhile, Bristol has become renowned for its rich music and film industries. The city was also a finalist in the 2008 European Capital of Culture competition.

In terms of tourism, Bristol offers many sources of entertainment and among the city's major attractions are its theaters, galleries, restaurants and bars. Sports fans thoroughly enjoy Bristol and there is so much to cheer for here. Aside from its two major football teams (City and Rovers), Bristol also has two rugby teams (Bristol and Clifton) as well as several cricket clubs. In addition, just a few miles from Bristol is one of the premier racecourses in Britain, at Wincanton.

Among the fascinating can't-miss attractions of Bristol are St Mary Redcliffe Church and the Empire and Commonwealth Museum at the Temple Meads Area and SS Great Britain, Bristol Museum and the Brandon Hill & The Cabot Tower at the Harbourside.

Over at Old Bristol, you should not miss Corn Exchange & The Nails, Castle Park & St Peters Church and King Street, the heart of Bristol's theatre industry. At Clifton, the main attractions are Bristol Zoo, Clifton Suspension Bridge and Clifton Downs and Observatory.

Meanwhile, over at the Eastside, tourists should not miss visiting the Montpelier artists haven, St Pauls (home of the world famous St Pauls Carnival), the alternative quarter St Werburghs and Easton, the most culturally diverse area of the city.

In addition, Bristol has a host of major annual events all year round, with at least one major event every weekend during summers. The most noteworthy of these events are the Bristol Balloon Fiesta, the Venn Festival, the Harbour Festival, Bristol Open Doors Day, the Festival of Ideas, the Ashton Court Festival and the Soil Association Organic Food Festival.

Shopaholics also love Bristol for its wide array of excellent shopping venues, including the magnificent Georgian Clifton shopping quarter, where shoppers can re-live the allure of a bygone era amid its many shops.

For history buffs, Bristol offers a great number of excellent museums that graphically showcase the city's long and distinguished past. They highlight the contributions of one of the city's favourite adopted sons, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the man responsible for several tourist sights and monuments around the city centre, including the Great Western Railway that linked Bristol and London in the 1830s and two of the first steamships built in Bristol, the SS Great Western and the SS Great Britain, which can still be viewed at the dry docks. Brunel also designed several of the city's most prominent buildings, including The Great Western Hotel.

Finding a place to stay in Bristol is easy as there are numerous options around that can fit any kind of budget, from the most luxurious to the inexpensive yet comfortable.

Tourists who require additional information on Bristol may inquire at the local Tourist Information Centre (TIC), which is a fixture in all major cities in the UK. You can get info on practically anything here, such as a place to stay or a map of the city.

The Bristol Tourist Information Centre is located at The Annexe, Wildscreen Walk, Harbourside, Bristol, BS1 5DB. Its telephone number is 0906 711 2191 (calls charged at 50p per min) and  +44 870 444 0654 for overseas calls (calls charged at national rate). For accommodation bookings, you may call 0845 408 0474 (calls charged at local rate). Their email is

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