What to see in Bristol? Dive into Bristol’s deep history and see how you can get involved

by Alessio, Chief Resident

If you are coming from another city or another country, your years at the University of Bristol can become an opportunity to know the city, its traditions and its community: an experience which will remain in your heart and memory for the rest of your life. Let yourself be conquered by the vibrant atmosphere of this city! Bristol is an incredible blend of Georgian architecture, harbour traditions and street art. 

Read on for the six essential things to visit in order to live an authentic experience in Bristol. 

1. The historic center of Bristol is perfect to explore the city by walk, getting lost in the streets and alleys in search of surprising views and murals. The historic center is full of Georgian and Victorian architecture mingle with the eye-catching hipster style of small cafes, bookstores and traditional pubs. I suggest you start the tour from Queen Square (a Georgian square surrounded by elegant buildings), then continue along King Street. This 17th-century street is lined with historic buildings and bars, such as the Bristol Old Vic theatre or The Old Duke and The Llandoger Trow Pub. It is said that Robert Louis Stevenson found inspiration from the locals of his time for some of the pirates on Treasure Island and that the pub is currently haunted by 15 ghosts!  

2. In the center of Bristol, you will also find the historic Christmas Steps, one of the most beautiful corners of the city. Steep steps between two narrow wings of buildings, barber shops and artists’ studios that seem straight out of the pages of a novel. The best view can be enjoyed from the top of the staircase. Moreover, do you like playing board games with friends with a nice cup of tea or hot chocolate? Head to Chance & Counters café for a hot drink and try one of the more than 850 board games available to customers.  

3. Do you like historical buildings or are you fascinated by Christian culture? The Bristol Cathedral and St Mary Redcliffe’s Church know how to leave you speechless. The Bristol Cathedral was founded in the twelfth century, and it is a fusion of styles from different styles: from medieval to Gothic and Victorian. Inside there are also a shop, a cafe, and a garden. St Mary Redcliffe Church also has its charm. Queen Elizabeth I called St Mary Redcliffe “ the fairest, goodliest and most famous parish church in England “. Even today this Gothic building just outside the centre of Bristol stuns with its dizzying height.  

4. Bristol is an historical port city. The Harbourside is a vibrant and redeveloped area, bustling with activity. Moreover, don’t miss the new Wapping Wharf neighbourhood, filled with independent shops and restaurants housed in Cargo’s former shipping containers.  

5. Most importantly, in recent years, Bristol’s fame is due to its street art which is closely linked to the career of the most famous street artist in the world, Banksy – whose identity is still shrouded in mystery today! Banksy made his first works in Bristol and he has influenced thousands of other artists over the world to follow his example. Among Banksy’s graffiti in Bristol, we point out: Grim Reaper, Girl with the Pierced Eardrum and Well-Hung Lover. Yet, Bristol street art doesn’t end with Banksy. Strolling in the center of Bristol just look up to be enchanted by some huge murals on the buildings of the city. In 2011 and 2012, Nelson Street hosted See No Evil (at the time the largest street art festival in Europe), which gave birth to works such as: Clothed with Sun, The Vandal, the industrial city of M-CITY, the gigantic dog by Aryz and Conor Harrington’s The Duel of Bristol on Broad Street. And again, since 2008 Bristol has hosted the Upfest, which has grown to become the most important event dedicated to street art in Europe. Upfest works are concentrated along North Street, in the Bedminster district. 

6.  Finally, for those who love the Anglo-Saxon gastronomic tradition, you will always find a place in Bristol for some fish ‘n chips and hamburgers. We advise you to visit the St Nicholas Market. It is the Bristol’s oldest and best-loved market. Under the vault of the Glass Arcade, the street food reigns here, with British and ethnic cuisines from all over the world.  

Don’t forget, it’s not just Bristol! Thanks to its geographical location, Bristol can be the starting point for a journey to other destinations including Bath, Stonehenge or even Wales and Cornwall. 

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