It wasn’t a hard decision. The city’s first-rate nightlife, thriving creative and tech industries and proximity to the great outdoors made it an obvious choice. Think London, but smaller and (dare we say it) cooler – or at least more committed to its offbeat counterculture, and with an enormous gorge cutting an improbable chunk through part of the city.
Bristol frequently gets voted as one of the UK’s most liveable cities, too. But for the 7,516,570,000-odd humans who don’t have the honour of living there, here are five reasons why Bristol should be your next UK city break.
Arguably taking the glamping craze to its logical conclusion, the visionaries at Canopy & Stars have converted one of the Harbourside’s iconic 1950s cranes into a treehouse. The ingeniously designed Crane 29 offers sweeping views of the harbour and prime people-watching opportunities from a window-side hammock, while the rainforest walkway and wooden furnishings make this a truly unique stay with green credentials to boot.
You will be serenaded to sleep by the buzzing chatter of the city centre and awoken by the dawn chorus, led by the shrill trumpeting of seagulls.
A permanent, but no-less eccentric option are the retro Rocket caravans that have been airlifted to the top of chichi Brooks Guesthouse, just by St Nicholas Market. There are four of these aluminium vans, each kitted out with pocket-sprung mattresses and cosy bathrooms to a design spec that meets the high boutique standards of the guestrooms downstairs. Eating breakfast in the whitewashed courtyard is a pure delight.
So if you’re ever going to lose your tandem bicycling virginity, it should probably be here.
The friendly, family-run Bristol Tandem Hire has a range of high-spec tandem bicycles for hire. They offer up local knowledge on the best low-traffic routes around the city, plus a quick and necessary tutorial on how to keep your balance (and relationship/friendship) on track while on the bike. They also offer the option to take a hamper on your ride, with picnic rug and all.
Consider starting your tandem adventure at Queen Square before heading to the M Shed and west along the waterside; Pickle café offers a good stop-off for a coffee. Crossing north over the Cumberland Basin, cycle along the valley floor of the Avon Gorge before climbing up into Clifton. Here you can pedal around leafy Clifton Down before crossing Brunel’s suspension bridge into the Ashton Court Estate, with its herd of semi-tame red and fallow deer.
One of the most exciting is Salt & Malt, the second branch of Michelin-starred chef Josh Eggleton’s Chew Valley restaurant. Expect locally caught cod cooked in a crisp, gluten-free batter (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it) and a blackboard of daily fish specials.
Wash it down with a cider tasting experience at the Bristol Cider Shop at Unit 4, during which you will try everything from scrumpy to perry via cider brandy, and learn about how proper cider is made.
Long-running company Bristol Balloons leads hot-air balloon flights between March and October. Setting up the balloon is all part of the experience, before slowly ascending to the sky for a true perspective of Bristol’s geography and verdant surrounds – with a glass of something bubbly in-hand to celebrate the occasion.
Just by walking the city you'll encounter plenty of great works painted onto the city’s walls. But to better understand the context, you should consider booking onto a guided tour. Where The Wall's informative tour begins in the city centre with Banksy’s Well-Hung Lover (subject to a paintball gun drive-by in 2009).
The See No Evil event in 2012 left an exhibition of expansive artworks – such as ROA’s signature black-and-white creature and Pixel Pancho’s mechanical beast – on the buildings around Nelson Street. Make time to properly explore the extensively graffitied Stokes Croft – Bristol’s artistic hub – where a community group named The People’s Republic of Stokes Croft works to safeguard the unique, diverse character of the once-neglected area.
Top image: Bristol Cityscape © Sion Hannuna/Shutterstock