Area Guides

A Guide to Living in Bristol

Posted July 14, 2023
A Guide to Living in Bristol

Our living in Bristol guide covers everything you need to know if you are thinking about making Bristol your new home. From the city’s rich history to its vibrant culture, we’ve got you covered. So let’s explore what makes Bristol such a desirable place to live.

History

Bristol, a city in the South West of England, has an intriguing and storied history. Its origins can be traced back to the Saxon times when it was a trading port called “Brycgstow”. By the 10th century, it had become an important shipbuilding centre. Bristol’s strategic location on the Avon River near the Bristol Channel made it one of England’s most significant seaports.

The medieval period saw rapid expansion in Bristol’s size and significance. The city flourished as a hub for trade with Ireland and continental Europe, especially in commodities such as wool, fish and wine. During this time, many iconic landmarks like the Bristol Cathedral and St Mary Redcliffe were built, reflecting its prosperity.

The 15th century brought further prosperity to Bristol through voyages of exploration. The city is famously linked with John Cabot, who set sail from here in 1497 to ‘discover’ North America. This connection led to thriving trade routes between Bristol and the New World during the Tudor times.

In the late 17th to early 19th centuries, Bristol played a regrettable role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade—the ‘Triangular Trade’. Goods from local industries were traded for enslaved Africans who were then transported across the Atlantic. Profits from these journeys contributed significantly to Bristol’s wealth during this period.

Bristol experienced major changes during the Industrial Revolution in terms of transport infrastructure, including railroads and canals which boosted commerce dramatically. However, this period also witnessed social unrest because of stark social inequalities.

Despite suffering heavy damage during World War II bombings, Bristol rebuilt itself into a modern city while preserving much of its rich heritage—symbolising resilience that characterises this city even today.

Today, Bristol is known for its vibrant culture, unique architectural styles like Georgian and Victorian houses, renowned academic institutions such as University of Bristol and its contribution towards aerospace industry, with entities like BAE Systems having their presence here.

Transport and commuting

There’s no shortage of ways for you to navigate this vibrant city.

If you’re keen on minimising your carbon footprint, public buses and cycling are quite popular. The comprehensive network of bus routes managed by First Bus crosses all corners of the city. Buses are reliable and efficient methods to commute across Bristol. You can also make use of the city’s cycling lanes if you’d prefer to pedal your way around town.

Local ferries meander along the harbour and provide an interesting alternative for getting from place to place. They offer not just a mode of transport, but also allow for scenic views as they float past some iconic cityscapes.

For longer journeys within the city or neighbouring regions, such as Bath or Gloucester, trains are a fantastic option. Services run regularly from Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway stations, linking Bristol to various parts of the UK.

If you value flexibility in your travel plans or prefer solitude while commuting, driving might be more suitable for you. During peak hours, traffic congestion can be rather severe, especially in central areas. Consider the availability and cost of parking spaces near your destination before setting off in your vehicle.

Bristol Temple Meads

Education

You’ll find a variety of schools and universities, each with its unique charm and distinct approach to education.

Bristol boasts over 100 primary and secondary schools. These range from independent schools to free schools.

Bristol is home to the University of Bristol and the University of West England (UWE). The University of Bristol consistently maintaining its position within the top UK universities. UWE offers an extensive range of courses known for their practical focus.

SGS College and City of Bristol College offer vocational courses across various subjects. These cater to both local and international students alike.

Bristol’s commitment to lifelong learning can also be seen in various adult learning centres throughout the city. These centres offer courses on everything from arts and crafts to languages and IT skills.

Bristol provides a diverse range of options catering for all educational paths.

Green spaces and parks

Among its many attractions are its lush green spaces and parks, offering you an escape from the bustling city activity.

Begin your journey at the historic Bristol Downs. This expansive parkland offers a panoramic view of Avon Gorge and Clifton Suspension Bridge, two iconic features of Bristol. You can stroll or jog along its well-trodden paths, or simply sit on one of the many benches to take in the verdant landscape.

Next on your list should be Ashton Court Estate, boasting 850 acres of woods and grasslands just waiting to be explored. Lose yourself among deer grazing freely in their natural habitat as hot air balloons often dot the sky above you. The estate is also home to an array of events throughout the year, which brings a sense of community spirit to this oasis within the city.

Don’t forget to make time for Brandon Hill Park during your visit. The oldest park in Bristol provides not only diverse plant life but also sweeping views from Cabot Tower. As you ascend its steps, prepare yourself for a bird-eye view of historical architecture and contemporary skyline.

If tranquillity is what you seek, head over to Eastville Park; with its lake teeming with wildlife, it’s hard not to feel at peace here. Whether you choose to feed ducks by the waterside or saunter around admiring Victorian-era planting schemes; your interaction with nature will leave you rejuvenated.

Shopping

When you visit Bristol, shopping will undeniably be one of the most engaging activities to indulge in. The city offers a rich blend of traditional and modern shopping experiences that can cater to all tastes and budgets.

In the heart of Bristol, you’ll find Broadmead, an open-air shopping district. It has a vibrant mix of high-street brands and independent retailers. As you navigate through its bustling streets, it’s hard to resist the charm of Cabot Circus, a contemporary shopping centre housing over 120 stores. You’ll find everything from fashion staples to tech gadgets here, with plenty of dining options for when you need a break.

Just a short stroll away from Broadmead is St Nicholas Market or ‘St Nicks’ as locals fondly call it. Housed in a stunning old building dating back to the 1700s, this market is where you’d want to go if unique, handmade items catch your fancy. With over 60 stalls selling local produce, vintage clothing and beautiful antiques every day of the week. There’s always something new to discover at St Nicks.

If you’re after luxury brands and designer boutiques, head towards Clifton Village. Its elegant Georgian streets are home to upmarket fashion stores, jewellery shops and homeware boutiques. It offers something a little different from mainstream retail chains.

Take some time out during your Bristol shopping adventure to relax at one of the many coffee shops scattered around these areas. Watching the world go by might just as well become part of your delightful Bristol experience!

Socialising

In the heart of the West Country, Bristol stands as a vibrant city, rife with opportunities for socialising. You’ll soon discover that it offers a unique blend of cosmopolitan culture and laid-back friendliness.

Start your social adventure by stepping into one of Bristol’s many pubs or bars. Whether you’re looking for traditional alehouses like The Old Duke Jazz and Blues pub or modern cocktail bars like Her Majesty’s Secret Service, there’s always a lively spot where you can mingle with locals over a pint or two. These establishments are not just places to enjoy drinks; they also serve as cultural hubs where stories are shared and friendships are formed.

If dining is more your speed, Bristol won’t disappoint. You’ll find delightful venues that offer communal dining experiences. They provide perfect settings for engaging conversations with fellow food enthusiasts while savouring delectable dishes.

For lovers of arts and culture, Bristol has plenty to offer too. The city is home to places like Spike Island art centre and the Watershed where art exhibitions, film screenings and panel discussions frequently take place. Attending these events will allow you to interact with creative minds from all walks of life.

Bristol at Night

Local villages and towns

As you journey away from the bustling city of Bristol, you’ll encounter a different world altogether. This part of England is filled with quaint towns and picturesque villages that are steeped in history and charm.

Just a stone’s throw from Bristol, Clevedon is a delightful seaside town with Victorian architecture aplenty. Here, you can enjoy a relaxing walk along the seafront before indulging in some freshly caught seafood at a local eatery.

Moving further south, you’ll stumble upon the charming market town of Cheddar, nestled on the edge of the Mendip Hills. Famous for its cheese and boasting an array of independent shops, cafes and restaurants, Cheddar provides a unique blend of rural charm and modern conveniences.

A little closer to Bristol lies Clifton Village – not technically separate from Bristol itself but it has its own distinct identity which makes it feel like its own place entirely. With stunning Georgian architecture, leafy streets, boutique shops and bustling cafes around every corner – it’s easy to see why locals love this area.

Then there’s Bath – although technically a city rather than a village or town – just cannot be overlooked due to its proximity to Bristol. The ancient Roman baths and elegant Georgian architecture make it a must-visit destination for lovers of history and culture alike.

Each village or town within reach of Bristol offers something unique.

Landmarks

The city of Bristol, steeped in history and vibrant culture, has a myriad of landmarks that you simply must explore. First on your list should be the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge. Spanning the Avon Gorge, this magnificent structure was designed by the renowned engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It offers breathtaking views over the surrounding countryside.

When you’re done marvelling at the bridge, why not head to Bristol Cathedral? It’s one of England’s most beautiful examples of Gothic architecture. As you stroll through its hallowed halls, take time to admire its stunning stained-glass windows and intricate stone carvings that tell centuries-old stories.

While you’re in Bristol, make sure to visit SS Great Britain. This historic ship was another of Brunel’s masterpieces and is now a fascinating museum where you can learn all about her voyages around the globe. And if maritime history piques your interest, then a stroll around Bristol Harbour is an absolute must.

Finally, round off your visit with a trip to Cabot Tower. Set in the lovely Brandon Hill park, it offers panoramic views over Bristol. The tower itself is worth exploring too – it marks John Cabot’s voyage from Bristol to North America on behalf of King Henry VII in 1497.

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