Bristol has always been a hub of culture, knowledge and service. It has been around since the Paleolithic area (the era that is defined by the first use of human tools) and, though it suffered many crippling delays, it continually built up its settlements through ancient times. Medieval roads connected the town, then called Brycgstow (“the place at the bridge”), to neighbors but it was always well known for its bridge and port.
By the 12th century it was the biggest trade center between England and Ireland and for centuries after became a shipbuilding and manufacturing capital. It was hard hit by the Black Death in the 14th century, which kept the population low until about the 16th century. By then the Diocese of Bristol built the beloved Bristol Cathedral and the city was on the rise again.
Bristol’s renewed strength completely regenerated in the 17th century when England founded the American colonies and then again when the 18th century slave trade was founded. The city outfitted thousands of ships during these periods. However, the city suffered another blow when Liverpool gained rapid success just decades later and the slave trade was abolished shortly thereafter. Regardless the city maintained itself by building steamships, founding the first Methodist chapel, and helping fashion the Great Western Railway.
Ah, but again, another hampering event called the Bristol Blitz of World War II had the city in pieces. It was rebuilt in a cheap, brutalist architecture manner in the 1960s. Since the 1980’s, Bristol has seen another resurgence. Queen and Portland Square’s have been restored. Some of the heinous post war architecture has been replaced. The Avonmouth dock removal allowed for the old dock area, known as the Floating Harbor, to be renovated.
There is something to be said about Bristol, the city that keeps fighting back. No matter how many times Bristol has been put down, it always, without a doubt, comes back bigger and better than it was before. Today its closeness to the sea has also allowed the city to become a place of tourism, industry, and nature. There are many festivals and events here that celebrate this heritage and the town is showing no signs of slowing down its restoration processes that merges old Bristol with the new.
Bristol has some of the best weather in the UK. Though it gets about average rainfall, its sunshine level is above average. It also has a very agreeable climate throughout the year. January lows are about 3°C (38°F) while highs hover at 22°C (71°F) during July.
June by far offers the most to do in Bristol while July, August, and September don’t fall far behind. June boasts many excellent events like the Bristol Shakespeare Festival, Venn Festival, Bitton Beer Festival, Bristol Festival of Nature, Bristol Bike Fest, Run for the Children, Bristol Rat Race Urban Adventure, Bristol’s Biggest Bike Ride, and the Glastonbury Festival – all of which take place outdoors to celebrate the beautiful weather and culture of Bristol.
Bristol is connected by road, air, and bus very well.
• By Air: The Bristol International Airport is only 8 miles from the city center. It has direct flights throughout Europe and even to the USA. There are coach services that go between the city center, train stations, Clifton, and the airport throughout the day. The ride is approximately 30 minutes. No reservations are necessary and you can pay once you hop aboard. Fares to Bristol are £8 for roundtrip or £7 for a one way pass.
• By Train: The major train station is Bristol Temple Meads. It is about 20 minutes on foot from the center of town. There are additional stations that make regular stops to London Paddington, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Penzance.
• By Bus: The Bristol Parkway station is located in the northern part of the city. Bus 73 runs from the Parkway directly into town every few minutes. The Bristol Bus Station on Marlborough Street is near the Broadmead shopping center. National Express coaches operate from Bristol to several UK cities; great for daytrips or getting into another city with ease. London Flyer offers direct coach lines between Bristol and London as does Megabus, which also has an added stop in Cwmbran.
• By Car: M5 and M4 motorways make Bristol easily available by car. From M4 take junction 19 and then M32 into the city. From M5 take junction 18 and follow the A4 portway to Bristol.
Because Bristol is surrounded by water and has some of the best cycle routes in England, it is easy to get around here.
• Walk: The center of the city has many handy signs available for walkers. There are also Bristol maps at any Tourist Information Centers.
• Cycle: Bristol is where many of England’s national cycle routes cross. It’s a great way to get around. The Mud Dock is also a perfect place for cyclists to relax, talk bikes, and pick up parts.
• Drive: There are three Park and Ride routes so that you do not have to navigate through the busy streets. They are located at Avonmouth, North Somerset and the Mendips, and Brislington. There are also a number of car parks located around Bristol.
• Board: The bus is the recommended way to get around Bristol. First Group and a handful of other services provide regular bus routes as well as Sightseeing tours. The Night Flyer buses run on Friday and Saturday’s from midnight to 6pm when everything else is shut down. There are also a handful of private coach companies too.
• Ride: Riding the rails is also a cinch because Bristol is the center of the national rail network of western England. Many companies like First Great Western operate out of Temple Meads. There are also suburban stations that serve Lawrence Hill, Stapleton Road, Montpelier, Redland, Clifton Down, Sea Mills, Shirehampton, Avonmouth, Bedminster, Parson Street and Severn Beach.
• Sail: The Bristol Ferry Boat Company is a fun way to see the sites along the waterfront. You can opt for a guided tour or simply take a ferry ride to your destination of choice. There are also the historic Balmoral and Waverley paddlesteamer for a day out on the Bristol Channel. Avon River Cruises also offer a unique way to enjoy your next Bristol meal.