Bristol Area Guide
Bristol is the largest centre of culture, employment and education in the region. Its prosperity has been linked with the sea since its earliest days and the commercial port of Bristol was originally in the city centre. In more recent years the economy has depended on the creative media, electronics and aerospace industries, and the city centre docks have been regenerated as a centre of heritage and culture.
As a major seaport, Bristol has a long history of trading commodities, originally wool cloth exports and imports of fish, wine, grain and dairy produce later tobacco, tropical fruits and plantation goods; major imports now are motor vehicles, grain, timber, fresh produce and petroleum products. Deals were originally struck on a personal basis in the former trading area around The Exchange in Corn Street, and in particular, over bronze trading tables, known as “The Nails”. This is often given as the origin of the expression “cash on the nail”, meaning immediate payment, however it is likely that the expression was in use before the nails were erected.
Bristol is famous for its music and film industries, and was a finalist for the 2008 European Capital of Culture.
The city is also home to Bristol Rugby rugby union club, a first-class cricket side, Gloucestershire C.C.C. and stages an annual half marathon (and in 2001 played host to the World Half Marathon).
Bristol is home to two major institutions of higher education: the University of Bristol, a “redbrick” chartered in 1909, and the University of the West of England, formerly Bristol Polytechnic, which gained university status in 1992.
Bristol has two principal railway stations. Bristol Temple Meads is near the centre and sees mainly First Great Western services including regular high speed trains to London Paddington as well as other local and regional services and CrossCountry trains. Bristol Parkway is located to the north of the city and is mainly served by high speed First Great Western services between Cardiff and London, and CrossCountry services to Birmingham and the North East. There is also a limited service to London Waterloo from Bristol Temple Meads, operated by South West Trains.
Place to Eat, Drink & Hotels
Cabot Circus Restaurants – Cabot Circus, Glass House, Bristol BS1 3BX (0117 952 9360)
Severnshed Restaurant and Cocktail bar – The Grove, Harbourside, Bristol BS1 4RB (0117 925 1212)
The Glass Boat – Welsh Back, Bristol BS1 4SB (0117 929 0704)
Bordeaux Quay Bristol Restaurant & Brassiere – V Shed, Canon’s Road, Bristol BS1 5UH (0117 906 5550)
The Tunnels bar and music venue – Arches 31-32, Lower Approach Road, Temple Meads, Bristol BS1 6QS (0117 316 9468)
The Hole in the Wall – 2 The Grove, Queens Square, Bristol BS1 4QZ
The Living Room Lounge – Building 11, Canons way, Harbourside, Bristol (0117 925 3993)
Bristol Marriot Hotel City Centre – 2 Lower Castle Street, Old Market, Bristol BS1 3AD (0117 929 4281)
Mercure Bristol Holland House Hotel and Spa – Redcliffe Hill, Bristol BS1 6SQ (0117 929 1030)
City Inn Hotel Bristol – Temple Way, Bristol BS1 6BF (0117 925 1001)
Ibis hotel – Explore Lane, Bristol, BS1 5TY (0117 989 7200)
Ramada Jarvis Bristol Hotel – Redcliffe Way, Bristol, BS1 6NL (0844 815 9100)
Holiday Inn Express – South End, Temple Gate House, Bristol BS1 6PL (0870 720 2293)
The Old City, St Nicholas Markets, Corn Street and The Nails
Bristol City grew up in Saxon times where the rivers Avon and Frome converged. The city, about a mile across, was once surrounded by a defensive city wall. The last remaining part of the wall, St John’s Gate, which is a fortified gateway, can be seen in Broad Street. There were four main roads: High Street, Corn Street, Broad Street and Wine Street with many entrances leading to small alleys, yards and courts. Taylor’s Court remains today. The High Cross stood at the junction of these roads. Niches were carved into it containing statues of those who contributed to Bristol’s expansion and trade and the cross was painted and gilded.
Bristol Zoo Gardens
Get up close with over 450 species of animals and see how this incredible zoo is working to conserve mammals, amphibians and insects around the world.
Blue Reef Aquarium
Over 40 naturally themed habitats take you on a magical journey from the British coast, through warmer waters and tropical rainforests to exotic coral seas.
Meet rescued horses, ponies and donkeys and take part in hands-on feeding activities and fun games for all ages.
Avon Valley Adventure & Wildlife Park
Located just a few miles from Bristol, this exciting adventure park has everything you’ll need to enjoy a great family day out.
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm
Discover an amazing world of animals at this unique zoo farm, including rare and exotic species along with some of our more familiar creatures.
Walk amongst the resident species of geese, ducks, birds and swans and take part in exciting activities such as the Canoe Safari and Flamingo feeds.
University of Bristol Botanic Garden
Experience a magical journey of the planet’s plant kingdom, with over 4,500 different species housed in a beautiful 5-acre garden.
History and Culture
Brunel’s ss Great Britain
Take a trip back through time as you explore the authentically-restored decks of Brunel’s great propeller-driven ship.
Cheddar Caves & Gorge
Marvel at the incredible rock formations found underground at Cheddar and learn about the eerie history of these intriguing caves.
Avon Valley Railway
Take a ride on an authentic steam train through the rolling hills of the Avon Valley, with great family events on throughout the year.
Explore this centuries-old castle and see what life was like in days gone by. Included in the castle grounds is a tranquil walled garden and Butterfly House.
Clifton Suspension Bridge
Enjoy an entertaining free guided tour of Bristol’s most famous landmark and take in the incredible views.
Wookey Hole Caves & Papermill
See if you can find the Wookey Witch and take part in loads of other exciting activities at these ancient underground caves.
Bristol Blue Glass Factory
Take a tour of the factory to see how Bristol’s most famous export is created and have a go at blowing your own glass bubble
Facts about Bristol
- Bristol is the 7th largest city in England outside of London and the Economic capital of the South West.
- Bristol has a population of 421,300 people.
- More than a third of the UK owned FTSE 100 companies have a significant presence in the Bristol area.
- In 2006 Bristol was voted the happiest place to live in England by a government poll.
Historical Facts about Bristol
- Isambard Kingdom Brunel – Railways, bridges and steamships were his specialty. At the age of 24, he won his first engineering commission in 1830 to build the Clifton Suspension Bridge. For the next 30 years, he would be given the responsibility of many more. On the 200th anniversary of his birth, he was voted the second greatest Briton after Winston Churchill.
- Bristol City Museum was a gifted to the City from Sir William Henry Wills in 1905.
- The Matthew – was a caravel sailed by John Cabot in 1497 from Bristol to North America, presumably Newfoundland. To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Cabot’s voyage, a replica of the Matthew was built in Bristol. She was dedicated in a ceremony during the first International Festival of the Sea, held in Bristol’s Floating Harbour in 1996.
- Sir Ranulph Fiennes the explorer practiced on the Avon Gorge before climbing Everest.
- The Bristol Old Vic is the oldest continually working theatre in the country and has been staging productions since 1766
- SS Great Britain and Maritime Heritage Centre – The famous iron steam ship SS Great Britain was built in 1843 by the Great Western Steamship Company and was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
- We have William Vick, a Bristol Wine Merchant to thank for the Clifton Suspension Bridge. In 1753 he left £1,000 in trust in order that when the fund had grown to £10,000 it should be used to build a bridge.
- St Mary Redcliffe Church – In 1574 Queen Elizabeth is said to have proclaimed the Parish Church of St Mary Redcliffe to be the “fairest, goodliest and most famous parish church in England.”
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