Bristol

Bristol is a city that fuses old with new. While present day visitors will admire the Banksy graffiti and love the city’s avant garde eateries, the extensive history of Bristol is still very present.

Originally called Brycgstow (Old English for, ‘place near the bridge’ (they had a way with words, back in the day)), Bristol was founded around 1000 BC. By 1020, a more apt name would have been ‘bustling epicentre near the bridge’, as the town had become a trading centre important enough to have its own mint. By the 15th century, Bristol was regarded as the second most important port in the country, trading to Ireland, Iceland, and Gascony.

The 17th and 18th centuries were a period of rapid growth for Bristol, as the city became a key port in the Triangular Trade, in which goods were shipped to Africa in exchange for African slaves, who were shipped to America in exchange for plantation goods such as sugar, which were then shipped back to England.

For a glimpse into what life was like in Bristol during that time, visit the Georgian House Museum, an 18th century townhouse that was built for John Pinney, a wealthy slave plantation owner and sugar merchant. The house has been restored and decorated to its original condition so visitors can get a feel for what life was like.

If you want to go even further back in time, the Red Lodge Museum is a stone’s throw from Pinney’s house. This Elizabethan house was originally a lodge to the Great House, which once stood on the site of the present Colston Hall, where Queen Elizabeth I once stayed. The lodge has been put to many uses, including use as a reform school for girls. The grounds contain a re-created Elizabethan-style knot garden.

For a family-friendly stop, the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery is a great place to go. It’s got everything from ancient Egyptian artefacts to dinosaur bones, all through to an impressive art collection that includes the likes of Bellini, Cranach, Renoir, Pissarro, and more.

Other family-friendly highlights in the city include Bristol Zoo Gardens and the Bristol Aquarium. The Zoo Gardens contain over 400 species of animals, while the aquarium boasts native and tropical marine and freshwater creatures from around the world. The aquarium also has a life-size recreation of a sunken ship – very cool.

If you’d rather be out on the water rather than looking at it through glass, book a harbour tour, which includes commentary about passing sites, with Bristol Packet Boat Trips. The company also offers upstream trips with tea on the river, lunch trips to Hanham and day trips to Bath. The Avon Gorge Cruise takes you downstream, sailing through the floating harbour into the Junction Lock where you will lock down onto the tidal part of the Avon.

Alternatively, there’s the Bristol Ferry Boat Co., which runs ferries in and around the city’s Harbourside throughout the day, offering round trip trips and hop-on and hop-off tours.

For a historic boat tour, visit Bristol’s harbour and climb aboard The Matthew, reconstruction of the boat used by John Cabot when he discovered Newfoundland in 1497. Visitors can take cruises on this vessel, which travels around to various waterfront sights of the city.

For more boat-related fun, Bristol Pirate Walks, run by a man called Pirate Pete, are one-hour guided walking tours of Bristol's historic Harbourside. The walks cover the city’s 16th, 17th and 18th century maritime history, with highlights including discovery, trade, slavery and piracy. And what history isn’t made more interesting when explained in a hammed up pirate accent? None that we can think of.

For a look at Bristol’s more modern side, you might want to take the Banksy Walking Tour. The tour takes you to some of the street artist’s earliest work around the city where he was born and includes frequent stops to sample the best local bars, restaurants and cafés. A chilled day out, with culture to boot!

On any wander around the city, the Clifton Suspension Bridge is a must-see. The bridge, designed by Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was completed in 1864. Despite having been designed for horse-drawn traffic only, the structure is still in use today for thousands of commuting cars. A walk across the bridge will reward you with views of the ancient Avon Gorge and Clifton.

Bristol Cathedral is another city highlight, which has stood on what is now College Green in the West End since 1140. The Chapter House and Abbey Gatehouse are also still standing nearby and remains of other original buildings can be seen within the Bristol Cathedral School.

Between a cathedral, Banksy and pirate impersonators, Bristol may seem a bit of a jumble, but the fusion of so many diverse things to do is definitely part of the city’s charm. So go on – have a bash (or we’ll tell Pirate Pete (and you don’t want to see him angry (probably. You know, because he’s a pirate and all…)))

Bristol is a city that fuses old with new. While present day visitors will admire the Banksy graffiti and love the city’s avant garde eateries, the extensive history of Bristol is still very present.

Originally called Brycgstow (Old English for, ‘place near the bridge’ (they had a way with words, back in the day)), Bristol was founded around 1000 BC. By 1020, a more apt name would have been ‘bustling epicentre near the bridge’, as the town had become a trading centre important enough to have its own mint. By the 15th century, Bristol was regarded as the second most important port in the country, trading to Ireland, Iceland, and Gascony.

The 17th and 18th centuries were a period of rapid growth for Bristol, as the city became a key port in the Triangular Trade, in which goods were shipped to Africa in exchange for African slaves, who were shipped to America in exchange for plantation goods such as sugar, which were then shipped back to England.

For a glimpse into what life was like in Bristol during that time, visit the Georgian House Museum, an 18th century townhouse that was built for John Pinney, a wealthy slave plantation owner and sugar merchant. The house has been restored and decorated to its original condition so visitors can get a feel for what life was like.

If you want to go even further back in time, the Red Lodge Museum is a stone’s throw from Pinney’s house. This Elizabethan house was originally a lodge to the Great House, which once stood on the site of the present Colston Hall, where Queen Elizabeth I once stayed. The lodge has been put to many uses, including use as a reform school for girls. The grounds contain a re-created Elizabethan-style knot garden.

For a family-friendly stop, the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery is a great place to go. It’s got everything from ancient Egyptian artefacts to dinosaur bones, all through to an impressive art collection that includes the likes of Bellini, Cranach, Renoir, Pissarro, and more.

Other family-friendly highlights in the city include Bristol Zoo Gardens and the Bristol Aquarium. The Zoo Gardens contain over 400 species of animals, while the aquarium boasts native and tropical marine and freshwater creatures from around the world. The aquarium also has a life-size recreation of a sunken ship – very cool.

If you’d rather be out on the water rather than looking at it through glass, book a harbour tour, which includes commentary about passing sites, with Bristol Packet Boat Trips. The company also offers upstream trips with tea on the river, lunch trips to Hanham and day trips to Bath. The Avon Gorge Cruise takes you downstream, sailing through the floating harbour into the Junction Lock where you will lock down onto the tidal part of the Avon.

Alternatively, there’s the Bristol Ferry Boat Co., which runs ferries in and around the city’s Harbourside throughout the day, offering round trip trips and hop-on and hop-off tours.

For a historic boat tour, visit Bristol’s harbour and climb aboard The Matthew, reconstruction of the boat used by John Cabot when he discovered Newfoundland in 1497. Visitors can take cruises on this vessel, which travels around to various waterfront sights of the city.

For more boat-related fun, Bristol Pirate Walks, run by a man called Pirate Pete, are one-hour guided walking tours of Bristol's historic Harbourside. The walks cover the city’s 16th, 17th and 18th century maritime history, with highlights including discovery, trade, slavery and piracy. And what history isn’t made more interesting when explained in a hammed up pirate accent? None that we can think of.

For a look at Bristol’s more modern side, you might want to take the Banksy Walking Tour. The tour takes you to some of the street artist’s earliest work around the city where he was born and includes frequent stops to sample the best local bars, restaurants and cafés. A chilled day out, with culture to boot!

On any wander around the city, the Clifton Suspension Bridge is a must-see. The bridge, designed by Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was completed in 1864. Despite having been designed for horse-drawn traffic only, the structure is still in use today for thousands of commuting cars. A walk across the bridge will reward you with views of the ancient Avon Gorge and Clifton.

Bristol Cathedral is another city highlight, which has stood on what is now College Green in the West End since 1140. The Chapter House and Abbey Gatehouse are also still standing nearby and remains of other original buildings can be seen within the Bristol Cathedral School.

Between a cathedral, Banksy and pirate impersonators, Bristol may seem a bit of a jumble, but the fusion of so many diverse things to do is definitely part of the city’s charm. So go on – have a bash (or we’ll tell Pirate Pete (and you don’t want to see him angry (probably. You know, because he’s a pirate and all…)))