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Travel Guide Europe United Kingdom England South West England Bristol

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Introduction

Bristol Cathedral

Bristol Cathedral

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Bristol is a city in South West England, about 170 kilometres west of London and 70 kilometres east of Cardiff. The city itself has well over 400,000 inhabitants while the total urban area has about 550,000 inhabitants.

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Neighbourhoods

Bristol is a large city with various areas in its centre; a map is helpful to get to know the layout. The free map given away at the Tourist Information Centre at the Harbourside is excellent for this. At Bristol's core is the Floating Harbour - a stretch of water that snakes along the city-centre which looks like a river in places but which is actually a dock. For centuries the Floating Harbour was where ships docked, bringing trade and prosperity to the city. It was created by diverting the River Avon in the early 19th century to the New Cut to the south, and by using various locks to create a non-tidal dock. Today, the industrial shipping has mostly gone and the Floating Harbour is a home for leisure, pleasure craft, upmarket waterfront apartments, and the occasional visiting sailing ship.

It's easiest to think about city locations as where they are relative to The Centre, or Central Promenade. (It's called "The Centre" as it used to be the "Trams Centre", until Bristol's tram system was scrapped in the 1940s after bomb damage. Now it's more of a bus centre.) The Centre is a broad avenue running north-south with fountains and trees and shops, and traffic, reaching the Floating Harbour at its southern end. The Centre is a major interchange for most city bus routes - you can ask a bus driver for a ticket to "The Centre" from anywhere in the city and you'll get back there.

To the east of The Centre is the core of historic Bristol - the Old City. Here major streets include Queen Square, King Street, Baldwin Street, and Corn Street. It has wonderful Victorian and Georgian buildings, historic and charming pubs, and many places to shop, drink and eat. To the north-east of the Old City is Bristol's main shopping area - Broadmead, centred on the Broadmead itself and related streets such as the Horsefair, Union Street and Penn Street as well as The Galleries shopping centre. At the east end of the Broadmead is the major new shopping centre at Cabot Circus and a related development of more boutique shops at Quakers Friars. If you go east of Cabot Circus and across the dual carriageway you get to the less affluent area of Old Market, while if you go north of it you get to the St. Paul's area, which is a hotbed of culture but is best visited during the day.

To the north of The Centre are areas occupied by the city's hospitals, the bus station at Marlborough Street, and the University of Bristol.

To the west of The Centre is the Harbourside area, much of which has been a scene of heavy urban regeneration since 2000 and includes parts of what used to be called Canon's Reach. Here you'll find eateries in converted warehouses, Millennium Square with its attractions such as At-Bristol, and offices and smart apartments in new developments. It's a great place to spend time by the water. It continues to the south of the Floating Harbour at the M Shed museum of Bristol life, along to the SS Great Britain.

To the north-west of The Centre, and up Park Street, you head for the West End with its smart independent shops, the City Museum and other attractions, and if you keep going along Queen's Road you get to the upmarket Clifton area, known for its suspension bridge and elegant Georgian architecture.

The Tourist Information Centre can be found in the Watershed, a converted warehouse just off The Centre, just on the west side of the inlet of the Floating Harbour (St. Augustine's Reach). Walking south down The Centre, where the dock begins head to your right and under the colonnade. The Tourist Info Centre is a little way along.

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Sights and Activities

Bristol is a very diverse city. From the historic Old City and Harbourside to Georgian Clifton, there is something to be found for everyone. Every neighbourhood has its own attractions and sights.

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Events and Festivals

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Weather

Bristol has a maritime climate with warm and relatvely dry summers from June to August and mild but wetter winters from December to February. Average daytime temperatures in summer are mostly between 20 and 23 °C while nights are around 12-14 °C. Winters are mostly around 7 or 8 °C during the day and a few degrees above zero at night. Precipitation is quite evenly distributed throughout the year though summers tend to be drier. October to December is the wettest time of the year with over 100mm a month.

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Getting There

By Plane

Bristol Airport (BRS) serves the city. Easyjet has flights to/from Alicante, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bastia, Belfast, Berlin, Biarritz, Bordeaux, Corfu, Edinburgh, Faro, Funchal, Geneva, Glasgow, Grenoble, Ibiza, Innsbruck, Inverness, Krakow, La Rochelle, Lisbon, Madrid, Marseille, Málaga, Milan, Menorca, Murcia, Newcastle, Nice, Olbia, Palma de Mallorca, Paris, Pisa, Prague, Rome, Split, Toulouse, Valencia and Venice.
Ryanair has flights to/from Alicante, Belfast, Beziers, Bratislava, Budapest, Cagliari, Dublin, Girona, Knock, Lanzarote, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Málaga, Malta, Marrakech, Milan, Poznan, Reus, Rzeszów, Seville, Shannon, Tenerife-South and Wroclaw.

Thomas Cook Airlines and Thomson Airways have many seasonal (April - October) flights to destinations in southern Europe.

To/from the airport
The airport is located along the A38, 8 miles (13 kilometres) south of Bristol city centre. The airport is signposted from the M5. Take junction 22 when approaching from the south and junction 18 when approaching from the north.
The Bristol International Flyer coach services A1 & A2 operate to and from Bristol stopping en route in Bedminster, Bristol Temple Meads railway station, and Bristol Bus station. Some services continue to Clifton. The service takes 30 minutes from the city centre. A bus service to and from Weston-super-Mare operates every two hours, service number 121. This service is operated by Wessex Connect and Bakers Coaches on behalf of North Somerset Council.

By Train

Bristol is has regular connections to London (1¼ hours) and the southwest, including Exeter (1¼ hours), Plymouth (2½ hours) and Penzance (four hours). Virgin Trains travel north to Glasgow (5¾ hours, five direct daily) via Birmingham (1½ hours, eight direct daily). Most main line trains arrive at Bristol Temple Meads. Bath makes an easy day trip (11 minutes, four per hour).

By Car

The M5 and M4 motorways intersect near Bristol and the M32, a motorway 'spur', brings traffic directly into the city centre. The M4 links London with Bristol with a driving time of less than 2 hours.

By Bus

National Express has buses to Birmingham (two hours, eight daily), London (2½ hours, at least hourly), Cardiff (1¼ hours, two daily) and Exeter (two hours, four daily). There’s also a direct daily bus to Nottingham (4¾ hours) and Oxford (three hours).

Bus X39 (one hour, several per hour) and 332 (50 minutes, hourly, seven on Sunday) run to Bath. Bus 375/376 goes to Wells (one hour) and Glastonbury (1¼ hours) every half-hour during the week and hourly on Sunday. There are buses to most destinations around Somerset and Wiltshire from Bath and Wells.

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Getting Around

By Car

Car is a great transport option if you are looking to explore Bristol's surrounding areas. If you take the A4 to the edge of the city you can find Ashton Court a beautiful estate that is home to Bristol's annual balloon Fiesta, it's perfect for mountain biking, walking and picnics. If you take the A38 outside of the city you can drive to Cheddar Gorge, one of Britain's most spectacular natural landscapes and home to a number of interesting activities including rockclimbing, adventure caves, escape rooms and plenty of walks.

By Public Transport

First Bristol operates most buses in the city.

By Foot

Walking is a great option in Bristol. You can walk to most of the major tourist destinations by foot in one day. The only exception to this is probably the suspension bridge and zoo in Clifton, which are both slightly out of the city centre. There are some fantastic walking tours in the city. Home to the world-famous banksy, you can get a tour of some of his best works with Bristol Banksy Tours

By Bike

Cycling is one of the best forms of transport in Bristol. A new bicycle rental scheme started in Bristol in 2017 called Yo Bikes. The yellow yo bikes can be found dotted around the city, they can be unlocked by downloading a mobile app. They cost about £1 an hour.
For day trips and cycling tours you can try Cycle the City.
There are also a number of shops that offer bike hire for the day, weekend or week including electric bikes and off-road bikes.

By Boat

You can get a boat ride from the harbour 7 days a week. The boats run from the city centre to the train station and pass a number of points of interest including the SS Great Britain, Bristol's number 1 tourist destination. You can find a timetable by walking down to any of the boat stops or by taking a look on the Bristol Bristol Boat Ferry tours website. There are a number of interesting wildlife and historical boat tours that go out of the city, including a trip a Sunday trip to a pub called Beeses which serves a British Sunday roast dinner.

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Eat

There are plenty of places to eat in Bristol. For a true Bristolian experience, you may want to try eating on one of the riverboats called Under The Stars. Featuring a number of vegetarian, meat and seafood tapas dishes on a stationary boat next to the wonderful harbour, Under the Stars is an experience you'll remember from your trip to Bristol. Another great option for a memorable evening meal is an all-you-can-eat buffet called Cosmo at the top of Park Street. Featuring 9 different food stations spanning 4 continents you can eat everything from sushi to Indian and Italian to carvery.

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Drink

The fact that it's the home to around 44,000 students probably says a lot for the quality of the city's nightlife. Surprisingly, though, it's relatively expensive, with prices similar to those in London. Mainstream nightlife centers around 3 main areas - Corn Street in the 'old city', Park Street/Whiteladies Road, and the Harbourside. These areas get extremely busy, if not rowdy, at weekends, however there are plenty of places in Bristol where you can have a good time without mixing with more student type crowds. drinksinbristol is a good source of information, as is Venue magazine.. The eastern end of King Street in the old city provides a slightly more relaxed, but popular, outdoor drinking area on sunny summer evenings, surrounded by historic pubs such as the 17th-century Llandoger Trow (reputed to have been the haunt of pirates and the model for the Admiral Benbow in Robert Louis Stevenson's novel "Treasure Island").

Bristol is famous for its cider. One of Bristol's most famous cider houses is called Coronation tap in Clifton. Offering a range of ciders and cider experience sessions. Another favourite with the locals is the bag of nails pub home to over 20 cats a range of beers and cider, it's built a reputation for being one of Bristol's quirkiest public houses.

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Work

The largest independent employers in Bristol are the two Universities, the Orange telco, Airbus, Rolls Royce, Hewlett-Packard/Compaq, AXA and various media companies including BBC Bristol (famed for its natural history department), ITV West Country and Endemol. The Ministry of Defence has a large site employing around 5000 people in Filton towards the north of the city.

Casual work, usually supermarket, call centre, bar and restaurant work is fairly easily available in Bristol. Many employment agencies are located in the city centre. Bristol has the second highest job ratio of the eight English core cities (after Manchester) making it very good for employment opportunities.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés can be found in many cities and towns. All UK public libraries provide access, often branded as "People's Network", usually at no or little charge, though there is usually a time limit. Some hotels/hostels also offer internet access, including wifi, but most times at a cost. Using the internet on your personal phone can become expensive very quickly, with carriers charging 100's of times the local rate for data. To avoid these expensive roaming charges, you can hunt for wifi at a local cafe or hotel, or rent a mobile hotspot via several providers including DATAPiXY, and XCOM Global.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to the United Kingdom is: 44. To make an international call from the United Kingdom, the code is: 00

In case of emergency, call 999 or 112 from any phone. Such calls are free and will be answered by an emergency services operator who will ask you for your location, and the service(s) you need (police, fire, ambulance, coastguard or mountain rescue). You can call this number from any mobile telephone as well, even if you do not have roaming.

Although the number is declining, you can still find payphones in many public areas, especially stations, airports etc. You can usually pay with cash and sometimes by creditcard or, for international calls, special phonecards are still available.

Mobile phones are heavily used. The main networks are T-Mobile, Vodafone, Orange and O2. 3G data services are available, usually priced per megabyte and coverage is usually very good in the UK, however it may lack in rural areas. Roaming on your personal phone plan can be expensive. To manage costs, consider purchasing a local UK SIM card for your phone. Several companies offer local SIM cards including Telestial, and CellularAbroad.

Post

The Royal Mail provides postal services in the United Kingdom. The Royal Mail's store fronts are called Post Office and offer services ranging from sending letters and packages to foreign currency exchange. Use the branch locator to find the nearest Post Office branch. There will be at least one post office in any town/city and there are quite often post offices in larger villages. It's common for a post office to be incorporated into a grocery store, where there will be a small counter located at the back of the store for dealing with post related matters. All post offices are marked with signs that say 'post office' in red lettering. Post boxes can be found at any post office and standalone large red post boxes on the streets or red boxes in the sides of public buildings.
For sending packages overseas, it might be a good idea to check prices and services with international companies like TNT, UPS or DHL.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 51.455313
  • Longitude: -2.591902

Accommodation in Bristol

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This is version 38. Last edited at 15:17 on Dec 4, 17 by Utrecht. 74 articles link to this page.

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