A good place to start is the waterfront. On a bright sunny day, Bristol’s floating harbour makes you feel as if you’re in the Mediterranean. Built on the water’s edge, the Arnolfini and Watershed are creative hubs and popular local haunts for good food, or a drink or two before catching an exhibition or arthouse flick.
When night falls the waterfront’s many pubs, restaurants and clubs come to life, including the Thekla, a live music venue on a floating ship that’s a firm favourite of Bristol’s homegrown bands.
The alternative side
A short walk from downtown is the Stokes Croft district, a gritty mix of condemned buildings made into an outdoor art gallery by local street artists, including born and bred Bristolian Banksy.
It’s here you’ll find The Cube, an iconic music, film and art venue. Keep walking and you hit the alternative Montpellier and Gloucester Road districts, stocked full of multicultural restaurants, organic supermarkets, yoga studios and second-hand clothes stores.
Stop off for some sumptuous organic food at one of Bristol’s best pubs, The Prince Of Wales.where the grass is greener.
Take a left off Gloucester Road and head up the hill, past the University and Whiteladies Road, to where the students hang out: Clifton Village.
This is the upmarket area of town perched high above the dramatic Avon Gorge in the shadow of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, built in 1829. The Primrose Café is a great place for Sunday brunch followed by a walk or bike ride across the bridge to Bristol’s vast and easily accessible green spaces.
Leigh Woods is a 198-hectare area of forest on the south side of the gorge. There’s even an Iron Age hill fort sheltered within its borders. Further up the road, Ashton Court’s is a 343-hectare wooded and grassland recreation area.
Walk back down the hill into town and you’ll find two distinct shopping areas.
On Wednesdays, St Nicholas Market comes to life when organic food producers hawk their wares at the Farmer’s Market.
Five minutes away you’ll find Bristol’s latest multimillion pound development – Cabot Circus. It’s essentially a mall, but its multi-tiered, open-air layout makes it perfect for a spot retail therapy.
Festivals in Bristol in 2009
Kona Bristol Bike Fest Jun 6-7
Thousands of UK mountain bikers descend on Ashton Court for the weekend to race. Anyone can enter. See www.bike-fest.com/bristol.
St Paul’s Carnival Jul 4
The festival celebrates Bristol’s African-Caribbean community with a colourful street parade.
Bristol Harbour Festival Jul 31-Aug 2
Showcases the region’s cultural diversity and artistic talent. The festival offers a frenzied mix of free events including live music, circus performance, arts and dance.
Bristol International Balloon Fiesta Aug 6-9
Founded 30 years ago, Bristol’s Balloon Fiesta has become Europe’s largest hot-air balloon festival. Hundreds of bright balloons drift above the city during the three-day event, creating an unforgettable spectacle.