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Bristol

Bristol is a fine English city of culture, an impressive hub of art, culture, science, education and heritage. Its history has been eventful to say the least, experiencing triumph and disaster in equal measures. In the early modern period this important port was the starting point of many great voyages of exploration to the Americas. By the eighteenth century it was playing a major role in the Atlantic slave trade and many of its heritage buildings date back to that period. The nineteenth century saw the construction of its most famous landmark, the Clifton Suspension Bridge, a feat of Victorian engineering and the brainchild of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Suffering serious bomb damage in World War II, Bristol bounced back as a cultural centre, giving birth to a number of seminal musical artists such as Portishead, Massive Attack, Roni Size and Tricky.


Amongst the sights that all visitors should see are the Granary and Bush House, which now contains a contemporary centre for the arts. Both of these edifices are fine examples of Bristol Byzantine, a style unique to the city and incorporating Middle Eastern aesthetics. With medieval churches, Tudor townhouses and Victorian mansions to enjoy roaming around, architecture buffs will be forced to agree with John Betjeman’s 1961 appraisal that the city was the most beautiful in England.

Bristol Zoo, located near the Suspension Bridge, is also a real highlight, combining conservation with fun-filled activities for youngsters. Football fans might want to catch one of the city’s two clubs, Bristol City or Bristol Rovers, in action. The former team’s ground is large and impressive and is located in the district of Ashton, south of the River Avon.

Theatre is also a major aspect of Bristolian cultural life, with the Bristol Old Vic having served as a training ground for such actors as Daniel Day-Lewis, Jeremy Irons, Patrick Stewart and Pete Postlethwaite. The Bristol Hippodrome puts on large-scale West End musicals while smaller establishments such as the Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bedminster put on more fringe productions.

Shopaholics will love Bristol too for its new Cabot Circus mall which mixes high-end stores with high-concept boutiques and great fun activities such as ‘jungle golf’ and a deluxe cinema.

 

Bristol is everything that’s cool about England rolled into one. Few cities offer a more exciting night out, whether you want to go drinking in student bars and clubs on Whiteladies Road, watch a symphony orchestra at the magnificent Colston Hall, listen to alternative rock at venues around Stokes Croft, swing to live jazz at the Old Duke pub or enjoy a gourmet coffee on Southville’s up and coming North Street, you’re guaranteed to have a great time.

Pass the daytime at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery which boasts an incredible number of dinosaur-related exhibits, a comprehensive Egyptology display and great fun interactive stuff to do for the little ones. Bristol is also the country’s capital of hot air ballooning and the Bristol International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is an astonishing celebration of this classic mode of travel. There are plenty of opportunities for members of the public to go for a ride...

The ghost of the great Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel lurks all around Bristol. Aside from the Clifton Suspension Bridge, he designed the SS Great Britain, a steamship that spent much of the nineteenth century making daring passenger voyages to Australia and the US. She has now been beautifully restored and around 150,000 visitors a year come to enjoy her period decor, cannons, cabins and other features.

For a different kind of tourist experience altogether, you should check out At-Bristol, which is a science and technology museum with a strong bias towards hands-on and interactive experiences. Here you can learn about the functions of the human brain and body, space, ecology, engineering, chemistry and now, thanks to Aardman Animation, all about the process of making an animated film. A Blue Reef Aquarium with IMAX theatre is located next door, bringing the underwater world vividly to life for punters of all ages.

For those who prefer their sights to be more traditional and grand then Bristol Cathedral, built in 1140, is a must. Its lofty Gothic windows, effigy of John Newland, chapter house sedilia and Spanish-inflected facade are all architectural features that really make it stand out.

© 2011 Abiyoyo SL

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