If ever there was a British city on the rise, it’s Bristol. Once a centre for heavy industry, over the last few decades the southwest’s largest city has reinvented itself as a hub of culture and creativity. From Clifton’s iconic suspension bridge to Brunel’s groundbreaking steamship, the SS Great Britain, it’s a city that’s awash with historical interest. But Bristol is also known for its offbeat, alternative character, and you’ll find a wealth of art collectives, community-run cafes and music venues dotted around the city’s streets – not to mention murals left behind by the city’s most notorious son, the mischievous street artist Banksy.
Throw in the revamped harbourside, the landmark new M-Shed history museum and a fast-growing foodie reputation, and it’s little wonder that Bristol was recently named Britain’s most liveable city. Gert lush, as they might say round these parts.
For years gritty, grimy old Bristol has been the ugly sister of Britain’s cities, outclassed by Bath, outsmarted by London and upstaged by the rejuvenated cities of Newcastle and Manchester to the north. But the fortunes of this old industrial city have changed dramatically in recent years, and the transformation that’s taken place over the last decade is pretty astonishing.There’s a new sense of swagger and self-belief around Bristol these days; while the once-great trades of shipbuilding, manufacturing and the railways have long since sailed upriver, the city has steadily reclaimed its rightful place as an economic powerhouse, gastronomic centre and a cultural force to be reckoned with. The crumbling docks have been prettified and polished up; the streets are packed with cutting-edge restaurants, designer bars and world-class museums; and the city’s music, media and nightlife scenes are all showing the rest of the country how things should be done.
It’s real, raw and just a little rough around the edges, but if you really want to know exactly where Britain’s at right now, then Bristol is hard to beat.
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