By Nicole Douglas-Morris
Straddling the river Avon in south-west England, Bristol is a creative hub combining pretty Victorian terraces and waterside living with a thriving jobs market and cultural riches.
In 2017, the city was named the best place to live in the UK, based on data such as school performance and crime rates, according to an annual Sunday Times guide.
Focus on sustainability
The city goes to great lengths to defend its distinctive identity, and in 2012 even introduced its own currency, the Bristol Pound, with the aim of keeping money circulating within the local economy.
Marvin Rees, the first directly elected mayor of black African-Caribbean descent in Europe, has been in office since 2016. This July, he made a commitment for the city council to be carbon neutral in direct emissions by 2025, having already set such a target for Bristol as a whole by 2030.
This continues the city’s focus on sustainability: Bristol received the UK’s first European Green Capital Award in 2015 and has doubled its renewable energy capacity over the past six years.
Bristol, which has a population of 450,000, supports 20,000 jobs in creative and digital industries. It is home to the BBC’s Natural History Unit, whose productions include Sir David Attenborough’s television series Planet Earth.
This year, TV broadcaster Channel 4 unveiled plans for its new Creative Hub on Bristol’s waterfront as part of developer Cubex’s £140m regeneration of the harbour.
Nicknamed Silicon Gorge, the city is also known for its high-tech industries, hosting HP Labs, a research arm of the US tech group, and Aardman Animations, the creator of Wallace and Gromit.
As of December 2018, Bristol’s employment rate — of 77.1 per cent for people aged 16 to 64 — was higher than any of the other nine major regional UK cities in the Core Cities coalition, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Many consider Clifton to be the most attractive of Bristol’s neighbourhoods. Its Georgian and Victorian terraces overlook the Avon Gorge, which snakes around the city’s outskirts. The district offers quaint cider bars, tea-houses such as Primrose Cafe and independent shops such as stationer and bookshop Papersmiths and sleek menswear retailer Hoko.
Bristol Lido, built in 1849, is a tranquil retreat with its spa, large heated pool and waterside restaurant.
Despite its grittier, graffitied side — street artist Banksy comes from Bristol — the city also offers a child-friendly, nature-filled urban environment. A short walk across the Clifton Suspension Bridge is the Ashton Court Estate — 850 acres of ancient, deer-filled woodland — and beyond that, the meadows and pubs of Somerset.
Among weekend and holiday attractions for children are St Werburghs City Farm and the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta each August, which attracts more than 100 hot air balloons from around the world.
Bristol Old Vic, which opened in 1766, is the UK’s oldest theatre in continual operation, while popular music venues include Thekla, a former German cargo ship, and Colston Hall, which in its 152-year history has hosted such names as Ella Fitzgerald, The Beatles and Bob Dylan, as well as once being a popular wrestling venue. Pre-show diners have a choice of four Michelin-starred restaurants in the city.
Named the “City of Film” by Unesco in 2017, Bristol has a clutch of independent cinemas. The harbourside Watershed is a local favourite which also hosts spoken-word events. Nearby lie two esteemed contemporary art galleries: the Arnolfini, which has hosted exhibitions by Grayson Perry and Louise Bourgeois, and Spike Island.
Photographs: Nick Xiao, Jacek Wojnarowski, Nigel Jarvis/Dreamstime; Alamy; Jason Ingram