Bristol, in the west of England, is known for a variety of things. The Bristolian accent is particularly recognisable, and the people of the region are known for being lovers of cider. But there’s a lot more to the city that you may not know about, whether you’re thinking of visiting or you’ve lived there all your life. It has a long history but plenty to enjoy in the present-day too, including some great arts and culture, from theatre to comedy.
Here are some of the top things that Bristol is famous for.
1. Clifton Suspension Bridge
Clifton suspension bridge (shown above) is arguably Bristol’s most famous landmark, the Clifton Suspension Bridge was designed by the Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The bridge, which is about 1,532 metres long, connects Clifton in Bristol to Leigh Woods in North Somerset. It can offer some amazing views when you walk, drive, or cycle across it – including when the hot air balloon festival is taking place. It was also the location of the first modern bungee jump in 1979, although the act itself wasn’t actually legal.
Bristol has a lot to offer visitors, with many interesting facts to discover about the city, its history, and how you can enjoy Bristol today.
2. Maritime History
Bristol is a port city, and the location of Bristol harbour made it the ideal place for maritime trade. Tobacco, wine, and cotton were some of the commodities that passed through the city. Of course, there is also a darker side to this history. From the 1600s to the 1800s, Bristol was also heavily involved in the slave trade. Many buildings and landmarks in the city have been named after Edward Colston, a prominent politician, philanthropist – and slave trader. However, they are slowly being changed, such as in the case of Colston Hall, a concert hall that has been renamed Bristol Beacon.
Another interesting maritime fact is Bristol’s connection with piracy – that’s why pirates often sound like they have West Country accents! Blackbeard is thought to have been born in Redcliffe, near Bristol Harbourside.
3. Arts and Culture
Bristol is a fantastic hub for arts and culture. It has some prominent venues for all kinds of arts, including Bristol Beacon, where you can attend music concerts of all types, and The Comedy Club. Bristol Hippodrome is home to musicals, theatre, pantomime, stand up comedy, and more. You’ll never be bored if you’re looking for fun and interesting live shows to watch in Bristol.
Bristol is also the birthplace of some famous people in arts and culture. Hollywood star Cary Grant was born in Bristol, and his first job in theatre was working at the Hippodrome. Graffiti artist Banksy is also from Bristol, and his works can be found at various spots around the city. Even Darth Vader is from Bristol – Bristolian David Prowse provided the physical side of Darth Vader (though not his voice).
4. Interesting Inventions
Most cities are the birthplace of some interesting inventions or inventors – although some are more interesting than others. Bristol has given rise to some fascinating things, from confectionary to scientific breakthroughs. Bristol is the originator of the drink Ribena, as well as home to Fry’s Chocolate, which was the first company in the world to make chocolate bars and modern chocolate Easter eggs.
On a slightly more sophisticated note, the world’s first IVF baby was conceived in Bristol (although she was born in Oldham, Greater Manchester). Tarmacked roads got their start in Bristol too, where Scottish engineer John Loudon McAdam began remaking roads after joining the Bristol Turnpike Trust as a surveyor in 1816. And almost 90 years later, Bristolian P.J. Kerswell would invent the detachable motorcycle sidecar.
5. Balloon Festival
Every year, the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta takes place in the city. Teams from the UK and around the world take part in mass ascents, with up to 100 balloons taking to the sky at the same time. The event has been taking place for more than 40 years and often draws crowds of more than 100,000 to watch the balloons take flight over the four days of the festival. You can see standard hot air balloons, but also a variety of balloons with special shapes, many of which are made by the Bristol balloon makers Cameron Balloons.
Small scale air displays have also been part of the festival in recent years. These include displays from aerobatic teams such as the Red Arrows and The Blades.
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