Bristol began life as a small Saxon village and river port, while today, it’s the biggest city in southwest England, bursting with quirky galleries and theaters, Banksy’s street art and bohemian cafes. Badly damaged during World War II, Bristol grew rich during the British Empire, its port traders growing fat on the sale of cocoa, sugar, rum, tobacco and slaves.
For a feel of Bristol’s past, visit the mighty SS Great Britain steamship on the river Avon, which was designed by pioneering Victorian engineer Brunel. Other portside attractions include the Maritime Heritage Centre and the replica of ship Matthew, which John Cabot sailed when he found North America on his 1497 voyage to Newfoundland.
You can learn more about the history of Bristol at the city’s innovative M Shed museum, and on sunny days, the Downs are a popular picnic spot for locals. In summer, city beaches and pop-up cinemas show up around town.
Regular buses and trains run from London to Bristol. Heathrow (two hours) and Gatwick airports (3.5 hours) also run direct buses to Bristol, and the city has its own international airport too.