Officially Europe's coolest city, according to National Geographic Traveller, Bristol has elbowed its way into the global top 20.
A report published in December 2017 by accountancy firm EY forecast Bristol as outpacing London and Birmingham over three years. Gross Value Added (GVA) is expected to rise to a national average-beating 2.3%, with employment set to grow.
The latest figures show that record numbers of Londoners are moving to the city – 5,220 upped sticks and headed west last year – drawn to its creativity, thriving music scene and lower cost of living.
In 2012 Bristol voted to introduce a directly elected mayor, giving the city a strategic figurehead. Two years ago, Labour's Marvin Rees became the second holder of the office after beating incumbent (and independent) George Ferguson.
A major seaport with a long trading history, Bristol's modern industries include aerospace, defence, financial services and tourism. It is also long-time home of Aardman Animations and the BBC Natural History Unit and, with Channel 4 announcing that one of its regional hubs will be in Bristol, the city’s burgeoning creative sector continues to grow.
Bristol is a foodie's heaven, from fine dining to flavoursome street food. Michelin-starred Casamia seats just 35 over nine tables. You'll not regret forking out up to £118 on an advance reservation for the delight of savouring the multi-course seasonal tasting menu created by head chef and owner Peter Sanchez-Iglesias.
Larkin Cen's journey from lawyer to restaurateur via the 2013 final of TV's MasterChef took on a new direction this summer when he opened his second restaurant, Woky Ko: Kauto. The Queen’s Road restaurant is more grown-up than the shipping container-based pioneer, with polished concrete interiors and muted colours, serving a wider Asian concept menu but retaining lip-smacking favourites. Also recommended: steaks at The Ox; Wallfish Bistro for seafood; or The Lido in Clifton overlooking the pool.
Four floors of decadence and wood panelling await at The Milk Thistle, with its renowned cocktail bar, private members' lounge and private dining, or take time out from retail therapy with a cocktail at Harvey Nichols’ Second Floor Bar, while the dimly lit Kinkajou is the new face of the city's original speakeasy bar and takes some beating with its exquisite cocktails and relaxed atmosphere. For a caffeine fix don't miss Bristol's bustling independent café scene, with Small Street Espresso a regular pit stop for locals.
Meeting and event spaces
Adjacent to Bristol Hotel, the property's event space offers a multitude of venues, menus and set-ups to suit business requirements. The 400-capacity Ballroom is the jewel in the crown, while the William Jessop Suite benefits from an abundance of natural light, making it a perfect home for conferences and launches. Meeting spaces and boardrooms are also available. Ashton Gate, home of Bristol City football club offers meeting and exhibition spaces including the Landsdown restaurant (capacity 1,000 or 850 dining), business lounge and 18 executive boxes with floor-to-ceiling views over the pitch. While the owners of Ashton Gate Stadium have recently unveiled plans for £100m sports and convention centre, with a four-star hotel.
With its modernist facade and neutral interiors, The Bristol hotel, part of the Doyle Collection, enjoys an enviable harbour location in the heart of the city's creative quarter, close to restaurants, theatres, art galleries and high-end shopping. Accommodation includes a suite with waterfront views and a lounge, and the hotel is known for its premier meeting and events spaces (see below).
For boutique, try the sumptuous 40-room Hotel du Vin, located inside a terrace of 18th-century Grade II listed sugar warehouses. Luxuriate in the Bristol Harbour Hotel with its 1840s interior based on the Library of St Mark's in Venice. The Artist Residence, a 27-bed bolthole in a former Grade I listed derelict boot factory, opens in November.
The brand new and eagerly awaited £21m Village Hotel Bristol is set to open its doors this 8th December, with a pub, restaurant and work space, plus a state-of-the-art gym and swimming pool. Located in Filton, it’s very close to the UWE Exhibition and Conference Centre, while the M5, M4, and M32 are also within easy reach
Meanwhile, the five-star Celtic Manor Resort is just 20 miles (and some 30 minutes) up the M4, offering a large conference venue, three championship golf courses, and four hotels, including the grand Manor House hotel, based in a 19th century country house, and the more modern Resort Hotel, with its award-winning dining and spa.
Areas to explore
The Old City is a marvel of cobbled streets and secret alleys mostly of 18th- to 19th-century buildings 'hemmed' in by the constraints of the no-longer-visible Norman wall. Clifton, with its iconic suspension bridge, is a leafy area filled with chic boutiques, cosy cafés and Georgian architecture that helps enforce the neighbourhood's reputation as one of Bristol's most exclusive. The docks of Harbourside (home to Brunel's SS Great Britain) have been transformed into a foodie and shopping paradise. Stokes Croft is often referred to as the city's cultural quarter due to its Bohemian vibe, abundance of artists and Banksy artworks.
Art and culture
Get a feel for Bristol's history at M Shed, a quayside former warehouse at Prince's Wharf, with working cranes, a steam engine and boats outside. Exhibitions include Bristol's role in the slave trade and the 1963 Bristol bus boycott, set up to fight racial discrimination. The imposing Bristol Museum and Art Gallery offers three floors of exhibits, from ancient Egypt to European Old Masters.
The Martin Parr Foundation in Arnos Vale preserves the legacy of photographers who've created work focused on the British Isles, while the Bristol Old Vic (1766) is the oldest continuously working theatre in the English-speaking world.
In the heart of the city centre, Bristol Shopping Quarter is a modern mall with hundreds of boutiques, big-name brands and a cinema. Bristol's independent trading spirit can be seen in the dozen or so markets that scatter the city. At St Nicholas Market, inside the historical Exchange, the stalls rotate each week with choices including the farmers' market, flea market, and Bristol vegan and wellness market.
Brunel's gothic Temple Meads station welcomes more than 10 million rail passengers a year, with the average journey time to London Paddington being 1 hour 51 minutes. (The fastest journey is 1 hour 33 minutes). Thirty-eight trains travel between Bristol and Paddington per day, with 14 a day between Bristol and Manchester.
Brand-new Japanese-built 'bullet' trains to London are replacing the ageing Intercity 125 fleet.
Just north of the city centre, the M4 motorway interchanges the M5, providing a link to the southwest, Wales and Midlands. The city's traffic jams can sometimes be notorious, and ambitions for an underground railway or tram network remain unfulfilled. The 15-mile off-road cycle route to Bath is a delight, while Bristol international airport serves destinations around the UK, Europe, the US and the Caribbean. Bristol Parkway and Temple Meads are both easily accessible gateways to such air services with the latter being easily available via the 24/7 Airport Flyer Express bus service, which leaves every 10 minutes and takes around 30 minutes.