TRAVEL: Bristol - a city bursting with culture, creativity and nightlife
Regarded as the capital of the South West of England, Bristol is becoming an increasingly popular destination for a city break.
Smaller than the likes of Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester - the city of Bristol more than punches above its weight when it comes to culture, history and nightlife.
From the engineering wonders of Brunel, to the groundbreaking trip-hop scene of the 1990s and the subversive street of the likes of Banksy, it is a city that takes all these things and wears them proudly on its sleeve.
Bristol is a heady and eclectic mix of different cultures, styles and influences which makes it possibly the most unique and vibrant city in the UK.
If you spend any length of time in the city you are bound to be captivated by it.
My wife and I arrived in Bristol early afternoon on a warm, sunny Saturday and what immediately struck us was the laid back and friendly atmosphere.
If you like eating and drinking then you are truly spoilt for choice in Bristol.
The city has no end of bars, cafes and restaurants - a very healthy proportion of them independently run.
The city’s waterways are lined with many of these establishments and it was on the outside terrace of one of these where we settled down on our first afternoon for a spot of leisurely lunch and a cocktail or two.
After an afternoon soaking up the sun and atmosphere in the evening we headed to the funky Cargo at Wapping Wharf.
Cargo is stretch of shops and eateries made up of converted shipping containers.
It is informal, street food heaven, and we were lucky enough to find a little table in Cargo Cantina - a taco bar inspired by the cantinas of Mexico City.
The place had a brilliant atmosphere, the staff were great and the food was amazing.
We shared the Tacos Todos - a selection of all the taco fillings, sides and salsas, served with a stack of fresh, warm tortillas.
It was a veritable feast and was washed down with some ice cold craft beer.
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Cargo Cantina also specialises in tequila, mezcal and margaritas.
The home of the legendary and mysterious Banksy, Bristol has gained a huge global reputation for its street art.
On our second day in the city we took part in a two hour walking tour which takes in some of Bristol’s best street art.
Our group tour was run via Where The Wall and we had the perfect guide in street artist Tina - aka The Winged Fox - who ensured the two hours was thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening.
After seeing the best of contemporary Bristol we took a trip back into its rich history in the afternoon with a visit to Brunel’s SS Great Britain - a ship which changed the world.
The huge vessel - which was left to rot and rust for decades thousands of miles away in the Falklands - has been painstakingly restored and maintained since being returned in 1970 to the dry dock where it was originally built in Bristol.
As well as walking around on deck you can also explore the inside of the legendary ship and see what conditions were like for those who travelled in it in the 1800s.
You can also venture down into the dry dock to see the magnificial vessel from underneath.
Where to stay
Our base for the weekend was the Mercure Bristol Holland House.
Although the hotel doesn’t have the most inviting of facades, inside it is a different story and it has the contemporary style and charm you would expect from a Mercure hotel.
The foyer and restaurant bar area are airy and stylish and the rooms spacious and very comfortable.
The hotel has a swimming pool and spa facilities and importantly is well located meaning all the city’s main sights and plethora of nightlife venues in and around the city centre are within walking distance.
Two days in Bristol probably isn’t enough but we managed to pack so much into our 48 hours that we got a real taste of the city’s soul and energy and we were completely enraptured.
For more information on what Bristol has to offer go to www.visitbristol.co.uk