There’s a lot to love about Bristol. This irreverent and energetic city has received widespread recognition for its many virtues: it’s the UK’s only European Green Capital, the best place to live outside of London for the under-26s, Britain’s happiest city, vegan capital of the world, and much more!
It’s little surprise that a city with such a fiercely independent and creative spirit has produced artists such as Banksy, Massive Attack, Portishead, and more recently the Mercury Award-nominated IDLES. This pioneering artistic imagination is on display throughout the city, with its enviable selection of independent shops and up-and-coming dining scene.
As the UK’s 8th most-visited city (ahead of both Oxford and Cambridge), more and more people are falling in love with the historic Harbourside district, the Georgian splendour of Clifton, the cultural diversity and maverick spirit of Stokes Croft, and the effortless cool of bohemian Bedminster and Wapping Wharf.
Read our guide below to learn more about living in Bristol (and why you would absolutely love it)!
There is some seriously stunning scenery
Bristol is one of Britain’s most beautiful cities, with its distinctive combination of beautiful historical architecture, waterfront views, and awe-inspiring landmarks.
A stroll through the city centre reveals Bristol’s abundance of brilliant buildings. Some of its most arresting sights include the Bristol Cathedral, the Victoria Rooms, Wills Memorial Building, and The Hatchet pub. Alternatively, you can climb the 105ft Cabot Tower (built in 1897 to commemorate John Cabot’s famous voyage to North America) for panoramic views of the city and harbour.
Elsewhere, there are gorgeous waterfront views for residents to enjoy throughout the Harbourside area. Bristol harbour was once a bustling dock at the heart of a global trading network, and it is now an attractive modern neighbourhood filled with independent retailers, bars, restaurants, museums and galleries, and world-class attractions.
Finally, there is Bristol’s iconic landmark - the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Bristol’s most recognisable structure was originally designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and completed in 1864. Today, it’s a Grade I listed building and the 7th most popular spot for photos in the UK!
It is a world-class destination for arts and culture
Bristol has one of the most interesting and diverse local arts and culture scenes in Britain. With a reputation for its many cutting edge underground music and street art scenes, as well the strong links between local art and political activism.
The city’s many cultural exports have had a far-reaching impact, with artists and musicians like Banksy and Massive Attack bringing the Bristol underground to a global audience. The local arts, theatre, and music scenes continue to thrive, with plenty of venues for residents to experience the work of Bristol’s restlessly inventive local artists.
Fans of live theatre can catch a show at the Bristol Old Vic, the oldest continuously operating theatre in the English-speaking world. The 250-year-old venue has an international reputation as one of the world’s leading theatres and hosts a fantastic selection of modern and classic pieces throughout the year, as well as a variety of stand-up sets from Britain’s leading comics.
For art lovers, particularly those who are into contemporary art, there are several galleries and venues across the city where you can indulge your passion, including Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. In the Harbourside area there is the Arnolfini - Bristol’s international centre for contemporary arts. Housed in a Grade-II listed former tea warehouse, entrance to the building’s three galleries is free of charge. In addition to their permanent exhibitions, there is also an eclectic programme of lectures, live art, cinema, experimental music, dance performance, poetry, and much more on offer throughout the year.
Finally, as you would expect from the city that gave the world trip hop and pioneered drum and bass, Bristol is a great place to catch some live music. There are lots of incredible independent venues that support every kind of underground scene you can imagine, as well as grand concert halls and larger venues that host some of the world’s most popular acts. Some of our favourite spots include the O2 Academy, Thekla, The Fleece, The Canteen, The Old Duke, Trinity Centre, Lakota, and Motion Bristol.
It’s a city with a fascinating heritage to explore
Bristol is a city with a rich and interesting history and there are plenty of ways for residents and visitors to explore its storied past.
In the city centre, there are several self-guided walking tours available online for those who want to explore Bristol’s historic churches, the city’s gothic architecture, or who want to learn the stories behind its many famous statues.
Elsewhere, a trip to the Harbourside provides an opportunity to engage with Bristol’s history as one of the world’s major maritime trading cities. Dominating the waterfront is SS Great Britain, Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s famous feat of civil engineering. Launched for the first time in 1843, it was the longest passenger ship in the world for over a decade and the first iron steam vessel to cross the Atlantic. Today, the painstakingly restored ship is one of Bristol’s most popular attractions - a floating museum that invites visitors to step back in time and explore.
As with many key city ports located along historic Atlantic trading routes, Bristol’s past has a darker side. The city recently made headlines as residents grappled with the public memory of its shameful history as a key slave trading port. Widespread protests eventually culminated in the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston, a prominent local merchant and philanthropist whose legacy has been reappraised and complicated by growing awareness of his role in the slave trade.
The statue is now on display in the M Shed, an institution dedicated to the city’s history. The statue can be viewed lying down alongside a timeline that mentions its toppling in 2020. As the statue debuted at M Shed, historian David Olusoga remarked that it is “the most important artifact you could select in Britain if you wanted to tell the story of Britain’s tortuous relationship with its role in the Atlantic slave trade.” This exhibition, and similar efforts by local historians and museum curators, provide an opportunity to engage meaningfully with the city’s more complex and problematic history.
It's a retail paradise
For those who enjoy a spot of retail therapy, Bristol has the shopping amenities of a significantly larger city. Broadmead, Bristol’s fully pedestrianised shopping quarter, is home to a range of national stores and independent retailers, with a diversity of choice that’s difficult to beat.
The city’s attractive Harbourside development is also a haven for shoppers, with dozens of independent shops, restaurants, bars, and a street food market located along the waterfront and in Wapping Wharf.
There are several large shopping centres across the city, including The Galleries, Cribbs Causeway, and Clifton Down Shopping Centre. The most popular retail hotspot is Cabot Circus, a modern covered shopping centre with a unique eco-friendly design. The impressive shell-shaped glass roof (which is the size of one and a half football pitches) creates a light and airy indoor-outdoor shopping experience for visitors while they explore the centre’s 120 high-street and designer brands.
You can enjoy the beach and the countryside
Surrounded by stunning Somerset countryside and located just a short drive away from several beautiful beaches, locals who love the outdoors enjoy an embarrassment of riches right on their doorstep.
The closest beach is nearby Portishead, a small coastal town located on the Severn estuary, which offers visitors serene coastal walks and plenty to do and see at the recently redeveloped marina. Portishead can be reached within an hour via the X3 bus from Bristol city centre. There are several more beaches within an hour’s drive of the city, including popular Brean beach, Bridgwater Bay, and Watchet.
We also recommend exploring the city and surrounding area by taking on one of Bristol’s many scenic cycling routes. There are plenty of routes to choose from for all abilities and endurance levels, from the challenging Ashton-Pill and River Severn Loops, to the gentler trails along the Harbourside and Festival Way.
The most famous route is the Bristol and Bath Railway Path - a 13 mile stretch of almost entirely flat and completely traffic-free cycle path running alongside a disused railway. This tranquil trail cuts through some of the country’s most beautiful countryside and is packed with riverside pubs if you need a hearty lunch (or a pint or two) for sustenance along the way.
It has some phenomenal festivals
Whether you’re into art, music, boats, beer, cider, films, films specifically about surfing, chocolate, slapstick comedy, Shakespeare, food, balloons… Bristol has a festival for pretty much everything. Throughout the year, and particularly in the summer, the city hosts a variety of exciting events to suit every taste.
The annual Upfest event - Europe’s largest graffiti and street art festival - offers locals and visitors a rare chance to see some of the world’s best graffiti artists at work. It’s a great day out for the whole family, with plenty of workshops and activities catering to Bristol’s young future Banksys.
One of the most unique and exciting events is the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. Europe’s largest gathering of hot air balloons sees the mass ascent of over 100 balloons set off from Ashton Court Estate each year, a spectacular sight that can only be seen in Bristol. Entry to the festival is free and there is plenty to see throughout the day and night.
We recommend sticking around to catch one of the Fiesta’s iconic ‘Nightglows’ - an evening spectacle where a large collection of tethered balloons simultaneously ignite their flames. The balloons light up the Bristol sky and are accompanied by fireworks and a dedicated soundtrack.
It’s the UK’s kindest city
People new to the city will quickly find themselves falling in love with its friendly locals and great sense of community.
Manners are a virtue in Bristol. It’s impossible to commute anywhere in the city without hearing the phrase ‘cheers drive’ more times than you can count on a single journey. This local phrase is an expression of thanks to Bristol’s transport workers, and failure to mind your ps and qs is a serious social faux pas.
The city is a natural home for those committed to a kinder, gentler, more ethical way of life, with a booming plant-based dining scene, growing number of businesses dedicated to sustainable fashion, cycle-friendly highways, and a reputation for its lively local activist collectives and commitment to social justice.
Research also confirms Bristol’s kindness credentials. A survey by the charity 52 Lives found that Bristol is the kindest city in the UK, with the highest average number of good deeds per person. Acts of kindness common among Bristolians include giving money to charity or the homeless (57% of residents did so regularly), helping a stranger in need (52%), and picking up rubbish (39%).
If you're looking for a new home in Bristol, we have a selection of modern studio, 1, and 2-bedroom apartments available in a fantastic new development - Hawkins and George. Located in the heart of the city, all apartments are pet-friendly, professionally managed, and come with access to outdoor space. Resident also gain access to a host of exclusive amenities. Perks include:
- Onsite resident-only gyms
- A stunning rooftop terrace with incredible views over the Bristol landscape and River Avon.
- Two resident lounges.
- A 24/7 onsite management team
- Superfast Wi-Fi included with the rent
- A resident-only club lounge
- Secure parking and bike storage
- Exciting community events
You can view all of our Bristol properties on our website.