The Other England: Exploring The City Of Bristol

Unless you’re from the UK, chances are that you’re not exactly familiar with what the cities outside of London have to offer. While the British capital is a treasure trove of cultural activity and foodie delight, there are a great deal of projects going on in the other corners of the country’s borders; it’s simply a case of looking further afield. While the north and the east might already have their champions, it is the southwest that is making a name for itself, proving to be one of the most exciting places in the UK at present.

Head of the pack is the city of Bristol which, located 90 minutes by train from the country’s capital, is hardly out in the sticks. Composed of a huge amount of diverse areas, the city is an improbable mix of high and low culture which, incredibly, manages to coexist with little issue. Exploring the gem of the southwest is no small task, and depending on what you’re looking for, there is a whole range of activities at your fingertips. While seasonal festivals and events are big news in Bristol, there are just as many permanent attractions in the city that pull in tourists all year round. It’s time to do a little exploring.

Music is a big deal in the southwest’s unofficial capital and while there might be a huge amount of disparate sounds on offer, you will never find two genres fighting for the same patch of ground; they manage to co-exist rather than clash. Inclusivity is the word in Bristol, and if you look around enough, you’re bound to find a music night to meet your specific tastes. Venues like Thekla and The Island are usually a safe bet and, located on an old boat and former police station, respectively, are hardly your run-of-the-mill locations.

There are plenty of underground offerings, too. While your tastes may vary, heading to Cosies is always a good idea. Having been around for decades, this music spot is a key player in the Bristol music scene, playing host to a whole range of new talent. Over the years, many genres of music have made their way through the doors, and now you can expect to find some of the most eclectic and vibrant sounds of the UK inside.

If food is your bag, have no fear. Bristol has established itself as something of a foodie city in recent years and there’s a great deal of food to be tasted. While local food is still developing its own identity, places like Bravas are strong in their international game, serving up an authentic cuisine of European food. Specializing in tapas, the restaurant is so true to its Spanish influences that patrons may imagine that they really are in a corner of Barcelona.

Artisan skills are championed in Bulrush, Bristol’s answer to Noma. Serving up a range of seasonal delights, the restaurant is focused on the freshest ingredients in the local area. Expect the unexpected in Bulrush; with ingredients this fresh, anything goes.

Of course, the city is perhaps best known for its cultural offerings. As a global center for graffiti and street art, Bristol proudly hosts Upfest, a yearly festival championing all things urban. Located around the city, the festival is like a connect-the-dots of creative content, introducing a whole wave of new artists to look out for.

While Upfest rears its head once a year, there are plenty of permanent offerings to get excited about in the city. Art center Hamilton House was once an office block, but now it is offering up some of the best talent in the local area. Housing exhibitions, events, and music nights, the location is a melting pot of creative activity, bringing together artists and musicians for miles around.

Bristol is very much a city to watch. Packed full of interesting places and presenting some of the most diverse culture for miles around, it is making a name for itself as one of the most inclusive places in the UK. The next time you head overseas, try giving Bristol a visit; it’s not likely to disappoint.

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.