For many years, the City of Bristol was somewhere that I passed on my way down the M5 to the seaside coasts of Devon & Cornwall. I had been planning to stop and visit this historic City for many years, so one warm summers day I indicated left & decided to turn off the motorway and hit the City of Bristol for the first time.
I would be staying in the largest city in the South West of England, voted the best city in Britain in which to live on two occasions in 2014 and 2017 and it was named the happiest place to live in the country in 2019. Praise indeed! I was looking forward to exploring this vibrant marine City for myself.
I had heard that the motor traffic in the centre of the city could be very busy, so I opted to stay just off the motorway at the Aztec Hotel. The Hotel was an excellent choice, a stylish 4* Hotel which had a beautiful & much appreciated spa, a large, superb restaurant with plenty of outside seating space and modern conference & wedding facilities. One of the other key factors in choosing the hotel was its location within easy access to the M4 & M5 motorways & the City of Bristol.
The first attraction I got to visit was Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s 19th century passenger steamship the SS Great Britain, moored in the harbourside of Bristol where I also saw my first genuine Banksy graffiti art nearby, The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum, based on the famous Johannes Vermeer’s famous Girl with a Pearl Earring, in which Banksy had replaced the girl’s earring with an outdoor security alarm!
Described in their own publicity material as the cities number one attraction the chance to explore two museums, historic dockyard, dry dock & the world’s first great ocean liner was too good an opportunity to miss. There really is something for everyone and is a brilliant insight into the history of the ship and the great man himself, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The ship was so much bigger than I had expected, and I was not only able walk around all of its rooms, but under the hull of the ship too!
All of my senses were aroused, sight and hearing including the smell of the kitchen in which I could almost taste the food & drink on display! Being able to touch the pick-up objects was also very liberating. Too often you are told not to touch!. The ship is simply stunning and the way in which the dockyard features have been recreated is so realistic & believable. The visual/audio experience created the perfect atmosphere. Walking around this vast ship, the cabins for the officers & below deck where the ordinary sailors lived have all been honestly recreated. The kitchens, galleys, the engine room was a real education, an experience to be remembered. This really is one of the best value museums & attractions I have had the pleasure to visit in many years. Children & families will have a wonderful time here and for the admission cost you can come back as often as you like for the next twelve months!
Bristol is rightly recognised as an important centre for the development & growth of creative street art. One of the cities most celebrated street artists is Banksy, whose works can be found all over the world, but Bristol has over eleven of the artists works. The Banksy Trail directs visitors around the city in search of them all, I was fortunate to see many of them during my short visit.
Banksy is now a world-famous artist, whose works sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds. But once, he was just another kid on the streets of Bristol with a can of spray paint in his hands. Born in Bristol in 1974, Banksy participated in the wave of street art that took Bristol by storm in the 1980s.
Much of this work was on display at the exciting & informative Vanguard Street Art exhibition at MShed, a renovated & restored for purpose 1950s’ dockside transit shed, which sets out to explore & celebrate Bristol’s critical role in the development of British & global Street Art. From anarchist origins in the ‘eighties and ‘nineties through to the explosion of the scene in the early ‘00s, the exhibition brings together one of the largest collections of original works and memorabilia ever seen in the UK.
I also went to look at The Colston Statue armed with my opinions! The statue of Edward Colston in Bristol’s city centre was pulled down from its plinth and thrown into the harbour during a Black Lives Matters march in June 2020. Several days later, Bristol City Council retrieved it. Visitors are being asked to play a role in deciding what happens to the statue next. I have had my say – now it is your turn!
I visited the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery in Clifton. The museum is very large containing sectors devoted to natural history as well as local, national & international archaeology. The art gallery, which I found to be of most interest, includes works from all periods of Art history, including many by internationally famous artists, as well an extensive collection of modern paintings of Bristol. I particularly liked these Sleeping Beauties in one of the British Art galleries which included several paintings of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The Garden Court (1892) by Edward Burne-Jones
Still on the Banksy Trail I came across the Paint Pot Angel, an impressive & thought provoking piece in the main foyer of the museum. I loved it!
There is also a very good café in the Museum in which I enjoyed very good coffee & delicious cakes. This is where I came across some stunning local Art prints of Bristol by Emy Lou Holmes on the walls. A great display of Bristol posters.
As I am walking back from the museum I noticed another Banksy, Well Hung Lover, one of many Banksy artworks in the city. Unfortunately, this piece of street art had been vandalised with blue paint. It looked as though someone had unsuccessfully tried to clean it up.
My wife & I love visiting Cathedrals on our travels, so we soon found ourselves at the imposing Bristol Cathedral with its very impressive West frontage. Located on College Green, the cathedral has several very tall Gothic windows and pinnacle skyline. An impressive building with a very popular garden out the back where you can escape the hustle & bustle of the city outside.
Unfortunately, I was only able to spend a day in the City of Bristol which was an informative, educational, and entertaining fun day. I am looking forward to revisiting Bristol in the very near future so that I explore this wonderful City even further.