Each week, we take you to a different city, introducing you to the spirit, culture, food and history of the place. This edition is no exception, and this time we’re heading to the English city of Bristol. Located on the River Avon and with a population of around a million (if you include the surrounding urban sprawl), it’s not exactly the most touristy of British destinations. However, as you’re about to find out, this is a city full of weird and wonderful sights. So, after our brief stops in Granada, Montpellier and Bergen, let’s head to the south-west of the UK.
Let’s kick off by checking out some street art. Bristol is the home city of legendary anonymous graffiti artist Banksy, with more of his works here than anywhere else in the world. Start at the harbourside, and pass through Wapping Wharf, Albion Dockyard, Lower Lamb Street, Park Street and finally Stokes Croft. And it’s not just Banksy’s works you’ll be impressed by. This city is home to all manner of impressive murals by artists young and old. If you’re into your statues (and history), we also recommend taking in the mythical statue of the Phoenix and the Four Elements, and the one depicting Henrietta Lacks. Little known to the wider public, this Black woman has been nicknamed the ‘mother of modern medicine’. We’ll let you find out more about her incredible story for yourself.
You’ve probably worked up quite an appetite by now, so we’d suggest hitting up The Harbour Kitchen for some lunch. This elegantly done-out restaurant served up local seafood dishes that are simple and refined in equal measure. Also on the menu, you’ll find a house seafood burger, a twice-cooked cheese souffle and cod fillet with crab crumble. There’s something for pretty much everyone, in other words. And the puddings are very much worth considering too.
Now, railway buffs, let’s head over to the banks of the River Avon to discover the phantom funicular known as the Clifton Rocks Railway. Built by a local entrepreneur and opened in 1893, the system shut in 1934 because of the emerging automobile, which quickly made it obsolete. It was later turned into a bomb shelter during World War II. The upper part was given over to the people, while the lower bit was a back-up studio for the BBC. The latter even kept hold of it during the Cold War, in case things went awry. You can visit the whole thing, but we’d advise checking the website in advance.
Next up head to the Redcliffe neighbourhood, which is named after the red sandstone of its cliffs. Having been extracted for centuries, today the rock is pierced with several deep tunnels that stretch out over nearly five hectares. Having housed glass factories, served as storage space and been used as a prison, the tunnels were eventually abandoned. These days, a little less than a tenth of the total space is open to visitors. If you’re lucky, you could even attend film projections and performances that occasionally take place there. But even if that isn’t possible, the tunnels are well worth exploring in themselves.
Come dinner time, head to Casamia. This place is a real Bristol institution. And we can’t really tell you much more than that. The menu here varies according to the seasons and what’s come in from local producers. On its website, the restaurant states that you can expect around 20 dishes served over the course of three hours and 30 minutes. This isn’t a restaurant like any other. It’s a spenny experience, but one you certainly won’t regret.
As night falls, head to Loco Klub. Hidden under Temple Meads station, this exceptional cultural space is really, really worth visiting. Its excellent programme spans all sorts of arts, from immersive theatre to DJ sets to choir recitals. It’s the best way to get to know Bristol’s independent spirit and cultural edge. Have you ever partied in a former social club for railway workers? Almost certainly not. Don’t miss it.