Bristol is the creative university town on Englands west coast synonymous with Banksy street art, hot air ballooning and the Clifton suspension bridge. Boasting a more laid back lifestyle with lush green spaces and loads of transport links, I took a trip to find out; could this be the perfect alternative to the London lifestyle?
International & Local Transport
For those that are testing the water but aren’t fully convinced there can be an alternative, not only does Bristol Airport fly internationally, but the city is only a three hour National Express coach, and an even shorter train journey from central London. I departed London Victoria Coach Station around 6pm and as we rode towards town a blood orange burst on the horizon, its sticky juice staining the sky. I wish I could have captured a better photo from inside the coach.
Once in Bristol the city centre seems relatively compact and easy to get around on foot or by bicycle. Although there was not a noticeable amount of cycle infrastructure the city is obviously less chaotic than most. Later in the weekend I was also able to catch a bus from the centre of town to the hillside behind the Clifton Suspension Bridge, with a walk up wait time of about ten minutes.
Culture & Nightlife
After checking into my accommodation, I made a beeline for the Friday night local Salsa and Bachata scene at Salsa Souls. Though I missed most of the opening class, the teachers here seemed knowledgeable, and drew a large crowd for the party running until 2am.
On Saturday it was time to check out the famous St Nicholas Market. Here you can find street food to antiques and just about anything in-between.
Coffee & Nosh
Of course no international city is complete without a great coffee culture, so before hitting the market I stopped in at the adorable Small St Espresso. I can recommend their coffee and cinnamon cake, but my personal favourite, primarily for the swing seats, was Playground Coffee House.
As for food, it’s no surprise an artsy university town has a diverse offering. Vegetarians are spoiled for choice. A couple of places I tried were Golpa’s Curry Shack in the pop-up containers at Wapping Wharf Cargo, and the Melbourne inspired Ceres Coffee in Stokes Croft.
As a Kiwi I like being close to nature and feel very claustrophobic when I’m not able to get out to the beach, or some green open space, so Clifton (a suburb in Bristol) drew me in with its grand suspension bridge and leafy hillside area.
All in all, if you’re prepared to let go of a little hustle and bustle and perhaps forgive the city for not having quite so many entertainment options, I would certainly consider Bristol for an alternative lifestyle to London. Though the public transport may not be as fleshed out, the low stress and charisma of this artsy city can probably win your heart over.