Bristol’s Unconventional Identity


 On Southwest England lies the city of Bristol. On the bank of the river Avon next to the Bristol Channel that connects the city with the Atlantic Ocean, Bristol’s history has always been connected to the colour blue. It was once the second biggest port of Great Britain and the biggest slaving port during those dark days.

If you like to embody the role of the typical tourist that returns back home with a bunch of pictures taken in enormous squares and grandiose churches on the background, this is definitely not an article for you. Frayed posters, stained walls, underground music mixed with industrial warehouses across the river and wandering bicycles on slated alleys is all I remember from my one-day trip in Bristol.

The lads of Stokes Croft

If you arrive by bus, all you need to do is head north and meet Stokes Croft Street. Bristol’s most bohemian neighborhood, commonly referred as “Cultural Quarter of Bristol” is renowned for its self-independence and free thinking identity, a longstanding street art tradition, strong support for locality and resistance against chain stores. The graffiti lying on the top of the street that encourages everyone to boycott Tesco is a constant reminder.

The local art lovers in a self-organized community under the name Peoples Republic of Stokes Croft “believe that the only way forward is to do things ourselves, without top-down planning”. If you believe the same, this is the place to be in Britain. Walk around and capture the relaxed feeling of the area, observe the countless graffiti and if you feel like shopping without paying, visit the Classic free shop.

The best place in the area to drink, eat and dance is the Hamilton House. The once abandoned office block was turned in 2008 into a solar-powered community center, offering exhibition space and meeting rooms to any kind of artist, designer or activist. Next to the entrance is proudly located one of Banksy’s artwork the “Mild Mild West”. On the ground floor of the Hamilton House you will find the Canteen. Starting from brunch you can spend the whole day there and luckily enough a local band will appear in the night and the room will turn into a vibrant concert hall.

One Banksy is not enough

Bristol is Banksy’s home town. Here you can discover some of his early graffiti works hidden around the city, the grim reaper, the well hung lover, the paint-pot angel and much more. A Banksy walking tour can help and even a mobile application exists showing the exact spots on the map that you can find his work.

Music always on the background

In 2010 Bristol was named the most musical city, spawned more musicians relative to its population size than any other in the UK according to a survey by the Performing Right Society (PRS for Music). As part of its urban tradition in the 1990s, a dark and mysterious music genre wafted in Bristol: It was trip hop. Tricky, Portishead, Massive Attack, Smith and Mighty gave their first gigs here. The sensuous electronic music bands where the first and the best in this kind of music, inspiring others outside the borders of Bristol to follow their sound. 

You shouldn’t leave the city before you check one of the venue halls. It’s impossible to remember Bristol without the music surrounding it. The Fleece, one of the oldest venue halls has hosted bands like Radiohead, Nirvana, Oasis and Amy Winehouse. Thekla is the biggest and best of Bristol’s floating venues and Lakota remains the house of techno DJ, sustaining the local tendency for drum and bass dub and dub-step sounds.

Visit M Shed

What shapes the image of a city? The people, the neighborhoods and the history. On the dockside of the Bristol harbour, the four massive cargo cranes guarding its entrance will lead you to the once warehouse that now is M Shed museum.

In M Shed museum you can find it all. Rambling around its corridors, the building that used to be the Industrial Museum encloses all aspects of Bristol; from the life in the local streets to the trading history and from its famous artists to the political spectrum and radical movements of the city.

To the top

Heading north from the floating harbor, you can find the vibrant shopping Park Street, ending up in Bristol University. Cafes, restaurants, vintage clothing shops, bookstores, music stores and art galleries are located in both sides. At that point, the city takes a steep upward turn. Follow the road and you will end up in one of the many green oases. Take the twisting paths to the top of the Brandon Hill and you will reach the Cabot Tower. Climb up the building you will be besotted by the panoramic view of Bristol.

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