48 hours in... Bristol and Clifton

PUBLISHED: 12:11 30 June 2011 | UPDATED: 21:35 20 February 2013

48 hours in... Bristol and Clifton

48 hours in... Bristol and Clifton

Home to Banksy and Brunel, markets, museums, good food and fun – Bristol is buzzing.

Everyones familiar with the dramatic Avon Gorge, the historic suspension bridge and the charms of the Villages Georgian shopping streets but there are so many different 48 hours to be had in this vibrant city you can only hope to dip into a few of its charms. Bristol is always lively but summer sees it crank up a notch, when there are festivals, events, grand openings, carnival and anniversaries all to join in with and celebrate.

City summer fun

With a string of awards, a visit to the worlds first great ocean liner, Brunels SS Great Britain is not to be missed. Climb aboard to witness first-hand the sumptuous first-class dining saloon and compare with the terrible conditions in steerage.

Children can become detectives and search for ships cat Sinbad or choose the audio guide which describes being a child on board.

Throughout the summer there are various food and storytelling events and, as part of the Bristol Harbour Festival on July 30 and 31, theres a steam organ, music and stalls. 2011 is the 40th anniversary of this popular free festival that attracted in excess of a quarter of a million visitors last year.

The festival starts on 29 July and the citys two-mile stretch of Harbourside will come alive with a mix of music, dance, circus and theatre. This year the fun continues with Water Week, which stages events on the water, including a rowing tug-of-war. More details from www.bristolharbourfestival.co.uk.

Other highlights are Bristol Zoos Bristols Big Village Fete, on 16 July, when all the citys communities will be welcomed to a day of music, dance, theatre and games as part of their 175-year celebrations, and the annual spectacle of St Pauls Carnival which sets off from Carnival Village in Portland Square at 1pm on 2 July.

Brainy Bristol

A hidden gem is the University of Bristol Botanic Garden on the edge of Durdham Down. Its open Wednesday through to Sunday and you can lose yourself on meandering paths through exotic plant collections and enjoy the glasshouses, but if youd like to dig deeper there are guided tours and courses.

On 5 Jul at 7pm, curator Nicholas Wray will take you on an Australian journey amongst gum trees and banksias where youll sample some of the countrys finest wines whilst hearing the fascinating story of how native plants survive fire.

Theres a guided garden tour on 14 July, or capture the beauty with a photography course which runs on 2 and 16 July. See the full list at: www.bris.ac.uk/Depts/BotanicGardens.

M Shed, Bristols new museum which tells the story of the city from prehistoric times to the present day, opened to great excitement on 17 June.

Housed on Princes Wharf, these former storage sheds have been transformed into three modern galleries with the iconic electric cranes fully restored as part of the museums working exhibits.

Bristol people are encouraged to contribute to this living museum by donating stories and memories. There are many interactive elements and much to appeal to children of all ages! Their website is mshed.org.

Laid-back Bristol

Chilling out is easy in Bristol. When youre in need of a gentle snooze in the sun there are dozens of green spaces to while away a few hours, leaving the city hubbub behind.

Clifton has miles of greenery at The Downs, which is a great place for doing anything you fancy. In the heart of the city, though youd never know, is Brandon Hill. A short, steep climb just off Park Street takes you to this oasis, with panoramic city views spread out below. Instant relaxation will also come your way if you take to the skies or jump on a boat for a cruise around the historic waterways.

Bristol Balloons offers a range of trips, one of which takes off from Ashton Court, immediately revealing the spectacular panorama of the Avon Gorge and Clifton Suspension Bridge, before slowly drifting across the city.

Bristol Packet Boat Trips runs a short Floating Harbour Tour or an exciting voyage from the wharf to the Avon, through the Gorge and into the Bristol Channel. Full details of all their tours from: www.bristolpacket.co.uk and www.bristolballoons.co.uk.

Foodie Bristol

With a plethora of places and styles to choose from, good eating is never far away.

For traditionalists, there is Hotel Du Vin, a handsome former sugar mill at Narrow Lewins Mead, where Sunday lunch is served.

To dine with music in your ears, book on either the second or fourth Sunday of the month for the Jazz Lunch, at 25.50 for two courses.

A novel lunch or evening venue is the Grain Barge, moored alongside SS Great Britain.

Dine al fresco in good weather on this former barge where youll enjoy harbour views, delicious locally sourced food and beer brewed from local malt and hops; theres live music every Friday.

If youre in Clifton you wont be short of options either, but a great find is the Lido Restaurant Bar at Oakfield Place. You might fancy a pre-dinner swim or spa treatment before kicking off dinner with a Bellini, a seared pigeon starter, followed by wood-roast hake.

A great shop

The pleasures of shopping along the lovely, leafy streets of Clifton Village are well known and always interesting, but there are many other corners to explore with their own, unique appeal, such as the often overlooked St Nicholas Market.

Dating back to 1743, this market is full of character with distinct areas to browse and soak up the atmosphere.

Discover an eclectic mix of goods in the covered Exchange Hall theres jewellery, hats, shoes, clothes, old Bristol photographs and things you never knew you wanted!

The aroma from dozens of foodstalls will draw you to the light and airy Glass Arcade. As you might expect from a multi-cultural city theres cuisine from all corners of the globe, such as Caribbean, Portuguese, Moroccan and Turkish, plus the good old British contributions pies and bangers!

Theres a lovely ambience here too, so its a great place to while away a few hours and to admire the architecture.

Close to St Nicholas Market is another quirky area. Steeped in history and situated in the Old City is the Christmas Steps Arts Quarter. Just eight streets make up this area, which is a mix of independent shops, galleries, artisan goods, bars and cafs and has been a shopping area for hundreds of years. You can find art, musical instruments, flowers, vintage, jewellery and crafts here.

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