The Bristol Tourist Information Centre is on the Harbourside, so you can always find out what's on in the city.
area has been inhabited since the palaeolithic era, with archaeogical
evidence dating back 60,000 years.
established a settlement known as Abonae at what is now Sea
Mills. Lying 3.5 miles north-west of the present city, the
Roman town was abandoned in the 4th century.
beginning of the 11th century an Anglo-Saxon settlement, known
as 'Brigsowe', was founded between the Rivers Avon and Frome.
This name derived from Old English meaning 'place by the bridge'.
built one of their strongest castles in southern England at
Bristol at the end of the 11th century.
its earliest days Bristol's prosperity was linked to its port.
By the 13th century Bristol was handling much of England's
trade with Ireland. As the town grew it incorporated neighbouring
suburbs and became an important centre of shipbuilding and
the 14th century Bristol was the 3rd largest town in England
(after London and York).
of Bristol was the starting point on many important voyages.
It was from here that the explorer John Cabot sailed west
hoping to find a shorter route to Asia. When he landed on
Newfoundland in 1497, Cabot was the first European known to
have set foot on the American mainland. A replica of his
ship the 'Matthew', is now moored at Bristol Harbour.
expanded steadily with the development of England's colonies
in the New World.
grew rapidly following the expansion of the trans-Atlantic
'Slave Trade'. For over a 100 years Bristol was a key port
in this triangular trade. Arms, alcohol and textiles were
shipped from Bristol to the west coast of Africa, where they
were traded for slaves. This human cargo was shipped across
the Atlantic to the plantations of the Americas. Once
emptied the ships holds were filled with sugar, molasses and
tobacco for the return trip to Bristol.
1700 until 1807, when the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act
was passed, more than 2,000 slaving ships were fitted out
in Bristol. These vessels carried over 500,000 slaves from
Africa to the Americas. By the mid-18th century Bristol had
become the 2nd largest city in England and many of the warehouses
that lined the port are still visible from the docks today.
Bristol began to decline in the 19th century following the
abolition of slavery. With few industrial towns nearby, the
port failed to keep pace with the newer manufacturing centres
such as Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester. Sea-going ships
had always had problems using Bristol's relatively shallow
has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world making its
port exceedingly difficult navigate. Once in port, ships
were stranded between tides on the drying mud causing considerable
stress to the vessels. 'Shipshape
and Bristol Fashion' was a phrase coined for a ship that
was of high enough quality to survive the rigours of using
attempt to improve this situation a 'Floating Harbour' was
built in the city centre in 1804-09. Designed by William
Jessop, the harbour had a constant water level that allowed
vessels to float between tides (hence the name 'Floating Harbour'). However,
the 10 mile tidal stretch of river between Avonmouth and Bristol,
with its great meanders, was especially difficult for large
sea-going ships to navigate. Although the port failed to
prosper and the docks closed In 1975, Bristol flourished with
many new industries and growing commerce.
Bristol's commercial port is located at Avonmouth on the Severn
The arrival of Isambard Kingdom Brunel in the mid-19th
century did much to improve the city. Brunel, who was created
chief engineer at the Bristol Docks in 1831, was employed
to improve the city's locks and dredging system. The great
Victorian engineer also designed the Great Western Railway
between London and Bristol, a harbourside railway system to
connect Temple Meads Station to the docks and the Clifton
Suspension Bridge. Later Brunel's magnificent ships, ss Great
Western and ss Great Britain, were built at Patterson's yard
in Bristol. The ss Great Britain, the world's first ocean-going
propeller-driven iron ship, has now been restored to her former
glory and is the centrepiece of an awarding-winning museum
on Bristol Harbourside.
vibrant waterside area of Bristol runs from the city centre
to the Cumberland Basin. In recent times Bristol Harbourside
has become an important residential, commercial and leisure
district of the city. Arnolfini,
the city's international arts centre, relocated to a disused
tea warehouse on Narrow Quay, and proved a catalyst in attracting
other businesses to the then neglected dockside. Bristol
Harbourside soon became a lively residential, commercial and
cultural centre at the heart of the city. The old dockland
area around the Floating Harbour has been completely redeveloped.
New buildings have been built and many of the warehouses and
buildings have been transformed into museums, art galleries,
shops, restaurants, cafés and bars.
area has become very popular for boat trips, allowing visitors
to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
Ferry transport across the harbour provides an alternative
link to Temple Meads railway station from the city centre.
From the ferries and boats there are wonderful views of the
city and harbour. The water area is increasingly popular
for leisure craft and water sports such as sailing, canoeing,
windsurfing, rowing and waterskiing.
Harbour Festival is held every July, the city's largest and
liveliest waterside event. Lasting three days, the festival
features music, street theatre, dance and water displays.
During this time the harbourside is host to an influx of visiting
ships, including Royal Navy vessels, tall ships and life-boats.
Because of Bristol's economic and strategic importance it
was the target of heavy bombing during World War II leaving
the city centre devastated. The original shopping area near
Bristol Bridge is now a park containing two bombed-out churches
and the remains of Bristol Castle. Bristol was quickly rebuilt
but the original buildings were replaced by soaring tower
blocks and new roads.
the city centre has been regenerated with the demolition of
the tallest of the tower blocks and the rebuilding of the
Broadmead Shopping Centre.
Georgian architecture, including Queen Square and Portland
Square, has also been restored.
the early 20th century Bristol's economy flourished the areospace
industry. George White established the Bristol Aeroplane
Company at Filton in 1910 and it was here that Concorde was
built and tested in the mid-1960s. Filton is also home to
Bristol is a major focus for media and technology. Aardman
Animations creators of the Oscar-winning Wallace & Gromit
are located here and BBC Bristol, noted for its Natural History
Unit, is based at Clifton.
Broadmead Shopping Centre
in the heart of the city, has department stores, national
high street chains and specialist outlets and a wide range
of cafés, restaurants, pubs, a cinema and other attractions.
At the centre of the Broadmead shopping area is the Mall Galleries
Shopping Centre - the three-level covered street runs parallel
to Bristol's main shopping road and has more than 100 shops
under its roof. Surrounding the Mall Galleries are over
200 other stores including all the department stores and a
wide variety of specialist shops.
In Autumn 2008, following a £500
million city centre regeneration programme, the Broadmead
Shopping Centre will be renamed Cabot Circus. A new
shopping, leisure and residential area over the central ring
road. There will also be a 13-screen 'Cinema de
Lux'. The central area and three streets will be
covered by a shell-shaped glass roof, the first of its kind
north of Bristol, Cribbs Causeway is the South-West's premier
out-of-town shopping centre. The indoor, two-level centre,
opened in 1998, has around 135 leading stores and 17 restaurants
and cafes and facilities include a crèche and children's play
area. The centre's unusual name is taken from an ancient
thoroughfare that follows the route of a Roman road from central
Bristol to a crossing place on the River Severn. Located
just off Junction 17 on M5.