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Bristol bore Cary Grant and Wallace & Gromit but it won’t bore you, vows OutUK correspondent Adrian Gillan.

Capital of the South West, on a gorge cut by the mighty Avon, Bristol fair reeks of seamen and the sea. The city's colourful, oft dark past takes in maritime trade and slavery, engineering and the industrial revolution, regency grandeur and modern post-Millennial chic.


The most efficient and pleasant way to see all sights – with stimulating, oft humorous, commentary – is aboard a hop-on-hop-off City Sightseeing bus, by land; and/or, by water, afloat the relaxing 45-minute-long Bristol Packet Boat Tour Bristol Packet.
Clifton Suspension Bridge
Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Photo Credit: Destination Bristol.
Take in the Christmas Steps for quaint little eateries and shops; space-age Millennium Square and Explore@Bristol centre; and Brunel’s cutting-edge wrought-iron SS Great Britain, the big mama of all modern ocean-faring ships, with its propeller-driven metal hull allowing larger cargoes to travel faster and more reliably than ever before. See the iconic Suspension Bridge; the white-stuccoed Georgian terraces and crescents of Clifton; and hoards of cute young term-time students spewing out from the University, many of them gay.
Visit the world-famous Zoo, Cabot Tower up Brandon Hill, peaceful Queen Square and Castle Park, Banksy-inspired street art on Nelson Street, or majestic Cathedral and nearby College Green.

Dodge any rain in the British Empire & Commonwealth Museum or City Museum & Art Gallery. Enjoy a play or show at the Bristol Old Vic or Bristol Hippodrome.

Bristol Balloon Festival
Bristol Balloon Festival. Photo Credit: Destination Bristol.
Browse at the new Cabot Circus shopping complex; see contemporary art at the Arnolfini gallery; learn about local history at M Shed; or enjoy a concert at Colston Hall.

Gay life in Bristol revolves around two areas - the renovated Old Market district to the east, and the City Centre, a wee walk west - far enough apart to have distinct identities, but near enough if you want to flit.

Old Market: “The Village”

Starting in the Old Market area, the eponymous Old Market Tavern (29 Old Market Street) is a highly popular old-fashioned boozer that serves great home-cooked grub washed down with fine ales, with a beer garden out the back. It jostles along with friendly little The Lounge (53 Old Market Street), for drag and karaoke; glam The Palace (2-4 West Street), for camp cabaret; sprawling, sizeable The Retreat (16 West Street), for a booze and a jig; hairy, lively yet laid-back Bristol Bear Bar (2 West Street); and nearby “hidden gem”, The Phoenix (1 Wellington Buildings, Champion Square).

For more steamy “relaxation”, check out the Village Sauna (19-21 West Street).

City Centre: “The Strip”

But if hankering for a change of scene, stroll west to The Pineapple (37 St George’s Road), allegedly Bristol’s oldest gay bar: a large, bright joint, great for relaxing in by day and heaving with boys and girls by night – traditionally the main “warm up” to the more clubby venues along the road it then feeds, punters duly fired up.

Hit chic Bent Bar (4 Frogmore Street) with its trendy seating and retro flashing dance floor. Then trot over the road to Queenshilling (9 Frogmore Street), a stylish, buzzing bar-cum-club playing a mixed bag of pure pop throughout the week. A few doors down, spacious OMG (3 Frogmore Street) offers two contrasting bars, plus a large dance floor, for all your pop and trance.

And: keep ‘em peeled – new Bristol bars and clubs are opening all the time!


Slap bang in the city centre, on the glistening Welsh Back waterfront, the 4-star Mercure Bristol Brigstow Hotel (5-7 Welsh Back; T: 0117 3199003) puts you close to the city's scene and sights. It offers 116 stylish, modern guest rooms, some with river views, all with high-speed internet access and queen-size beds. Fine dine at its hip Ellipse Restaurant.

Bristol Pride Week normally happens in July: PrideBristol
For general info on Bristol: VisitBristol
First Great Western runs a frequent service between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads, journey time scarce 1½ hours.

Revised February 2015.


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