1. Jump on your bike Bristol was recently made Britain’s first cycling city, and pedal power is still the best way to see the city as a whole. The cycle tracks (easily accessible from Bristol Uni and UWE) follow the route of the historic Great Western Railway, and provide the perfect combination of city access and country views. Beginners beware, though: Bristol is hugely hilly, as all uni student will quickly learn.
2. Get the ciders in You’re not a true Bristolian until you’ve ‘cidered up’. For those used to fizzy, fruity excuses for cider you can get in other cities, Bristol cider might be a shock, but there’s no greater pleasure in the city than sitting on the deck of one of the city centre’s cider boats drinking a half pint of 9% Old Bristolian.
3. Take the tourist trail Although it is often ignored by tourists heading to nearby Bath or Stonehenge, Bristol is full of history both good (the best work of both Brunel and Banksy) and bad (like most port towns in the UK, it is built almost entirely on slave trade money). It is all, however, equally fascinating, especially when a tour includes a few historic Bristol hostelries.
4. Be a street art spectator One day, you will look at people on Bristol Banksy tours as the lowest of the low. Until then, however, there is loads of great street art from new and established artists all over the city, given it a unique vibe. The famed Union Street graffiti is currently under renovation, but graffiti fans can still get their fill in Stokes Croft and The Bearpit.
5. Support the local shops So many uni towns have become identical through big shopping centres and endless Prets and Jack Willses, but Bristol as ever is keeping it different with the weird and wonderful. Although you can find all your favourite soulless corporate husks at Cabot Circus, a trip up Park Street or Gloucester Road will unearth hundreds of independent boutiques, coffee shops and more.
6. Learn the language You’ve heard a million TV pirates talk like it, but true Bristolian accent can still sound impenetrable to newbies, with Ls where they don’t belong (i.e. ‘I’m just going up Asdal’) and Rs that seem to go on forever (i.e the ubiquitous ‘cheerrrrrs driverrrrrrrrr’ or ‘alright my luverrrrrrrr’). Learn a few basic rules, however, and you’ll be ‘gert lush’.
7. Go gigging Bristol doesn’t have the cultural kudos it once had in the early ’90s, but some of the best indie and dance music in the world still gets made here, and is performed every week at great intimate venues like Start the Bus, The Louisiana and Thekla. The fact that Thekla is a boat that has gigs says everything you need to know about the city.
8. See a show Although the Bristol Hippodrome churns out the same touring musicals as every other medium-to-big-sized city, it has fringe theatre that can really compete with the heavyweights like Chichester and even London. Much of Britain’s best acting talent came through the prestigious Old Vic, and the Tobacco Factory is the place to go for acclaimed Shakespeare productions.
9. Enjoy a Bristol tradition “You mean you have a whole four-day event based on hot air balloons?” is the question many new Bristolians ask when they first visit and hear about the Bristol Balloon Fiesta. It sounds dull, but there’s a reason it’s been going on for decades that you can only understand if you visit one night and see all the balloons lit up. And if that piques your interest, why not try the Kite Festival, the Balloon Fiesta’s weirder cousin.
10. Pick a footie team Finally, it’s time to answer the biggest question you will ever be asked in Bristol: ‘Rovers or City?’. Each of Bristol’s two football teams has their own fiercely loyal areas and pubs, and a slip-up on match day could be fatal (note: not literally). Not into sports? Just avoid wearing blue or red on Wednesdays and Saturdays…
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