Five Groovy Things to Do in Bristol, UK
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Spending a weekend in Bristol always includes looking at famous Banksy murals, but there’s much more. This funky town southwest of London sparkles with part wild west and part mariner. On our stay in Bristol, a lorry fell into the sea, a train jumped its tracks, and a freak storm knocked down trees. But that didn’t stop us for putting on our walking shoes and exploring this hidden gem.
View Bansky Murals
As for Banksy, it’s where our story starts and ends on our visit. Walk to one of Banksy’s most famous pieces in Bristol, Well Hung Lover on Frogmore Street. The story goes that Bristol’s elected officials were debating the question of what is graffiti, what is street art, and would Bristol citizens accept or reject either. The night of the big vote, Banksy unveiled his piece on a sex health clinic’s exterior wall in direct view of the council’s chambers across the street. While voting, they had to view Banksy’s art. Is street art, art? The vote passed, allowing street art in Bristol, yet the chamber’s decision is still contested daily through different forms of graffiti writing and street art done nightly.
To learn more about Banksy and the ebb and flow of street art politics in Bristol, be sure to do a street art walking tour while there. We loved our tour; the guide is famous in the street art scene and is someone who people call from around the world when a suspected new Bansky art piece shows up. He helps to verify if the new piece is a Banksy or not. Don’t know who Banksy is? Read this piece just for fun.
Peer through Glass-topped Boats
Bristol’s harbor, a beautifully engineered body of water designed to mitigate 50 foot tides, used to fill with slave boats, yachts, and mariners. Now, it’s a touristy and somewhat functioning marina. It’s also a fun place to catch a boat ride on low-slung canal boats that barely clear draw bridges. Taking a boat tour in glass-topped boats allowed us to look up into the bottom of bridges with only inches of clearance. Thrilling, if not a bit breath gasping, to say the least. Several boat companies offer tours, but we liked Bristol’s Packet Boat Trips for their comprehensive dock tour.
Drink a Treasure Island Beverage
All over England, you’ll find various literary giants and the cities who raised them. Think Chaucer in Canterbury or Beatrix Potter in the Lake District. In Bristol, you can put on your best pirate gear and drink to the lore of Treasure Island as told by Robert Louis Stevenson. Supposedly, he sat in the Llandoger Trow public house and dreamed up the Admiral Benbow Inn in Treasure Island and Daniel Defoe supposedly met Alexander Selkirk there, his inspiration for Robinson Crusoe. We ordered pints and made up lyrics for our own pirate adventures in this 17th century pub surrounded by locals.
Blow Blue Glass
While enjoying Bristol, be sure to stop in the M Shed, its famed museum filled with local history about the slave trade, cigarette rolling, and grafitti art. In there, you’ll also learn about the rise of blue glass. Bristol forever blew glass for Britain, once producing almost fifty percent of the kingdom’s needs. Due to tax rules and importation, the glass foundries floundered. Yet, Queen Elizabeth, eyeing the beauty of Bristol’s blue glass, revived it through fashion and art, saving the glass day.
Many decades later, Bristol has revived blue glass. We love blown glass and couldn’t resist signing up to blow some blue glass at Bristol Blue Glass. We fashioned some blue Hannukah ornaments, only to leave them behind for our Housesitting home owners as a thank you for a nice house sit.
Eat Vegan Pie and Drink Beetroot Latte
One of the things we love the most about the UK is its unending supply of good vegan food. Every restaurant we chewed in had at least one but often many vegan choices. We even saw commercials from the health agencies promoting the eating of vegan foods and how to substitute lentils for beef!
The Pieminister on Broad Quay delivered us two dreams come true. We got to not only taste a Cornish pie, but a vegan one at that! I adored my Mother Earth Mooless Moo made from jackfruit with gravy, mash, and minty peas. The next morning, we returned to Wapping Wharf and breakfasted with a delicious and health boosty from a beetroot latte from Better Foods Cafe.
Spray Some Art
Finally, after viewing all the amazing artwork on the walls in Bristol, we felt a bit inspired. So we stopped in the Molotow Paint store and purchased our own spray cans. We could even pick out the types of nozzles we wanted! We then went over to the “Beginner Paint Walls” (ask inside Molotow where to find them), got a few of our favorite colors, and sprayed to our hearts’ content. Yup, our hearts beat out of our chests, fearing we’d get caught or seen as imposters. Okay, truth. We didn’t actually do this, but we thought about it. Will you?
Enjoy 48 Hours in Bristol
We loved our time in Bristol. Not only did we fill up our artistic hearts with color and texture, we also jumped over to Bath for some spa time and to Stonehenge from some Celtic time. Bristol is a great location to stay for a weekend or a week, and you can certainly continue your explorations into Cornwall, Exeter, and Weymouth as you explore the southwest of England.