Best Cities in the UK > 20 Best Cities > Bristol

There’s a lot of great places to live in the UK. However, there are undoubtedly some standouts.

Ask most people where they’d like to live in the UK, and they’d mention some common heavy hitters. 

If they’re a city slicker, they’ll go on about London or Manchester. 

Coastal crusaders will mention the delights of Brighton and Cornwall.

Lovers of the countryside may mention the Lake District and Wales. 

But what if there was somewhere that included all the above? What if there was a multi-cultural city with easy access to the countryside and the best beaches in the UK? 

Does such a place exist? 

Yes, it does. 

It’s called Bristol. 

What makes Bristol special?

Depending on whether you’ve visited Bristol or not, you may already have a stereotypical image of the city. 

Bristol is known for its bohemian nature. To people on the outside, it’s a city full of hippies and vegans. However, while Bristol does have a bohemian side, there is much more to this city than that.

Stunning architecture, a rich history and an eclectic cultural mix make Bristol a fantastic place to live. 


The History of Bristol

Bristol has a long history in the marine trade and its influence is still seen across the city.

The city was the second most important port in the country after London in the 1300s. Bristol port was used to ship cloth to France and ships often returned with wine to the UK. 

But, the city also has a dark and shameful past. 

In the 1600s, Bristol was involved in the trading of slaves from Africa. These slaves were then sold in the Americas to buy sugar, tobacco and other luxury good.

For a time, Bristol was the main port for this trade. But, in the latter half of the century, it’s position had been overtaken by Liverpool.

After losing its importance, Bristol port fell behind its Northern counterparts. The port continued to produce ships (and still does), but it was also falling into decline.

Now, Bristol’s functioning docks are in Avonmouth. While the original, city-centre docks were transformed into bars and restaurants. 

But, the city doesn’t shy away from its past. If anything, Bristol is honest about its sins and invites visitors to discover more about the city’s history. 

So, we know about Bristol’s history, but what’s it like today? 


Bristol of Today

The Bristol of today is a creative, exciting and young city. It’s been named as the ‘Happiest city in the UK’ and often features in the ‘Best Place to Live in Britain’ lists. It’s also been voted as the best place to live outside London if you’re under 26.

But what makes Bristol such a good place to live?

Properties in Bristol

Given its popularity, Bristol’s house prices are rising. But, while they may be on the up, they are not the eye-watering prices that we see in London.


According to figures from Numbeo, the average price of a 1 bed flat in Bristol city centre is £880.19 per month. Take a look at the figures below:

1 bed flat in the city centre: £880.19 

1 bed flat outside the city centre: £711.54 

3 bed in the city centre: £1,510.87 

3 bed outside the city centre: £1,119.57 

As you can see, Bristol isn’t cheap. But, given that its average salary stands at £1,977 per month, residents still have money to spend.

Okay. But what about buying?


Well, Bristol outstripped every other UK city in the last five years when it comes to property inflation. 

According to figures from Rightmove, the average property in Bristol sold for £311,483. This is higher than the UK average of £234,853 and 10% up on the 2016 level of £282,739.

A lot of people want to move to Bristol. 5,220 Londoners fled the capital to Bristol in 2018. In comparison, 4,190 people moved from Bristol to London. 

This means London suffered a net loss of 1,030 people to Bristol – which is nearly three a day.

It’s easy to see why people want to move here. Bristol has a growing job market and a host of activities to keep residents entertained.

Employment in Bristol

This city’s economy is varied and changing. Alongside its nautical connections, Bristol also relies on the aerospace, defence, media, tourism and IT industries. 

Much of the local economy is in the aerospace industry. The north of the city is home to BAE Systems, Airbus and Rolls Royce. While Aerospace engineering is a large area of research at the University of the West of England. 

Bristol may be leading the way in aerospace innovation, but it also has roots in more traditional air-travel. 

The city is known for its hot air balloon manufacturing. It’s a daily occurrence to see a hot air balloon floating across the city, which is home to the hot air balloon manufacturer Cameron Balloons. While the sight of a hot air balloon may be uncommon to some, these large floating objects add to Bristol’s charisma. 

The Ministry of Defence also has a large site in the city. Defence Equipment & Support has resided in Abbey Wood, Filton, since 1995. 

The purpose-built site employs 7,000 to 8,000 staff. It’s also responsible for procuring and supporting much of the MoD’s defence equipment. 

The financial sector is a key employer in the city. Around 60,000 Bristolians work in the financial sector, which includes PwC, Lloyds Bank and Natwest. The city also has 50 microelectronics and silicon design companies, which employ around 5,000 people. 

As more Londoners move to the city, its creative sector has begun to grow. Immediate Media have a large office in the city centre, employing over 500 people. While Reach Plc, the newspaper publishers, also have a large and central office.

There is also a growing media scene in the nearby city of Bath. Future PLC, the magazine publishers, reside in the city. While Play Sports Network is a rapidly-expanding media company that has also made Bath its home.

Things to do in Bristol

Away from work, Bristol residents are spoilt for things to do. The city has a food and drinks scene to rival London’s and there is a heavy focus on local, independent businesses. 


Gloucester Road

Gloucester Road is the city’s hub of independent activity and has the most independent shops of any street in the country. The road runs through the North of Bristol and is full of local shops, cafes and restaurants. 

Its bohemian spirit is reflected through the ever-changing street art that adorns the buildings. In fact, it boasts quite a few Banksy’s – so keep your eyes peeled!

It’s easy to spend a whole afternoon wandering this area of Bristol. Whether it’s the bargain fruit vendors or the smell of fresh bread, you’ll want to go into every business and snoop around. 

And, if all that shopping wears you out, you can pop into one of the many bars to refuel and refresh. 

The pick of the bunch is The Grace, which is a delightful gastro-pub with a sun-trapped beer garden. But, the Cat and Wheel, the Prince of Wales and the Bristol Flyer are great places to have a drink. 

For cider lovers, there’s the Cider Press – a pub that offers over 40 varieties of cider. You can’t come to the South West and not have a pint of the good stuff!

 Heading away from Gloucester Road, Bristol has other interesting areas. 



There’s not a single person in the world that has visited Clifton and left the area uncharmed. 

The affluent suburb lies in the North East of the city and is known for its grand Georgian townhouses that line the leafy streets. 

Clifton Village is the suburbs shopping district. It’s home to upscale boutiques, quirky indie shops and great pubs. 

The area is also home to the legendary Clifton Suspension Bridge.

If you search ‘Bristol’ on the internet, you will see the bridge. It’s a stunning feat of engineering and a foreboding presence in the city’s skyline. 

Since opening in 1864, it has been a functioning toll bridge. But, away from its practical use, it also serves as a popular tourist attraction. 

For the best view of the bridge, head to the White Lion pub. The pub is on the Clifton Downs and has a terrace offering panoramic views of the bridge and Avon Gorge.

Drinks may be a bit more expensive than your average boozer, but the view more than makes up for it.

If the terrace is too full the capture that perfect photo. You can also get a great view of the bridge from the downs and from Leigh Woods – an area of woodland on the other side of the bridge. 

South Bristol

It’s not just North Bristol that is cool. The South is also starting to change. The areas of Southville, Bedminster and Wapping Wharf are awash with independent bars and restaurants. With their close location to the centre of town, these areas are well worth exploring.

For the ultimate ‘Bristolian’ experience, head down to the Arnolfini on a sunny Friday evening. The art gallery has an outside bar on Bristol docks and it is buzzing with cool young people on the weekend. 

Sit back, grab a pint of local beer, and take in the stunning view and incredible atmosphere. There are delicious delights from local vendors and a DJ playing an alfresco set throughout the golden hours. 

If you’re after a bit of culture, Bristol has plenty of establishments for you. The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery include both Ancient Egyptian and modern Art. You’ve also got the Arnolfini (above), RWA art gallery, and We The Curios – a brilliant science museum. 

For theatre lovers, the Bristol Hippodrome is a large theatre with incredible listings. Shows from London’s West End often stop here while on tour, such as the Lion King. It also receives regular visits from the Welsh National Opera and an annual pantomime

It’s not only showcase performances that come to the city. The Old Vic Theatre and Redgrave theatre host both independent and amateur performances. Whatever your taste, you’ll be entertained in Bristol. 


Outside of the city

Bristol may feel like a multicultural modern city, but the countryside is on its doorstep. The city is perfectly located for adventures and offers a fast-track escape from city-living.

Away from the city, you can find the beautiful Mendip Hills. The hills are perfect for walking, cycling and hiking, with Cheddar Gorge being a particular highlight. 

The limestone gorge is the site of the Cheddar show caves. It was here that Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton, Cheddar Man, was found in 1903. You can spend a day exploring the Gorge and then enjoy some delicious food from a local eatery.

Beach lovers in Bristol are never too far away from some of the best coastline that the UK has to offer. Wales is less than an hours drive away from the city, meaning its array of stunning beaches are open to Bristolians.

Ogmore beach is a particular highlight. The beach is a beautiful sand and pebble beach in the Vale of Glamorgan. Perfect for swimming, it also has incredible views and stunning sunsets.

Heading further along the South Wales coastline, Rest Bay is the beach for surfers. One of the most popular surfing destinations in the UK, the bay is the closest surf beach to Bristol. You’ll always be able to find the perfect wave at Rest Bay. 

Even if you’re not a surfer, the Bay is perfect for an afternoon strolls and sunset viewings. 


It’s easy to see why Bristol is so popular. The city has everything you could want from a place to live.

Bristol is a multi-cultural, local-thinking and creative city. It’s got the hustle and bustle of city life without being overbearing. Not only that, but if you want to leave, you can access some of the most awe-inspiring natural landscapes in the UK.

With a growing job market, a fantastic lifestyle and an array of things to do, Bristol is easily one of the best places to live in the UK. 

Now, you’ve just got to learn to like cider…