The city of Bristol is unique in Britain: it is both historic and industrial and nestled in the south-west, one of the country’s most beautiful areas (and one often blessed with better weather than the rest of the island). As a daytrip from London, Bristol offers charm and convenience, and a real insight into history.
Trains from London to Bristol Temple Meads leave from London Paddington, and may involve changing at Reading. The trip takes about two and a half hours. If you wish to go to Bristol Parkway there are faster trains, which also run from London Paddington.
If speed is not of primary importance to you, there is a National Express coach that runs from London to Bristol, and, if you have rented a car and are intending to drive, you should leave, again, at least a couple of hours for the trip. Bristol also has an airport nearby, and there are planes to London Gatwick that have a stop off in Guernsey. This means that flying is not a very quick option, and neither is it cheap or convenient as you have to get fromBristol airport to the city centre.
For more than 500 years,Bristol was one of Britain’s biggest and most successful cities. It was particularly successful as a port as Britain’s colonies in America grew, and it supplied them. It was particularly important as a hub for the Atlantic slave trade, and, to this day it has museums and exhibits explaining its part in the slave trade. When the slave trade was abolished in 1807, and other manufacturing cities grew hugely during the nineteenth century, it lost its position at the forefront of the UK's but remains historic, beautiful and well-provisioned with everything you might want.
A word of warning, however: the Mayflower you can see anchored in Bristol is not the ship that famously took the pilgrims across the Atlantic in 1621, which departed from nearby Plymouth. The Mayflower that you can see inBristol is a nineteenth-century tugboat, which, whilst still of historical interest, is not the one you might want to see.
Bristol is a beautiful city; it has more than 4,000 listed buildings in it. Some of these date back to the middle ages, whilst others are more modern. Bristol suffered heavily, however, during the Second World War, as it was heavily bombed during the Bristol Blitz. It lost many of its important and beautiful buildings, but, even once the damage had been wrought, John Betjeman still thought Bristol to be “the most beautiful, interesting, and distinguished city in England.”
Bristol has one of the country’s most prestigious theatres outside London or Stratford at the Bristol Old Vic. There are preserved historic houses, a museum, and plenty of shops and cafes if you just want to relax and browse in a city that is a little less hectic than London. In all, it is an ideal place to discover a more relaxed and traditional England, in beautiful surroundings, but with every amenity a city could offer.