Local girl Katherine Conlon shares Bristol’s best diversions, writing on behalf of Travel Zoo.

Being a Bristolian I am at risk of the accusation of slight bias, but I believe Bristol is one of Britain’s greatest cities. The size has something to do with it: Bristol manages to be cosmopolitan and varied without feeling anonymous like some other bigger cities. It’s got a thriving art and cultural ‘scene’ which is on the whole unpretentious and interesting. Its home to some great music and nightlife, and it’s not even far from the beach (although I’d bring your wellies if you’re heading to Weston). Really, then, why not check out some hotel deals online, grab yourself a bargain and come and see if you agree.

Bristol is famed for its graffiti, not least because it is home to Banksy. His work crops up all over the place, and I have heard that those of you with swankier phones than me are able to trace it around the city using an iPhone app. In 2011, Nelson Street, in the centre of Bristol, was turned into the UK’s largest street art project, with some of the best graffiti artists helping to cover the bleak concrete multi story buildings. The scale of some of the artwork is impressive, and well worth a visit.

Bristol guide
Ghosts on Nelson Street. Photo credit: Luke Weyman

One relatively new attraction to Bristol is the city’s museum ‘M Shed’. Aiming to tell the story of Bristol’s past, it opened in 2011 amid criticism that it was over-budget and under-needed (not really a word, but you get the point). The arrangement of the artefacts is sometimes a little random, but one of the things worth seeing there is the famous ‘human skin book’. 18 year old John Horwood was hanged for the murder of Eliza Balsum in 1821 after throwing a large stone at her head. His skin was then used to bind a large book detailing the murder.

There are plenty of macabre objects at the Glenside Hospital Museum in Stapleton, such as a padded cell, straitjacket and ECT machines. Located on the site of the old Bristol Lunatic Asylum, it provides a fascinating insight into the treatment of mental illness over the past century. The museum is free to visit and run entirely by volunteers – so do contribute whatever you can.

As night falls, one option is to head to The Canteen in Stokes Croft. They do live music every night and good food (you also get a free soup starter). You generally have to get there early to get a seat as it’s pretty trendy and busy, otherwise you’ll end up right next to the band with a saxophone in your ear. Later, walk into town towards Mr Wolf’s for more music and dancing. It’s a popular, ‘intimate’ venue, and they serve noodles until late if you’re feeling peckish. Alternatively, Thekla, the club on a boat, is always a safe bet, and just down the road The Apple can be found – a converted barge which sells cider so strong they only serve it in halves.

Katherine Conlon likes to a get a feel for the history of the places she visits, and seeks out the bits which reveal something about the culture in different areas of the globe. She has travelled in four different continents and is looking forward to exploring the rest.

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