I Heart My City: Rosa’s Bristol

After earning a degree in literature at King’s College London, Bristol native Rosa Lia started traveling through Italy, Nicaragua, and Mexico. At the moment she is studying freelance travel writing at the London School of Journalism and taking courses through MatadorU. Here are a few of Rosa’s favorite things about her beloved hometown.

Follow Rosa’s story on her travel blog.

Bristol is My City.

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is The Windmill Pub – my “local” – so we can catch up over a pint.

August is the best time to visit my city because you can watch the sky fill with balloons at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

You can see my city best from Cabot Tower, where there are views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the colorful houses of Hotwells, and squirrels playing beneath you.

Locals know to skip the S.S. Great Britain (a boat lacking an interesting history) and check out Under the Stars (a bar on a boat) instead.

Beast Clothing on Cheltenham Road is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs (that is, tops saying “Gert Lush” and “Proper Job”). Or there’s the Bristol Cider Shop on the Christmas Steps.

In the past, notable people like Banksy, Tricky and Isambard Kingdom Brunel have called my city home. Poets William Wordsworth and Samuel T. Coleridge have also spent time here — and J.K. Rowling grew up a few miles away in Chipping Sodbury.

My city’s best museum is the harbor. What used to be the filled with the workings of the slave trade is now filled with boats with rainbow-colored flags. This is the place where people drink and come together.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city it’s: take the boat!

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is The Downs, especially if it’s sunny enough for a barbecue.

My city really knows how to celebrate summer because there’s everything from the Harbour Festival to Pride, bike rides, food festivals, and garden comedy.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they call it Brizzle.

For a fancy night out, I eat dinner or drink wine at Bordeaux Quay then, when it’s dark, watch the lights dance on the water outside.

Just outside my city, you can visit Cheddar, Stonehenge, Avebury (a larger stone circle) and Bath (where Jane Austen used to live).

My city is known for being a party town, but it’s really relaxed (unless you want to party).

The best outdoor market in my city is St. Nick’s Market. It has everything from local cheeses to Moroccan tagine. Inside, there’s a counter stacked high with old envelopes where a white-bearded man peeks out. You can sell or buy stamps from him.




The Primrose Cafe is my favorite place to grab breakfast (followed by a walk through Victoria Square), and any kebab shop is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, go to visitbristol.co.uk.

My city’s biggest sports event is football. Just don’t point out to anyone that Bristol City isn’t very good.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I cycle along the Chocolate Path. It runs along the River Avon (by Cumberland Road).

To escape the crowds, I go to Ashton Court and lie on the grass with the city in the distance.

If my city were a celebrity it would be the Little Britain character, Vicky Pollard (played by Matt Lucas). “No, but yeah, but no, but yeah, but no, but yeah, but no…”

The dish that represents my city best is a Sunday roast (with an apple crumble for dessert), and cider is my city’s signature drink.

Colston Hall is my favorite building in town because it’s gold and shiny and always has something going on.

The most random thing about my city is that the phrase “gert lush” means something you really like. There’s also an island in the middle of the city.

The Old Duke is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out Thekla (a boat with a Banksy painting on the side).

A man walking into the newsagents wearing pink slippers shouting “Alright, me loverrr!” could only happen in my city.

In the spring you should go to Leigh Woods to see the bluebells.

In the summer you should sit with your feet dangling over the harbor’s water and drink Pimm’s.

In the fall you should see (or join in with) the boat race from the train station in Temple Meads to Baltic Wharf.

In the winter you should go ice skating at Bristol Zoo, then go to a pub for mulled cider.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the rock slide just above the suspension bridge.

The best book about my city is The Naked Guide to Bristolby Gil Gillespie and Richard Jones.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is “One Love” by Massive Attack.

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because it has boats, balloons, and bridges.

Love where you live? Fill out our I Heart My City questionnaire for a chance to share your insider intel with the Intelligent Travel community.


  1. Activealice
    February 16, 2014, 1:04 pm

    Thanks Rosa for adding Bristol to this website, she’s right, it is amazing but the comment about the ss GB shows that as a local she has avoided it and therefore doesn’t know its history. Not only is it a brilliant attraction but it has soooo much history. When it was built it was the iPhone of its day, it was so cutting edge it cut the time it took to travel to the US from approx. 30 days to just 14. There was lots of engineering feats which aided this. She mentions Isambard Kingdom Brunel as a notable guy – he built the ship!
    I’m not really into ships but I have to say this ship is now an amazing place to visit because using the diaries of the travellers from the 19th C they have recreated life on board. It took 60 days to reach Australia and there was a class divide – you can explore the ship as a1st class passenger or steerage (the cheap tickets). It even took the first English cricket team out to Oz and which was the beginning of the English/Oz challenge which is today the Ashes.

    Bristol is a vibrant city to visit today and has been awarded European Green Capital status in 2015 because the people who live there are forward thinking and care about people and living sustainably – I read the other day that more people cycle in Bristol than Birmingham and Manchester put together. The transport system is crap but they are working on that.
    I’m not from Bristol but its now my home and having lived in London and just outside Cardiff for years, its definitely the best city in the UK to live, party, work and study.

  2. Rosa Lia
    Bristol, UK
    July 28, 2013, 5:11 pm

    My apologies to the SS Great Britain, apparently a lot of work has gone into renovating it. Here’s the site: http://ssgreatbritain.org/