25 things you won’t know about Bristol unless you’ve lived there
Banksy Bristol

From Jason Donervan to sandwiches at Maxi’s, there are some things about Bristol you only know if you’re a local.

Georgina Guthrie, with some help from Peter Walsh, offers a glimpse of the city that the tourists may never see…

1. The road to ruin is short and cheap if you stick to cider

Bristol is the gateway to the South West, and so most cider going to the rest of the country passes through Bristol. Quite a lot of it gets stuck on the way, but the locals aren’t complaining. Be sure to check out the Corri Tap’s legendary Exhibition Cider, a 16% ABV half pint of rocket fuel.

2. Drive can also be used as a noun

#cheersdrive #ilovesthediff

A photo posted by @ilovesthediff on

“Cheers DRIVE” is a greeting and not a command to a taxi driver. It is a friendly and positive salutation, and confused visitors should be alerted to the implications of having it shouted at them.

3. The Bear Pit is not as dangerous as it sounds

There are no bears to be found here. It’s not even a real pit – it’s actually a big underpass linking Stokes Croft with the rest of civilisation. It’s undergone a bit of a facelift over the past three years, and has become quite a nice nice spot to sit and grab a bite to eat. Check out the local food vendors and market stalls as you pass through on you way to (or from) the city centre.

4. Jason Donervan is a rite of passage

You’re not Bristolian ’til you’ve had an end-of-night burger and/or chips from Jason Donervan (or are at least open to the idea). It’s actually a bit of a Bristol institution, and owner Mustafa Durdu has been serving up kebabs and the like to inebriated Bristolians for the past 15 years. Where’s his OBE?

5. You can walk across the Suspension Bridge

Brunel’s masterpiece, and it’s not just for cars. Wander across it and take a peek over the edge if you dare. The verdant Leigh Woods sits on the other side, so head on over – it feels as though you’ve wandered into a secret forest. It’s a great place to take the kids as well, with plenty of nature trails to discover.

6. Park Street is for students

You can go there if you want, but it’s probably best left to the students, especially post 7pm. Bristol, UWE – they all come out in their hoards and consume Jagerbombs with a passion, so avoid it if this isn’t your scene. Everyone knows the best pubs are to be found on Gloucester Road, anyway….

7. You must leave St Paul’s Carnival at sundown

It’s a great place to go to have a bit of jerk chicken in the sunshine, but it does get a little ropey after dark. It must be all that sunshine and Red Stripe. Sadly, it’s been cancelled this year due to lack of funding, but fingers crossed 2016 brings the colourful carnival back to St Pauls.

8. £3.50 will get you a whole day’s worth of Sandwich at Maxi’s

GIANT BAPS. Maximilian’s (or ‘Maxi’s’ to those in the know) serve the biggest sandwiches in Bristol. For a mere £3.50 you choose a cooked meat, plus crackling and apple sauce if you want it, then add five ‘salads’, which range from the humble lettuce leaf, all the way up to pork pies and onion bhajis. The sandwiches tend to tot in at the 6 inch mark, so you’d better save some for later.

9. Bristolians aren’t afraid to voice their concerns

Bristol prides itself on its independent spirit, and any challenge to this is almost always certain to get a rise out of us. When local property developers suggested turning the iconic Stokes Croft carriageworks into luxury flats earlier this year, miffed Bristolians took to the streets, with banners aplenty. And when a local letting agent urged landlords to up the price of rent? It didn’t go down well.

10. Renting is very difficult

Talking of property, it’s famously difficult to rent in Bristol. It’s no London, sure, but it’s a close second. Would you like 24 hours to mull that flat over? Tough. You’ve got to take it or lose it there and then. It’s one of the downsides to living in one of the UK’s most popular cities.

11. There are many festivals

We have one, sometimes two a week in the summer. There’s the Harbour Festival in August, several food festivals, comedy festivals, local jumble sales and our famous balloon fiesta. Take your pick and try one each weekend – cider in the sun is what summer in Bristol’s all about.

12. Bristol is a film lover’s paradise

OK, so we have one, two independent cinemas, plus a couple of hidden ones, then there’s the Bristol Bad Film Club, Cannoli & Gun, Bristol Silents, The Hellfire Video Club, CineMe, The Seventyseven Film Club once a week, plus a video store (with another little cinema inside it) AND a Carey Grant Festival – and counting. Phew!

A film lover’s guide to Bristol

13. You can cycle to Bath

One of the nicest things about Bristol is, you’re never more than a 30 minute bike ride from the countryside. There are plenty of cycle paths to choose from, but one of the prettiest, safest and easiest (no hills) is the Bristol to Bath cycle path. The line is smooth and flat, and runs alongside the railway track. You can go there and back in a day.

10 stunning secret places in Bristol

14. There is a place where you can play on the swings and drink coffee

Swings and hot coffee. It seems like an accident waiting to happen, but there have been no noteworthy accidents yet. Playground Coffee can be found in the city centre, and serve good food coffee in a playground settings for the young at heart. The accident-prone might want to give the swings a miss, though.

15. The Black Swan has a bonfire

There is club in deepest, darkest Easton, tucked away behind the thundering M32 that has a bonfire and floor-to-ceiling sound systems that’ll rattle your teeth. It’s loud, filthy, and the toilets never work, but it doesn’t really matter once you’re settled down by the bonfire with a can of Red Stripe in hand.

16. You can get drunk on a boat (or three)

Choose your tipple, then choose your boat. If it’s cider you’re after, then head on over to The Apple. More of a beer drinker? No problem, The Grain Barge is where you should head. And if you’re more of a music lover, then it’s the Thekla you’ll be interested in.

17. You can also party in a crypt

Tucked away under Nelson Street lies the crypt of St John the Baptist, and yes, it is as creepy as it sounds. Locate a little wooden door and step down into the darkness to see the night’s performers. It’s a beautiful venue, with vaulted ceilings and wonderful acoustics, but it does get pretty cold in the winter months so wrap up warm.

18. You can join the roller derby

Roller derbys are on the rise thoughout the UK, and Bristol’s got its very own set of rollerskating girl gangs. The vicious sport sits somewhere between hockey and rugby on wheels, and makes a great spectacle if you’re not feeling quite brave enough to sign up yourself.

19. You can explore some caves

We have caves in the city – quite a few, actually. Head on over to the Clifton Observatory and caves, a natural tunnel under The Downs that opens out with spectacular views of the rocky avon gorge. South Bristolians can get in on the subterranean action with a trip to the slightly-more-creepy Redcliffe caves, which are actually a network of 15th-18th Century mines. Make sure you get a guide. You’ve seen The Descent, right?

20. The seagulls would kill you and eat you if they could only figure out how

The birds are of a terrifying size in Bristol, and wouldn’t think twice of snatching your lunch clean out of your sticky paws. They tend to work alone, but that doesn’t stop you thinking of them like mini flying pterodactyls.

21. Wallace and Gromit live here

Everyone’s favourite plasticine duo, Wallace and Gromit are based in Bristol – or at least, their creators, Aardman Studios are. This year, 70 Shaun the Sheep models have been dotted around Bristol for locals and tourists to hunt out. Last year it was 80 Gromit statues who descended on the city, before being sold off to raise £2.3m to charity.

22. Bristol is a “Little London”

We have indie, we have chain, we have food from all round the world, secret bars, street art, haute cuisine and more festivals then you can shake a glowstick at. And the best bit? It’s hella lot cheaper than The Big Smoke, and you can walk from one end of it to the other in about an hour.

23. Bristol biker gangs are not to be feared

Bristol biker gangs tend to be more of the fixed-gear and cool caps kind, not so much of the leathers and Harley variety. They do drive around in mobs, have their own crew names and colours, but they’re more charming than they are threatening.

24. Carol Vorderman lives here

26-year Countdown co-host, Rear of the Year winner 2011 and 2014, Detox queen and all-round polymath Carol Vorderman is proud to call Bristol her home. She lives up in Clifton to be precise. But where, exactly? That would be telling.

25. You may love Portishead, but that doesn’t justify visiting Portishead

Why a trio of trip-hoppers decided to name their outfit after a small seaside town remains a bit of a mystery. Tourists day-trip out to get snapped next to the town sign, but you’ll be hard pushed for much else to do.

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