Citing its “great shopping, great scenery and great social scene," the Sunday Times last week declared the Southwest English city of Bristol the "best place to live in Britain." Bristol's creativity (it's the birthplace of Massive Attack and Banksy) and independent spirit (the city has its own currency, the Bristol Pound) is fairly well documented, but its affordability is another good reason to make the trip from London.
Trains from London's Paddington Station take around one hour and 45 minutes and start at £30 ($50) round-trip. If you decide to spend the night, April rates at the boutique Berkeley Square Hotel start at £30 ($89) a night and includes access to the Square Private Members Club cocktail bar and restaurant. The upscale Radisson Blu is a little pricier at £99 ($163) but presents good value when compared to the brand's London properties, which are mostly priced in the £140 to £280 ($199 to $464).
To tempt you further, Bristol has a selection of truly unique (and free or affordable) events scheduled for this year:
The iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, will celebrate its 150th anniversary on December 8th this year. The Human Harp Project, hopes to make the bridge "sing" by playing its cables like a harp. Last year, the group did the same to commemorate the Brooklyn Bridge's 130th anniversary.
Another of Brunel's celebrated creations, the SS Great Britain was the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic and, between 1845 and 1854, the longest passenger ship in the world. Since being salvaged and restored in the 1970s, the SS Great Britain has sat in a dry dock along the harbor. But starting in April, a new attraction will allow visitors to climb the ship's mast. Participants will be strapped into a harness before ascending the rigging to a viewing platform 88 feet above the deck and 30 feet out across the ship (£13.75/$23).
The first Cary Grant Festival takes place on October 11-12, and celebrates the 110th birthday of the Bristol-born actor. A program of screenings and activities across the city will culminate in a double-bill film gala at the Bristol Hippodrome; the very venue where a young Archie Leach got his first taste of acting before reinventing himself as Hollywood screen idol, Cary Grant. The full program is not yet finalized; check Visit Bristol for updates.