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Overview of history, facts and visiting Bristol for media


Categories: Official press releases

Historic Milestones:

  • 11th century town of Brycgstow established
  • 1155 Bristol receives a royal charter
  • 1373 Granted county status
  • May 1497 John Cabot sails from Bristol to ‘New Found Land’
  • 1542 Bristol Cathedral founded
  • 1552 Society of Merchant Venturers incorporated
  • 1730 Bristol Royal Infirmary founded
  • 1739 World’s first Methodist Chapel opens in Bristol
  • 1766 Theatre Royal opens
  • 1796 Harvey wine merchants established
  • 1809 Bristol’s ‘Floating Harbour’ completed
  • 1836 Bristol Zoo established
  • 1841 London Paddington to Bristol railway line completed
  • 19th July 1843 Brunel’s ss Great Britain launched
  • 1864 Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge completed
  • 1867  Colston Hall opened to the public. (1898 -destroyed in accidental fire.)
  • 1909 Bristol University granted its Royal Charter
  • 1910 First flight of the Bristol Boxkite
  • 1910 Bristol & Colonial Aeroplane Company established
  • 1912 Bristol Hippodrome opened.
  • 1933 Bristol scientist Paul Dirac wins the Nobel prize for physics
  • 1945 Bristol Cars founded
  • 1947 Bristol twinned with Hannover and Bordeaux
  • 1950 Bristol University's Cecil Frank Powell wins the Nobel prize for physics
  • 1957 BBC Natural History Unit formed in Bristol
  • 1969 First flight of the British Concorde prototype from Filton
  • 1970 ss Great Britain returns to Bristol from the Falkland Islands
  • 1979 Bristol Balloon Fiesta established
  • 1983 Sustrans founded in Bristol
  • 1990 The Bristol Initiative publicly launched
  • 1992 University of the West of England established
  • 1993 Aardman Animations win the first of 3 Academy Awards
  • 1996 Bristol hosts the inaugural International Festival of the Sea
  • 1997 The Matthew sails from Bristol to Newfoundland recreating Cabot’s voyage of 1497
  • 2001 Bristol twins with Guangzhou, China
  • 2003 The final flight of Concorde to Filton
  • 2005 Bristol designated a UK Science City
  • 2005 Bristol granted Fairtrade City status
  • 2007 Brunel’s ss Great Britain wins Gulbenkian Prize
  • 2008 Bristol designated the UK’s first ‘Cycling City’
  • 2008 Bristol shortlisted as European Green Capital 2010-11
  • 2008 Opening of Cabot Circus shopping centre.
  • 2009 Bristol selected as one of the World’s Top 10 Cities to visit by DK Eyewitness.
  • 2009 Banksy exhibits at Bristol Museum.
  • 2011 The M Shed museum opens in Bristol’s Harbourside.
  • 2011 Bristol ranked 7th place overall as a top UK destination for conferences, meetings and events by BMEIS.
  • 2012 Bristol elects an independent Mayor for the City.
  • 2012 Bristol Balloon Fiesta in top 3 of tourism events in the country by VisitEngland.
  • 2012 Dinosaurs exhibited at Bristol Zoo.
  • 2012 The Bristol Pound is launched as a local currency for the city.
  • 2012 Bristol wins gold in European Entente Florale competition for outstanding environmental and horticultural strengths.
  • 2013 Bristol awarded European Green Capital for 2015.
  • 2013 Gromit Unleashed art trail exhibition opens.


A City Overview:

Bristol is today a cosmopolitan city whose economic foundations are built upon organisations with world-class credentials in silicon design, the creative and media sectors, financial and business services, aerospace engineering, and environmental technology.  

Bristol is the biggest city in the South of England outside London with a population of over 500,000 people - including 50,000 students attending its two outstanding universities.

Bristol is a vibrant commercial centre, recently cited as the UK's most productive city outside London and is ranked second Large European city for Foreign Direct Investment.

Bristol is superbly connected to all the major economic centres in mainland Europe and beyond.  

Famous Bristolians include Cary Grant, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Banksy.

Urban renaissance – Bristol and in particular its historic docks has been transformed in recent years. The £500m expansion of the city centre, Cabot Circus, opened in September 2008, with over 100 new shops including a Harvey Nichols store and a brand new restaurant quarter. Bristol has fabulous hotels (Bristol Marriot Royal, Hotel du Vin, Mercure Holland House, etc) and new restaurants (Raymond Blanc, Carluccios, etc), great museums and galleries (many free) and a strong green ethos with fresh and slow food markets proliferating throughout the city.  

Music City - Bristol is the most chilled-out place for music in the UK (2008 HMV sales survey, for Uncut magazine). It has a fabulous nightlife with a range of music from trip hop to hard house, classical to jazz. Big name artists include Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead.

Green City – Bristol has recently been chosen as the only city in the UK to be short-listed for the European Green Capital Award. The city has been pre-selected alongside seven other European top environmental cities out of 35 initial applications.  Bristol has more green spaces (parks, gardens etc) than any other comparable city in Britain. Recently appointed by the UK government as Britain’s first ‘cycling city’, Bristol is also home to Sustrans, the national cycling charity and the Soil Association, Britain’s leading promoter of sustainable organic farming. Other green credentials include the pioneering conservation work of Bristol Zoo Gardens, as the location of the BBC Wildlife film unit since 1957 and its Fairtrade City status awarded in 2008.

South West Gateway – Bristol is a highly popular choice for both leisure and business visits. With excellent road and rail connections, Bristol provides a gateway to the South West with easy access to both coast and countryside.  Places of interest include Bath, the Cotswolds, South Wales and nearby attractions such as Berkeley Castle, Glastonbury Abbey, Westonbirt Arboretum, WWT Slimbridge, Cheddar Caves & Gorge and Stonehenge.   

‘Top 10 City in the World’ - Bristol has been selected as one of the world’s ‘Top 10 Cities for 2009’ by DK Eyewitness, the world’s best-selling guidebook publisher.  As the only UK city to be named within the list, Bristol will now feature in the DK Top 10 guidebook series. The other nine selected cities are: Buenos Aires, Gdansk, Washington DC, Vienna, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Fes, Seattle (USA) and Vilnius.   

Visiting Bristol  

Must-See Sights & Insiders Tips

  • Clifton Suspension Bridge – Isambard K. Bunel’s iconic Bristol landmark
  • Brunel’s ss Great Britain – the world’s first great ocean going liner
  • Bristol Zoo Gardens – top international zoo with over 450 species and a commitment to conservation.
  • At-Bristol & Planetarium – a major UK interactive science centre attraction
  • St Nicholas Market – historic gem with clothes, exotic foods, bric-a-brac
  • Tobacco Factory – theatre, bar and farmers’ market
  • Take a ferry boat trip – the best way to see Bristol's historic Harbourside
  • Spot yourself a Banksy – view works of Bristol’s world-known graffiti artist
  • Pirate walk – meet Bristol's unique ‘Pirate Pete’ for a history walk

Fresh & Slow Food Markets

Fresh organic food and drink including local cider, cheeses, bread, cakes, meats and scrumptious Pieminister Pies can be purchased from the many farmers’ markets, including Corn Street/St Nicholas Market every Wednesday and the Tobacco Factory on Sundays.

Events & Festivals

There are major events throughout the year including the Bristol Vegan Fair in May (Europe’s largest); Bristol Festival of Nature (June); St Paul’s Carnival (July); Bristol Wine & Food Fair (July); Soil Association Organic Festival (September) and the Encounters International Short Film Festival (November).

Throughout the summer world class events takes place most weekends drawing in visitors from around the globe. Some major events include:  Bristol Harbour Festival, Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, International Festival of Kites and Air Creations, along with many others.

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