My summer in Bristol has been a bit of a fairytale – but then what did I expect in a town full of unicorns? While everybody is Pokemon Go-ing, I’ve spent the last couple of months chasing unicorns around town.

Gilt unicorn at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol

Image - The gilt unicorn at the RWA by Giulia Blocal 

Unicorns have been significant to Bristol ever since they first appeared on the city seal in 1569. They were chosen to represent virtue on Bristol’s coat of arms, where they feature at the two sides of the image of a golden ship leaving from a silver castle. Bristol’s coat of arms can be found on several buildings and bridges.

My favourite ones are on the front terrace of the Royal West of England Academy, a top-class contemporary art museum, and at the entrance of the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, the city museum where you can find a rich collection of art, nature and history.

Silhouette of unicorn, Bristol

Image - One of the College Green Unicorns by Giulia Blocal 

Perhaps the best-known unicorns in Bristol are the gilt ones facing each other from the top of City Hall on College Green. They weren’t part of the original decorative plan for the building; that's why they were welcomed in puzzlement until the architect came back from holiday and explained that they had been ordered as they were cheaper than the planned ridging. The story goes that the architect placed them with their rears towards the house of someone he didn’t like!  

Gilt unicorns on Brunel's ss Great Britain in Bristol

Image - Gilt unicorns on Brunel's ss Great Britain by Giulia Blocal 

There are various unicorns on Brunel’s ss Great Britain, the world's first luxury cruise liner and the longest passenger ship in the world until 1854. See if you can spot the two on Bristol's coat of arms across the stern of the ship. 

There is also a unicorn above the pulpit of St John on the Wall, the only church left of those built inside the city walls, serving both as the city's defenses and as places for travellers to pray before a journey. Despite the fact I’ve been walking through the passage close to this church for the whole summer, it was only during a Where the Wall street art tour that I noticed the unicorn spray-painted by local street artist Feek to adorn this tunnel in a frescoed style.   

X-ray style unicorn street art as part of Upfest in Bristol

Image - Shok-1's unicorn on North Street by Giulia Blocal 

A most recent addition to Bristol’s herd of unicorns was spray-painted by street artist Shok-1 in his distinctive x-ray style. His darkly beautiful unicorn was created during Upfest, the biggest urban art festival in Europe, which took place on and around North Street where this mural is located.   

Carved wooden unicorn at Bristol Cathedral

Image - Carved wooden unicorn at Bristol Cathedral by Bristol Cathedral

Apparently, one more unicorn is hiding inside the 12th-century Bristol Cathedral, most likely among the exquisite carvings that characterize the stalls of the choir, although I still haven’t managed to spot it. Here is a picture from the archive of the Cathedral: let me know if you find it! 

About the author: Giulia Blocal is an Italian travel blogger falling in love with this beautiful town more and more everyday. 

Read more about Giulia's adventures in Bristol and beyond here:


Royal West of England Academy
Royal West of England Academy exterior

Bristol's first art gallery, housing over 1200 works of art from 19th century to the present day, a coffee shop and a small gift shop.

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery exterior

Museum and art gallery exhibiting some outstanding collections of art, archaeology, Egyptology and natural history in a magnificent building

Brunel's SS Great Britain
Historic Ship
SS Great Britain Hero Image

Voyage back in time at Brunel’s SS Great Britain, the world’s first great ocean liner.

St John on the Wall
St John on the Wall interior

The only surviving church founded by Walter Frampton and built on Bristol's saxon inner town wall during the 12th century

Bristol Street Art Walking Tours
Walking Tour
Bristol Street Art Walking Tours

Explore the latest street art where the walls change weekly, and celebrate Bristol's unique creative culture.

Bristol Cathedral
Bristol Cathedral West End

Much more than a fascinating building, being a fine example of a hall church, it is a centre of Bristol's history, civic life and culture.