In terms of urban population, Bristol is the eighth largest city in the UK. A former hub for maritime trade, Bristol has reinvented itself in more recent years as a centre of excellence for technology, media and aerospace engineering. The city is famous for a number of outstanding landmarks, particularly the Clifton suspension bridge; it’s also well known as the home of various notable individuals, including Nick Park of Aardman Animations and the mysterious graffiti artist Banksy.
Is Bristol a good place to live? Yes, Bristol is an outstanding city. It has been voted as the best UK city to live in and one of the top ten cities worldwide. Although house prices aren’t cheap, the cost of living is reasonable and wages are high. Bristol has plenty of amenities and is an excellent place to study, work, start a business or even retire.
Whether you’re moving to UK and considering a place to settle, are thinking of enrolling at one of Bristol’s universities or have been offered a job there, you have questions about the city.
- What kind of career opportunities are available in Bristol?
- What are the schools like?
- How good are the transport links?
- Where are the best places to buy a house?
Read on to find out more.
Is Bristol a good place to live?
In newspaper surveys and other independent analyses, Bristol is consistently scored very highly along a wide variety of different metrics. It’s a very affluent city with significant advantages both for private individuals and businesses. The location is excellent, with a temperate climate and good weather as well as plenty of beautiful scenery not far from the city itself. For individuals and companies moving to UK locations, Bristol offers significant advantages: a thriving economy, good schools, vibrant nightlife and plenty of cultural experiences to enjoy. From hunting down the latest fashions in the city’s extensive shopping districts to strolls along the River Avon, there’s something for everyone.
Crime rates in Bristol are generally quite low compared with other large UK cities. Crime rates have increased somewhat in recent years; that said, most of the increase is made up of minor offenses rather than anything more worrying. There are one or two crime hotspots, chiefly in the city centre; as you might expect, much of this relates to late-night rowdiness in the entertainment districts.
The best neighbourhoods in Bristol are Clifton, Totterdown, Temple Meads, and Leigh Woods. Properties in the Royal York Crescent offer outstanding views, while the Clifton Village area has an assortment of independent shops, boutiques, small eateries and coffee-shops. Totterdown and Temple Meads offer picturesque winding streets, charming Edwardian and Victorian-era properties and a pleasant urban village atmosphere. Properties tend to be smaller than in Clifton but prices are lower, making these areas more accessible to those on a tighter budget. If you’re looking for somewhere quiet and leafy, Leigh Woods is a popular choice. Located across the river from the city centre, Leigh Woods retains much of its woodland character and is a very affluent area. Other neighborhoods generally regarded as desirable are Redland, Cotham, Redcliffe and the city centre. Less affluent but still considered as nice places to live are Montpelier, Southville, Kingsdown, Sneyd Park and Stoke Bishop. Broadmead is generally cited as a more risky place to live but there are no really bad areas in Bristol.
Schools in Bristol are both plentiful and good. The city has a strong culture of education, both in the STEM fields and the arts. There are 129 schools for younger children, if we count all the infant, junior and primary schools together. There are many choices for secondary-school-aged children, ranging from those offering general education to schools specialising in a particular subject (for example, the music-oriented Bristol Cathedral Choir School). Bristol has numerous independent schools and schools offering education for children with special needs.
For those entering tertiary education, options are many and varied. There are two universities in Bristol. These are the former Bristol Polytechnic, which became the University of the West of England in 1992; and the University of Bristol, a redbrick university which received its charter in 1909. The Bristol Institute of Modern Music, an institute of higher education focused on music studies, opened in late 2008.
Transport links to Bristol are excellent. The M5 is connected to Bristol via the Portway and the M49 motorway. The M49 also connects to the M4, with a more direct connection between the M4 and the city centre provided by the Severn Crossing. The South Bristol Ring Road encircles the city and provides further road connections.
The bus system is being revamped. Currently there are reasonably good connections to most outlying areas of the city, although some neighbourhoods are not as well-served as others. Reviews of the local bus services are mixed, with some Bristolians irked by delays and high bus fares.
Although private car use in Bristol is high, the city has taken steps to encourage cycling. There are plenty of urban cycle routes throughout the city. Bristol’s local cycle path network also connects with the National Cycle Network, a system of cycle routes between various major cities throughout the UK. In fact, the first section of the National Cycle Network was the Bristol and Bath Railway Path, a 24 km cycleway that allows off-road cycling between Bristol and the city of Bath. The use of motorcycles is also encouraged — bikes are permitted to use bus lanes and free parking is available in the city centre.
Rail connections to Bristol are very good. The station nearest the city centre is Bristol Temple Meads, which provides connections to London (most trains stop at Paddington Station but there are also some more limited rail connections to London Waterloo and Clapham Junction). To the north of the city centre you will find Bristol Parkway rail station. This provides further London links, connecting to London Paddington; Bristol Parkway is also connected to major rail routes to Wales, the Midlands and the Northeast, with services to Cardiff, Swansea, and Birmingham. There are regular coach services from the city centre to major destinations across the UK.
Bristol offers a lively social scene and nightlife. As well as the assortment of bars, pubs and club that you might expect to find in any UK city, Bristol is also home to some truly world-class nightclubs hosting internationally famous DJs and artists. There are many different music venues, with a plethora of different genres on offer. Gigs range from intimate live performances by local bands in cosy pubs to stadium-filling big name stars. You’ll find every type of entertainment on offer: magic shows, karaoke bars, amusement arcades, casinos and more.
There’s plenty to do during the day, as well. Bristol has some outstanding art galleries and museums, as well as sprawling green spaces to explore. The city has leafy woodlands, lush landscaped parks and riverside trails where you can enjoy an early-morning jog or afternoon stroll. Bristol’s science and technology heritage creates some intriguing leisure possibilities for both young and old, from learning experiences at the city’s science museums to the makerspaces that have sprung up in the city centre.
Is Bristol a good place to work?
The city’s history as a major nexus for import-export and trade goes back to its days as a Roman settlement and probably earlier. A former port city, Bristol’s trade infrastructure is well-developed — although the port was moved out of Bristol due to the increasingly large sizes of ships. Imports continue on a reduced scale, with cars making up the bulk of imported goods. Bristol also imports significant quantities of wines and spirits. With the departure of the port, opportunities opened up for new and exciting sectors; many international businesses began moving to Bristol. Today, Bristol is home to businesses from cutting edge sectors like software development, media, and engineering. Bristol was a key location during the development of the Concorde, and aerospace remains immensely important to the city to this day.
The city has invested heavily in infrastructure to attract businesses; this has been highly effective. Bristol’s Urban Enterprise Zone, a 70-hectare zone near the city centre, is specifically aimed at attracting high-tech and low-carbon businesses. Bristol offers superior locations, reasonable costs and a highly skilled workforce. It’s also a well-connected city with almost 100 per cent mobile coverage and a particularly high average broadband speed.
Overall, Bristol is an excellent place to work. Wages are are fairly high, with the average salary being just over £28,000. Bristol is home to a number of industries that traditionally offer high pay; these include financial services, technology and the aerospace industry. The organisations employing the greatest number of people are Airbus, engineering company Renishaw Plc, and Dyson. Hewlett-Packard has a research laboratory in Bristol. As well as Airbus, other aerospace companies operating in Bristol include BAE Systems and Rolls Royce.
Common jobs held by Bristolians include positions in software development and software engineering, various types of project management and positions in aerospace engineering.
Is Bristol a good place to buy a house?
Moving to Bristol is certainly not cheap. House prices in Bristol are higher than the average but the range of properties is outstanding. The average asking price for a home in Bristol is just over £315,000. Prices will obviously vary by location; homes in less affluent areas like Broadmead or Hartcliffe will tend to be larger and cheaper than more desirable areas like Clifton or Temple Meads. Those seeking a taste of the countryside but still wanting access to the city might look at Leigh Woods; properties there are very expensive but the surroundings are lovely. If you’re looking for an up-and-coming area where you can be part of a new development, consider some of the new builds in the Harbourside area.
While you can find a small house in an inexpensive neighbourhood like Whitchurch for around £70,000, the average price for a single bedroomed house in Bristol is £198,000. You can find a three-bedroom property for £310,000 and a five-bedroom home for £570,000.
Rents in the city are correspondingly rather high. The average monthly rent is just over £1,000. For a small one-bedroom house you can expect to pay, on average, about £550 pcm. Three-bedroom properties rent for around £1,160 per month. Anticipate paying £2,080 pcm for a five-bedroom family home.
Is Bristol a good place to retire?
Bristol makes a very good spot for retirement. While it’s not an especially cheap city, it is a very pleasant and comfortable one. Bristol has lots of amenities and convenient transport links. There are any number of activities aimed at seniors — everything from tai chi and yoga to classes in computing or other useful subjects. The busy and varied social life on offer is another point in Bristol’s favour. The city offers plenty of opportunities to meet fellow seniors and enjoy communal activities: cultural pursuits such as gallery or theatre trips, walking and cycling groups, and many others.
When it comes to housing there are a wide range of options to suit the taste of every retiree, from purpose-built flats near the city centre to beautiful retirement bungalows and converted cottages in the outlying suburbs. Retirement properties in Bristol are not cheap but they are very good quality. One of the nice things about the Bristol retirement property market is the availability of larger multi-roomed homes, which are often in short supply.
Clifton is a desirable neighbourhood with some great property deals for over-55s, particularly in the handsome Victorian properties that make up Royal York Crescent. Some of these have been adapted and refurbished to offer very pleasant retirement apartments. If you prefer to live in a less central area, the Hanham area has some lovely apartments which are very suitable for seniors. For those who want a fairly spacious retirement dwelling but are on a tighter budget, there are some good quality park homes (static caravans) available in the Hallen area. If you’re seeking a purpose-built retirement village, areas like Leigh Woods and Failand offer some good possibilities.
Retirement property prices vary significantly between neighbourhoods. An average price for a one-bedroom property might be around £150,000. Three-bedroom properties go for around £250,000. Larger four and five-bedroom properties tend to crop only up in the more expensive outlying districts and are more expensive; expect to pay about £450,000.
Rents for retirement properties are also relatively high when compared to the rest of the country — but you can find the occasional bargain if you’re prepared to be flexible about location, size and so forth. You can find small flats for rent as low as £500 pcm but you should be prepared to pay more. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom retirement property (this will typically be an apartment or a studio) is around £700 per calendar month. A three-bedroom home will cost something in the region of £800 or £900 pcm. Larger retirement properties offered for rent are unusual but you may occasionally come across one. Expect to pay something in the region of £2000 per month, unless you’re lucky enough to find a retirement property in a cheaper neighbourhood.
Is Bristol a good place to visit?
Bristol is an exciting and interesting place to visit. It’s a historic city with plenty going on. Whether you’re just in town for the day or planning a short break for a week, you’ll never be bored.
Bristol’s most famous landmark has to be the Clifton suspension bridge. An astonishing feat of Victorian engineering, the bridge was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Even though Brunel only anticipated the horse-drawn traffic of his own era, his world-renowned bridge remains in regular use to this day.
Less famous but still worth a visit is Pero’s Bridge. This is a pedestrian bridge opened in 1999, notable both for its engineering and the two sweeping horn-like sculptures that adorn it. The bridge is named after Pero Jones, an enslaved West Indian who lived and worked in Bristol for 32 years. The bascule bridge allows foot traffic between the many bars, restaurants and other attractions of the Harbourside district, while opening in the middle to allow tall ships to pass by.
Another landmark that Bristol owes to Isambard Kingdom Brunel is the SS Great Britain. Once an opulent steamship that carried passengers from England to Australia, the SS Great Britain has been completely restored as a floating museum, where visitors can learn about life at sea in the Victorian era.
Bristol is home to many beautiful and historic churches. Perhaps the finest of these is St Mary Redcliffe, a splendid example of Gothic architecture dating back, in parts, to the 12th century. Bristol Cathedral is another outstanding religious building; like St Mary Redcliffe, the cathedral has Norman elements dating back to the 12th century and has been developed over the centuries to include Gothic and gothic Revival architecture.
If you’re prepared to travel a little way outside the city, a trip to Clifton Observatory is highly recommended. A former windmill, the structure was converted into an observatory and artist’s studio by William West. One of West’s principle modifications was the addition of a camera obscura; this is still in place today, giving visitors an amazing panoramic view out over Bristol and the surrounding landscape.
If your interests run to more modern artists, Bristol is also famous as the home of graffiti artist Banksy. You can see several of Banksy’s satirical public artworks on the walls around the city.
Bristol has a number of fine parks and green spaces to enjoy. One of the most beloved is Queen Square in the Old City neighbourhood. This large Georgian park, with its wheel-like layout, is often the venue for concerts, open-air theatre and other outdoor events.
For those who prefer their entertainment indoors, there are various theatres and venues where you can enjoy the performing arts. Bristol Old Vic Theatre is the most prestigious of these; in the English-speaking world, it’s the oldest theatre to remain in continuous operation. Another major venue is the Bristol Hippodrome, a larger space which plays host to West End shows year-round. If you’re looking for something a little different, there are other theatrical venues around the city like the Redgrave Theatre, the Alma Tavern and The Tobacco Factory.
Bristol’s music scene is outstanding. There are far too many quality music venues to list here but two of the biggest are St George’s Bristol and Colston Hall. St George’s Bristol is the city’s premier venue for classical concerts; it also hosts acts playing other genres of music, such as modern jazz. Colston Hall hosts performances by major acts from around the world, as well as more local performers.
You can also see big-name comics performing at Colston Hall. For fans of comedy, Bristol is a great destination; there’s even a yearly Slapstick Comedy Festival. Other forms of entertainment include a very active stage magic scene, with the UK’s only boutique magic theatre and pub (Smoke and Mirrors) situated in the theatre district.
Bristol is a highly cultured city with numerous museums and galleries to explore. The Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery houses a vast collection, taking in ancient and modern art, natural history and archeology. There’s also a fine trove of local glassware, as well as an extensive collection of art and ceramics from China.
Visitors with youngsters in tow will be thrilled by the range of family-friendly attractions on offer. Bristol is very proud of its status as a hub for engineering and scientific research and development, which is reflected in the many educational attractions around the city. Everyone will enjoy a trip to the extensive Bristol Aquarium or Bristol Science Museum. If you’re looking for a distinctly different day out, try We The Curious. This is a centre for learning and exploration aimed at all ages, featuring a 3D planetarium, exhibitions and hands-on experiments that help visitors to understand scientific concepts. For older children and teens, you might want to head for Go-Karting Bristol. This indoor go-karting circuit offers an exciting time for children over eight as well as adults. You can also find more conventional amusements, such as play parks and small funfairs depending on the time of year
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.