Squint a little into the sun and Bristol could be San Francisco. OK, it’s not next to the ocean, but its hills, artists, musicians and vaguely anti-corporate vibe do have something in common with America’s most radical city. Bristol’s most famous contemporary artist, Banksy, sets the tone, his renegade social commentary and graffiti decorating various bits of the city centre. But it’s above all the more chilled, relaxed approach to life here that gives it most in common with America’s West Coast. That and the fact that the natives wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else.
Bristol is not on the ocean but it’s still very much a waterfront city. The docks have long gone but like so many old British ports they’ve been regenerated into a network of artsy warehouses, retail and exhibition spaces and groovy cafés and restaurants where the city really comes alive during the summer. Despite that, characterful Bristol hotels are in short supply, with just a handful of stand-out places to stay, most notably the contemporary chic of the Bristol Harbour Hotel and the affordable rooms and cool rooftop glamping of Brooks Guesthouse – both occupying prime spots just five minutes' walk from the Waterfront.