Situated on the borders of Somerset and Gloucestershire and straddling not only the River Avon, but the mighty Estuary and the Kennet and Avon Canals, Bristol couldn't be found in a more bucolic location. But this is no sleepy backwater: this famous maritime city has transformed itself from a 19th century powerhouse of mercantilism, to an offbeat, alternative, fun loving, cultural haven with its fingers truly on the pulse of 21st century life.
Just wandering through this city can get your heartbeat up, and that's not just the hills talking. From the view of Clifton Suspension Bridge, to clubbing in St Pauls or taking in a gig on a boat at the Thekla, Bristol has plenty of reasons to get your heart racing. It's even home to the biggest modern art mystery in the world: Banksy. And for art with an establishment air, you can always head to Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, which has a beautiful collection housed in a wonderful Edwardian building. But even here you can't escape the most famous yet mysterious son - there's a Banksy original, Pain-Pot Angel, hanging in the entry hall.
Down on the dockside on Prince's Wharf, you'll find M Shed, a museum dedicated to all things local. Taking in ancient history, such as Bristol's role in the history of the slave trade, before bringing visitors right up to date by way of Massive Attack and Nick Park's Wallace and Gromit Claymation characters, M Shed really does offer visitors true insight in an innovative and imaginative setting that the whole family can enjoy. Once again, you're never too far from a Banksy original, even at M Shed, and his Grim Reaper stencil can be found on the first floor, while if you want to learn even more about Bristol's busy and bustling harbour, the museum also runs informative tour guides of the docks and harbour side.
Close by to M Shed is Arnolfini, the city's contemporary art gallery which can be found in a converted warehouse. With its position by the river, excellent exhibitions and occasional dance, film and performance nights, Arnolfini reflects Bristol's more avant garde side and is dedicated to a more alternative view of art and culture. But if you're travelling with kids then you can't do better than At-Bristol, an immersive science centre dedicated to getting children (and adults!) excited about science and the world around us. There's even a planetarium on site, and with the Aquarium right next door, the whole world is at your fingertips.
A trip here wouldn't be complete without a tour of Brunel's SS Great Britain, widely considered to be Bristol's premier attraction, and not just for maritime history buffs - although they're sure to get a kick out of it. The SS Great Britain is the refurbished steamship originally designed and built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1843 and is now a living museum with a galley, dining saloon, surgeon's quarters and working model of the engine room all on board. SS Great Britain is housed in a 'glass sea' dry dock so that the ship itself is protected and visitors can peer down below the 'water' and see the screw propeller. Another Brunel designed masterpiece not to be missed is the Clifton Suspension Bridge, an iconic part of the Bristol skyline that is sure to wow.