Living in Bristol: 10 Things You Should Know

Are you planning on living in Bristol? Whether you’re attending one of the two universities, are moving here for work, or just fancy relocating to the south west’s biggest city, there are a few things to know before you move to Bristol. 

Whether you’re looking for the best area to live in Bristol, wondering what the city’s social scene is like, or wanting to know what is the cost of living in Bristol, this guide will help you with all the need-to-knows for this city. Hopefully, you’ll feel prepared to move to Bristol after reading it!

Feel free also to check out my weekend in Bristol guide and my Bristol neighbourhood guide for more information that will help you when moving to Bristol.

Things to know about living in Bristol

The neighbourhoods vary widely – do some research before moving!

There’s something in Bristol for everyone, but it’s important to assess exactly what you want and what neighbourhood will correspond with these. Some neighbourhoods are family-friendly, some are great for students, and some are filled with young professionals! Here are some to consider: 

  • Clifton is expensive, so is popular with people with a little more money. However, it is also quite student-y; I lived here for two years when I was at university. If you aren’t a student, it will be a little pricier to rent here. You’ll be near the beautiful Clifton Village (which has lots of shops, pubs and restaurants) and Suspension Bridge, and close to the Triangle. Clifton is about a 30 minute walk from the centre. 
  • Redland and Cotham are quite similar to Clifton, but have a little less in the way of amenities and things to do in the local area. It’s very popular with students, but not so popular with young professionals. 
  • Montpelier, Stokes Croft and St Pauls are all quite student-populated areas, and also popular with recent graduates. These areas have lower rental costs and plenty of pubs, bars, and restaurants in the local area, particularly on Cheltenham Road. Montpelier in particular is very close to Gloucester Road, which is the longest line of independent shops in the country.
  • Bishopston and Horfield are again popular with students but are quieter than the areas further down Gloucester Road. These areas are also great for graduates and young professionals, as there are plenty of pubs and restaurants down the road. 
  • Bedminster and Southville are lively areas with lots to do. They are a little more expensive than other parts of Bristol, however, and are good for young professionals. 
  • Totterdown is a great place for families near the centre, with fairly priced houses and schools nearby. However, its location makes it also popular with professionals. 
  • Redcliffe is quite pricey, being near to the city centre, but there are lots of gorgeous refurbished flats here. It’s popular with city dwelling professionals. 
  • St George is cheaper, and is a great option for people wanting to get on the property ladder or for families. 
  • Westbury on Trymn is a relaxed village, a little far from the centre but great for families. 
  • Some families and professionals also like to live a little further from the city, in places like Portishead, Clevedon or Avonmouth. 

The prices are high – although not compared to London

If you’re moving to Bristol from London and comparing their prices, you’ll be pleased – but if you’re comparing them to anywhere else in the country apart from a few places (Brighton, Bath, and Oxford spring to mind) you’ll be disappointed. 

My boyfriend and I currently pay £850 per month for rent in a one bedroom flat about a half-hour walk from the centre. Flats in the city centre are around £1000 or slightly more, but a bit further out you can get flats for as low as £600.

A meal out for two costs anything from £20-£60, depending on drinks. A beer generally costs between £4-£7, depending on where you are, and a glass of wine costs £6-£8. As you can see, the prices are lower than in London but certainly pricier than other places in the country.

Public transport isn’t amazing – but Bristol is very walkable

Unless you’re venturing out into the suburbs, the best way to explore Bristol is to walk. It takes about an hour to travel from one side of Bristol to the other on foot – with lots of interesting things to look at on the way! 

The buses aren’t amazing in Bristol, but you will find ones travelling from the centre to any suburb and they are relatively affordable – around £2.50 for a one-way journey into the suburbs. There is a train line going into the suburbs, but the trains aren’t very frequent and are quite slow. 

Getting to Bristol, however, is relatively easy. You can take a direct train from London, Birmingham, Manchester, Plymouth, and lots of other places throughout the country. National Express and Megabus also offer coach services.

Bristol has the best of both worlds – city and nature

There’s a lot that I love about Bristol, and one of them is the beautiful nature which lies just outside of the city centre. Bristol is a modern city, one of the biggest in the country, and there are so many things to do in the city that you’ll be able to keep yourself busy throughout your time here! 

However, only a short drive away from Bristol is jaw-dropping nature such as Cheddar Gorge, and the charming villages of the Cotswolds. 

And it’s all so close – you can be in the picturesque Mendip Hills just 20 minutes after leaving the city centre! Around half an hour drive is the Bristol coastline, with towns like Avonmouth, Portishead and Weston-Super-Mare. 

Somerset, the county that borders Bristol, is a very rural county, with lots of charming villages and rolling hills. There are dozens of day trips from Bristol that are ideal for a nature hit near to the city!

There’s tonnes of history throughout the city – you should learn about it while here

Bristol is an incredibly historic place – although some of its history is very shocking and shameful.

I think as someone living in Bristol, it’s essential to learn about the transatlantic slave trade. Bristol was one of the main places where slave trade was administered, a lot of slave traders lived here, and a lot of the buildings were built from the riches of slavery.

This is a bitter pill to swallow, but I think it’s crucial to acknowledge this while living in Bristol. I recommend this self-guided tour which will teach you more about it, and visiting the M shed museum which has an exhibition on the slave trade.

There are growing calls for a slavery museum to be established in Bristol, which I think would be a really important place for locals and tourists to learn about this awful part of history.

Bristol has so much history from different eras as well, the marks of which can still be seen throughout the city today. Look out for the following Bristol landmarks:

  • The old city which still retains its old medieval layout.
  • A parish church which Queen Elizabeth I called ‘the loveliest church in England’.
  • Pubs where the inspiration of Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe were both found.
  • A famous Victorian suspension bridge.
  • The SS Great Britain, which was, at the time of creation, the largest ship in the world.

Then there is, of course, the history of Bristol’s many different cultures and people who have made the city home over the years. This can be appreciated through walking tours, at the M shed museum, speaking to locals, and enjoying the diverse cuisine of the city.

Just walking around the city, history oozes out from every crevice. It’s a wonderful place to live in this regard – every time you walk around the city centre, you’ll see something new.

It’s a beautiful city to walk around – you’ll love this while living in Bristol!

It really is. The charming harbour is lovely any time of day (especially during sunset), with beautiful boats floating along the water and reflecting buildings.

Then there’s the street art – all over the city; walls are adorned in colourful artwork, often with stand out or hidden messages.

Clifton is famous for its quintessential architecture and wonderful suspension bridge, with sweeping views of the Avon Gorge.

Bristol doesn’t have nation-wide fame as one of the UK’s most beautiful cities, but I think it’s an absolute stunner.

Bristol is an outdoorsy, sporty city

When you’re living in Bristol, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors – even if you’re staying in the city centre!

You can go paddleboarding on the River Avon, cycle all over the city, or if it’s raining (which it often does), head to one of the many gyms, leisure centres, and indoor climbing centres. 

There are also lots of team sports available in Bristol – you’ll find plenty of options if you want to start a new hobby! Team sports often use the abundance of green space in Bristol – we’ve got dozens of parks dotted all over the city.

There’s something for everyone in Bristol

But even if you aren’t sporty, there is literally something for everybody here. You’ll find all sorts of societies while living in Bristol, from Spanish to snowsports. 

Hospitality-wise, there are student-focused bars and clubs, pubs and bars that young professionals prefer to visit, and family-friendly venues and restaurants. Mini golf, bowling, theatre… you’ll find everything here. 

Bristol’s the kind of place that grows with you. It’s a vibrant and busy city with so much to do any time of year, but it’s also small enough that it feels like a community.

I’ve lived here on and off since I was 18 years old, and now, at age 27, I still feel completely at home here. As I grow up, I still find new and exciting things to do each day, and I feel exactly the same sense of joy when I walk into the city centre as I first did on my first day of university.

Can you talk Bristolian?

Just kidding – you don’t need to speak it to move to Bristol, but it’s worth knowing some local phrases!

The ‘r’s are typically extended a little, and there is some specific slang to watch out for. While people from all over live in Bristol, you might notice some of the following! 

  • Alright my lover? = how are you? 
  • That’s gert lush! = that’s awesome
  • Where’s it to? = where is it? 
  • Having a weston = having a nightmare (it alludes to Weston Super Mare)

You’ll feel very patriotic before long!

suspension bridge with balloons at the balloon fiesta

Bristol’s not perfect, but it is a pretty incredible city.

It fuses old and new in its streets, it has both classic architecture and modern hipster areas, it’s diverse and liberal, and there are always fun new things to try – whether that be a unique fusion cuisine, an experience, or some sort of Bristol enterprise – the Bristol Pound is a thing! 

Most Bristolians – or adopted Bristolians, in my case (I grew up in London, but I’ve always felt much more at home in Bristol) – are very proud of their city. I love its forward thinkingness, its green-ness and attitude towards the environment, its diversity of people and ways of life, and its community spirit.

Bristol is special.

Moving to Bristol – things to know

I hope this guide to living in Bristol has been helpful for anyone planning to move here! Bristol is a wonderful city, I’ve lived here for 5 years of my life and, as I mentioned, it’s where I consider my real home. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do!

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