What Is Bristol Famous For? 15 Things

Bristol is a city with its own vibrant identity, brimming with creativity and colour. It’s well known for Brunel’s elegant Clifton Suspension Bridge and Banksy’s street art, along with many other unique attributes. The combination of fabulous attractions means that students living in Bristol are guaranteed plenty of fun.

When first visiting this city to study, you may not be aware of some of the wondrous things Bristol is known for. To help you widen your Bristol knowledge, we’ve compiled a list of things that makes this city so special.

1. Darth Vader

Did you know that Bristol has given the world one of the biggest bad guys in the history of cinema? Bodybuilder David Prowse was only used to play the physical character of Vader as direction George Lucas wanted someone with a much deeper, ominous voice.

2. Laughing Gas

Sir Humphry Davy moved to Bristol to study science in 1797, he first started experimenting with laughing gas for recreational use at the Medical Pneumatic Institution in Hotwells.

3. The First Woman Doctor

Elizabeth Blackwell was the first ever woman doctor in both America and England! She was born in Bristol in 1821 and rejected by a whopping 29 medical schools who perceived her as a ‘joke’. She eventually began a career in medicine in the USA, now that’s something Bristol can be proud of!

4. Banksy

The world-famous artist Banksy was once a little child on the streets of Bristol with a can of spray paint, born in 1974, he was involved in a wave of street art that took Bristol by storm in the 1980s. There’s a lot of Banksy street art to keep your eye out for whilst studying in Bristol, key pieces of art include “The Girl With The Pearl Earring” on Hanover Place and “The Mild Mild West” on Jamaica Street.

5. Cary Grant

One of Hollywood’s classic leading men, Cary Grant was actually born in Bristol! Born Archibald Alexander Leach (shortened to Archie) he carried on using his birth name even after he moved to the States to become a Broadway actor. His first job was at The Bristol Hippodrome as a ‘gofer’, what a small world it is!

6. Colston Bun

A well-known Bristol delicacy is the Colston Bun, the bun itself is a sweet bun made of yeast dough and is flavoured with dried fruits such as currents, candied peel and sweet spices. It’s named after Edward Colston, a Bristol-born English merchant, philanthropist, and Member of Parliament who created the original recipe. The buns are not widely known outside of Bristol and are only available for sale on occasion in independent bakers around the city.

7. Russell Howard

It might surprise you that popular comedian Russell Howard is from Bristol! Best known for his TV shows “Russell Howard’s Good News” and the “Russell Howard Hour” as well as his appearances on the topical panel TV show “Mock the Week”.

8. Skins

Hit teen drama Skins was set in Bristol and followed the lives of a group of sixth formers, it was filmed in and around the city from 2007 to 2013. The show featured an ever-changing cast of young actors, but many of them were originally from Bristol themselves and have since gone on to Hollywood success!i

9. Lee Evans

Born in Avonmouth, Bristol, Lee Evans is a popular stand-up comedian known for his energetic and sweaty stage performances! His family left Bristol in 1975 and moved to Essex where he followed his father’s footsteps into a career of entertainment.

10. Chocolate Bars

Did you know? The first ever solid chocolate bar was produced Fry’s in Bristol in 1874. Fry’s Chocolate Cream became the first mass produced chocolate bar in 1866. The company also created the first filled chocolate sweet Cream Sticks in 1853. Later, Fry’s Turkish Delight launched in 1914!

11. Ribena

The tasty Ribena cordial was originally manufactured by Bristol-based food and drink company carters. The drink was launched in the 1930’s and was given the name Ribena after the blackcurrant Ribes Nigrum in 1938.

12. Hot Air Balloons

Fifty years ago, the first modern hot air balloon in Britain flew for the very first time! “The Bristol Belle” had its flight on 9th July 1967. Don Cameron, who helped design and create The Bristol Belle was a member of The Bristol Gliding Club. Since then, the balloon has undertaken some famous journeys, including a flight in 1970 from the HMS Ark Royal. The balloon carried mail to Malta, whilst the Ark Royal was sailing off on the island’s southern coast.

Riding in a hot air balloon is obviously now a very popular activity in Bristol, and what better way to get a fabulous view of the Clifton Suspension Bridge!

13. HMV Dog

Do you remember the HMV dog? It was originally from Bristol and went by the name of Nipper! He served as a model for the painting by Francis Barraud titled “His Master’s Voice”. Nipper was a Mongrel (part Terrier, part Jack Russell) and very cute, a Bristol icon that’s for sure!

14. Stephen Merchant

Funny guy Stephen Merchant was born in Bristol, best known for his co-writing, co-directing and acting in British TV comedy series The Office and co-writing, acting for Extras. He attended The University of Warwick in Coventry where he received a 2:1 Bachelor of Arts degree in Film and Literature. He began his career performing stand-up comedy at Bristol’s Comedy Box and met Ricky Gervais for the first time in 1997.

15. Clifton Suspension Bridge

This stunning bridge is based on the design of the famous engineer Isambard Brunel. Brunel is known for being one of the greatest figures of the Industrial Revolution, his designs transformed public transport considerably.

The bridge spans Avon Gorge and the River Avon, linking Clifton in Bristol to Leigh Woods in North Somerset. Since it opened in 1864, it’s been a toll bridge, the income provides funds for its maintenance. Isambard Brunel was just 24-years-old when he won the commission to build the bridge, the total span is 702 feet and it sits majestically 245 feet above the water below at high tide.