Bristol

Discover why Bristol was chosen as one of The Sunday Times Best Places to Live 2022 in their words.

Stroud, Gloucestershire

In 2017, after we named Bristol the overall winner of Best Places to Live, mysterious “Make Bristol Shit Again” stickers started popping up around the city. Five years on and “Brizzle” is still in the list because it really is that attractive, albeit rather less affordable.

The graffiti on show today is proof that the city retains its independent, creative spirit and an urban edge that’s yet to be completely gentrified. Kid Crayon is back with a show sponsored by Arts Council England, St Pauls carnival is back on the streets this summer and Grayson’s Art Club is midway through a nine-month residency at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. 

And of course there’s an anarchic edge, a point of pride for many residents. A history of rebellion stretching from the reform riots in 1831 to the dethroning of slaver trader Edward Colston from his plinth in 2020 demonstrate Bristolians’ continual determination to act on their beliefs. You are never far from a plant-based burger: Bristol was voted the most vegan-friendly UK city last year and it’s also the refill capital of the UK, with 200 water stations — more than anywhere outside of London. 

Ali Mitchell moved to Bristol from southeast England two years ago, living first near Whiteladies Road and now in Hotwells. “It’s beautiful and green with tree-lined avenues, views of the gorge and close to Clifton Downs. It also has some of the best restaurants and bars in the country,” she says. 

Mitchell, 34, works in analytics for the National Trust and her passion for environmentalism is perfectly mirrored in Bristol. “People live locally here, making it easy to be sustainable. There are extensive networks of small businesses collaborating to make life better and a number of Bristol-only chains such as Better Food supermarket.

I’ve changed so many habits, always using the local refill shop and being more thoughtful about what I buy. In Bristol I feel I can do things that make a difference as part of a community that cares.” That includes joining the Good Gym, a group of runners and walkers who also help out on community projects, picking up litter or visiting isolated older people. “It is a wholesome, fulfilling way to live,” Mitchell says. 

Two universities, good schooling, buoyant job opportunities spanning tech, media and finance industries, a passionate environmental drive, and a rolling events calendar to keep everyone entertained year-round keep Bristol’s buzz going. 

The big question is which community to join. Clifton, Redland and Cotham remain Bristol’s “golden triangle”. Bishopston and St Andrews (BS6 and BS7), both close to Gloucester Road have a cool, bohemian edge, a firm favourite with young families, with two and three-bedroom pastel-painted Victorian townhouses starting at about £400,000. Southville (BS3), close to Bedminster and south of the centre, also offers relative value and the benefits of city life with the possibility of a garden. Regeneration projects in Greenbank (BS5) are luring value-hunters to the east and also to gritty, arty and alternative Stokes Croft (BS1).

Sophie Inman, 29, moved from Buckinghamshire to Bristol to study for a degree in midwifery in 2016 and liked life in the city so much that she never left. “The majority of my friends stayed in Bristol after university,” she says. “It’s a city with so much character. Yes, there is real affluence mixed with deprivation, but the variation in wealth and ethnic backgrounds is what makes it better. Bristol certainly doesn’t have a monotone mindset or culture.”

High Street

Clifton village is awash with independent boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants, and there are many more at Gloucester Road and Stokes Croft.

Bristol’s shops bring in customers from across the region. Head to the Mall at Cribbs Causeway off the M5, the largest indoor mall in the Southwest, for most high street chains and many designer labels; or Cabot Circus and Broadmead in the city centre.

Connections

Road links are good, with the M4 and M5 nearby. The mayor’s green agenda is widely supported, but his policy of removing diesel cars from the centre has caused some disquiet thanks to public transport that, while slowly improving, still doesn’t connect all areas of the city. Mitchell says: “For such a forward-thinking, environmentally minded city you would think public transport would be better, but buses are irregular and expensive.”

Bristol Temple Meads station has an alluring choice of direct destinations, with Devon and Cornwall to the southwest, Cardiff from 49 minutes, Bath from 11 minutes, Cheltenham from 37  minutes and London Paddington from 1 hour 29 minutes.

The Harbourside has a ferry service and Bristol promotes itself as the “UK’s first cycling city”, with more than 300 bike parking spaces and a network of free-to-use bike pumps. Be seen around town on a VanMoof or Babboe Big cargo bike for the school run. It is also one of the first locations for the government’s extended (and controversial) Voi escooter trials — just don’t always bank on a tip-top battery after a wild student night out. 

Broadband

Some 94 per cent of the city has access to a Gigabit service via either Openreach or Virgin Media.

Schools

Primary schools rated outstanding by Ofsted and in The Sunday Times Parent Power guide include Elmlea Junior School (last inspected in 2015), St Teresa’s RC (2016) and Bishop Road (2011). Several state secondary schools are Ofsted-rated outstanding, including Bristol Cathedral Choir School (2016), Montpelier High School (2010), and Gordano in Portishead (2011); Cotham School is rated good (2018).

For independent schools, Parent Power awarded Badminton School fourth place in the Southwest and 77th overall (fees from £3,160 a term); Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital School seventh in the Southwest and 111th overall (fees from £3,420 a term) and Redmaids’ High School ninth and 127th overall (fees from £3,505 a term).

Best Address

Take your pick. There’s gentrified and expensive Clifton; Redland; or the lovely architecture and vegan restaurants of Cotham. Montpelier and Horfield are bubbling with independent spirit in their shops and pubs, a scooter ride from Gloucester Road. In Southville, St Andrews and Bishopston, areas where once residents move in, they rarely move out, two and three-bedroom period homes start from £380,000, rising to £1 million.

Henleaze has an especially vibrant community, and the spacious family homes and gardens of Sneyd Park near the River Avon are popular. Our pick for 2022? The beautiful Victorian villas and terraces of Bishopston, from about £825,000 for four bedrooms, that are close to good schools, green parks and the independent shops lining the Gloucester Road down to Cheltenham Road.

Property prices

Average house price: £363,000 
Growth since 2020: 13% 
Source: Halifax using Land Registry data

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Prices are correct as of April 2022.

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