BRISTOL: Bristol is renowned for its laid-back atmosphere. It’s a well deserved rep though as the populace are a relaxed bunch and there’s more than a hint of patchouli in the air. Still, it hasn’t hampered Bristol’s growth into one of the most culturally vibrant cities in the country. With internationally acclaimed musical output, a fiercely protective independent arts community and an after hours scene that’s as famous as the stunning architecture, there’s more than just a mellow vibe to the West Country’s biggest city.


Bristol’s regenerated floating harbour is an eye-catching, waterfront promenade of shops, bars, restaurants and a great little Sunday market. A sunny day – which is as common in Bristol than any other UK city, I suppose – can make the area feel almost Mediterranean. So if you’re strolling down that way it’s definitely worth a stop at the Arnolfini; the ex-industrial warehouse which, since 1975, has housed temporary exhibitions from some of contemporary art’s biggest names. The unique space and enormous rooms make it one of the most interesting indoor spaces in the city but in the summer the action takes place outside. The wide pavement backs onto the river and you’ll find the people hanging out in droves with ice cold beers and (hopefully not ice cold) artisanal coffee from the gallery’s popular cafe and restaurant.

Idle Hands

Idle Hands is the kind of record shop that, in an ideal world, would exist in every town and city. This modern Bristol institution has had to work hard to carve to its niche as the dastardly internet mounts a relentless campaign against all things analogue. Fortunately the team, who also run an esteemed experimental label, source the very best in contemporary dance music, welcome all who pass through their doors and have settled in the heart of Bristol’s most happening neighbourhood, Stokes Croft, so it’s no wonder they’re defying the odds. They’ve also got a pretty swell musical hardware shop out the back in the form of Elevator Sound, so if you get inspired by their awesome selection of vinyl you can drop a few bob on high-tech gizmos before going home and crafting some beats of your own.

The Cube

Just last year Bristol nearly lost one of its greatest cultural institutions when the Cube Microplex was at risk of closing its thick red curtains for the last time. A stones throw from the cultural hub of Stokes Croft with its on-point bars and restaurants, The Cube now stands up as a cultural hub all of its own. Showing the latest in world and independent film alongside a handpicked selection of avant-garde live music and installation art, the community-run, not-for-profit cinema has now managed to save itself from extinction by buying its premises permanently. With a well-stocked bar and an events programme that is as diverse as it is exciting it’s basically the be all and end all of Bristol’s vibrant arts community. Inside tip – go on a ‘Two-for-Tuesday’ and you’ll find yourself privy to a handsome little discount on film tickets.

The Christmas Steps

Hidden on a side street in the heart of the city centre is The Christmas Steps. Since a hefty face-lift last year, this 17th century building has become the lively home to an expertly curated rotation of craft ales, delicious pub grub and a selection of local and international DJs bringing lively vibes on Friday and Saturday nights, spinning garage punk to industrial techno and most of the things between. Of course, given that it’s owned by the team behind Crack Magazine it’s no wonder their music policy is eclectic and cutting edge. Every night of the week is different at The Steps (as the locals call it) and with a busy music quiz taking place each Wednesday, the odd comedy night here and there and even the odd live band popping in for a rowdy visit, you’re never at a loss for great entertainment in what we reckon is Bristol’s best boozer.


Bristol is steeped in maritime history – some even claim that the city’s most famous sailor, John Cabot, discovered America before Columbus. We don’t know if that’s true, and frankly we’re not about to open that can of local worms, but we love the fact that a fair proportion of the city’s recreation now takes place on its rivers and canals. From boat parties to floating restaurants, the jewel in the city’s nautical crown is surely Thekla. The gig venue to end all gig venues is moored in the city’s Mud Dock district and attracts excited crowds every night to a vast array of international bands and club DJs. There’s something for everyone at Thekla, and even if you only go to recreate that scene from Titanic on the deck it’s well worth a look.


It’s been said that the locals take it for granted but the fact is, whether you’re born and bred or just visiting for the weekend, Motion is one of the most exciting nights out in the country. The labyrinthine, expansive warehouses loom over an imposing industrial estate and play host to a wide range of club nights encompassing just about every genre you’d care to mention. Think we’re exaggerating? On one hand take local institution Just Jack, the peerless party which pairs a next-level cross section of house and techno with outrageous decor, dress-code, a carnivalesque atmosphere and delirious free spirit; and on the other take Temples, the giant indoor celebration of doom and sludge metal that takes place just weeks after the Autumn In:Motion series, plucking liberally from across the electronic spectrum for its whole duration. They’ve also just opened a live music venue called The Marble Factory next door just to sweeten the deal. If diverse programming and a huge warehouse complex to explore isn’t enough for you, there’s also a riverside garden, food stalls and sometimes even a fairground. Yep. A fairground. That’s Bristol for you.

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  • 28 May 2017 Sun 22:00
  • KISSTORY Bristol – Bank Holiday Special

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