Funny how I found myself walking around Bristol so soon after my trip to Munich. The two cities couldn’t be more different. Munich’s grown-up style is sophisticated and sleek, while Bristol has a raw and restless edge to it’s student style. I was only there for a day, but I felt it’s rebellious pulse right away. Whether it’s the next big band, artist or hacker, something cool is definitely brewing in one of Bristol’s basements right now.
Need convincing? For starters, the city seems to challenge convention at every corner. Shortly after my arrival, I came upon Castle Park, a lovely green overlooking the Avon River. Apparently, the park was set to be redeveloped into a mixed-use commercial zone, but locals campaigned against the plans and forced the city to revise its plans to save the park. Renegade.
Next, I stumbled upon St. Nicholas Market. An eclectic blend of vintage shops, local artisans and food vendors. This outdoor market was funky and chock-full of character. My boyfriend bought some weird South African jerky meat, his dad was checking out vinyl records and I was appreciating the charm of the mismatched seats and stools intimately wedged in-between the shops and stalls. After leaving the market, we walked along the city centre promenade and entered the main retail and entertainment district. Even here, I easily spotted unconventional outposts like Birdcage. Offering up all the best in coffee, clothing and crooning, Birdcage operates outside the usual confines of commerce. The retail and dining landscape in Bristol was a spectacular assault on all things big box. Rebel, rebel.
The underground art scene is another firm testament to the counterculture that exists in Bristol. Led by Banksy, Bristol gained global notoriety in the ’90s when a wave of street artists made their mark throughout the city. You can walk around Bristol admiring street art for days. Most of my day was spent searching for Banksy originals. These were not local ‘hoods with too much time on their hands, but kids that courageously brought art and beauty to Bristol’s streets. Revolutionary.
Even the weather was contested by locals. On an icy cold winter afternoon, short skirts were in no short supply as I watched the women of Bristol move and shake throughout the city! Makes sense because the streets are lined with live music venues, talented DJs and cars with sound systems providing a soundtrack for the city. Resounding.
Bristol is also one of Europe’s major tech hubs, so it’s even disrupting the basic order of life’s most mundane processes. Home to Sony, Panasonic and probably many other big tech guns, this city is young, artistic and totally wired. The key ingredients required to affect change these days. Radical.
It’s starkly evident that Bristol rebels against convention. Art is on the wall, music spills onto the streets and Bristol has hard-wired a unique community identity that is playfully rebellious and ever-evolving. Although it’s not as polished as Munich, you can’t stop looking at Bristol. It is a gallery to be applauded for its courage and unconventional beauty.