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Bristol, the largest city in southwest England, is also a unitary authority and ceremonial county. The Greater Bristol area, sometimes called the ‘West of England’, includes the city and parts of the neighbouring local authorities of Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. It is a hilly city with the striking Avon Gorge to its West, spanned by Brunel’s famous Clifton Suspension Bridge at a height of 75 metres above the River Avon. Supporting a population of of over 400,000 inhabitants in the city and over a million in the Greater Bristol area, Bristol has strived to protect its environment, earning it recognition as Britain’s most sustainable city in 2008 and the European Green Capital Award for 2015.

Bristol originated as the village of Brigg Stow, meaning ‘meeting place at the bridge’, in Saxon times. It was already a town by the tenth century and had its own mint by the next century. Its trade connections were in development, most notably in wool and leather. William the Conqueror established a fort at Bristol, soon replaced by a castle. The town received its charter in 1155. At about the same time, Henry II as ruler of both England and southwest France, began encouraging the wine trade that would become Bristol’s main import by the thirteenth century. In 1497, Bristol was the second-largest seaport in Britain and John Cabot set sail from Bristol on his voyage to ‘New Found Land’.

In the sixteenth century, Bristol was made a city with its own bishop. A grammar school was established in 1532. By this time, the main exports were metals, hides and fish. In the Civil War, the city was held by Royalist forces for two years until the Parliamentary Army attacked in 1645. The following year, Cromwell ordered that Bristol Castle be demolished so that Royalists could never occupy it again. The seventeenth century was a prosperous one for this bustling port, with tobacco and sugar dominating its import trade. Shipbuilding and the glass industry rounded out its economy. Prosperity continued with glass, tobacco and chocolate, but Bristol’s growth in the eighteenth century also benefited from the slave trade. Sea trade continued apace but in the twentieth century, Bristol’s largest industry became aircraft manufacture. Today, tourism has added yet another dimension to the city’s economic successes.

With such a distinguished history, Bristol is full of sights for the visitor. Along with Clifton Bridge, Brunel’s SS Great Britain is unmissable as well as John Cabot’s ship of 1497, The Matthew. The towering Bristol Cathedral was first built in 1140 and The Old Vic Theatre dates to 1766. New attractions are abundant as well, notably Bristol Aquarium and @Bristol Science Centre.

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