Moving to Bristol

Bustling Bristol is the unofficial capital city of the south-west of England.

Moving to Bristol from within Europe is usually by road and from further afield usually by sea, with more urgent items coming by air freight. Further details of the various shipping options can be viewed in our shipping guidance.


Bristol was founded around a thousand years ago. Its name means ‘place by the bridge’ in Old English. By the twelfth century Bristol was an important port and a shipbuilding and manufacturing centre. During the fifteenth century it was second only to London as a port. Bristol’s location in the west of England gave it an advantage in trade with the American colonies, and during the eighteenth century the city was heavily involved in the slave trade. The docks moved to Avonmouth during the 1870s and to the Royal Portbury dock a century later.

Today Bristol is a multicultural, diverse and thriving city. It is the largest importer of cars into the UK, but the city’s economy no longer relies on its port. The financial sector is an important employer, as is the Government’s Defence Procurement Agency. From the early days of flight in the Britain the city was involved in manufacturing aircraft and engines through the Bristol Aeroplane Company and Bristol Aero Engines. The British Concorde made its first flight from nearby Filton in 1969 and aerospace companies such as BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Airbus remain major employers in the area.


The city has no fewer than 51 Grade I buildings, 500 Grade II* and more than 3,800 Grade II listed buildings in a variety of architectural styles from medieval to modern. No wonder Sir John Betjeman called Bristol ‘the most beautiful, interesting and distinguished city in England’.

The symbol of Bristol is undoubtedly the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge over the Avon Gorge. It was designed by the great Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and another of his creations can be seen in the shape of the SS Great Britain, on display at the Bristol dock where she was built. Launched in 1843 she was the first iron steamship to cross the Atlantic. Other popular visitor attractions include the Zoo and the Aquarium, Bristol Cathedral (founded in 1140) and the Lord Mayor’s Chapel, built in 1230 as the chapel to St Mark’s Hospital.

Bristol is famous for its street art, and has many art galleries and museums. Bristol Museum and Art Gallery has world-class collections of art, archaeology and natural history; At-Bristol Science Centre boasts the country’s only digital 3D planetarium; M Shed, the city’s social history museum, is housed in a 1950s transit shed; and Arnolfini, a leading centre for contemporary art, is situated on the waterfront.

Amenities and Entertainment

Whether you are looking for a tiny pop-up selling locally-designed fashion or a huge mall with everything under one roof, Bristol is the shopping capital of the south west. There are posh boutiques in the elegant Regency streets of Clifton Village, high street stores and designer brands in Bristol Shopping Quarter and markets such at St Nicholas Market and the weekend Harbourside Market.

The world’s first-ever chocolate bar was made in Bristol. The city is home to an array of award-winning restaurants, bars and cafes reflecting Bristol’s rich mix of cultures, and serving everything from Middle Eastern and Asian food to Caribbean and classic British cuisine.

Nightlife in Bristol is legendary. There are huge clubs hosting top DJs, many venues offering live gigs and all manner of bars. Bristol Old Vic is the longest continuously-running theatre in the UK and after refurbishment also one of the most modern. The Bristol Hippodrome has one of the largest stages in the country and hosts national touring productions.

Bristol has two Football League clubs. Bristol Rovers, the oldest, and Bristol City. Bristol Rugby Club currently play in English Rugby Union’s second tier. The County Ground in Bristol hosts international cricket and is home to Gloucestershire County Cricket Club.


Bristol has excellent road, rail and air links to the rest of England and Wales.

  • Bristol has two main railway stations, Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway, serving London Paddington, Cardiff and Swansea. Journey time to London Paddington is around an hour and three-quarters.
  • Bristol Airport handles over 4.5 million passengers a year, flying to 90 international, European and domestic destinations.
  • The east-west M4 motorway connects Bristol to London and West Wales. The north-south M5 links Bristol to Birmingham and to Exeter.