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Enveloped in the hills of south-west England, Bristol is a city with its own unmistakable identity, grounded in roots from centuries past and carved out since by passionate locals. It was the starting place of early voyages of exploration to the New World – in 1499, William Weston, a Bristol merchant, became the first Englishman to lead an exploration to North America. It was heavily damaged by Luftwaffe raids during World War II, and has since undergone much rebuilding, heavily characterised by skyscrapers and mid-century modern architecture. It is now the eighth-largest city in the UK, and a popular tourist destination, celebrated for its zoo, harbour (home to Brunel’s SS Great Britain), and Clifton Suspension Bridge, linking Clifton in Bristol to Leigh Woods in North Somerset.
Bristol has a thriving arts scene. The Bristol Old Vic, an offshoot of The Old Vic in London, occupies the Theatre Royal in King Street, and the Bristol Hippodrome hosts many a national touring production, along with a host of smaller theatres and wealth of great music venues. The Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery houses a collection encompassing everything from natural history and archaeology, to local glassware and Chinese ceramics, while the Watershed Media Centre and Arnolfini gallery exhibit contemporary art, photography and cinema. Bristol Rovers and Bristol City are the city’s main football teams, alongside Bristol Bears (for rugby fans), while Gloucestershire County Cricket Club is also based here.
This part of the country is connected to other major UK cities by road and rail, and to the rest of the world by sea and air. The M5 and M4 motorways offer easy access to the city, together with Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway railway stations, as well as Bristol Airport.
This transport network has allowed Bristol to build a modern economy based on the creative media, defence, electronic, financial and aerospace industries. The Ministry of Defence’s Defence Equipment and Support has its headquarters in Filton, north of the city, with a staff of around 12,000, and although Bristol’s economy no longer relies upon its port, it is the largest importer of cars to the UK. During the 20th century, the city’s manufacturing activities expanded to include aircraft production by Bristol Aeroplane Company (no longer in operation), and aircraft-engine manufacturing by Bristol Aero Engines (later Rolls-Royce), and so the aerospace industry remains a major sector of the local economy, with BAE Systems and Airbus having set up companies here. With such a strong focus on research and science, Bristol also claims to have the largest cluster of computer chip designers and manufacturers outside Silicone Valley.
The city has two higher education institutions – the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England, along with 129 infant, junior and primary schools, and 17 secondary schools. After a section of north London, Bristol has England’s second-highest number of independent school places available.
House prices for Bristol stand at an average of £321,883. The majority of sales during the last year were terraced properties, which sold for an average price of £304,528, while semi-detached properties sold for £327,469 and flats fetched £251,631. With homes in a variety of architectural styles, from medieval to modern, there’s something to suit every discerning house-hunter.