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Hot air balloons over bridge in Bristol

Lively, rejuvenated Bristol is enjoying something of a renaissance. Long known as a gritty industrial city, Bristol is now respected as a cultural hub, an arty city, an energetic nightlife hotspot, a centre for media, and a hotbed of culinary creativity.

The South West city has plenty to offer visitors, besides simply strolling around and delighting in the eclectic range of architecture, which includes medieval, Tudor and Georgian buildings, and a range of unashamedly 21st-century building projects. The Clifton Suspension Bridge is worth a look, as are the revitalised dockyards.

The zoo draws family visitors, as do the city's parklands, which offer up fine picnic and kite-flying opportunities in summer. Hotels in Bristol can be found across this sprawling city. There's a multitude of diverse and interesting neighbourhoods in which to make a base while on a city break in Bristol.

The most historic district is Old City, where plenty of bars, cafés and shops vie for the attentions of visitors. Georgian St Nicholas Market, in Corn Street, is a notable attraction. Many luxury hotels can be booked in this prime central location.

Old City is sandwiched between Broadmead and Harbourside. Broadmead is an area crammed with shopping centres, department stores and high street favourites, and you'll find a number of Bristol hotels here. Harbourside has enjoyed a face lift in recent years and many of Bristol's cultural attractions, such as art galleries and museums, are now surrounded by cool cafés and exclusive hotels.

The rising slope of Park Street is also a shopping mecca, and many types of accommodation - from budget hotels and B&Bs, to four- and five-star hotels - are situated in the streets running off this popular thoroughfare.

As a busy regional city, you can expect to find well-known names from the budget chains of Travelodge, Days Inn and Premier Inn as well as Hilton, Holiday Inn, Mercure, Novotel, Doubletree, Marriott, Ramada, Thistle, Radisson Blu and Best Western. There are also many local B&Bs.

Just to the east of the city centre, Old Market is full of historic buildings; hotels here often feature charm and tradition, and it's a good location for access to Old City.

Clifton Village is a wonderful place to stay while in Bristol, and the beautiful Downs made up on Clifton Down and Durdham Down offer stunning views of the Severn Estuary, Avon Gorge, North Somerset and South Wales. Georgian style is on display on every street corner in this rather exclusive district, where boutiques ply fashionable threads and quirky gifts.

Top five attractions

On the trail of Banksy

Acclaimed and mysterious street artist Banksy kicked off his unorthodox career in Bristol and you can see many original works on the city streets. Ask at the Tourist Information Centre if you have trouble finding them.

Brunel's ss Great Britain

Step back in time at the historic Harbourside of Bristol on this iconic steam ship.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Surely the most picturesque city bridge in Britain, Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed this stunning piece of engineering, which spans the Avon Gorge. Enjoy the views during a walk across the bridge.

Clifton Observatory, Camera Obscura and Cave

Get a glimpse of Bristol from high above the Clifton Suspension Bridge. The Camera Obscura offers a unique perspective using centuries-old technology.

Bristol Zoo

Located in Clifton, more than 400 species can be spotted across the 12-acre site.

Events

Harbour Festival; July: A huge public event that showcases some of the best musical performances that Bristol has to offer. Hotels, particularly in the Harbourside area, will be in demand during the event.

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta; August: Seeing the skies fill with hot air balloons is an absolute thrill and half a million people visit over four days to see ascents at 6am and 6pm. Nightglows (balloons glowing in time to music) on the Thursday and Saturday evenings of the fiesta are particularly memorable. The event is held at Ashton Court, to the west of Bristol. Early booking of hotels is advised.

Bristol International Festival of Kites and Air Creations; September: Also hosted at Ashton Court, and another absolutely free event, this festival fills the sky with huge kites, aerial battles and spectacular stunts.