If you stroll along Corn Street in central Bristol, keeping your gaze high above the stalls of vintage clothing and wooden tables stacked with second-hand books, you will spot the striking red and white clock face that adorns the Grade I-listed Corn Exchange building, once used by merchants to trade their wares.
Take a second to study the 19th century clock and you will notice that it has two minute hands. The faster is set to Greenwich Mean Time, Britain’s legal standardized time since 1880, while the slower maintains traditional Bristol Mean Time, which, based on the point where the sun is higher in the sky, is historically 10 minutes behind London. An apt metaphor, some might say, for how Bristol has always prided itself on standing out from the crowd.
Growing up in nearby Cardiff, Bristol’s cross-border cousin just 25 miles away, I spent my teenage years listening to lively tales of Bristol’s burgeoning music festivals (like the now annual Love Saves the Day ) and all-night skatepark raves (the humble beginnings of Bristol Motion’s iconic nightclub). Bristol, clearly, was the most exciting place on the planet.
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And even now, looking at it from an adult’s perspective, the city retains an undeniable aura of freshness. Constantly at the forefront of, or even setting, the latest trends, it’s a place where street art-strewn alleyways and old warehouse rooms turned into taps transform into a restaurant scene. an impressive diversity where visitors can have lunch in authentic Italian cuisine. deli and enjoy dinner in a Tokyo-style shipping container izakaya bar.
But Bristol’s identity runs much deeper than its propensity for eating hipsters or its love of a good party. Fueled by a large and vocal student population, the former industrial port city has become a bastion of counter-culture and activism in the UK, particularly around environmentalism, which has fostered an eco-conscious ethic the city-wide scale that led Bristol to become Britain’s first European Green Capital in 2015. And, of course, civil rights: a protest captured worldwide attention in 2020, when a prominent statue of merchant and slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and thrown into the city’s harbour.
Whether you’re at home in the elegant tea rooms of Clifton Village or the understated liquors of Stokes Croft, it feels like Bristol is happy to do things its own way, chart its own course and, dare- I say it, to tick its own pace.