Bristol holidays


City safari: overnight with wolves and monkeys in Bristol

A stay at a new wildlife centre offers families a mini safari experience – with monkeys, a night-time wolf expedition and breakfast with giraffes

Plus: More UK wildlife sanctuaries

It’s early evening and the gates to the wildlife park have been closed to the public. All is quiet, except for birdsong, the gentle rustling of wind in the trees and an occasional excited shriek from a gelada monkey. We (my six-year-old daughter Nell and husband Huw) are gathered around a fire pit along with four other families who are trying out Camp Baboon, a new night-time wildlife and bushcraft experience at the Wild Place Project, a satellite venture run by Bristol Zoo.

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City breaks with kids: Bristol

Our series of city guides for families heads to creative, community-minded Bristol, with its fab, and often free, attractions and acres of parkland nearby
More in this series: London | Brighton | Berlin | Paris | Barcelona | Rome | Amsterdam

Bristol isn’t the most beautiful city in the world (the blitz and brutalist post-war planning saw to that), but it compensates with a unique, offbeat charm. Cycle paths, community farms, street art, street food and a potent live music scene make it a multicultural, civic-minded kind of place with an alternative approach to city planning, green credentials and an unshowy, creative vibe – characteristics that also make it a family-friendly destination.

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Alt city guide to Bristol

Bristol projects its irreverent spirit and powerful sense of identity through its cutting-edge music, arts, clubs, bars, street festivals and food scenes

In Bristol, there is a shop, Stokes Croft China, that sells fine bone china emblazoned with quotes from Tony Benn, images of the late, local music legend DJ Derek and a photograph of the Queen surrounded by the words: “I eat swans.” Affiliated to radical community group the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft, this ceramics enterprise – in its improbable mix of craft, creativity and protest – sums up Bristol.

Uniquely among large British cities, Bristol marches to the beat of its own drum (and bass). Liverpool and Glasgow may have a similar streak of independence, but Bristol’s refusal to kowtow to the homogenising forces of modern capitalism is a visible, city-wide phenomenon manifested in endless community groups and co-ops. There is a widespread solidarity in the arts, food and music that promotes quality and individual expression, not profit. From Gloucester Road (the UK’s longest strip of independently owned shops) to the city’s distinctive musical association with heavy bass music – from Massive Attack via dubstep pioneers such as Pinch, to modern cult heroes as different as Hodge, Vessel and the label Crazylegs – Bristol is a genuine one-off.

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