Fresh from its triumphant year as European Green Capital 2015 – the only UK city ever to hold the title – Bristol is destined to remain in the spotlight during 2016 thanks to its dynamic programme of events and some exceptional new attractions, restaurants, and experiences. Here are some of the best reasons to visit the city in the year ahead.
Bristol Old Vic – 250th anniversary in 2016. The UK's oldest working theatre has revealed the first details of its 250th anniversary programme. The birthday itself will centre on a weekend of celebration over the May Bank Holiday (May 28-30, 2016), including a one-off special performance, the launch of a new digital heritage project and opportunities for community and amateur groups to perform on the Bristol Old Vic stage. The festivities will culminate in a street festival on the birthday itself, May 30. Bristol Old Vic is currently gearing up for its next phase of redevelopment works, as well as preparing to transform itself into a major heritage destination. Visit www.bristololdvic.org.uk for more information.
Underfall Yard. One of Bristol's best-kept secrets is about to transform before our very eyes. This historic working 19th Century boatyard counts William Jessop and Brunel amongst famous engineers linked with its past. In March 2016, the site will open newly renovated historic buildings, including the Power House and chimney - Grade II listed landmarks. The brand new visitor centre will also focus on people's stories and the history of the site. Visitors will be able to take guided tours of the workshop and sluice room or grab a bite to eat at the highly-anticipated new restaurant. The works will complete the missing section of the Harbourside Walk, allowing people to walk around Bristol's glorious harbour in its entirety. Visit www.underfallboatyard.co.uk for more information.
AirHop Bristol. “The world's biggest trampoline park” opened near The Mall at Cribbs Causeway in September 2015. It is one of the first trampoline parks in the UK and is a vast indoor arena filled with wall-to-wall trampolines. There are more than 50 interconnected trampolines in the free jump zone as well as Basketball Slam Dunk Lanes and trampoline Dodgeball. Visit www.airhop-bristol.com for more information.
The new Ashton Gate Stadium. Home to Bristol City Football and Bristol Rugby, the new stadium is set to be the biggest conference and events venue in the South West of England when it completes in September 2016. The new 27,000 capacity stadium will feature state-of-the-art facilities, split-level sports bar and restaurant, a pitch-facing corporate hospitality lounge, corporate hospitality boxes and will also be used as a 32,000 capacity concert venue. The stunning new venue is set to breathe new life into the city's sports, entertainment and events offerings. Visit www.ashtongatestadium.co.uk for more information.
Westonbirt Arboretum – a new Treetop Walkway. The national arboretum, managed by the Forestry Commission, sits on the edge of the market town of Tetbury in the Cotswolds around 25 miles from Bristol city centre. It is known for being a riot of colour in autumn and spring, plus the brand new Treetop Walkway will open in spring 2016. Following a serpentine route through the trees 13.5 metres above the ground in places, the Treetop Walkway will give visitors a taste of the dark intimacy and soaring views that can come from weaving in and out of the tree canopy. It will also provide a fun and hands-on way for visitors to learn more about trees. Visit www.fowa.org.uk/westonbirt_project/phase_two/the_treetop_walkway for more information.
Spend the night at Bristol Zoo Gardens. The world's fifth oldest zoo (it opened in 1836) opened a brand new accommodation experience in October 2015. 'The Lodge' offers the luxury of a secluded safari lodge among the exotic animals. Guests will enjoy exclusive out-of-hours access to the zoo and behind-the-scenes tours and feeding experiences, getting the chance to meet the animals when all the daytime visitors have gone home. A private chef will prepare a delicious four-course dinner served on the balcony in this special setting, then breakfast the next day can be eaten among the resident gorillas. Visit bristolzoo.org.uk/explore-the-zoo/the-lodge for more information.
New Bristol Street Art Tours Street art tours have fast become established as a "must-do" cultural experience in Bristol. Expert guides at 'Where the Wall' provide insights into the life and work of world-famous graffiti artist Banksy and others, revealing the stories behind the ever-changing paintings that adorn Bristol. Tours usually focus on the art around central Bristol and the creative quarter of Stokes Croft, but new tours being trialled in early 2016 will centre around Bedminster and North Street in the south of the city, where the summertime Urban Paint Festival (Upfest) takes place and leaves a legacy of stunning giant murals on the buzzy café bars, shops and other buildings. Where the Wall will also reveal a new digital street art map for south Bristol in spring 2016. Visit www.wherethewall.com for more information.
Celebrate 'Year of the English Garden' in and around Bristol. VisitEngland has named 2016 as Year of the English Garden. There are some exceptionally beautiful gardens in Bristol and surrounding areas, including the tranquil gardens at Bristol Cathedral, romantic rose gardens at the National Trust Tyntesfield Estate, The University of Bristol Botanic Garden and Yeo Valley Organic Garden - one of the few ornamental gardens in Britain to be certified as organic by the Soil Association.
Celebrate Shakespeare 400 in Bristol. Events and performances will be taking place in and around Bristol that coincide with the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death. Shakespeare Season at the Tobacco Factory Theatres will include a production of Hamlet from 11th February to 26th March and All's Well That Ends Well from 31st March to 23rd April, while the annual Bristol Shakespeare Festival takes place from 1st to 31st July and includes performances at unusual spaces across Bristol such as Brandon Hill bowling green and Redcliffe Caves. 'Lear' will be performed at Bristol Old Vic in June, adapted by the theatre's artistic director Tom Morris and starring Timothy West. A Midsummer Night's Dream will be performed in the beautiful gardens of Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire's Berkeley Vale from 17th to 21st July. Berkeley Castle has a strong link to Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night's Dream was written for a Berkeley family wedding that took place in 1596.
New restaurant openings. Popular Michelin-starred restaurant Casamia will move from its current location in Westbury-on-Trym to a new spot in central Bristol in early 2016. The family-run restaurant will occupy part of the old General Hospital, which is a grand and beautifully-restored building on the waterfront. The Old Market Assembly opened on 1 December, 2015 as a restaurant, café, bar, bakery, theatre and live music venue housed in the former Victorian bank in the Old Market area of Bristol. The Ox has become a firm favourite among Bristol diners since it opened in the Old City in 2013 serving first-rate British fayre. Now The Ox on Whiteladies Road in Clifton looks set to become just as popular (opened November 2015). It is from the family of food and drink outlets that includes Milk Thistle and Hyde & Co. – two flirty speakeasy-style cocktail bars – and Pata Negra, a lively Spanish tapas and wine bar.
Discover St John on the Wall. The last remaining part of the city wall, St John on the Wall, sits over Bristol's north gate and is the perfect starting point from which to discover the intriguing history of the medieval city. In 2016, new and ambitious interpretation will tell the stories of those who passed through the city gates with interactive displays, sounds, visuals and activities developed by The Churches Conservation Trust. Visit stjohnsonthewall.blogspot.co.uk for more information