The city of Bristol is known for its street art, and its contemporary arts scene. For its maritime history and eclectic architecture. And for its lively bars, restaurants and museums. I joined “From Blackbeard to Banksy” – the self-styled “ultimate walking tour of Bristol” – to find out more.
The Ultimate Walking Tour Of Bristol
It was a sunny Monday morning, and we were standing in front of Bristol’s grand medieval cathedral, as Luke introduced the tour. We were going to discover some of the historic places and people of the city (like Blackbeard) and explore the street art (including Bristol’s most famous street artist…)
But, as Luke explained, there is so much more to Bristol than this. He talked about the city’s long heritage – maritime, industrial and cultural. He singled out the great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who had such an influence on 19th century Bristol, being responsible for the Great Western Railway, the SS Great Britain, and much more. We were going to be taking a walk through 1,000 years of history.
Amazing Street Art
Street art was a major component of this tour. Naturally, we started with Banksy, the Bristol artist whose identity is a closely guarded secret, and we stopped to look at his famous “Well hung lover”. We could see how street art takes on a life of its own: this particular work had splodges of blue as the result of a later paint-bombing!
We looked at some work by other artists before turning down Leonard Lane, a medieval alleyway festooned with colourful artworks. Luke showed us the “smallest pieces of street art in Bristol”, painted onto tiny scraps of chewing gum on the floor. And, by way of contrast, around the corner were some of the city’s largest murals.
Pirates, Pubs And Novelists
In between the street art we saw lots of local history. There was the pub once frequented by the notorious pirate Blackbeard, its door (allegedly) covered with human skin. There were the places that inspired famous sea stories (think Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island). And, coming right up to date, there was the empty plinth that once held the statue of Edward Colston, toppled into the water in 2020.
As we walked Luke gave us snippets of information about the city, its history and its quirks. We heard about the building of the floating harbour, the discovery of the New World, and the difference between “Bristol Time” and “London Time”…
Who Would Enjoy “From Blackbeard To Banksy”?
Most of the other people on this tour were either overseas visitors (from as far afield as Australia) or from elsewhere in the UK. This would be an ideal introduction for anyone unfamiliar with the city, taking in the central area, old town and harbourside. And Luke was full of suggestions to help people during their stay in Bristol, from places to eat and drink to further sights to explore.
Yet even for myself, as a regular visitor to Bristol, there was plenty to learn (for instance, I had never spotted that chewing gum art before!). And I discovered one or two new pubs to try on my next visit…
Practicalities For Your Visit
- From Blackbeard to Banksy starts in front of the main entrance of the Cathedral, and ends outside the Arnolfini Art Gallery. Tours begin at 11.30 and run on most days of the week.
- The tour lasts for 2 hours and covers approximately 2 miles. The walk is on level ground and is suitable for wheelchairs.
- Both adults and children will enjoy these tours.
Thanks to From Blackbeard to Banksy for providing tickets to their walking tour of Bristol.