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Bristol bore Cary Grant and Wallace & Gromit but it won’t bore you, vows OutUK correspondent Adrian Gillan.

Capital of the South West, on a gorge cut by the mighty Avon, Bristol fair reeks of seamen and the sea. The city's colourful, oft dark past takes in maritime trade and slavery, engineering and the industrial revolution, regency grandeur and modern post-Millennial chic.

Sights

The most efficient and pleasant way to see all sights – with stimulating, oft humorous, commentary – is aboard a hop-on-hop-off City Sightseeing bus, by land; and/or, by water, afloat the relaxing 45-minute-long Bristol Packet Boat Tour Bristol Packet.
Clifton Suspension Bridge
Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Photo: Destination Bristol.
Take in the Christmas Steps for quaint little eateries and shops; space-age Millennium Square and Explore@Bristol centre; and Brunel’s cutting-edge wrought-iron SS Great Britain, the big mama of all modern ocean-faring ships, with its propeller-driven metal hull allowing larger cargoes to travel faster and more reliably than ever before. See the iconic Suspension Bridge; the white-stuccoed Georgian terraces and crescents of Clifton; and hoards of cute young term-time students spewing out from the University, many of them gay.
Visit the world-famous Zoo, Cabot Tower up Brandon Hill, peaceful Queen Square and Castle Park, Banksy-inspired street art on Nelson Street, or majestic Cathedral and nearby College Green.

Dodge any rain in the British Empire & Commonwealth Museum or City Museum & Art Gallery. Enjoy a play or show at the Bristol Old Vic or Bristol Hippodrome.

Bristol Balloon Festival
Bristol Balloon Festival.
Photo: Destination Bristol.
Browse at the new Cabot Circus shopping complex; see contemporary art at the Arnolfini gallery; learn about local history at M Shed; or enjoy a concert at Colston Hall.

Gay life in Bristol revolves around two areas - the renovated Old Market district to the east, and the City Centre, a wee walk west - far enough apart to have distinct identities, but near enough if you want to flit.

Old Market: “The Village”

Starting in the Old Market area, the eponymous Old Market Tavern is a highly popular old-fashioned boozer that serves great home-cooked grub washed down with fine ales, with a beer garden out the back. It jostles along with friendly little Proud Bar that features drag & karaoke on a regular basis. For glam, why not head for The Palace - known as The Gin Palace, as it serves a load of gin and features some camp cabaret on a regular basis.

Actually, Bristol now has its first speciality gin bar and restaurant in Old Market, it's called Dutch. The name is an ode to the infamous Dutch courage rumoured to have originated from drinking gin and it's owners Alice de Haan and Julia Speed have refurbished one of West Street's most historic buildings, formally known as The Retreat, complete with a myriad of underground rooms and snugs to establish what they hope will be one of Bristol's best and quirkiest bars.

If you would like a hairy, lively yet laid-back setting then there's nothing better than the nearby Bristol Bear Bar. It's the first purpose build Bear Bar in the UK with really friendly staff and a great atmosphere. Just around the corner is another real hidden gem, The Phoenix in Wellington Buildings, Champion Square. It's the only pub at Bristol's Cabot Circus with a relaxed gay-friendly environment.

For more steamy relaxation, check out the Lads Locker Room at 19-21 West Street. You can escape the outside world and the daily stresses of life, with their relaxation, crusing and chill areas as well as an adult shop and bar. It's deisgned for all Gay, Bi-sexual and Bi-curious guys who want to meet up or hook up - or indeed both. Every Tuesday is NAKED Tuesdays when you can feel free to walk around Lads Locker Room in the nude, in a safe & comfortable environment - just put on your Birthday Suit & join the party!

City Centre: “The Strip”

But if hankering for a change of scene, stroll west to The Pineapple in St George’s Road. It's allegedly Bristol’s oldest gay bar: a large, bright joint, great for relaxing in by day and heaving with boys and girls by night – traditionally the main “warm up” to the more clubby venues along the road it then feeds, punters duly fired up.

Hit chic OMG Bar in Frogmore Street is great as a warm up bar with its trendy seating and retro flashing dance floor. You can then trot over the road to Queenshilling which is directly opposite and is a stylish, buzzing bar-cum-club playing a mixed bag of pure pop throughout the week. A few doors down, in Flog Lane you'll also find the spacious OMG Club which offers two contrasting bars, plus a large dance floor, for all your pop and trance.

Pride

Bristol Pride is an annual free festival held in the heart of Bristol to celebrate the LGBT communities. Their most recent Pride Week involved over 36,000 people and some 19 events across 11 days in early July.

Each year they include a Saturday Pride Parade and Harbourside Day, Theatre and Comedy Nights, Gender Equality Talk, Dog Show, Post Pride Brunch, plus Film and Music events.

Bristol Pride Parade
Bristol Pride Parade through the streets of the city.
Photo: Matt Seow  (www.flickr.com/matthewseow).
Pride Bristol is a registered charity and they work all year round to champion equality and diversity and challenge inequality across the South West. Money raised at Pride helps support their year round work challenging homophobia in schools, prisons and in the wider community.

Stay

Slap bang in the city centre, on the glistening Welsh Back waterfront, the 4-star Mercure Bristol Brigstow Hotel puts you close to the city's scene and sights. It offers 116 stylish, modern guest rooms, some with river views, all with high-speed internet access and queen-size beds. Fine dine at its hip Ellipse Restaurant.

THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Bristol Bear Bar (2 West Street; Website)
Dutch (16 West St; T: 0117 330 2905; Website)
Lads Locker Room (19-21 West Street; Website)
Mercure Bristol Brigstow Hotel (5-7 Welsh Back; T: 0117 3199003; Website)
OMG Bar (4 Frogmore Street; Website)
OMG Club (1-2 Frog Lane; Website)
Old Market Tavern (29 Old Market Street; T: 0117 922 6123; Website)
Proud Bar (54 Old Market Street)
Queenshilling (9 Frogmore Street; Website)
The Palace (2-4 West Street; T: 07740 457370)
The Phoenix (1 Wellington Buildings, Champion Square; T: 01173 290 076; Website)
The Pineapple (37 St George's Road; facebook)

Bristol Pride Week normally happens in July: PrideBristol
For general info on Bristol: VisitBristol
Great Western Railway runs a frequent service between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads, journey time scarce 1˝ hours.

Revised January 2018.

 

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