Congratulations, Bristol. It’s the obvious choice in so many ways: a small city that feels like a big city, handily placed for seaside and scenery, but hardly cut off from the rest of the country.
There are jobs – lots of them glamorous, creative, hi-tech and professional – the food and drink are great, and it crams in all the culture you could wish for. No wonder its first choice for restless folk looking to take half a step off the treadmill and sway a dismal commute for a brightly coloured period house within walking distance of work, and weekends on a surfboard or mountain bike.
What makes the city so special is its extraordinary culture. It’s not just the plays at the Bristol Old Vic or the Hippodrome, the exhibitions at the Arnolfini or gigs at Colston Hall that make it stand out. This is a place where creative individuals seem able to thrive, collaborate and prosper.
It’s the city that gave us Banksy, and Wallace and Gromit, and game-changing bands such a Massive Attack, who last year persuaded nearly 30,000 people to stand in the pouring rain on Durdham Down for a rare live show. But it’s also the place where 64-year-old Keith Walker and his wife Carol, can create a crazy gold course, using bits of old bikes in the front garden of their terraced house – out of a sense of mischief as much as to raise funds for a local children’s hospice – and attract 500 people.
The redevelopment of the Floating Harbour has transformed what used to be a neglected urban wasteland. It’s now a buzzing waterfront neighbourhood where you’ll find smart apartments as well as all kind of shows, events and festivals, and some of the best places to eat, drink or grab a coffee.
At one end of the scale there’s Woky Ko, where noodles and bao buns (£3.95) are served out of a shipping container by a Masterchef finalist. At the other is Casamia, the Michelin-starred jewel in Bristol’s culinary crown (£98 for 13 courses). It relocated last year to the ground floor of the General, the painstakingly converted hospital that’s now one of the harbour’s best and grandest addresses, bringing with it classy tapas and pizza restaurants – there’s not a chain in sight. Casamia’s head chef, Peter Sanchez Inglesias, says the food scene in Bristol has exploded in the past few years. He loves places such as Pasta Loco and Hart’s a cavernous bakery under Temple Meads station.