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Bristol is built on the meeting point of two rivers and has grown to include several of the surrounding hills making it a challenging place to build. Over the centuries Bristol's very successful international trading port brought great wealth and diverse cultures to the city and they have inherited some amazing constructions. Like nearby Bath a lot of the grand buildings are Georgian in style however as Bristol was heavily bombed during the Bristol Blitz and a major post war slum clearance program cleared away spaces for more modern buildings in the centre of town.
People travel across the world to see the amazing suspension bridge and then discover I K Brunel actually left them so much more, the railway, the SS Great Britain etc. The Floating Harbor has been cleaned up since its industrial days and now people chug around on ferry boats to see the old shipyards, bonded warehouses, cranes, swing bridges and locks. The recently opened M Shed formerly the Industrial Museum housed in a converted warehouse sits with working steam cranes as a testament to Bristol's love of it's heritage. The Waterfront sheds have been turned into restaurants and bars, galleries and hostels as well as luxury apartments and offices.
Many buildings are historically important rather than necessarily architecturally significant...for example John Wesley's 'New Rooms' in the heart of Broadmead was the birthplace of Methodism. The City of Bristol College at Ashley down was originally built entirely by faith by George Muller who, on principle, never asked for a penny but relied on prayer to construct and run 5 enormous houses for Orphans. One very distinctive 'hanger' at Filton Aerodrome was built so they could build the largest airliner ever made (the Brabazon) but it also later served as the place where the British Concords were made. The remains of a Roman Villa in the Lawrence Weston Council Housing Estate are passed by thousands of people who hardly notice they are there.
King Street is one of the most awesome places for people who study British architecture... with examples from every era preserved side by side along the cobbled street. These are not just historic buildings they are still lived in and working businesses. The oldest working pub in England, two sets of Alms-Houses and the Old Vic Theater to name a few and the whole thing set in the heart of the business district. Castle Park is the site of the original Norman Keep (Castle) that formed part of the city walls and archaeologists have left diggings open for you to see and helpful information boards to set the area in context.
The City Wall can still be seen at St Johns Arch where a chapel was built into the wall. Talking of walls... go see the Houses of Clifton clinging to the side of the Avon George... some incredible feats of architectural engineering... that cost lives and several tries before final completion. Some of the largest houses are in and around the Clifton area (away from the 'smell' of the harbor) the Merchant Venturers built monuments to their success where they could watch their ships returning up the Avon laden with tobacco and sugar from the new world. Some have been turned to other uses as schools and consulates and prestige offices while others have more humble functions as nursing homes or were divided into apartments.
In the outer suburbs there are some interesting houses like Ashton Court and Blaze Castle which are open to the public and have extensive grounds for leisure pursuits. Others like Tintisfield House are National Trust owned and visitors help pay to maintain them. Local people know there are other more hidden places like Kings Weston House and Leigh House and the old Stoke Park (formally mental hospital) where you can take the dog for a walk or stroll around the grounds.