There are 35 populated places named Bristol in the world. Most of these you will find in the US, but there are three in Canada, one each in Peru, Costa Rica and Jamaica, and there’s even a Little Bristol in Barbados. None are as bold, brilliant or bizarre as the biggest and best, found only in the South West of England, however. It has bags of quirky Bristol oddities that make it totally unique. There’s nowhere else on the planet quite like it.
1. Vale Street
Nothing particularly special jumps out about Vale Street from a map. It looks fairly short, contains only a small row of houses and is tucked away in Totterdown. There’s no cool cafes, cocktail bars or clubs to claim. A quick visit will instantly reveal why it has become so infamous. This residential road has a 22-degree gradient incline, which makes it officially the steepest street in Britain. Homeowners even have to park their cars sideways to stop them rolling down. And it’s become quite the badge of honour for keen cyclists to conquer.
2. The Exchange clock
The Exchange’s clock was originally installed back in 1822. It has one regular hour hand, but two minute hands. One runs 10 minutes behind the other, indicating Bristol Time. Before a standardised time was introduced in the UK, many places had their own times they ran on. To ensure that trains were running smoothly, both London time and Bristol time needed to be visible. Bristol officially adopted GMT in 1852, but the clock still serves as a reminder of when Bristol ran on its own time.
3. The Hatchet Inn’s front door
The Hatchet Inn claims to be the oldest pub in Bristol. But a lot of other pubs also claim this (such as The Llandoger Trow, which once served pints to pirates and authors). Something no other pub can claim, however, is that its front door is made from human skin. Yes, you read that correctly. Under layers and layers of paint, it is said that human skin is stretched over the door. No evidence exists that human remains are actually woven into the building. So for now it is more of an urban legend. Still, it’s an incredibly unnerving thought all the same.
4. Turbo Island
An odd, abandoned plot of land that often becomes a party hotspot in Stokes Croft. Technically, Turbo Island belongs to the company that owns the advertising board behind it. So thanks to a quirk in the law – it is technically private property. That means no one can stop people from chilling on sofas, or throwing mini-parties there. Head down after dark at your own risk, but we promise you there’s a reason it’s become an unofficial tourist attraction to rival anywhere else in quirky Bristol.
5. Bristol Onion
The Bristol Onion, or Round Headed Leek as it is more widely known, grows throughout most of Europe. The exception is in the northern and western areas of the continent, which includes Scotland and Ireland, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and the Baltics. It does grow in England, however, in one very specific location. The Avon Gorge in Bristol. It thrives on the sunny rock ledges due to a uniquely warm microclimate. These days, the Bristol Onion is threatened by the accidental introduction of other thuggish plants. So this unique flower may not survive much longer on Bristol’s rocks.
6. Slidey Rock
Overlooking Clifton Suspension Bridge, you’ll find Clifton’s natural rock slide. It has thrilled locals for decades – maybe even centuries – but no one knows its true origins. This strip of rock has been made shiny and smooth by generations of bums heading down. There’s no official access to slide, as you’ll have to climb under or over the railing. But it’s impossible to miss the people lining up to watch or risk heading down themselves.
7. Bristol hum
When everything is quiet in Bristol, which can be a rare occasion, do you sometimes think you can hear a deep, low-level buzz? Your ears might not be playing tricks on. You might be experiencing the Bristol hum. It was first reported back in the 1970s when hundreds of locals complained of a strange audible noise at night. Some suggested it was factories, others electricity pylons or tinnitus; the more hairbrained theories included UFOs or a secret military project. But as recently as 2016, locals reported the Bristol hum again. So what could it be? Well no one’s quite sure. But it might be worth having your ears checked if it persists.
8. Colourful houses
We’ve gone deep into Bristol’s colourful houses before. From brightly painted homes Clifton to Totterdown, and the graffiti murals of Bedminster and Easton, Bristol is a vibrant city. There are many reasons and theories as to why it is such a prevalent phenomenon throughout the city. All we know is that it makes Bristol one of the most colourful cities in the UK. It is just one of the loveliest, and quirkiest, aspects of living in the city.
9. Gloucester Road
Gloucester Road is one of the longest stretches of independent businesses in the UK. Along it you’ll find everything from specialist Spanish shops, an Aladdin’s cave of antiques, lively music pubs, unique restaurants, art galleries, and so much more. Before you know it, you’ll be halfway out of Bristol as you try to tackle this magical and mammoth shopping experience. There’s always something new and unique to discover.
10. Cheers Drive
We all know how to thank the driver in quirky Bristol, or should at the very least! The very Bristolian phrase, Cheers drive, is synonymous with the city. Back in 2020 , Bristolians honoured the phrase with its own street name. Residents voted for it in a poll looking to name a residential road for a new housing development in Speedwell. There’s much else to say about other than it is a lovely little in-joke among Bristolians and never fails to put a smile on our face.