We’ve put two South west heavyweights head to head to discover which one’s the champ when it comes to food, shopping, culture and more…
Arch-rivals on the rugby field, the great cities of Bath and Bristol have a long tradition of one-upmanship. From cocktail bars and cathedrals to a stretch of the River Avon, they share a lot of common ground, but like most close neighbours they love to outdo each other.
On the history front, Bath has the edge on Bristol with its renowned World Heritage City status – and the Roman Baths are hard to beat. But Bristol comes up trumps as the kingdom of Brunel (the Victorian engineer who built ships, bridges and the Great Western Railway).
Food? Bristol claims three Michelin-starred restaurants while Bath only has two. Bath has five five-star hotels and Bristol has none. And as for cultural classics, how do you compare Jane Austen’s Lizzy Bennett (from the novel Pride and Prejudice) with Aardman Animation’s Bristol-born Wallace & Gromit?
But really, there’s no need to choose between the two destinations. Only 12 miles apart (a mere 11-minutes on the fastest trains), visitors can enjoy their contrasts and complementary differences in one handy package.
Costume vs Concorde
The new Aerospace Bristol and Bath’s older Fashion Museum are chalk and cheese. One is dedicated to the history of Bristol’s aeronautic industry (an original 1970s Concorde takes pride of place). The other reflects Bath’s long love affair with fashion. Both are great, so check them out, whether you’re a jet junky or a sucker for the style.
Street art vs street theatre
Thanks to anarchic graffiti artist Banksy, Bristol is the nation’s urban street art capital. Bath is better at spontaneous street performance: catch the Natural Theatre Company in one of their many guises.
Sally Lunn buns vs Bristol pies
The Sally Lunn Bun – part bread, part cake – is made to a secret recipe in Miss Lunn’s original 17th-century Bath kitchen. Pieminister’s award-winning, made-in-Bristol pies have won similar acclaim in much less time.
Floating Harbour vs Kennet and Avon Canal
Bristol’s historic Floating Harbour is the heart and soul of the city, a busy hub of attractions reflecting a rich maritime history. The Kennet and Avon Canal forms a more peaceful backwater to Bath, with its narrowboats, footpaths and cycle routes leading into the surrounding Somerset countryside.
Thermae Spa vs The Lido
A combination of ancient history, glassy contemporary architecture and Britain’s only natural thermal waters, Bath’s Thermae Spa is a wellbeing winner where you can relax in warm mineral water on the roof-top spa pool. Bristol offers The Lido – a restored Grade II Victorian swimming baths complete with heated pool, sauna and an award-winning poolside restaurant.
Bristol mile vs Bath magic
When it comes to street markets, the two cities are
on equal footing and both come into their own during the festive season. Bristol’s mile of colourful market stalls stretches from the Shopping Quarter down to the Harbourside, though Bath reckons theirs is one of the UK’s favourites.
Old Vic vs Theatre Royal
Here’s where the competition heats up. Open since 1766, Bristol’s Old Vic is ‘the longest continuously-running theatre in the UK’, while Bath’s Theatre Royal (1805) is ‘one of the oldest and most beautiful theatres in Britain’.