Bristol’s Cultural Highlights

A pick of the shows, sights and sounds of the festive arts calendar in the south west’s brightest city

Bristol is one of the UK’s coolest cities and has long had a reputation for being a haven for alternative thinking and energetic, expansive culture. Once one of the main trade and shipping hubs for the UK, and the first gate into the country for the slave trade which boomed in the 18th and early 19th centuries, Bristol is now celebrated for its diverse mixture of street and contemporary culture.

A city with a passion for activism, debate and keeping things interesting, it’s an ideal place to go for a short weekend break this winter-time. What is more, its south-westerly location and the waterways mean it avoids some of the perishing cold which can affect other cultural hubs like Manchester and Edinburgh.

Bristol has got plenty of options for the different budgets and tastes for accommodation. You might want to take a look at the chain options from names like Holiday Inn, or even try online rental sites or suggestions from tourist sites like

Whatever your taste, you’ll no doubt be attracted to spending an evening or afternoon wandering the Christmas markets and admiring the bars and great arts centres along the waterfront (Watershed and Arnolfini are fantastic). But here are a few timely reminders of events and venues worth scheduling time for:

Theatre and performance – The Tobacco Factory and around

The Tobacco Factory, located in Bristol’s Southville, is one of the city’s most exciting theatre venues, consistently programming innovative new collaborations as well as returning old favourites, and getting stuck into new festivals and the like.

This Christmas look out for Hansel and Gretel, a collaboration between the Tobacco Factory Theatre and New International Encounter (NIE). You can even catch an open rehearsal of Hansel and Gretel and see how the show gets made on November 26th. Blending various theatrical and spoken languages, this looks to be an enchanting Christmas show that suits adults and children.

Music and dance – In:Motion

Bristol has an awesome reputation for dance music; the spiritual home of drum’n’bass and many of sub-genres of classic dance music that came up in the 1990s and 2000s in particular. You’ll find a love for big, juicy beats and a lot of bass. This autumn/winter’s In:Motion series is a real one-to-watch, with some huge names coming up in November and December.

From Fatboy Slim on December 8th to a huge New Year’s Eve party featuring Scratch Perverts, the In:Motion Events for Bristol 2012 are a very tempting cocktail for dance fans.

Festive favourite: Spiegeltent

And finally, a Bristol favourite and the ideal place to go if you want…something…to happen even if you’re not quite sure what, then get yourself down to the Spiegeltent. Launching especially for Christmas on November 30th, this is a place to go for dancing, DJs, meandering performance and circus, or some lovely laid-back tapas. The inaugurating night sounds like a super prospect, with an old-school circus vibe, plus great DJs from the city and beyond.

And if you’re looking for a hotel in Edinburgh during the festive period, consider a stay at the Holiday Inn Bristol hotel.