Hailed by musicians and drum-and-bass fans as the country's capital of counterculture, Bristol is a city of contrasts. Here, a photography exhibition can rub shoulders with the contentious street art of graffiti, and the toe-tapping fun of a ragtime jazz band often lies just a block away from the head-pounding beat of an underground DJ.
If you're visiting for the day, head first to central Park Street, where high street chain stores fight it out with edgier independent boutiques. Try Khoi for the freshest in footwear and hoodies, or Uncle Sam's Vintage Clothing for authentic '50s Levis and an unsurpassed collection of flapping-collared '70s nylon shirts. Shopping bags in hand, then venture toward the riverside, where a multimillion-dollar regeneration project in the 1980s transformed Bristol's docklands into one of the most attractive and atmospheric quarters of the city. Center for the tobacco and slave trades throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the waterfront area now offers an eclectic mixture of fashion, food and funky art.
Look out for "Supertoys" which runs until mid-January at the Arnolfini gallery, one of the city's best. A fun examination of the psychology of play, the show features collaborative toy-making and visiting robots. Outside the gallery, keep an eye out for an original Banksy, this being the stomping ground of Bristol's favorite cop-dodging graffiti artist.
Not far from the quay, St. Nicholas Market is home to a wealth of cafés. Depending on your mood, you can choose from eateries offering West Indian callaloo fritters, Italian bacon and tomato strata, Moroccan tagine or Portuguese bacalhau (salt-cod stew).
Back on the waterfront, be sure to check out Shed, a 19th century boathouse converted into one of the hottest seafood joints in town. Popular with the city's businessmen and smarter set, the restaurant serves char-grilled swordfish steak, cod wrapped in bacon on Parmesan mash, and an exceptional bouillabaisse. With its veranda jutting out over the water, this is the best place to eat as twilight descends and Bristol's wrought-iron streetlights begin to dapple the water.
After dark, stroll through Queen Square, the city's stunning Georgian centerpiece, toward the Old Duke. Full of character and characters alike, this half-timbered pub hosts live jazz and blues every night.