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The Complete Guide to Living in Bristol (By a Local)

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So you’ve chosen to make Bristol your next home? Great, you’ll love it!

But where should you live in Bristol? And which areas of Bristol should you avoid? What else do you need to know regarding cost of living in Bristol, public transport and work?

This article aims to explain all of this to you so that you’re fully prepared for your move to this thriving city.

Moving to Bristol: Good Areas to Live in

As with most cities, there are good areas to live in, and bad ones.

There are a number of up and coming areas in Bristol, plus those areas that have always been good to live in.

The following places that I recommend are all based on my own experiences, but you will also find that most forum threads agree with this list of good areas to live in Bristol as well.

When starting your search for houses or places to rent in Bristol, you will need to act fast (especially for the best areas).

It’s not unheard of for places to disappear from under your nose within a day, or even a few hours.

As someone who has embarked on several house hunts over the past few years, it was all too common for me to have a viewing booked in for the next day, only to find that by that morning, the place had been snapped up.

So, when it came to finding my current home, I knew I had to move swiftly.

Anyway, here are the up and coming areas of Bristol and great options for living in:

1. Emersons Green & Downend

Located just a couple of minutes from each other, both Emersons Green and Downend are great places to consider living in.

There are a number of shops centrally located within each suburb, so it’s unlikely you will need to keep heading into the city centre for everything.

That said, for the days when you do want to head into town, it will take you 20 minutes by car (on a good day – not during rush hour), or roughly 30 minutes by bus.

You can also easily cycle into town from either of these areas, taking about 45 minutes along the popular cycle path.

Downend is a little cheaper if buying your forever home, and both areas offer great schools, safe family neighbourhoods, easy access to the Ring Road and motorways, plus the ability to get out into the countryside quickly and easily.

These areas are perfect for families, and those who prefer peace and quiet.

2. Clifton & Redland

Both of these areas are slightly more upmarket in Bristol, and they are certainly what one would call ‘cosmopolitan’.

Each area is located a good distance from both the city centre and the Clifton Downs (a popular parkland space for families, couples and friend groups to go to).

Although Redland is considered a good area in Bristol, it is cheaper to live in than Clifton (although still on the expensive side compared with most other areas in Bristol).

Clifton is most definitely reserved for those with plenty of spare cash to spend, and for anyone who would love to own an original Georgian home.

Furthermore, Clifton Village is not too far away from either area, which offers superb shopping in independent boutiques.

Both of these areas are great for young professionals.

3. Horfield

Within Horfield, it’s easy to find safe neighbourhoods with good housing standards.

You will also find that Gloucester Road is easy to get to, which offers plenty of great shopping throughout its independent boutiques, patisseries and local produce shops (i.e. butchers, greengrocers etc).

You will also find that you’re only a couple of miles from the city centre as well, making it really easy to commute into the city for work.

If choosing to live here, you may wish to opt out of owning a car as traffic can be bad, but this would depend on exactly where in Horfield you choose to rent or own. If you’re within easy access of the M32, then owning a car will not cause you too many headaches.

Horfield is great for both families and young professionals.

4. Henleaze

You’ll notice from this list that a lot of the best areas to live in Bristol are located North of the city.

Henleaze is further away from the centre than Horfield, but only by a few minutes in the car. Henleaze offers much of the same sort of vibe as Horfield, albeit with a few more shops around than just Gloucester Road.

You’ll likely find that access to the motorways is easier from Henleaze than Horfield, although you will be a little further away from the centre in case you’re commuting.

Henleaze is also great for both families and young professionals.

5. Hanham

Hanham has much of the same sort of vibe as Emersons Green and Downend, but is slightly closer to the centre than those two areas.

Access to the Ring Road is as easy as pie from Hanham, and the neighbourhoods are just as clean and safe as the Emersons Green and Downend areas.

As such, Hanham is perfect for families and anyone who loves the quiet life.

The only word of caution here would be cost of living. As this is an excellent area to live in, this will be rather noticeable in rent and property prices.

That said, with the great area and good quality housing, you won’t mind paying a little more.

An Author’s Note

As with any consideration in moving house, the advice will always be to rent somewhere for 6-12 months before purchasing.

Unless you know an area is definitely the one for you, it is best to rent before buying just in case it’s not quite as rosy as you first thought.

And when viewing properties (for both rent and buying), take some time to walk around the streets near to them. Keep these points in mind:

  • Grab a drink or have some lunch in the local cafes, and test out the facilities on offer nearby.
  • Is there plenty of shopping?
  • Have you got a good local library nearby?
  • What do the schools and doctor surgeries look like?

Knowing all of this is a great way to get a feel for the local area.

There’s nothing worse than renting (or worse: buying!) somewhere that you thought was in a great area, only to find it’s not quite right for you.

Fall in Love with Bristol: Harbourside

Moving to Bristol: Places to Avoid

As can be expected, there are always going to be places that should be avoided, especially if moving to Bristol.

When I was first looking for somewhere to rent in the city, a local woman overheard me phoning letting agents during my working lunch and started listing places I should avoid living in. She’d overheard me looking for somewhere in St Paul’s and was so concerned for me that she spoke her mind.

Once I got to know Bristol, I fully understood where she was coming from.

The list that follows of places to avoid in Bristol is combined from my own experiences, plus the common places that appear in forums as places to avoid when moving to Bristol.

Eastville & Easton: Although these areas are multiculturally diverse, they do have higher crime rates than one would like in a living area.

Stokes Croft & St Paul’s: Although there is a lot to see in Stokes Croft and St Paul’s during the daytime, (and if you’re looking for decent pubs and bars), the crime rate is fairly poor in these areas. I would certainly recommend avoiding both areas if looking for somewhere to live in Bristol.

Hartcliffe: Similarly to these other areas listed, crime rates in Hartcliffe are not great! In fact, they’re so poor that the Bristol Post included this area in their article about Bristol’s most dangerous streets.

Fall in Love with Bristol: Girl with the Pearl Earring Street Art

Cost of Living in Bristol vs London

With Bristol often being compared to London, there of course comes a time when the cost of living in Bristol vs London should also be compared.

In some respects, Bristol is thought of as a ‘baby London’, but there are a few notable differences, such as the hipster vibe, accent and cost of living in Bristol.

Rent & Property Prices

First things first, average rent prices in Bristol differ between which area you’re looking at.

If renting in the city, you should expect to pay in the region of £1,000-£1,200 per month for a small 1 bed flat.

Whereas, if you’re able to look further outside of the city in areas like Downend, Emersons Green and Hanham, you could find a beautiful 3 bed house with garden for that price or even closer to the £900 per month mark.

On the other hand, Bristol can be quite an expensive place to purchase property in.

Even a small flat could set you back at least £150,000 in the cheaper areas, whilst you should expect to pay over £200,000 for a 2 bed home.

Of course, as you add more bedrooms plus other benefits like good schooling nearby, garage, conservatory or extra bathroom, your fee will only continue to increase way beyond a £250,000 figure.

That said, Bristol really is an up and coming city, with many people flocking to live here.

Any property you do purchase in Bristol will surely turn out to be a great long-term investment (especially if you can add value to the property whilst owning it).

Property Fees

With both renting and buying property in Bristol, there are a whole ton of fees to take into account on top of the purchase or rent price.

So you will need to do some complete research into this to ensure you know what to budget for.

My recommendation would be to review the various guides, tips and articles on the Money Saving Expert website.


When thinking about bills, a couple can expect to pay about £110 per month for most bills, including gas, electricity, council tax and internet.

Water is billed once every 6 months costing approximately £200 each time.

For gas and electric, you can opt to have a smart meter installed, which means you simply pay for what you use.

Depending on your usage, this can work out cheaper, so it’s worth investigating. Smart meters are normally free to install too!

General Cost of Living in Bristol

Now that we’ve got some of the formalities out of the way, it’s time for a comparison!

Bristol is considered to be 19% cheaper to live in than London. 

For a street food meal, expect to pay about £5-6 in Bristol, or approximately £25 per person for a dinner in a decent restaurant.

A trip to the cinema will set you back just under £20 for a couple and a pint of beer comes in at a whopping £4 average price.

For a full comparison, I usually refer to the Expatisan website, which is updated regularly. 

If you’re on a budget when you first come to Bristol, make sure you check out all of the fabulous free things to do in the city… there’s plenty!

Average Salaries

But if the cost of living in Bristol is cheaper than in London, surely that means there is also a difference in average salary.

Those working in London should expect to get paid an average 40% more than Bristolians, with the average salary equating to £58,000 per year.

However, this does come with a much higher cost of living (especially when it comes to rent and mortgage prices).

The average Bristol salary is £35,000 per year (before tax), and there are a number of thriving industries in Bristol.

Whether you have an eye for design, are a budding technologist or an aerospace expert, there’s some really great work opportunities in Bristol.

We’ll cover more of this in the Moving to Bristol: Work section below.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Living in Bristol: Work

Bristol has always had a fantastic seaport, allowing the trade of goods to be ever expanding.

In the current climate, Bristol trades heavily in motor vehicles (Bristol is actually the largest importer to the UK), grain, timber, fresh produce and petroleum products.

Aside from the city’s nautical connections, Bristol’s economy is reliant on aerospace, technology, defence, media, tourism, IT and financial service sectors.

The Filton area of Bristol is particularly great for those involved with engineering due to top employers BAE Systems, Airbus and Rolls-Royce all residing there.

Filton Abbey Wood is also great for defence workers, with over 7000 people currently working for the Ministry of Defence based there.

Tourism does fairly well in Bristol due to over 9 million people visiting the city every year, particularly when you think about how many fun things there are to do in the summer in Bristol (including the International Balloon Fiesta).

Finally, nicknamed the ‘Silicon Gorge’, finance, IT and technology all do well in Bristol, as well as startup businesses.

With so many fantastic job opportunities available in Bristol, this is a great city for graduates and young professionals wishing to relocate.

As mentioned, the average salary is £35,000, which is why so many people come to this city looking for work.

Although this makes job hunting highly competitive, with the relevant qualifications, experience and work ethic, you are likely to find an amazing employer, good money and an enjoyable job.

Take me for example…

Fresh out of University with a Business degree, a startup software company offered me an opportunity with them.

Five years and a variety of job roles within the company later, they are still presenting me with new and varied work opportunities.

After seeing the successes I’ve achieved with this blog, they invited me to join the Marketing team as a Content Writer, which also allows me to work remotely most days of the week I might add.

How many cities can say opportunities like that are presented regularly?

As for benefits and bonuses, it’s common for companies to offer dental care, medical insurance and work-based pensions (which are becoming compulsory in the UK).

Plus, it is very common for companies to offer the opportunity for you to get involved with a ‘Cycle to Work’ scheme, which allows you to purchase bicycles for a fraction of the cost – providing you plan on cycling to work of course.

The average worker in Bristol does not receive a bonus in the workplace, but it is not unheard of, so this is worth checking during your job interview or induction day.

If you will receive a bonus, this will be advertised alongside your expected salary.

Working in Bristol Guide

Living in Bristol: Transport

I’m not going to lie, transport in Bristol (and throughout the UK) is not the best.

Having travelled extensively on Italy’s rail networks, the Paris Metro and even buses in Hawaii, I know that the UK has a lot to learn when it comes to transportation (especially public transport).

Driving in Bristol

Specifically in Bristol, the road system leaves a lot to be desired.

There are a number of confusing one-way systems, highly congested traffic and lots of roadworks. Therefore, I will always recommend not to bother driving in Bristol unless you really must.

Alternatively, if leaving the city, you will need a car for days out such as trips to London or further afield. But when in the city, please consider walking, cycling or catching a bus.

Cycling in Bristol

Cycling in Bristol is a very popular pastime, which is only made all the more true when you consider just how many cycle paths are available in Bristol.

It’s super easy to get from the city centre out to most suburban areas whilst hardly cycling along main roads.

Plus, many companies are involved with the ‘Cycle to Work’ scheme, allowing you to purchase a bicycle for a fraction of the cost.

Please refer to the Moving to Bristol: Work section above for other benefits available when working in Bristol.

Buses in Bristol

I’ve briefly mentioned the endless roadworks that seem to occur within Bristol, but what exactly is all of this for, and is it worth it?

Alongside the South Gloucestershire and North Somerset councils, Bristol City Council is working on improving public transport links, particularly buses.

They’ve recently launched an express bus service to make travelling into the city faster, easier and more eco-friendly. Known as the MetroBus, this should really help to improve congestion and commute times.

Alongside this, there is a new Park & Ride facility available from Lyde Green (a new housing development in the suburbs), which opened last year. This is in addition to the pre-existing Park & Rides in Brislington, Portway and Long Ashton.

So, despite Bristol looking like a death trap right now of orange cones, warning signs and congested traffic, we should hopefully see this improve as early as 2019! Here’s hoping!

Travelling Further Afield

As for travelling further afield, it takes just 2 hours to drive to London Heathrow via the M4 motorway, and there are lots of great day trips you can take from Bristol that are located less than an hour away.

Or you can opt for a fairly priced coach, taking 2.5 hours to get to Heathrow or 4 hours to get to London Gatwick. These are normally National Express coaches, so keep an eye out for offers and discounts on their website.

Bristol also has its own International airport, which offers fair car parking prices or the option to get the Flyer Express bus from Bristol Temple Meads train station for just £11 return.

Although you cannot fly to everywhere from Bristol, you should find that the airport is still very well connected, especially with European destinations.

Bristol Transport

Living in Bristol: Food

You may have noticed that food plays quite a large part in my blog, so it should come as no surprise that a moving to Bristol guide would also include a food section.

Bristol is perfect for foodies!

They are on top of all the latest trends, including veganism, bubble tea and local produce, whilst also ensuring many chain restaurants are available alongside the independent family-run places.

Street food is particularly prevalent in Bristol – not only cheap, but they are of high quality and exotic. Are you in the mood for some delicious falafel? How about Caribbean jerk chicken? Easy.

In Bristol, you can find food to suit every taste, personality type and budget.

Don’t believe us? Just check out our local’s guide to Bristol!

Oh, and this is just some of the great eateries in Bristol. It’s safe to say that my Bristol food guide is going to keep on growing!

Pizzarova Pizza at Whistle Punks Bristol

Why is Bristol so easy to fall in love with?

Hopefully reading this guide has given you lots of food for thought ahead of living in Bristol.

But did you know that Bristol has also been voted the best city in the UK multiple times?

If you ask any native Bristolian what they like about living in Bristol, you’ll likely hear one of these things or a combination of them:

  • Bristol has a diverse, multicultural and fun vibe
  • It offers a good balance of city-life and country living
  • There are a number of excellent industries that are booming within the city, including aerospace, technology, IT and marketing
  • It’s a truly colourful place to live in, with lots of fun and free festivals throughout the year
  • There are hundreds of thriving independent businesses in the city, which locals love to support
  • Salaries are decent here, combined with fair rent and housing prices
  • Christmas in Bristol is a pretty epic celebration of a whole bunch of fun stuff!

If you’re after more reasons why Bristol is so easy to fall in love with, here’s a more in-depth article.

Bristol Living Guide

Should you move to Bristol?

If you were to ask me “Should I move to Bristol?”, then my answer would simply be: “Yes, you totally should! There are so many reasons why!”

Although let’s face it, I’m a biased resident having called this home for the past five years.

But don’t just take my word for it – let the awards speak for itself!

  • Named the best place to live in Britain in 2017 by The Sunday Times. Enough said!
  • Declared European City of Sport in 2017 by The European Capitals and Cities of Sport Federation. Thus, Bristol is a great place to keep fit!
  • Home to almost 20,000 businesses, Bristol was also voted #1 for starting a business in the Start-up Cities Index in 2016
  • Voted European Green Capital in 2015 by The European Commission. Bristol was actually the first UK city to win this highly coveted award!
International Balloon Fiesta

Phew, that’s it from me! I hope you find this article useful if considering living in Bristol. Now tell me, when are you moving to this fun and vibrant city?

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Where should you live in Bristol?
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Justine Jenkins

Justine is one half of the married couple behind the Wanderers of the World travel blog. She lives in Bristol, UK and has travelled extensively within Europe and beyond since 2013. After her trips, she shares detailed travel itineraries, helpful travel guides and inspiring blog posts about the places she's been to. When she's not travelling overseas, you'll find her joining her husband, Scott on various day trips, weekend getaways and walks within the UK, which she also writes about on Wanderers of the World. Aside from travelling and writing, she also loves reading, crafting and learning about nature.

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