Bristol

With more than 400,000 people in the city proper and more than one million in the surrounding area, Bristol is the eighth most populous city in the UK and can hold its own with any of them. Known for its academic lure, Bristol has become a magnet both for college students and recent graduates enjoying the young, entrepreneurial vibe of the city.

Despite this new vibrancy, Bristol’s significance began with its  port, a gateway to the world  — which explains why 34 other places on Earth are called Bristol, all of them with links to this city. Today, Bristol is powered by industries like the creative media, electronics, national defense and aerospace. The port and piers have become more significant now as cultural and heritage spaces, with the harbor still a major importer of automobiles and wine and spirits.

The financial industry is another major element in Bristol’s economy, another reason why Bristol is among the more affluent cities in the UK. That brings with it an attention to all sorts of cultural events. Bristolians enjoy seven Foodie festivals, a local off shoot of The Old Vic theater company, as well as numerous other theaters and the oldest continuously operating theater in the UK.

Bristol has a terrific music scene, even boasting a “Bristol sound” and the home of world class acts like Tricky, Massive Attack and Portishead. Film and animation production also take place in Bristol, the home of the multiple Oscar-winning “Wallace & Gromit” animated films and shorts.

Among the many attractions of this major tourist town, Bristol has football/soccer, rugby and cricket, not to mention a hot air ballooning annual event, outdoor music festivals, museums and art centers. It features two major universities and is a significant hub for science and technology in the UK. It has high speed rail service to London. But if you love shopping, why go anywhere else? Bristol just opened the Cabot Circus, a shopping centre that boasts a price tag of nearly $1 billion, making Bristol one of the most desirable retail cities in the UK.