This article is about the British city. For other uses, see Bristol (disambiguation).
City, county
City and County of Bristol [1]
A view from above of office blocks and church spires adjacent to a river which is crossed by a road bridge. In the right foreground a city park and a ruined church. A small boat is moving on the river and a larger barge is moored against a wooded quay. In the distance on the right wooded hills and on the left a mass of predominantly red brick housing.
Motto: Virtute et Industria
(By Virtue and Industry)
A map showing the location of the county of Bristol in England.
Location of the county of Bristol in England
Coordinates: 51°27′N 2°35′W / 51.450°N 2.583°W / 51°27′N 2°35′W / 51.450; -2.583
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country England
Region South West
Royal Charter 1155
County status 1373
Status City, county and unitary authority
 • Type Unitary authority
 • Governing body Bristol City Council
 • Admin HQ
 •  Leadership Mayor and Cabinet
 •  Mayor Marvin Rees (Lab)
 •  MPs
 • City and county 40 sq mi (110 km2)
Elevation [2] 36 ft (11 m)
Population (2015)
 • City and county 449,300 (Ranked 10th district and 43rd ceremonial county)
 • Density 10,080/sq mi (3,892/km2)
 •  Urban 617,000 (2,011 ONS estimate [3])
 •  Metro 1,006,600 ( LUZ 2,009)
 • Ethnicity [4]
  • 84.0% white (77.9% white British)
  • 6.0% black
  • 5.5% Asian
  • 3.6% mixed-race
  • 0.3% Arab
  • 0.6% other
Demonym(s) Bristolian
Time zone GMT ( UTC)
 • Summer ( DST) BST ( UTC+1)
Postcode BS
Area code(s) 0117, 01275
ISO 3166 code GB-BST
GVA 2012
 • Total £11.7bn ($19.4bn) ( 8th)
 • Growth Increase 1.6%
 • Per capita £27,100 ($44,900) ( 5th)
 • Growth Increase 0.6%

Bristol ( Listen i /ˈbrɪstəl/) is a city, unitary authority area and county in South West England with an estimated population of 449,300 in 2016. It is England's sixth and the United Kingdom's eighth most populous city, and the most populous city in Southern England after London. The city borders the Unitary Authority areas of North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, with the historic cities of Bath and Gloucester to the south-east and north-east, respectively.

Iron Age hill forts and Roman villas were built near the confluence of the rivers Frome and Avon, and around the beginning of the 11th century the settlement was known as Brycgstow ( Old English "the place at the bridge"). Bristol received a royal charter in 1155 and was historically in Gloucestershire until 1373, when it became a county of itself. From the 13th to the 18th century, Bristol was among the top three English cities after London (with York and Norwich) in tax receipts. Bristol was surpassed by the rapid rise of Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham during the Industrial Revolution.

Bristol was a starting place for early voyages of exploration to the New World. On a ship out of Bristol in 1497 John Cabot, a Venetian, became the first European since the Vikings to land on mainland North America. In 1499 William Weston, a Bristol merchant, was the first Englishman to lead an exploration to North America. The Port of Bristol has since moved from Bristol Harbour in the city centre to the Severn Estuary at Avonmouth and Royal Portbury Dock.

Bristol's modern economy is built on the creative media, electronics and aerospace industries, and the city-centre docks have been redeveloped as centres of heritage and culture. The city has two universities, the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol and a variety of artistic and sporting organisations and venues including the Royal West of England Academy, the Arnolfini, Spike Island, Ashton Gate and the Memorial Stadium. It is connected to London and other major UK cities by road, rail, sea and air by the M5 and M4 (which connect to the city centre by the Portway and M32), Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway mainline rail stations, and Bristol Airport.

One of the UK's most popular tourist destinations, Bristol was selected in 2009 as one of the world's top ten cities by international travel publishers Dorling Kindersley in their Eyewitness series of travel guides. In 2014 The Sunday Times named it as the best city in Britain in which to live, and Bristol also won the EU's European Green Capital Award in 2015.


The most ancient recorded name for Bristol is the archaic Welsh Caer Odor (the fort on the chasm), which is consistent with modern understanding that early Bristol developed between the River Frome and Avon Gorge. [5] It is most commonly stated that the Saxon name Bricstow was a simple calque of the existing Celtic name, with Bric (meaning a break) a literal translation of Odor, and the common Saxon suffix Stow replacing Caer. [6] Alternative etymologies are supported with the numerous orthographic variations in Medieval documents with Samuel Seyer enumerating 47 alternative forms. [7]

The Old English form Brycgstow is commonly used to derive the meaning place at the bridge. [8] Utilizing another form, Brastuile, Rev. Dr. Shaw derived the name from the Celtic words bras (quick, rapid), or braos (a gap, chasm,) and tuile (a stream). The poet Thomas Chatterton popularised a derivation from Brictricstow linking the town to Brictric, the last king of Wessex. It appears that the form Bricstow prevailed until 1204, [9] and the Bristolian 'L' (the tendency for the local accent to add a letter L to the end of some words) is what eventually changed the name to Bristol. [10]