There’s a lot to think about when deciding where to host a conference. But top of the list in 2021 should be finding out what a destination has to offer your delegates beyond the event.

Mixing business and leisure during events and conferences – known as ‘bleisure’ travel – has been steadily increasing for years. And now more than ever, people are seeing work trips as a chance to travel for fun too. Millennials especially are eager to get to know a new location through authentic local experiences.

New research from the Experience Institute proves this point: 78% of attendees indicate destination is a top driver in the decision to attend. They want to feel inspired to explore in their downtime, perhaps with the excuse to extend their stay for a few nights.

It makes perfect sense. Why travel all the way somewhere just to see the conference space and hotel room, after all?

Somewhere lively and interesting steeped in history and culture is the kind of place that should pique the interest of potential delegates. Here’s why Bristol fits the bill.

View of Bristol Harbour and the colourful houses of Hotwell

Image - Bristol Harbourside, credit Dave Page

What makes Bristol a first-class conference destination

Bristol is a dynamic city where street art, grand architecture, hot air balloons, live music, superstar chefs, maritime history and more collide. Whatever your delegates’ interests, there’ll be something to captivate them during their stay.

A street art capital

Bristol was at the heart of the development of Britain’s street art movement and remains a graffiti art-covered city today. This is the home of Banksy, the world’s most famous and elusive street artist, whose local works you can hunt down on a Banksy Walking Tour.

You’ll even find street art adorning the walls at Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel. Local gallery and street art festival Upfest had a hand in updating the arty interiors here, with over 500 pieces of local art on display throughout the hotel.

Art in the lobby at Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel

Image - Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel

Food for thought

From Michelin-starred fare to cosy cafes, globe-spanning restaurants to quirky cocktail bars – the enormously varied food and drink scene is one thing that keeps visitors coming back to Bristol.

Once named vegan capital of the world, veggies are always pleased to find an epic selection of meat-free and plant-based food around the city. Another highlight is the street food. A visit to St Nicholas Market – where many popular Bristol restaurants started out – is a must, with pie and mash, Japanese, Middle Eastern and Portuguese among the cuisines on offer.

More than just hitting the mark on taste, there’s a local commitment to making the food system fairer and greener too. The city became the second Gold Sustainable Food City in the UK in May 2021. This recognises the good work happening in areas like reducing food waste, urban growing and community action.

Dish from Woky Ko Kaiju

Image - Woky Ko

Indie spirit

Bristol has a thriving independent shopping scene – it’s highly likely you’ll end up taking a piece of local art, some handcrafted homewares or West Country produce back home with you.

Stokes Croft and Gloucester Road in particular are chock-a-block with vintage and second-hand shops, art galleries, lifestyle stores, delis, plant shops, bookshops and more. The same goes for North Street and Bedminster, just a ten-minute walk from the city centre.

Clifton Village is another great area for discovering independent gems, with plenty of fashion, jewellery, antique and gift stores.

Six Sisters street art in Bedminster

Image - Six Sisters street art in Bedminster, credit Plaster

A musical city

With a jam-packed calendar of live music, visitors can usually find a gig or concert they fancy attending while in town. Notable venues include Bristol Beacon, the city’s largest concert hall; the elegant St George's Bristol, which is a former Georgian church; Trinity Centre, another former church and the birthplace of the ‘Bristol Sound’; and former cargo ship turned nightclub Thekla.

St George's Bristol at night

Image - St George's Bristol, credit Evan Dawson

Lauded landmarks

Bristol has more than its fair share of noteworthy cultural and historical sights to seek out, such as Brunel’s SS Great Britain, Bristol Cathedral and Bristol Old Vic, the longest-running theatre in the English-speaking world.

One of the most quintessentially Bristol experiences has to be enjoying a pint on The White Lion terrace with a view of the magnificent Clifton Suspension Bridge. Part of The Avon Gorge by Hotel du Vin, you can hire out this space for an event backdropped by Brunel’s iconic feat of engineering.

Hot air balloons flying over Clifton Suspension Bridge

Image - Clifton Suspension Bridge, credit Gary Newman

Discount train travel

A destination that’s simple to get to also has huge appeal for potential delegates. Not only is Bristol easily accessible by train but this offer from Great Western Railway makes it more affordable too. Discounted tickets for conference delegates are available to the two mainline stations – Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway.  

Bring your conference to Bristol

On top of the lively leisure activities on offer, Bristol has all you need for a smooth-running conference or event, with many brilliant venues and suppliers to choose from.

If you're feeling inspired to plan your next event in the city, we’re here to help – make the most of our free venue finding service and event planners guide.

Read more about Bristol:

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