The M4, followed by the M32 is the main route into Bristol from London. Journey time from the capital is two to three hours, depending on traffic. Try not to travel on a Friday night; this is a busy commuter motorway. For car hire, go to www.hertz.co.uk: Smith cardholders get a ten per cent discount; quote '635230' when you reserve.
The nearest airport is Bristol International, roughly half an hour's drive from the city centre.
Trains arrive at either Bristol Temple Meads or Bristol Parkway. Temple Meads is nearer to the centre of the city.
Country code for the UK: 44. Code for Bristol: (0)1272.
Read Steven Brindle's fascinating Brunel: The Man who Built the World to learn more about Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the engineer and British icon who designed Bristol's beloved Clifton Suspension Bridge, as well as the train station you probably arrived at, Temple Meads.
Do go / Don't Go
There are plenty of cosy pubs, cafes and restaurants in which to take refuge from the rain in the winter, but June through to September are the best months to visit. The westerly Gulf Stream climate keeps it a degree or two warmer than most of England, but this can make for excess drizzle in winter.
From cutting-edge cool to BYO trencherman joints, Bristol seems to have far more decent restaurants than is reasonable for such a small city. Not that we're complaining.
Taxis cannot be flagged down in the street, so ask your hotel to book one for you. There are usually plenty of taxis outside the train stations.
As per the rest of the UK, tipping is discretionary, but 12.5 per cent is appreciated.
This city is so laidback it's pretty much having a lie-down, so don't worry about packing a suit and tie or cocktail dress for dinner.
The large student population makes Bristol a great place for live music. Check the well-respected local listings magazine, Venue, for details of who's playing where. England's oldest working theatre, the Old Vic on King Street (open since 1766) has hosted many award-winning productions, and has a gorgeous Georgian auditorium. Just across the road, the twin harbourside galleries - Arnolfini and the Watershed - host contemporary-art exhibitions and independent film screenings. Both have excellent cafés, too.
One of the best things about Bristol is its size: it is eminently walkable. To see the best bits, take an hour's stroll from Coin Street in the centre, over the harbourside and then up Park Street and into Clifton, ending up at the suspension bridge.
Head to Clifton village for arts and crafts and antique shops. The town centre is pretty run-of-the-mill, although John Anthony on Broadmead is good for designer clobber. Your best bet for clothes and other goodies is Park Street, the steep hill that runs up from the harbourside to the town centre. Cooshti is recommended for designerwear, and Phase Eight is a collective of several well-priced Bristol designers under one roof.
Bristol's a hilly city with lots of dramatic views so it's hard to choose a favourite. Brandon Hill is lovely and it's walking distance from the city centre but, for a breathtaking cityscape, the view from halfway across the Clifton Suspension Bridge is hard to beat. You can also drive to Glastonbury in about an hour and walk up to the Tor. Even if you dismiss the myths and legends about this famous hill, said to be at the crossroads of powerful ley lines and home to the King of the Faeries, we bet you find it a little bit magical once you get there.
Every Bristolian has, at some point, glided down the smooth, polished natural-stone slide just next to the Clifton entrance to the suspension bridge. It sounds daft but it's actually great fun as, over hundreds of years, so many people have slid down the slope that it's become a sort of mineral form of black ice. A true Bristol experience that you won't find in the guidebooks.
July Ashton Court festival, in the lovely green hills around this stately home, features DJs and live bands, and it only costs a fiver (www.ashtoncourtfestival.com). Also in July, the Harbour Festival attracts more than 100,000 people with boat races, a funfair, a French food market, live music and fireworks (www.bristol-city.gov.uk). In August Bristol hosts a Balloon Fiesta, the biggest hot-air-balloon show in Europe (www.bristolfiesta.co.uk). In September, the Bristol International Kite Festival at Ashton Court will fulfill all your 'kidult' desires (www.thekitesociety.org.uk/events.htm).