The West Country city edged out more obvious rivals like its neighbour Bath, Edinburgh or Oxford to be included in the DK Eyewitness Travel Guides series ‘Top 10 Cities for 2009’.
In doing so it rubs shoulders with the likes of Cape Town in South Africa and the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires.
The varied list also includes lesser-known cities such as Gdansk in Poland and Vilnius in Lithuania.
While Bristol, a city of some 416,000 inhabitants, might lack a knock-out single attraction like Edinburgh Castle or Bath’s Royal Crescent, Anna Paynton from DK Eyewitness Travel Guides said it had been chosen because of its varied character.
She said: “Bristol is often overlooked in favour of its more picturesque neighbour Bath, which tends to get a lot more attention. The book says that if you haven’t been to Bristol, though, you really should.
“The different pockets of the city have their individual charms and that’s why we included it in DK’s 2009 list. It’s a great city and one which has undergone quite a few changes over the last few years.”
The city centre has been extensive redevelopment over the last decade. Large areas of the harbour, home to Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s iron-hulled SS Great Britain, have been turned from wasteland to bars and cafes, while the Industrial Museum on the quayside is being transformed into a new Museum of Bristol with a £10 million refit.
Cabot Circus, a £500 million shopping centre boasting a Harvey Nichols, has also been built in what was an ugly concrete void at the heart of the city.
Other attractions include the Georgian period ‘village’ of Clifton, home to the Brunel’s famous suspension bridge across the Avon gorge, and pretty inner city enclaves with names such as Hotwells and Montpellier.
John Hallett, managing director of tourism body Destination Bristol, said: “Bristol is an exciting city to visit right now. The DK Eyewitness Travel Guide commendation is not only evidence that Bristol is becoming one of the most talked about places in the UK, but it is also recognition that the city is well on its way to achieving something special on both a European and international scale.”
London is the only other British city to have been featured in the DK Eyewitness series before.
Top 10 Cities for 2009
Bristol (UK); Buenos Aires (Argentina); Gdansk (Poland); Washington DC (USA); Vienna (Austria); Cape Town (South Africa); Copenhagen (Denmark); Fes (Morocco); Seattle (USA) and Vilnius (Lithuania).