Bristol and Liverpool became centres of the Triangular Trade.
From the 13th to the 18th century, Bristol was among the top three English cities after London in tax receipts.
Bristol was surpassed by the rapid rise of Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool in 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.
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 tidal Avon Gorge, which had secured the port during the Middle Ages, had become a liability.
An 1804–09 plan to improve the city's port with a floating harbour designed by William Jessop was a costly error, requiring high harbour fees.
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.
The Sunday Times named it as the best city in Britain in which to live in 20, and Bristol also won the EU's European Green Capital Award in 2015.
During the 16th century, Bristol merchants concentrated on developing trade with Spain and its American colonies.