Home Destinations 29 Best Things To Do In Bristol, UK | The Ultimate Bristol City Guide

29 Best Things To Do In Bristol, UK | The Ultimate Bristol City Guide

by Michele
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29 Best Things to do in Bristol, UK - Bristol City Guide
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From Banksy to bridges, markets to museums, and churches to castles, this Bristol city guide shows you all the best things to do in Bristol, plus tips on where to eat, drink and stay.

With its small-town vibe with an international twist, award-winning speakeasy dens, and a tangible history, Bristol is full of heritage attractions and incredible street art. Bristol has produced some of the world’s best talent, including Hollywood screen legend Cary Grant (Archibald Leach) and thought-provoking street artist, Banksy. Whether you want to enjoy a leisurely stroll along the harbour, watch deer roaming the hillside, or learn about Bristol rich history in its world-class museums and galleries, Bristol has something for every kind traveller.

A Brief History of Bristol

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Whale street art on south bankBristol is located just 120 miles (193 km) west of London across the Channel from Cardiff in Wales and is situated on the River Frome and River Avon.

The oldest recorded name given to Bristol was Caer Odor, meaning the “city of the gap”, a reference to the Avon Gorge. Bristol then became known as Bricstow, from 1064 to 1204, with the Saxons thereafter changing the city’s name to Brcyg Stowe, meaning “a place by the bridge”.

As early as the 11th century, Bristol had a port. In 1247, the Bristol Bridge and Docks were built and trading in woold, wheat, fish and salt began.

In the 14th century, Bristol was the departure point for many exploration voyages to the New World. By the 18th century, Bristol played a significant role in the triangular trade of exporting guns and metalware to Africa, transporting slaves across the Atlantic, and bringing back sugar, rum, tobacco, cotton, and molasses. At its height from 1700 to 1807, more than 2,000 slave ships carried an estimated 500,000 people from Africa to slavery in the Americas.

Bristol is comprised of various districts each offering something unique and worth seeing. This Bristol city guide is broken up into districts and categories to help you navigate different pockets of the city.  Starting with the historic center, here are the best things to do in Bristol.

Watch my vlog on the best things to do in Bristol


Looking for something in particular? Use these links to jump around.

Included in this Bristol city guide


Map of best things to do in Bristol, UK

Want to know where you’ll be going? Take a look at the detailed map below.

Tip: For a larger view of the map, click on the icon in the top right corner.

Click on this interactive map and see where this itinerary will take you. I’ve created this map using Google Maps which you can save and use as you travel around. The coloured pins represent different pockets of the of the city to explore. Click on any pin for more information.
Things to do in Bristol – Blue pins
Where to eat in Bristol – Green pins
Where to drink in Bristol – Pink pins
Where to stay in Bristol – Yellow pins


Bristol Pounds

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Bristol Pounds currency One of the coolest things I learned in Bristol is that it has its own currency! It’s called the Bristol Pound (£B) and is a form of local, or community currency. It was launched in 2012 with the aim to encourage people to spend their money with local, independent businesses. Some of which apply special discounts for customers paying in Bristol Pounds.

Bristol Pounds can be used in both paper and electronic format, just like conventional money. The only difference is that the paper form isn’t legal tender and expires after 3 years. At which point, locals submit their creative designs to appear on the notes.

One Bristol Pound is equivalent to one Sterling Pound. Locals can use Bristol Pounds to pay their Council Tax, electricity bills and public transport.

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Bristol pounds on bus


Old City


1. Wander around Corn Street

Forming the heart of Bristol’s Old Town is Corn Street, Broad Street, Wine Street, and High Street. These four cross streets met at what is called the Bristol High Cross, a monumental market cross that was erected in 1373 at a time when Bristol was a walled medieval town. The monument was erected to commemorate the Edward III’s grant to make Bristol a county, separate from Somerset and Gloucestershire.

Today, Corn Street is lined with shops, bars, and restaurants and is just as important as it was back in the 13th century.

Address

Corn St, Bristol BS1 1JG, United Kingdom

2. Visit The Exchange

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - The Exchange and clockLocated on Corn Street is The Exchange, a Grade I listed building built in 1741–43 by John Wood the Elder who was an English architect from neighbouring Bath.

A corn market was held inside The Exchange from 1813, but there is also evidence that corn has been bought and sold on this street as far back as the 13th century when it was called Old Corn Street.

Today, The Exchange is home to the famous St Nicholas Market that’s spread across three major halls, but more on that soon.

Address

55 Corn St, Bristol BS1 1JG, United Kingdom

3. See “The Nails”

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - The Exchange - The NailsNot only has the area around Corn Street been the heart of the city’s trade, but from the 18th century, it’s also been the centre of banking. Remnants of Bristols thriving trade period can still be seen today.

Merchants of the time would meet and discuss business in what was known as a ‘Merchants’ Tolzey’ or ‘Tolsey’. What they used as a table were one of nine brass tables known as ‘nails’.

You can see four of the original nine nails located right in front of The Exchange on Corn Street which date between 1625 and 1631.

Address

55 Corn St, Bristol BS1 1JG, United Kingdom

4. Check the time on The Exchange Clock

It’s not every day that you see a clock with two-minute hands. Which is why the clock at The Exchange Clock gets a special mention. First installed in 1822, the clock only tracked local time in Bristol. Yes, Bristol had its own time zone!

But with the introduction of the railways a standardised time for timetabling around the country was required. Otherwise better known as railway time. So, on 14 September 1852, Bristol adopted railway time and added a second-minute hand to show the time in London as well as the local time in Bristol.

With Bristol being located 2º 35′ west of London’s Greenwich, when it was noon in Bristol, it was and still it just after 12:10 p.m. in London.

If you’re wondering which hand is which, the red minute hand shows Greenwich Mean Time and the pink minute hand shows Bristol time. Pretty cool, huh?

Address

55 Corn St, Bristol BS1 1JG, United Kingdom

5. Go shopping at St. Nicholas Market

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - St. Nicolas Market stalls Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - St. Nicolas Market smoothie Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - St. Nicolas Market florist Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - St. Nicolas Market cakesHead inside The Exchange and wander around the lovely St. Nicholas Market. Set inside a Georgian arcade, you’ll find a mix of local and independent retailers operating out of tiny shops and stands.

The market is broken up into three major sections. In the Exchange Hall, you’ll find a large open plan area full of stands with various items for sale from clothes to bikes, electronics to jewellery.

Next, is the Glass Arcade, located in between the three sections this is where you’ll find all some of Bristol’s best food offerings. I was particularly impressed with their choice of vegan options for both mains and desserts.

Adjoining the Glass Arcade is the Covered Market, a mishmash of individual shops and alleyways. Also here is Kalahari Moon – split across two stores, Kalahari Moon sells South African and Zimbabwean foodstuffs and other items from the region as well as organising community braais and events.

Opening times

St. Nicholas Market is open Monday to Saturday 9.30am to 5pm, excluding bank holidays. Alongside the main markets, addition markets include:

  • Vegan and Wellbeing Market – Monday, 11am to 2.30pm
  • Street Food Market – Tuesday and Friday, 11am to 2:30pm
  • Bristol Farmers’ and Producers’ Market – Wednesday, 9.30am to 2.30pm

If you’re visiting around December, a Christmas-themed outdoor market is held every day from  December 11 until Christmas Eve from 10am to 5pm.

Address

55 Corn St, Bristol BS1 1JG, United Kingdom

Check the official St. Nicolas website for more details

Admission

Free

6. Stroll around Castle Park and see St. Peter’s Church

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - St. Peter's Church at dusk Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - St. Peter's Church water featureAs you exit St. Nicholas Market to the east on High Street, cross the road to the beautiful and lush Castle Park. This large and tranquil park offers a quiet respite from the busy marketplace.

Located in the center of the park are the ruins of St. Peter’s Church, which was bombed during the Bristol Blitz of 24–25 November 1940. Today, it is maintained as a monument to the civilians who lost their lives. Excavations of the church’s foundations suggest it dates back to 1106, making it the site of Bristol’s first church.

Opening times

Unfortunately, the church itself isn’t open to the public, but Castle Park is always open.

Address

Castle Park, Bristol BS1 3XB, United Kingdom

7. Visit the Georgian House Museum

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - The Georgian House Museum Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Georgian House Museum study What better way to learn how what life was like in  Bristol in the 1800s than by visiting the Georgian House Museum. The building was once the home of John Pinney, a wealthy sugar merchant and slave plantation owner and is now a museum spread across 11 rooms over 4 floors.

The Georgian House is particularly important significant to Bristol’s history as this is where the enslaved African, Pero Jones lived. At just 12 years old, Pero was bought by John Pinney to work on his Mountravers plantation in Nevis. In 1784, he moved with the family to Bristol, where they lived in this Georgian House.

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Pero's Bridge

Pero’s Bridge

Pero was John Pinney’s personal servant, serving him for 32 years. In commemoration of one slave who lived and died in the city, Pero’s Bridge (a footbridge running across Bristol’s floating harbour) was named after him.

Opening times

The Georgian House Museum is open Saturday to Tuesday 11am to 4pm. Closed Wednesday-Friday.

Address

7 Great George St, Bristol BS1 5RR, United Kingdom

Check the official Georgian House Museum website for more details

Admission

Free entry or by donation.

8. Wander through Queen Square

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Queens SquareSurrounded by cobbled streets and trees, Queen Square is a lovely Georgian park area in the heart of Bristol’s city centre. The first houses built here were in 1699 and in 1700 and the Square was subsequently named after Queen Anne in 1702. A statue of William III dating back to 1736 stands in the centre of the Square.

Address

Bristol BS1 4LH, United Kingdom

9. Visit Bristol Cathedral

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Bristol Cathedral and fountainBristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Bristol Cathedral Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Bristol Cathedral stained glass windowsFrom modern art to medieval, head for Bristol Cathedral to see one of England’s great medieval churches.  Bristol Cathedral was founded by Robert Fitzharding, a prominent local citizen and supporter of Henry II. He converted this once Augustinian Abbey run by Augustine monks into what is now a grade I listed building attracting visitors from around the globe

Located outside of the Cathedral is The Great Gatehouse, also known as the Abbey Gatehouse. Dating back to around 1170, this was the gatehouse for the original St Augustine’s Abbey.

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - The Great GatehouseUnderneath its beautiful vaulted ceiling are numerous memorials, including those members of the Berkeley family who played such a large part in the founding of the cathedral.

Look out for the stained glass windows in the South Transept where you’ll see a depiction of King Alfred the Great, the writer Richard Hakluyt, the priest Richard Hooker and the poet and playwright William Shakespeare.

Opening times

From Monday to Friday the Cathedral is open to visitors from 8.00am until 5.00pm, unless you wish to attend Choral Evensong or Evening Prayer at 5.15pm.

Address

College Green, Bristol BS1 5TJ, United Kingdom

Admission

Free

Check the official Bristol Cathedral website for more information and events.

10. Trace Our World’s History at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Inside Bristol Museum and Art Gallery Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Bristol Museum and Art Gallery BoxkiteLearn about the story of our world from the beginning of time to the present day. Housed inside a beautiful Edwardian building and spread across 3 floors and 19 galleries, the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery follows the evolution of cultures, ancient civilisations, human invention, and creativity, as well as showcasing our beautiful and fragile natural world. With so much to see, you could easily spend an entire day here!

On the ground floor, you learn about ancient Egypt and Assyria. The first floor takes you on a journey through the last billion years where you can see incredible dinosaur fossils including the best-preserved dinosaurs ever found in Britain – the Scelidosaurus. Also here are precious stones and crystals including the Bristol Diamond. In the wildlife galleries rare, endangered and extinct wildlife from the UK and around the globe are found on display.

From the first floor balcony, you get an excellent view of the Bristol Boxkite suspended from the ceiling. This was the first aircraft produced by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company

On the second floor are the museum’s seven art galleries featuring the works of Bellini, Cranach, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, Bomberg, Hepworth, and Beryl Cook – amongst many other great artists

Don’t miss the Banksy’s Paint Pot Angel in the foyer

Opening times

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery is open Tuesday-Sunday 10am- 5pm. Closed Monday.

Address

Located in the foyer of Bristol Museum & Art Gallery on Queens Rd, Bristol BS8 1RL, United Kingdom.

Admission

Free

Check the official Bristol Museum and Art Gallery website for more information.

11. Climb up Cabot Tower on Brandon Hill

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Cabot Tower Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Cabot Tower and pond Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - View from Cabot TowerLocated just off Park Street in the West End, is Brandon Hill. The stunning park is the oldest park in Bristol and home to it’s tallest lookout, Cabot Tower. The tower was built in 1897 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the journey of John Cabot from Bristol to what is now Newfoundland in Canada. John Cabot or Giovanni Caboto was an Italian navigator and explorer who was born in c. 1450 – c. 1500.

Cabot’s 1497 discovery of the North American coast was under the commission of Henry VII of England and is the earliest known European exploration of coastal North America since the Norse visits to Vinland in the eleventh century.

According to legend, America was actually named after a Bristolian! Richard Amerike was responsible for funding a large part of John Cabot voyage to America.

This anniversary of his discovery is engraved in Roman numerals CCCC (400) on each of the four sides of the tower, beneath various crests. Located on the apex of the tower is a winged figure representing Commerce.

The tower’s construction was paid for by public subscription and cost over £3000. Not only is visiting Cabot Tower one of the best things to do in Bristol it’s absolutely free and you can climb this 105-foot tower and enjoy excellent views over the city and Harbourside area.

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Brandon Hill Houses

Opening times

Brandon Hill is open at all times. Cabot Tower is open Monday to Sunday: 8:15- 9.15pm.

I would recommend keeping an eye on the weather as the tower is known to be closed when there is heavy rainfall that makes the steps very slippery and unsafe. I was up there for a good 20 minutes in the rain before a park ranger came to close the tower.

Address

Brandon Hill Park, Park St, Bristol BS1 5RR, United Kingdom

Admission

Free

12. See incredible artwork at Royal West of England Academy (RWA)

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Royal West of England Academy Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Royal West of England Academy white room Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Royal West of England Academy artworkI’m not usually into modern art but I really enjoyed my visit to Royal West of England Academy. Also known as The RWA, this is Bristol’s oldest art gallery and the UK’s only regional Royal Academy of Art.

Set inside a stunning Grade II listed building, the Royal West of England Academy features five naturally-lit galleries making it one of the best exhibition spaces in the country.

Its lively programme of exhibitions celebrate the best of historic and contemporary British art, including artists from Turner and Constable to Fedden and Nash, and work by its own Academicians, who include some of the country’s leading artists.

Opening times

Royal West of England Academy is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5.30pm, Sunday 11am-5pm. Closed on Mondays.

Address

Queens Road and Whiteladies Rd, Bristol BS8 1NU

Admission

Adults: £7.95 (includes an 80p donation)
Concessions: £6.75 (includes a 70p donation), over 65s, students, jobseekers, registered disabled, 18-21 year olds

Check the official Royal West of England Academy website for more information.


Stokes Croft


13. See all the Street Art in Stokes Croft and Beyond

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Stokes Croft street art Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Stokes Croft street art in Dalton Square Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Stokes Croft street art mural Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Stokes Croft colourful housesA short bus ride north of the Old City is Stokes Croft, the epicenter of street art in Bristol. This hip and bohemian neighbourhood is home to some of the most famous pieces of street art in the city. In fact, local businesses in the area even commission street artists to paint their buildings. Banksy developed this style and made this mark in this area and you can still see several of his works here.

Street art can be found all along the main road, Stokes Croft, and in the side streets. Alternatively, for something more structured, join this popular street art and Bristol history tour.

Address:

Stokes Croft, Bristol BS1 3QY and in side streets.

14. See 10 original Banksy street art

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Banksy's The Girl with the Pierced EardrumDid you know that the world-famous yet entirely anonymous street artist Banksy hails from Bristol? No trip to Bristol would be complete without seeing some original Banksy artwork. If you want to see a handful of highlights, you can join this street art and Bristol history tour or use my Banksy self-guided walking tour guide to see even more at your own pace.


Harbourside and Spike Island


15. See the colourful houses in Hotwells from Bristol’s Harbour

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Park bench on harbour with colourful houses Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Bristol colours houses on harbourBy the 1760s, Bristol was a popular destination for cargo ships but due to its great fluctuations in the tide, some ships would be left stranded in the mud.  With the growing traffic, it also became impossible to accommodate all the boats and some were beginning to go to other ports like Liverpool where there was more capacity.

Merchants in Bristol began to think of ways to make the harbour non-tidal by damming the river. In 1809, 80 acres of tidal river was impounded to allow visiting ships to remain afloat all the time, hence a ‘Floating Harbour’. Over the next two centuries the Harbour grew as a busy commercial port until it closed in 1975.

Today, Harbourside is a core part of the city where you’ll find museums, galleries, exhibitions, Sunday markets, waterside restaurants and bars and a whole host of sports and activities including yachting, paddle boarding, cycling and rowing.

Make a stop by Millennium Square’s to see its fountains or head to one of the many restaurants or bars on the waterfront. As you duck in and out of the museums, keep an eye out for the wonderful vibrant houses hugging the hilltops in the Hotwells district.

16. Wander around Watershed

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Watershed Christmas market Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Watershed restaurantsLocated in Harbourside is Watershed, a cross-artform venue and dedicated media centre, the first of its kind in the UK. Set inside former warehouses on the Bristol’s harbourside, it hosts three cinemas offering a lively programme of independent film, a café/bar, events/conferencing spaces,  and the Pervasive Media Studio.

Under a sheltered walkway lining the harbour are a series of restaurants, shops and the tourism office where you can pick up some Bristol Pounds. When I visited, there was even a Christmas market here.

Opening times

Watershed is open Monday today from early morning until late in the evening. The various restaurants lining the harbour all have their own individual operating hours.

Address

Queens Road and Whiteladies Rd, Bristol BS8 1NU

Admission

Free.

Admission to the cinemas are £8.00 full / £5.00 concessions (screenings before 16:00) and £10.00 full / £8.00 concessions (screenings after 16:00)

Check the official Watershed website for more information.

17. Learn about Bristol’s history at M Shed

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Green bus at M ShedM Shed is a museum located in a dockside transit shed, its name is derived from the way the port identified each of its sheds.  Not only is M Shed home to some of Banky’s work you can visit using my self-guided Banksy walking tour, it also follows Bristol’s 2,000 year history including its role in the slave trade. Read stories about the city and its people and see 3,000 artefacts on display covering topic areas such as transport, people, and the arts.

Opening times

M Shed is open Tuesday-Sunday 10am – 5pm. Closed Monday.

Address

M Shed is located at Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd, Bristol BS1 4RN

Admission

Free

Check the official M Shed website for more information.

18. Go on a cruise aboard The Matthew of Bristol

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - The Mathew boat used by John CabotThe Matthew of Bristol is an incredible and authentic reconstruction of the boat used by John Cabot when he discovered Newfoundland in 1497. With a crew of only 18 men, The Matthew of Bristol departed either 2 May or 20 May 1497.

This stunning replica was built in Bristol to mark the 500th anniversary of Cabot’s voyage. Upon its completion, she even set sail to reconstruct Cabot’s original journey. Following the same course, with the same number of crew members and taking exactly the same amount of time to complete the crossing. When it returned to Bristol on 24 June 1997, the Matthew of Bristol was welcomed by Queen Elizabeth II.

Take a look around the boat and the upper decks or join one of The Mathew of Bristol’s various tours and experiences including a 1.5 hour Harbour Trip which includes Tea or Coffee, Cakes and Scones.

Opening times

The Mathew of Bristol is open:

  • Tuesday to Sunday (March – November) : 10 am – 4 pm
  • Saturday and Sunday (December – March) : 10 am – 4 pm
  • Open bank holidays, including Mondays.

Address

The Matthew of Bristol is located at Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd, Bristol BS1 4RN.

Admission

Free

Check the official Mathew of Bristol website for more information.

19. Visit Contemporary Art at Arnolfini

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Arnolfini GalleryArnolfini is Bristol’s International Centre for Contemporary Arts and one of Europe’s leading centres for the contemporary arts. Its name is taken from Dutch artist Jan van Eyck’s 15th-century painting The Arnolfini Portrait – believed to depict the Italian merchant Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini and his wife.

Arnolfini has a wide-ranging programme of contemporary art exhibitions, artist’s performance, music and dance events, poetry and book readings, talks, lectures and cinema. A number of festivals are hosted by the gallery and a specialist art bookshop and a café bar are a local favourite.

Opening times

Arnolfini is open Tuesday-Sunday 11am – 6pm. Closed Monday.

Address

Arnolfini is located at 16 Narrow Quay, Harbourside, Bristol, BS1 4QA

Admission

Free

Check the official Arnolfini website for more information.

20. Climb aboard Brunel’s SS Great Britain

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - SS Great Britain bow Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - SS Great Britain Museum Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - SS Great Britain Kitchen Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - SS Great Britain ExhibitionFurther along the harbourside is Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s SS Great Britain – quite possibly one of the absolute best museums I’ve ever visited. The SS (Steam Ship) Great Britain is one of the most important historic ships in the world. When she was launched in 1843 she was called ‘the greatest experiment since the Creation’.

Today, she is permanently moored in Bristol’s harbour and transformed into an impressive museum featuring six galleries and authentic recreations of what life was like aboard this former passenger steamship.

SS Great Britain was advanced for her time and the longest passenger ship in the world from 1845 to 1854. She was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806–1859), a prolific British civil engineer who revolutionised public transport and modern engineering.

While other ships at the time had been built of iron or equipped with a screw propeller, Brunel’s SS Great Britain was the first to combine these features in a large ocean-going ship. She was the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic in 1845 and later carried thousands of immigrants to Australia from 1852 to 1881.

Visiting SS Great Britain is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Bristol. Don’t miss this celebration of the engineering genius who ‘built Britain’ and helped shape the world.

If you’re feeling daring, you can even try your hand as being a Victorian sailor and climb the huge mainmast. From the viewing platform 26 meters above ground, you get beautiful views over the floating harbour.

Opening times

Brunel’s SS Great Britain is open daily as follows:

Monday 4 November 2019 – March 2020

  • Open: 10am to 4.30pm
  • Last entry: 3:30pm (one hour before closing)

March 2020 – November 2020

  • Open: 10am to 6pm
  • Last entry: 5pm (one hour before closing)

Address

Brunel’s SS Great Britain is located at Great Western Dockyard, Gas Ferry Road, Bristol, BS1 6TY

Admission

  • Adult £17
  • Child (4 year olds and under) FREE
  • Child (5 – 16 year olds) £10
  • Student (valid student identification is required) £15
  • Senior (aged 65 and over) £15
  • Save 5% and purchase your ticket online on the official Brunel’s SS Great Britain website
  • Tickets to climb the mast cost £10 and can be purchased on the day on the Weather Deck.

Clifton


21. Wander around Clifton Village

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Clifton colourful houses Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Clifton Hill houses Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Clifton Village shopsMade up of 18th and early 19th-century Georgian terrace homes and a few commercial streets with independent shops, Clifton Village is a charming suburb just five-minutes from Bristol centre. Most people come here to visit the Brunel’s famous Suspension Bridge over the Avon Gorge before visiting the Observatory. This delightful village is a lovely place to spend the day exploring and having a meal in one of its tempting restaurants.

How to get to Clifton

From Bristol Temple Meads train station:

  • Bus: Take 8, 9, 501 & 505
  • Train: Get off at Clifton Down Station
  • Taxi/Uber: Is approximately £7-£10

22. Go Shopping in Clifton Arcade

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Clifton Arcade in Clifton VillageThe Clifton Arcade is a restored Victorian shopping mall built between 1876 and 1878 and home to a series of independent shops selling antiques, jewellery, vintage and designer clothes, and bespoke furniture.

Opening times

Clifton Arcade is open:

  • Mon-Fri: 10:00am – 5.30pm
  • Saturday: 10:00am – 6:00pm
  • Sunday: 11:00am – 4:00pm

Address

Clifton Arcade is located at The Clifton Arcade, Boyce’s Avenue, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 4AA

Admission

Free

Check the official Clifton Arcade website for more information.

23. Eat at Primrose Café

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Primrose Cafe in Clifton VillageAt the entrance to Clifton Arcade is the popular Primrose Café, offering locals a relaxed atmosphere. Almost everything is prepared on the premises and sources ingredients that are produced locally, sustainably and ethically.

Opening times

Primrose Café is open:

  • Mon-Sat: 9:00am – 5.00pm
  • Sunday: 9:30am – 5:00pm

Address

Primrose Café is located at Boyce’s Ave, Bristol, BS8 4AA

Check the official Primrose Cafeé website for more information.

23. Walk along Birdcage Walk at St Andrew’s Church

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - St Andrew’s graveyard and Birdcage walk in CliftonTake a stroll through Birdcage Walk, a peaceful tree-lined pathway through the remains of St Andrew’s Church. Built in the 12th century, the church was destroyed in the Bristol Blitz in 1940 it was bombed in WWII. Today, all that remains is the foundation walls and steps to where the entrance was and a plaque commemorating its existence.

Opening times

Birdcage Walk is open at all times.

Address

Enter the Birdcage from The Fosseway and Clifton Rd end Bristol BS8 3AE.

Admission

Free

24. Walk along Royal York Crescent

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Clifton - Royal York Cresent colourful doorsBristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Clifton - Royal York Cresent red post boxOnce the longest terrace in Europe, Royal York Crescent is home to 46 beautiful Georgian style home dating back to 1791. But it’s almost didn’t happen.

The crescent wasn’t completed until 1820 after serious money problems brought on by the war with the French halted construction. The site was then bought by the War Department who considered building barracks there. After strong public opinion against the scheme, they eventually sold it to a developer who then finished the work. Today, it’s one of Clifton’s most striking areas and visible from the gorge below and across the harbour.

Opening times

Royal York Crescent is open at all times.

Address

Royal York Crescent, Bristol BS8 4LE

Admission

Free

25. Visit the Clifton Observatory, Camera Obscura & Museum

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Clifton ObservatoryOverlooking Clifton Suspension Bridge is Clifton Observatory, a former mill now used as an observatory. Dating back to 1766, it was later converted to grind snuff and became known as ‘The Snuff Mill’.

After a major fire in 1777, the building was left derelict until the artist William West rented the old mill in 1828, for 5 shillings (25p) a year, and converted it into his own studio and installed the camera obscura, which is still working today and open to the public.

Don’t miss the 360 Café with an open roof terrace with spectacular views of the bridge and gorge.

Opening times

Autumn/Winter From October: Open 7 days a week from 10:00am – 4:00pm (Last entry 3:45pm)
Spring/Summer – from March: Open 7 days a week from 10:00am – 5:00pm (Last entry 4:45pm)

360 Café: Open 7 days a week from 10am – 5pm all year round

Address

Clifton Observatory, Bristol BS8 3LT, United Kingdom

Admission

Check the official Clifton Observatory website for more information.

26. See The Giants Cave at Clifton Observatory

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - View of Clifton Suspension Bridge from the Giants Cave Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Giants CaveAlso located in the Clifton Observatory is Ghyston’s Cave, sometimes known as the Giants Cave or Foxhole. This natural cave was only accessible from the top of the steep-sided Gorge, or by climbing up from the base of the cliff. William West cut an underground passage to the cave leading to a viewing platform which you can visit today.

I’m not sure why it’s called a Giants Cave since the passage is very narrow in parts. The journey down is 200 feet (61m) with 130 steps before reaching the cave and viewing platform 250 feet (76m) above the Avon Gorge.

If you have any pre-existing conditions such as knee or back problems, heart or respiratory impairments or claustrophobia, it’s not recommended that you do this trip.

Opening times

Autumn/Winter From October: Open 7 days a week from 10:00am – 4:00pm (Last entry 3:45pm)
Spring/Summer – from March: Open 7 days a week from 10:00am – 5:00pm (Last entry 4:45pm)

Address

Clifton Observatory, Bristol BS8 3LT, United Kingdom

Admission

  • Adult: £2.50
  • Child (4 – 14 years): £1.50

Full access (Camera Obscura and Giants Cave):

  • Adults: £4.00
  • Children (4 – 14 years): £2.50
  • Due to health and safety, children must be 4 years or older to be permitted entry into the caves.
  • Save 5% by booking in advance

Check the official Clifton Observatory website for more information.

27. See the Clifton Suspension Bridge

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Clifton Observatory and Clifton Suspension BridgeThe main reason to visit Clifton is to see the Clifton Suspension Bridge. This suspension bridge spans the Avon Gorge and the River Avon and was designed by the great Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He was only 23-year-old when appointed as the project engineer.

Work on the bridge began in 1831, but the project suffered from political and financial difficulties, and by 1843, with only the towers completed, the project was abandoned.  In 1859 at only 53 years old, Brunel died and the Clifton Suspension Bridge was completed as his memorial.

Originally designed to cater for horse-drawn traffic, the Clifton Suspension Bridge still meets the demands of the 21st century with 11-12,000 vehicles crossing it every day. It also has a pedestrian walkway you can take too.

Opening times

Clifton Suspension Bridge is open at all times.

Address

Bridge Rd, Leigh Woods, Bristol BS8 3PA

Admission

The toll for motor vehicles and motorcycles to cross the bridge is £1.


Henbury


28. Visit the Blaise Castle House Museum

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Blaise Castle Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Blaise Castle and tree Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Woodlands at Blaise CastleBlaise Castle House Museum and Estate is home to a 19th-century mansion located in 400 acres of parkland. Inside the home is a museum featuring a display of everyday objects from Victorian toilets and baths, kitchen and laundry equipment, model trains, dolls, toys, and period costumes.

The highlight is exploring the vast parkland and woodlands where you’ll find the folly castle, as featured in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. During summer, it is opened by volunteers so you can explore the inside and head up to the castle roof for panoramic views

Opening times

Check the official Blaise Castle House Museum for opening times.

Address

Kings Weston Rd, Bristol BS10 7QS, United Kingdom

Admission

Free.

Check the official Blaise Castle House Museum for more information.


Long Ashton


29. See Deer at Ashton Court Mansion

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Ashton Court Mansion The Ashton Court Mansion was once the home of the Smyth family but is now a historic park with stunning views across the city. The Ashton Court  Estate covers 850 acres of woods and grasslands. For over 600 years, deer have been grazing this gorgeous park.

There are two cafés on-site with indoor and outdoor seating serving local cakes and freshly prepared sandwiches, snacks, and refreshments.

Behind the mansion on higher ground are two 18-hole pitch-and-putt golf courses and special trails for orienteering and mountain biking. A miniature railway is also located here, operating on selected weekends throughout the year.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, Ashton Court is hot air balloon rides take-off from.

Opening times

Ashton Court Mansion is open Monday to Sunday from 8am. Closing times vary throughout the year.

  • 5.15pm in November-January
  • 6.15pm in February
  • 7.15pm in March
  • 8.15pm in April
  • 9.15pm in May- August
  • 8.15pm in September
  • 7.15pm in October

Address

Ashton Court Estate, Long Ashton, Bristol BS41 9JN, United Kingdom

Admission

Free.


Where to Eat in Bristol

Bristol has an excellent food scene so it’s hard to put a foot wrong, but there were a couple of places I highly recommend.

Cargo

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Cargo Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Greek wrap at CargoLocated at Wapping Wharf on Spike Island, Cargo is a mini-village of converted shipping containers home to independent retailers, eateries, bars, cafés, and food shops. With a large outdoor area, Cargo is a popular hangout in summer.

Address

Gaol Ferry Steps, Bristol BS1 6WD, United Kingdom

Check the official Cargo website for more information and opening times

Vx

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Meal at Vx vegan cafeWho says vegan food is boring? Vx specialises in vegan junk food and it’s absolutely brilliant. I don’t know how they do it, but everything tastes amazing. Originally established in London, Vx is the UK’s first chain of cruelty-free shops in the country and is now located in Bristol.

From burritos to burgers, Mac ’n Cheese to milkshakes, everything here is vegan and it’s delicious! They also have a selection of vegan food stuffs and products available for purchase.

  • Mon-Tues – 10am to 5.30pm
  • Wed-Sat – 10am to 8pm
  • Sunday – 11am to 5pm

Opening times

Vx is open as follows:

  • Monday – Tuesday: 10am to 5.30pm
  • Wednesday – Saturday: 10am to 8pm
  • Sunday: 11am to 5pm

Address

123 East St, Bristol BS3 4ER, United Kingdom

Check for official Vx website for more information.


Where to Drink in Bristol

Bristol’s bar scene is equally impressive. Here are a few favourites:

Hyde & Co.

Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Hyde and Co entrance Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Hyde and Co cocktail Bristol City Guide - Best Things to do in Bristol - Hyde and Co barThis speakeasy prohibition-themed cocktail bar serves award-winning creative cocktails. You’ll love this low-lit bar full of sofas and pictures frames.

Address

The Basement, 2 Upper Byron Pl, Bristol BS8 1JY, United Kingdom

Red Light

Getting inside this retro-style drinking den is half the fun. After picking up a dodgy-looking payphone, you’re soon given the signal to enter this hidden speakeasy. Inside its Art Deco interior are red velvet chairs, lounges, vintage radios, and the staff are fully decked out in braces.

Address

1 Unity St, Bristol BS1 5HH, United Kingdom

Her Majesty’s Secret Service (HMSS)

Think wartime espionage, retro decor, and aged leather seats – that’s what you’ll find at Her Majesty’s Secret Service. With menus that look like passports, you can choose from house cocktails including non-alcoholic ‘faux-tails’, each served in quirky items such as watering cans to take out cartons.

Address

Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Whiteladies Gate, Whiteladies Road, Bristol BS8 2PH

The Milk Thistle

Hidden behind an unmarked door, The Milk Thistle is “the flirty younger sister of Bristol’s hippest prohibition bar, Hyde & Co.” according to their website. Spread across 4 floors, you’ll get nothing but the best cocktails in the city.  Don’t miss The signature Milk Thistle Daisy cocktail, a mix of gin, lemon juice and spiced pear syrup with a dash of fizz.

Address

Quay Head House, Colston Ave, Bristol BS1 1EB, United Kingdom


How to Get to Bristol

Bristol is one of the easiest cities to get to in the UK whether you’re coming by car, train, coach or plane.

By Plane

Bristol has a large international airport with connections to over 125+ destinations. To reach Bristol city centre, take the Airport Flyer Express. The journey lasts just 30 minutes. Buy your tickets online in advance or from the  Fast Ticket machine at the airport.

By car

Reaching Bristol by car is fairly straightforward and especially easy from London being located at the intersection of the M4 and M5 motorways. Compare the best car rental prices here.

By Train

Bristol Temple Meads railway station is the largest train station in the west of England. Daily and direct services operate between Bristol and London, Scotland, Wales, Manchester and Birmingham. To plan your journey, check timetables, and book tickets visit Trainline.com

By Coach

Bristol can be reached by coach from all over the UK. Search and Book your tickets here


How to get around Bristol

Bristol is a very walkable city so unless you need to quickly get from one side of the town to the other, you won’t need public transport. Having said that, if you here, here’s what’s available.

By bus

Bristol bus network is run by First Bus. I recommend downloading the First Bus app to help you plan your journey and buy your electronic ticket. The app is available for Android and iOS. Adults day tickets are £4.50, or a single adult ticket is £2.25. All pricing and ticket options are available in app.

By taxi/Uber

There are two kinds of taxis in Bristol –  Hackney carriages and private hire.

Hackney carriage vehicles can pick up from taxi ranks and can be flagged down in the street and are painted Bristol Blue. They have an illuminated light on the roof and display white and red licence plates with black printing on the front and back of the vehicle which display details of the vehicle and the expiry date.

You can find taxi ranks on this map or use the BRAXI app to book a taxi in advance. It will also give you an estimate of the fair. Bristol drivers on this app are licensed by Bristol City Council so you are directly supporting local people. Yay! The app is available for Android and iOS.

Private hire vehicles, such as Uber, have to be pre-booked and cannot be flagged down in the street. In fact, it’s illegal for a private hire vehicle to pick you up unless you’ve pre-booked it.


Where to stay in Bristol

Brooks Guesthouse

Where to stay in Bristol - Brooks Guesthouse caravan on rooftopBrooks Guesthouse is a lovely boutique hotel located in the heart of the Old Town and right next to St Nicholas Market. It’s located close to Bristol harbour, plenty of bars and restaurants and shops making it a great place to base yourself whilst visiting Bristol.

Each room is equipped with all the typical amenities you’d expect in a hotel including flat-screen TV, free Wi-Fi, toiletries and the comfortable beds are covered in Egyptian cotton sheets.

For an unforgettable experience, book your stay in Brooks most exciting feature located on their rooftop terrace. It’s here you’ll find a collection of four airstream style caravans which you can book. This is the ultimate urban glamping experience boasting unique views of the city.

Each retro caravan was handmade in Britain and are fitted with Eco-friendly showers and lighting. In fact, Brooks even won a silver award in green tourism in 2014. Want to know more? Read my full review of Brooks here.

Reading to book? Check prices and book your stay at Brooks here.

Avon Gorge Hotel by Hotel du Vin

Where to stay in Bristol - Avon Gorge Hotel Breakfast and Suspension BridgeFor the second half of my visit, I stayed in Clifton at the beautiful Avon Gorge by Hotel du Vin.  The hotel’s biggest drawcard is its exceptional panoramic views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the Avon Gorge itself. Whether from your room, at breakfast or in from the adjoining pub terrace, there are plenty of opportunities to soak up the unique perspective the Avon Gorge Hotel provides.

Some bedrooms will either face the gorge or look towards Clifton village. I stayed in a standard double room with a gorge view room which was fantastic. Upon arrival, the room was dimly lit and felt like I was walking into a classy cocktail bar. On the desk was a lovely welcome plate with small desserts.

The room was equipped with a large flat-screen TV, mini-bar, iron, hairdryer, L’Occitane toiletries and complimentary tea, coffee, and bottled water. Avon Gorge Hotel is conveniently located just 5 minutes walk from Clifton Village and Clifton Suspension Bridge. Want to know more? Read my full review of Avon Gorge Hotel here.

Reading to book? Check prices and book your stay here

Airbnb

For an alternative accommodation option, I would recommend renting out an apartment or room through Airbnb. Cute Airbnb options are popping up all over the town so you’ll find some really beautiful places at very affordable prices. Airbnb has numerous convenient options to choose from. If it’s your first time get US$65 OFF here or get £50 OFF your first stay here, when you sign up using my unique reader referral link.


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29 Best Things to do in Bristol, UK - Bristol City Guide


Over to you!

Do you have a question about visiting Bristol? Have you seen visited before? Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.

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4 comments

Miranda April 21, 2022 - 03:04

Planning to go from Australia in 2023/2024 in Winter, this guide will be very helpful

Reply
Michele April 23, 2022 - 14:36

I’m so happy to hear that. Have a wonderful trip 🙂

Reply
Christine January 5, 2020 - 15:37

I travelled to Bristol, UK last week and was searching for good things to do. Thanks to this amazing article as it helped to plan my holidays.

Reply
Michele January 7, 2020 - 14:46

So happy to hear that, thank you Christine 🙂

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