13 Awesome Things To Do In Bristol, UK As Told By A Resident

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These Are Some Great Things To Do In Bristol, UK!

Exploring the south of England? Then Bristol should be on your list of places to discover! This English city attracts travellers year after year due to the historic and unique vibes it gives off.

Whether you are travelling alone, with a partner, or as a family with kids, Bristol offers different things for all interests!

To bring you the best things to do in Bristol, we have enlisted the help (once again) of Laura from She Who Wanders. She lived in Bristol, fell in love with the city, and now knows loads about what there is to check out.

From historical things to do in Bristol to lounging by the water’s edge at Harbourside, and exploring the vibrant and modern art scene, there is no shortage of unique things to do in Bristol! So, here’s Laura with her top Bristol tips and more!

Bristol Quick Guide

Best Time to Visit: Summer and/or the early fall for the best chance of nice weather.

Getting Around: Very walkable city centre, use First Bus for public transportation. This Bristol Hop-on/Hop-Off Bus Tour might be a great idea!

Top Things to Do: Walk Bristol’s History, Art, and Harbour, Tour the Famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, and Enjoy the SS Great Britain!

Where to Stay: Clayton Hotel City Bristol is a popular hotel right in the heart of the city centre, Number 38 Clifton for a lovely boutique hotel in a quieter area, and ibis Bristol Centre is a budget option located close to the harbour.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Navigation Address: Bridge Rd, Leigh Woods, Bristol BS8 3PA

suspension bridge crossing large rocky gorge with city houses beside.
Always a wonder to see and cross! // Photo: Laura O.

Opened in 1864, the Clifton Suspension Bridge is one of Bristol’s most famous (and most beautiful) attractions.

Spanning both the River Avon and the Avon Gorge, the suspension bridge links Bristol to North Somerset with spectacular views on either side and can be traversed by vehicle, bicycle and on foot with pathways on either side.

Originally designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and some years later executed by William Henry Barlow and John Hawkshaw to that same design, the bridge is 412 metres long and sits 75 metres above high water marks.

These days, there are lots of ways to explore the famous bridge. You can simply walk across it and take in the views, or you might choose this Clifton Bridge Vaults Tour to explore recently discovered vaults that lie beneath the structure!

Of course, sunrise and sunset from the bridge can be breathtaking, as can the views over the bridge from the observatory that sits just next to it.

large bridge crossing gap with water below.
The Clifton Suspension Bridge – always looking perfect! // Photo: Laura O.

No matter the weather, she really does stand above the rest in terms of bridges to Bristolians and it’s no surprise why once you see it for yourself.

In fact, you can even let a local tell you about this famous bridge on a Bristol Highlights guided tour!

Overall, we’d definitely recommend checking out the bridge in whatever way suits you best!

SS Great Britain

Navigation Address: Great Western Dockyard, Gas Ferry Rd, Bristol BS1 6TY

large black sailing ship in water in harbour.
The SS Great Britain is ready to welcome you aboard! // Photo: Laura O.

This former passenger ship turned museum is a huge part of Bristol’s history. Between 1845 and 1854, the SS Great Britain was the longest passenger vessel of her kind in the world during that decade.

As the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic in 14 days in 1845, she transported passengers and cargo from Liverpool to New York City during her years at sea, and in 1852 made her way to Australia with passengers emigrating from the UK.

In 1970, after being abandoned for 33 years, the SS Great Britain was retrieved from the Falkland Islands and returned to the Bristol Dry Dock where she now resides and welcomes nearly 200,000 visitors a year.

You’ll be wishing you could come back time and time again to visit and explore the ship.

large art mural on wall inside ship in bristol.
The inside of the ship is definitely worth checking out! // Photo: Laura O.

You can get sucked right into life as a passenger on the ship, exploring the hull and the inner workings of the kitchen.

You can go aloft by climbing the rigging on the sails, and explore the newest exhibit – Being Brunel – where you can get an inside look into the man and legend who brought this ship to life.

You might also want to learn at your own pace. In this case, this self-guided tour that includes the SS Great Britain and the Clifton Bridge might be for you.

Bristol Cathedral

Navigation Address: College Green, Bristol BS1 5TJ, United Kingdom

Located right in the heart of the city centre, Bristol Cathedral is another sight not to be missed! The Cathedral has roots that date back to the 12th century and has undergone many, many changes over the centuries.

Once inside, you can explore the various parts of the cathedral. The nave is large and beautiful, as are the ornate stained glass windows that let in the light.

The cathedral even has a connection to World War II, as some of the windows survived the Bristol air raid while sadly others did not.

You can visit at your own leisure during general admission hours and you can also book a guided tour for a fee.

Our Tip: This popular Bristol walking tour starts right outside the cathedral’s main entrance!

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

Navigation Address: Queens Rd, Bristol BS8 1RL

man in model airplane hanging from museum ceiling in bristol.
Photo: Laura O.

The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery is certainly a place to check out if you love a museum with free entry.

Located at the top of Park Street, right next to Bristol University, this impressive building is home to loads to see, including art by the infamous Banksy (a Bristol resident rumour has it), an incredible array of fossils, a Romani caravan, and countless other exhibitions throughout the year.

You might want to discover Egyptian mummies, wildlife native to the South West, brilliant dinosaur fossils and artifacts, and get in tune with your inner artist taking in paintings spanning Victorian, British and European art.

If you like street art, consider this Banksy to Blackbeard guided walking tour, which takes you through the best parts of Bristol!

M Shed

Navigation Address: Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd, Bristol BS1 4RN

plane and balloons handing from ceiling in mshed museum.
Don’t forget to look up! // Photo: Laura O.

Open Tuesday through Sunday, M Shed is a vibrant museum home to fantastic pieces of Bristol Harbour history and is located right at the start of the harbourside, giving you great views as you walk to the entrance.

Moving through exhibits on the people and places of Bristol, this museum covers three floors of the building – and you’ll get a true sense of the city’s history and just how much of an impact the dockside area has had on the city from the 1950s to the present day.

Outside the museum itself, you’ll notice massive cranes that never fail to draw people’s attention.

On chosen days, you can even grab a ride on the steam train that runs along the harbour starting from the front doors of the M Shed too.

The museum has been home to travelling exhibits in past years such as The National Geographic Photo of the Year Exhibition and an exhibition on British tattoo art and its history.

Another Tip: If you like museums, Aerospace Bristol is located just north of the city centre and features the last Concorde jet to ever fly!

St Nicholas Market

Navigation Address: https://goo.gl/maps/1nLMbDTacAcnSKHk8

alleyway lit up at night with spire in background.
The market can be enchanting at night. // Photo: Laura O.

Named Britain’s best large indoor market in 2016, St Nicholas Market is home to the largest collection of independent retailers in the city.

On any given day, you’ll also stumble upon an additional outdoor section to the market, selling everything from vintage homewares and clothing to treats from around the world and art by local painters and photographers.

Established in the 1740s, this market is the oldest in the city and operates year-round, rain or shine, with dozens of different vendors.

Food is a huge draw for those coming to check out the market and with so many options to choose from, I’ll give you a few local favourites to narrow it down.

Check out Eatchu for award-winning dumplings, Ah Toots for tea and cake to solve all of the world’s problems, and Eat A Pitta for the best falafel around (or at least in the market).

Our Tip: If you don’t want to go on your own, you can explore the St. Nicholas Market and the WW2 Air Raid Shelters on this guided tour!

Bristol Harbourside + Wapping Wharf

Navigation Location: https://goo.gl/maps/ccZkYd23jYtvH8EP6

boats in blue river with colourful houses behind on river bank.
A perfect day at the Harbourside. // Photo: Laura O.

Where do the hearts of a lot of Bristolians lie you might ask? A good and often repeated answer is likely the Harbour and Wapping Wharf area.

Full of life on any given day, it’s the perfect place to be – especially on a sunny afternoon.

From Princes St Bridge, just past the M Shed, you’ll find yourself in the bustling area of the city known as Wapping Wharf, where dozens of shipping containers have been turned into pubs, cafes, restaurants and even florists.

Our Tip: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just hop on this popular Bristol Harbour and City Guided Tour to explore different areas with ease!

Grab a coffee and banana bread at Little Victories, lunch at Squeezed for the best burger of your life, or a cheeky cider at Bristols Cider Shop.

Eat in and watch the world go by or take it to go and dangle your feet over the edge of the boardwalks, watching the waterways come to life with SUP yoga pros, kayakers, ferries and dragon boaters.

After your fill, you can walk a circular loop down past the SS Great Britain, down towards Underfall Yard, a historic boatyard housing lots of different vessels.

Then head along to Baltic Wharf, where you can marvel at the rainbow row houses of Hotwells and Clifton, before turning onto merchants road and continuing along the path along tons of cafes and restaurants on the opposite bank of the River Avon.

ship at night sitting in water with colourful houses behind.
The morning air at Harbourside is not to be missed.. // Photo: Laura O.

Spot the iconic yellow Bristol ferries as they pass and keep an eye out for Gromit! Finish off at Lloyds Amphitheatre or head on towards Millennium Square, where there is never a shortage of entertainment going on.

Cabot Tower

Navigation Address: Brandon Hill Park, Park St, Bristol BS1 5RR

stone tower among green trees with green pond water in front.
The Cabot Tower. // Photo: Laura O.

This tower was built in the 1890s to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s journey from Bristol to what is now known as Canada!

The Grade II listed building is still standing tall and proud today in the middle of Brandon Hill Park for all to see and climb.

views of english town houses from high up in cabot tower.
Views from Cabot Tower. // Photo: Laura O.

From the base of the park, you can wander your way up toward Cabot Tower through the gorgeous trees, which turn to bright pink blossoms in the spring.

During daylight hours you can climb the 100+ steps to the top and be rewarded with the most spectacular panoramic views of Bristol and beyond.

Ashton Court Estate

Navigation Address: https://goo.gl/maps/CbfSec6RZfRTN3Ug9

Ashton Court Estate, a historic National Trust site, is located just a 10-minute drive from Bristol city center and is easily accessible on foot as well.

Covering 850 acres with a gorgeous manor house at the top of the grounds, once owned by the Smyth family (who later gifted it to the National Trust), you’re free to roam around the grounds.

This makes it the perfect place for a run, a dog walk, or even a picnic in the grass.

On the highest point of the estate, there are two 18-hole pitch and putt golf courses with great views over the city.

In addition to these, there are special trails for mountaineering and biking and even a miniature railway open on select weekends during the year.

And if that hasn’t sold you enough, during the drier warmer months there is a good chance you’ll see hot air balloons take off from the site at dawn and dusk.

Oh, and if you needed one last reason to visit, there are deer! Yes, the estate is also home to a very old deer park, where you’ll be able to spot countless deer grazing in the grass and making you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.

Lido Bristol

Navigation Address: Oakfield Pl, Bristol BS8 2BJ

blue pool with changing rooms behind in sunshine.
The water at Lido is always inviting! // Photo: Laura O.

Located in the historic and beautiful neighbourhood of Clifton, Lido is this hidden oasis that will have you feeling like you’ve popped over somewhere tropical, especially when the sun is shining.

Originally opened in 1850, this historic Lido was once closed down and set for demolition before the Bristol Glass Boat Company purchased the Grade II listed building and turned it into what is today.

Opening its doors in 2008, Lido was newly refurbished with not only the 24-metre swimming pool but a steam room and sauna, hot tub, spa facilities, and a fantastic restaurant and cafe.

Although the Lido is a members-only swimming pool, as a non-member you can book a two-hour guest swim where you are able to use all the facilities for £25.00. Plan ahead if possible as days can sell out weeks in advance.

Additionally, you can book into the spa for treatments or the restaurant for meals or drinks at any given time without a membership.

It’s the perfect place to relax and let your worries float away.

North Street

Navigation Address: North Street, Bristol, UK

street art of women on side of wall in bristol.
The’re street art in Bristol around almost every turn… // Photo: Laura O.

Why visit a street in Bristol? Well, it’s not just any street you see! North Street in Bedminster is south of the River Avon from the downtown core and is home to some incredible things.

Firstly, the street art scene. All along North Street and off on tangent streets and alleyways you’ll find some absolutely spectacular street art by local artists and those from afar thanks to the infamous UPFEST street art festival.

The artwork from previous years can still be seen throughout this neighbourhood, and when it is on (during the month of July) it’s a scene like no other.

Secondly, the food and drink scene here is fantastic. Local indie cafes like Albatross and North Street Standard will curb anyone’s need for caffeine and keep the hunger away.

mug of coffee with latte design on top on wooden table.
Coffee in North Street, anyone? // Photo: Laura O.

Next up, shopping! Independent retailers dominate North Street where you’ll be able to find anything from adorable vintage items at Rhubarb Jumble, Casper with its retail and workshop space, and Toyville to treat the kids.

Even UPFEST has a gallery shop where you can buy prints and products from the artists who have created street art here.

As an added bonus, The Tobacco Factory hosts a Sunday market with live music, fresh food, fab coffee, and local retail stalls!

Christmas Steps

Navigation Address: Christmas Steps, Bristol BS1 5BS

english buildings with sunset overhead in bristol.
The views of the Steps from above // Photo: Laura O.

This historic street in the centre of Bristol is more than just a set of steps (very steep ones at that).

This iconic section of the city instantly transports visitors to a simpler time, a time of horse and carriage, and classic old-time pubs. Stop into the Christmas Steps pub for a pint and stay for lunch in front of the fire.

Head into the galleries that dot the stairway or, if you fancy a little more of a unique night out, head to Chance & Counters, a board game cafe with a collection of 600 games to be played and a food and drink menu to keep you going well into the night.

If you visit in the evening, you’ll be able to see it in a whole new light, twinkle lights that is.

Giving it an even more magical feel, the cobbles light up after a downpour of rain, leaving you to imagine what this area has seen throughout history.

Royal Fort Gardens

Navigation Address: https://goo.gl/maps/4QP8WDD94fGYxd5L6

historic building with green lawn and mirror maze in front.
Don’t get lost in the maze! // Photo: Laura O.

The Royal Fort Gardens are so much more than a portion of a university campus.

This charming greenspace is located right near/in the University of Bristol and houses the offices of the Faculty of Sciences, the Brigstow Institute, the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research, the Cabot Institute, and the Jean Golding Institute for Data-Intensive Research.

Owned by the University but open to the public, Royal Fort Gardens offers a peaceful atmosphere even during term time.

Catch up with friends over coffee around the pond or under the massive trees that line the paths, and in spring and summer check out the amazing wildflower gardens that the Gardens work so hard to keep vibrant and lush.

Or let your eyes wander down the hill to the mirror maze called “Follow Me” installed by world-renowned artist Jepe Hein.

Bonus: Bristol International Balloon Fiesta

Navigation Location: https://goo.gl/maps/dWyq5z7BzsGD9RHX7

hot air balloons taking off into blue sky at bristol balloon fiesta.
Balloons, everywhere! // Photo: Laura O.

This is a seasonal activity but too good not to mention! First held in 1979 and now one of the largest festivals of its kind in Europe, the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is a sight not to be missed.

Over 4 days in August, balloonists from across the UK and around the world bring their balloons out for display, creating a magical experience for spectators and those lucky enough to book a flight during that weekend.

The Fiesta opens at midday with numerous food and drink stalls, rides for the kids, and booths from local retailers and businesses all of which stay up for the entirety of the festival and close out on Sunday evening.

hot air balloons getting inflated in a row at night.
Preparation starts early in the morning… // Photo: Laura O.

While this festival is one not to be missed, the weather plays a big part in whether or not the balloons are allowed to fly.

You need the right combo of wind but not too windy, they can fly in rain but not too much, so it’s all down to the wire on when the balloons are allowed to take off – but when they do, it’s absolutely spectacular.

Up to 130 balloons can take off during a mass ascent and can be seen from several locations around the city. So even if you aren’t at the festival, you can see the balloons in the sky.

But never fear because if your visit is outside of the festival days but falls between May and late September at dusk and dawn, it only takes looking up for the chance to see flights over the city.

And if you’re brave enough to take a flight yourself, there are plenty of companies to choose from if you want to see Bristol from above.

Things to Consider When Visiting Bristol

Before you set off to explore Bristol, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

From how to get around to finding a great place to stay in Bristol, here are some important details from Laura herself!

General Information About Bristol

ship in water with cranes along water edge in bristol.
The water plays a huge role in shaping Bristol! // Photo: Laura O.

Located in the south-western part of the United Kingdom and home to about 471,000 residents, Bristol is a city that is often overlooked by visitors for London.

Bristol has a vibrant maritime history that was once underwater – but has now become a mecca for the arts, food & drink, and events of all kinds.

Straddling the River Avon, much of Bristol’s vibrancy comes from its harbourside area where you’ll find incredible tall ships, world-class restaurants, pubs with the perfect pints for those sunny afternoons and a whole lot of history to be discovered.

Bristol has a vibrant craft beer scene, which you can explore on this self-guided craft beer tour!

Street art aficionados will revel in the amazing works of art by local and international talent, and if you look hard enough you might just lay your eyes on Banksy (he’s a local, after all).

If the street art scene isn’t for you, then maybe the theatre is, with several prestigious venues to choose from, including the Bristol Hippodrome and The Bristol Old Vic Theatre.

Young or old, rain or shine, weekend or month-long, whoever you are or whatever brings you to Bristol, you’ll be sure to find enough to keep you coming back.

Best Time to Visit Bristol

The best time to visit Bristol would have to be summer and/or autumn.

Remember, the weather in England can be unpredictable (to say the least), but if you’re looking to make the most of the best weather months, I’d suggest the tail end of summer, after everyone has gone back to school.

Alternatively, the autumn months, when the leaves turn golden can be quite gorgeous as well.

While England is somewhat synonymous with rain, Bristol’s location in the South West gives it a little bit of a better weather pattern (for the most part).

Getting To/Around Bristol

One of the most walkable cities I’ve had the pleasure of living in, Bristol is easily accessible on foot to most places.

If you’re travelling with little ones or the weather takes a turn, then you’ll look to the First Bus for public transportation.

There’s even a downloadable app for your smartphone, where tickets cost less than purchasing from the driver.

There’s an option for a day ticket that allows you multiple rides on multiple services. It can be purchased through the app or from the driver.

If you’re coming into Bristol from the airport, there are two options: a pricey taxi or a relatively inexpensive airport shuttle (the Bristol Flyer) running nearly every 10 minutes daily.

If you’re coming to Bristol by train, you’ll find yourself at Bristol Temple Meads station (which is really gorgeous) with easy connections by bus or on foot into the city center.

You can check out train times on the National Rail website.

Where to Stay in Bristol

Since Bristol is such a popular city in the UK, there are loads of accommodation options for you to choose from.

From nice hotels to apartments, and guesthouses, you’ll have no problem finding a place that works for your style and budget.

Check here for hotels and accommodations in Bristol!

In particular, you can check out the Clayton Hotel City Bristol, a popular hotel right in the heart of the city centre, or the Royal Marriott Bristol Hotel in a gorgeous Victorian-era building just steps from the water!

Number 38 Clifton is a lovely boutique hotel tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, while the ibis Bristol Centre is a good budget option located close to the harbour, city centre, and more!

If you are more into hostels, The Bristol Wing is a great place for a non-party atmosphere. Kyle Blue is a hostel located on a boat, which is also really, really cool!

Related Articles

If you are planning a larger trip to the south of the UK or are heading to Europe for the first time, here are a few more helpful articles to check out:

And there you have it – some of the best things to do in Bristol! A huge shout out (once again) to Laura for being awesome and sharing her UK travel tips.

Penguin and Pia wouldn’t be the same without her! You can follow along with what Laura is up to over at She Who Wanders!

As always, Happy Waddlin’,

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    photo collage of hot air balloons above suspension bridge with text overlay Things to do in Bristol England.