If you're looking for fun things to do in Bristol, let us show you around.
A port city known for its harbor and creative atmosphere with a strong community spirit, Bristol England is a fabulous city to explore.
With a population of approximately 500,000, it's the second largest city in southwest England.
A bustling harbor town, Bristol been voted the top city to live in the UK for several years in a row.
Home of Banksy and the founding of the street art movement in the UK, Bristol also has a vibrant nightlife, historic buildings, and an incredible food scene.
Bristol is a great place for walking and it’s the best way to get to know the city center.
So, lace up, bring your appetite and an open mind, and explore this city on the Avon River.
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Learning your way around Bristol
A great way to orient yourself in the city is to take a guided tour.
If you prefer to ride, try the hop-on hop-off bus. Or you can head to the harbor and take one of the ferries and learn your way around from the water.
Bristol Ferries runs a regular waterbus service and Bristol Packet Boats will take you up the River Avon for a view of the Avon Gorge which is definitely worth doing.
As you walk around the old city center be sure to explore King St., a 17th-century street with a number of historic buildings including the Old Vic Theater, still open and one of the best places in Bristol for live entertainment.
For a modern shopping experience go to Cabot Circus, a mixed-use development with covered shopping, offices, and residential spaces right in the heart of the city.
No trip to this city would be complete without a Bristol street art tour, including the world-renowned art of Banksy.
Bristol is the home of the UK street art scene and John Nation is the man in the know. Book his tour through Where The Wall for a historical and cultural tour of Bristol’s street art.
Some are local artists but artists from around the world have left their mark in Bristol.
John’s passion and enthusiasm for all things creative, especially street artists, writers, and graffiti art, will open your eyes to a world of imagination, innovation, and inspiration.
The tour is about two hours long so wear comfortable shoes and don’t go hungry.
A highlight of the tour is a walk through the bohemian Stokes Croft neighborhood which you’ll want to explore more after the tour.
The perfect place to explore more of the art scene is the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. The whole family will love the fun activities and interactive exhibits.
Eating in Bristol
If you love good food you’ll love Bristol. With two Michelin-star restaurants and several restaurants with Bib Gourmand recognition, it is hard to find a bad meal in Bristol.
The city is known for great chefs opening their own, affordable eateries after earning their chops elsewhere.
All the better for those of us who like to enjoy memorable meals that don’t ravage the pocketbook.
If you’re looking for recommendations, here are my top picks for the best areas to eat in Bristol.
Though there are many more good restaurants, I simply couldn’t get to all of them. Next time!
Dining Around the Harbor
Cargo is a development of repurposed shipping containers at Wapping Wharf and an excellent place to seek out cuisine from around the world.
Try Gambas Tapas Bar for shrimp cooked every which way and wonderful Spanish wines.
Root is a great spot for vegetable-focused dishes and other options.
Paco Tapas for a Michelin star experience on the harbor.
Dining in Clifton Village
Clifton Village is one of my top picks for shopping and strolling. It’s also abundant in good restaurant options.
For a reasonable price, you can enjoy a Parisian bistro experience at Cote Brasserie.
I also found the staff there to be very accommodating. If you want to drink and dine with a view of the Avon Gorge, try the White Lion Pub by Hotel du Vin.
Lido is exactly what you think it is, a neighborhood spa and swimming spot with an excellent restaurant.
The entrance is unassuming but once inside the ambiance feels uptown but relaxed.
We went there for dinner and sat upstairs overlooking the pool and, yes, there were people swimming.
Dining at the Lido was my most unique experience in the UK. The food is Mediterranean style, and I even found a cheese from Latteria in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood on the menu.
There’s a poolside bar downstairs that serves breakfast. You must go.
If you can only visit one place in the old city go to the St. Nicholas Market for an eclectic selection of eateries.
The market is housed in a historic Georgian-covered building. You can also find gifts and other arts and crafts items for sale there. Be sure to check opening and closing hours.
Chez Marcel serves French cuisine, both savory and sweet crepes and omelets. And Hotel du Vin Bistro has a good wine list and classic French food.
Kask is just a little further afield in Bedminster. Kask serves organic and biodynamic wines along with local cheese and charcuterie plates in a relaxed neighborhood atmosphere.
If you want to try a local wine ask them for the Limeburn Hill Pet Nat. There are tables indoors, however, if the weather is nice opt for a table on the cute outdoor patio.
If you’re not sure what to order trust the knowledgeable staff to take care of it for you.
Bristol has a rich history with several interesting cathedrals and churches, a minor miracle since the city was heavily bombed during WWII. These are the ones I consider worth seeking out.
Bristol Cathedral is stunning on the outside but go inside to view what is believed to be one of the finest examples in the world of a medieval hall church.
A hall church is one where the aisles are the same height as the nave creating a light and spacious interior.
Bristol Cathedral is a Grade 1 listed building, meaning it has exceptional national historic and architectural importance.
The cathedral is located across from College Green, a big open park just across from the entrance to St. Nicolas Markets.
St. Mary Redcliff
Another beautiful cathedral, also Grade 1 listed, is St. Mary Redcliff, a Gothic stunner with a spire that is 89 meters high.
Queen Elizabeth I visited and said this, “The fairest, goodliest, and most famous parish church in England."
St. John on the Wall
One other interesting ecclesiastical attraction you should see is St. John on the Wall.
As the name suggests the church is built into the very walls of the medieval city.
As early as the 12th century it was a place for pilgrims to offer prayers before a journey.
St. John on the Wall is a good place to visit along with the St. Nicolas Market.
Explore Bristol's Harborside
Bristol Harbour and its maritime history attracts visitors from around the world.
At one time Bristol was a trading port second in importance only to London.
Today it's a place to spend time outside or enjoy some of the Michelin-rated restaurants, take a tour of the harbor, or visit one of the museums like M Shed, which tells the story of the Bristol slave trade and the history of the city.
It also explains the different neighborhoods of Bristol. You'll find some fantastic artwork there, as well.
SS Great Britain
SS. Great Britain is one of the world's first great ocean liners and Bristol’s top tourist attraction.
Built in 1843 by Bristol engineer Isaambard Kingdom Brunel, it was the first luxury passenger ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean between Bristol and New York City.
Brunel is also famous for the Clifton Suspension Bridge, one of the city’s most iconic sites. In my opinion, it is not to be missed, no matter the weather. On a nice day, it’s a beautiful walk.
Don't miss the Albion dry dock which dates back to 1820.
Also harborside, you can visit the Matthew, a replica of the ship sailed by John Cabot to Newfoundland in 1497.
The Matthew was a commercial ship that was nothing out of the ordinary until the voyage to Newfoundland.
You can learn about its history and the building of the replica as well as sail around the harbor on the ship. Be sure to book this in advance
Before you leave the harbor be sure to visit the Cargo development at Wapping Wharf.
The Cargo is constructed of shipping containers and includes a variety of restaurants, shops, and bars, all independently owned.
A fun thing to do is go to the Cider Box and get a frozen cider, made locally, then just next door is the only cheesemonger in Bristol.
Part of the fun of travel is trying food you can only taste right there.
Parks and gardens
There is no shortage of parks and gardens in Bristol On a sunny day, a favorite local pastime is making the most of these lovely green spaces.
The oldest park in Bristol is believed to be Brandon Hill, the highest point in the city with nice harbor views.
You’ll also find Cabot Tower on Brandon Hill. The tower commemorates John Cabot’s voyage to America 400 years ago. You can climb the tower for panoramic views of Bristol.
Right in the middle of the city is Castle Park, and as the name implies, there was once a castle there.
The castle was leveled in the 1600s but the ruins of a church remain.
Take some time to stroll through the pretty gardens on the harbor side of the church or do as the locals do and just hang out enjoying nature.
My favorite green space in Bristol is called The Downs, a 200-plus-acre green area for lounging in the sun, sports events, and hikes.
There’s also an observatory housed within a building that was part of a windmill.
I didn’t get to see this because it was closed when I arrived but do try to check out the camera obscura at the Observatory.
It’s a room-size version and allows a 360-degree view across the downs and the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Be sure to visit Giant’s Cave as well, which opens to the Avon Gorge and the River Avon, a magnificent geological feature of Bristol. The Downs border the neighborhood of Clifton, one of the poshest in the city.
Clifton Suspension Bridge
Another reason to visit The Downs is the Clifton Suspension Bridge, an iconic site in Bristol.
Spanning the Avon Gorge and the River Avon, it is 1352 feet long and has a clearance of 245 feet.
There is a narrow walking path across the bridge and you can drive across it as well.
The bridge design was first developed by Brunel, the same Brunel who designed the luxury cruiselliner. The bridge opened in 1864.
Note that it's about a 45-minute walk from the center of Bristol to the bridge. I took an Uber and then walked back to my hotel which was 50 minutes downhill.
However you choose to arrive and depart the area, you really can not leave Bristol without seeing the bridge.
Day trip to Bath
A day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Bath is a must. It’s also one of the easiest places to visit by train.
From Bristol Meades station it’s only a 15-minute train ride. Once you arrive in Bath you are a few minutes walk from all the top attractions.
Spend a day exploring this gorgeous Georgian city with ancient Roman roots.
The famous Roman Baths is the best place to discover the ancient origins of this sublime spa town.
All within a stone's throw of each other you’ll find Bath Abbey, the Jane Austen Museum, the Pulteney Bridge, the Royal Crescent, and the Circus. Take breaks for coffee or tea and soak up the Victorian atmosphere.
Bath is one of the best places to visit in the West country.
Visit Cheddar Gorge
Another good day trip is Cheddar Gorge, an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Located about an hour from Bristol Center, you can go caving, hiking, biking, and rock climbing. It’s the only gorge in the UK.
If you have the time, the three-hour trip to the Isle of Wight would be spectacular.
Where to stay
The Leonardo Hotel Bristol Glassfields, which opened in 2021, is within a ten-minute walk of the Bristol Meads train station, convenient for visitors traveling by train from London.
The 197-room hotel is also an easy walk to the harbor, Castle Hill, and shopping district.
The hotel is low energy/green and features contemporary rooms with sustainable materials.
Rainwater is recycled and lights are activated by sensors. This is an affordable hotel for families, groups, and singles.
For something completely different and very Bristol, stay at one of the rocket rooms at Brooks Guest House.
The rocket rooms are airstream caravans on the rooftop of the hotel offering a quirky way to stay and some of the best views of Bristol.
Additionally, you’ll be right next to St Nicolas market in the heart of the city. Brooks does offer more traditional accommodations at ground level and a delicious breakfast each morning.
With so much to do, the vibrant city of Bristol makes an entertaining weekend getaway.
Let us know if you discover more fun things to do in Bristol so we can check them out.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Clifton Suspension Bridge, the arts, hot air balloons, and its rich maritime history are some of the top things that Bristol is famous for.
You can easily get around Bristol using the train, even taking day trips to Bath and Stonehenge.
Yes, Bristol is generally safe, but as in any city, be careful to be aware of your surroundings and keep to well-lit areas.
Tips for Visiting Bristol
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes as the city is a bit spread out.
You'll find a lot of walking routes, but Bristol is also the UK's first cycling city. You'll find plenty of cycling paths that are traffic-free. Voi Scooters are also a fun option.
Taxis are reliable if you'd rather go that route.
All the museums are free, so take advantage of Bristol's generosity and visit them!
This article was written by Penny Sadler in partnership with Visit Bristol. A freelance writer and wine communicator residing in the Lone Star State, Her glass is always full, preferably of something white and bubbly. She writes for Inside Hook, Cheese Professor, and other outlets.
You can follow Penny on her travel blog, Adventures of a Carry-on.
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