Bristol is a city that has consistently topped the charts of the best places to live in the UK. Unlike the capital London, Bristol in South West England is serene, laidback and is considered the best place to take a romantic break from the hustle-bustle of big cities. By now you have probably decided that you are going to go to Bristol. But what to do in Bristol?
Bristol has exciting things to offer to its visitors both within and outside the city centre. Any Bristol tour would be incomplete without visiting Bristol’s harbour. The city boasts a rich history, street art, cinemas, and cultural events. The nearby Clifton village should not be missed if you are visiting Bristol. It hosts the iconic Bristol landmark, the Clifton suspension bridge.
Other attractions include the River Avon, Bristol museum and art gallery, the cathedral, Brandon hill park, Cabot tower, independent shops, Bristol aquarium, Bristol zoo, Leigh woods, Bristol hippodrome, bear pit, live music, and open-air theatre. Bristol boasts warm weather in June, July, and August, whereas the rest of the year has a cool climate. Let’s dig into what to do in Bristol without further ado.
What to do in Bristol?
1. Visit the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery
Often referred to as the Bristol museum, this venue has free entry and welcomes donations. As you enter, you will find a replica of the Bristol Boxkite aircraft hanging from the ceiling. This was the first aircraft built by the Bristol aeroplane company in the early 20th century. The museum has multiple sections:
(a) Natural History in South West Britain
This section has sea creatures, birds, plants, and artefacts on display.
This section is about the lives of people in ancient Egypt. You will find stories in the form of pictures, Egyptian mummies, and artifacts of that era.
(c) Art Galleries Natural Sciences
This section is one floor above. It hosts skeletons, remains of giant creatures, and minerals arranged on the basis of their chemical composition. You can also see the development of Bristol city in the form of pictures.
(d) Land Animals of the Triassic Period
This section has replicas of dinosaurs and other animals from the Triassic era and skeletal remains. Events, workshops, and curator talks are held in the Bristol museum from time to time. It has a lot to offer and doesn’t disappoint while seeking answers to what to do in Bristol.
(e) British Wildlife Gallery
This section is composed of birds and body parts of dinosaurs.
(f) Special Bristol
This section has bugs, slugs, butterflies, foxes, and other species that have been donated by Bristolians.
(g) Bristol School of Artists Gallery
This section holds a glittering silver collection along with paintings of Bristol depicting how it was hundreds of years ago.
(h) Eastern Art Gallery
This section displays ceramic artwork from China and Japan, and glass artwork made out of a special glass from China. 180 out of the 300 pieces of glass are available here on display.
(i) French Art
This section has paintings by French artists. Lastly, the Bristol museum regularly hosts photography and painting exhibitions by touring professionals. The Bristol museum is just one answer to what to do in Bristol. Keep reading for more.
2. Explore Bristol’s Street Art Scene
When you speak of Bristol, the first thing that would come to mind is Banksy, the most controversial street artist in the world. Banksy’s street art is found throughout Bristol.
(a) Stokes Croft
Stokes croft is a road well-known for street art. You can take walking tours across the road and witness the graffiti and huge murals by Banksy and other local artists. There are tons of independent stores to buy not-so-expensive items and there are eateries to grab a quick meal.
(b) Nelson Street
After Stokes croft, you may continue your street art journey toward Nelson street. Here you will find street artworks from the famous graffiti festival See No Evil.
3. Make a Visit to Bristol Harbour
Besides street art, there are more answers to what to do in Bristol. One of them is Bristol harbour where you can know about Bristol’s maritime history. From a mere dockyard, the Bristol harbour has been transformed into a famous tourist attraction.
(a) M shed museum
At the M shed museum, you can get to know about how people in old Bristol lived and their achievements. There is an old bus and a photographic map on the floor. The map has region-specific information. Head on to the second floor to get a birds-eye view of the heritage cranes.
(b) SS Great Britain
The SS Great Britain is a replica of the Matthew, a ship on which John Cabot sailed in 1497 when he discovered Newfoundland. It was the largest passenger-carrying ship at one time. You are allowed to explore the interior of the SS Great Britain.
(c) Ride on the Bristol Ferry
You can take the ferry from the SS Great Britain to Temple Meads and enjoy the view of Bristol city while traveling over water.
(d) Millennium Square
The Millenium square has not one but many exciting answers to what to do in Bristol. The main attraction is the mirror ball. You can see bronze sculptures of British actors here- Thomas Chatterton, Willaim Tyndale, and Cary Grant to name a few.
There is a mini amusement park for kids, and there are a few fountains as well. You will also find many eateries nearby. Lastly, you can just sit by the waterside while enjoying the view.
Arnolfini is a local and international contemporary art gallery near the harbour. Artworks, workshops, dance, films, and musical events are what Arnolfini is all about. It also has its own bookstore with books on contemporary art and various topics, and a cafe bar overlooking the water where you can grab some refreshments after having visited the center.
(f) Bristol Harbour Festival
If you happen to visit Bristol in July, then the Bristol harbour festival is one of the best answers to what to do in Bristol. It has been running every year since 1971.
Food stalls, circus acts, and art and cultural events are what you can enjoy. Musicians perform live music at the Lloyds Amphitheatre. An exciting cardboard boat race also takes place. This is the only time in the year when Bristol harbour gets crowded.
4. Shop at The Park Street
Park Street is synonymous with shopping because you will find all sorts of shops here. There are plenty of restaurants and bars to eat and drink, and Banksy’s artwork is here. Park street links the Bristol city center with Brandon hill park and Clifton village.
5. Climb Up Brandon Hill Park and Head Towards The Cabot Tower
Enjoying the beauty of green space is another one of the few answers to what to do in Bristol. Brandon hill is one such park. At the top of the park is where you will get a birds-eye view of the city and the harbour. The park is lush green with beautiful walking paths and a play area and is a wonderful place to spend time.
The Cabot tower built in 1897 in memory of John Cabot’s voyage from Bristol to North America is the highlight of Brandon hill park. You must climb the stairs, go up to the top and get a stunning view of Bristol, its harbour, and the Clifton suspension bridge
6. Walkthrough The Tunnel at Giants Cave
Giant’s cave has a tunnel with 130 steps downwards that leads to a cliff where you can get a beautiful glimpse of the Avon gorge.
7. Experience Serenity at Clifton Downs
Clifton downs is a great place to spend some relaxing time. It is perfect for walking, running, and picnics. Sports are organized here for which you have to be a member to participate. There is an area called the sea wall from where you can get amazing views of the suspension bridge and river Avon.
8. Seethrough The Avon Gorge from the Clifton Suspension Bridge
The 214-meter Clifton suspension bridge above the Avon Gorge happens to be another prime attraction in Bristol. You pay a toll if you are using a motor vehicle to pass by else it is free. Once you are on the suspension bridge, you will get a fantastic view of the Avon Gorge
9. Enjoy Water at The Lido
The Lido is a promising place with many activities to choose from and has no chance of disappointing while seeking answers to what to do in Bristol. It has a swimming pool, a sauna, a steam room, and a hot tub. It also offers massages as per your preferences.
There is a poolside bar where you can have drinks, and there is also a restaurant offering lip-smacking dishes. The pool is illuminated in the dark which adds to the charm of the Lido.
10. Look at the Ancient Architecture and Artwork at the Bristol Cathedral
Located in College Green, the Bristol cathedral serves as an answer to what to do in Bristol if you intend to pray or join the public service or you can just walk around the Cathedral and appreciate the stone carvings and the massive structure built in ancient style.
The stained glass windows, some from thousands of years ago and some from the present date are what make the cathedral an attractive place. You can spend some relaxing time in the garden nearby or feast at the cafe.
11. Continue at The St Mary Redcliffe
Witnessing old architecture does not end at the Bristol cathedral. St Mary Redcliffe church, built in the 15th century, offers more. It was credited as the fairest, goodliest, and most famous parish church in England by Queen Elizabeth 1. It is renowned for its gothic architecture.
Stained glass windows, memorials, monuments, and 15 bells from the old era are what make the Redcliffe church attractive. Just outside the church is a beautiful garden where you can spend some relaxing time.
12. Embrace the Beauty of Castle Park
Castle Park is a beautiful park to just relax, have lunch, or take a walk on a sunny day. With the beautiful river Avon insight, Castle park never disappoints. People working nearby usually have their lunch here. The flowers blossom well here during springtime thus making the experience even more enjoyable. You will notice remnants of old city walls as you walk across the park.
13. Reach the Dyrham Park
Keep an eye for the deers while you enjoy the lush greenery and grass sculptures. At your service is a courtesy bus that will take you to the house. The house has architecture from the 17th century.
You can learn about the Braithwaite family here. If you love climbing hills, then Dyrham park is for you. For those with difficulty in climbing the hills, there is an electric car service to take you up. Dyrham Park is basically enjoyed by people of all ages.
14. Take a Stroll around Leigh Woods
Leigh woods is a serene village on the outskirts of Bristol. If you love walking around the trees or mountain bike riding, then this definitely is your answer to what to do in Bristol. The locals go for their morning jog here, and this is a great place for a family outing. There is no dearth of green space in Bristol.
15. Have Fun in The Theatre at The Bristol Hippodrome
One of bristol’s largest theatres is the Bristol hippodrome. It has a seating capacity of 2,000 and it hosts performances from local as well as international artists. There is a drinks bar and a shop for souvenirs as well.
16. Observe The Aviation World at The Aerospace Bristol Museum
The Aerospace Bristol museum towards the north of Bristol is a 15-minute drive from the city center. The exhibits at the museum tell the story of the Bristol aircraft from the Boxkite through to the Airbus 380. The museum gets even better with the Concord. You can go inside of the plane and experience it. Also present is a concord simulation center and a gift shop with old and modern aviation artifacts.
The museum is suitable for all ages with a nice little themed play park outside. It is a great answer to what to do in Bristol for people fascinated by the aviation world and also for those who want to come close to the aviation world. The museum tour takes around three hours and you must plan smartly.
17. Introduce Yourself to Marine Life at The Bristol Aquarium
The tanks at the Bristol aquarium provide interesting facts about fish, plants, turtles, frogs, and other sea creatures. There is also a beautifully designed outer area with water and sea creatures in it. Thirdly, there is a learning lab with a rock pool that can educate children about the native species one will find in an actual rock pool.
A lot of creatures are donated by the public. Knowledgeable staff to guide you and answer all your questions is always present. People of all age groups will enjoy the Bristol aquarium. And if you are looking to witness marine life in Bristol, then the aquarium is a fantastic answer to what to do in Bristol.
18. Go Back to The 18th Century at The Georgian House Museum
This Georgian house museum is a four-story historic Bristol building dating back to the late 18th century. It was built by John Pinney, a sugar plantation owner of that period. The amazing fact about the Georgian house is that it is as it was back in the day.
You will experience how a business owner and a slave owner lived in the 18th century. There is a tiny indoor pool in the basement that at first glance is the size of a bathtub but much deeper. At your service is the friendly staff of the museum who sometimes dress like how people used to dress back in the 18th century.
19. Shop on Gloucester Road
Glocester road is your perfect answer to what to do in Bristol if you love shopping. It is one of Bristol’s best streets for shopping, where you will find hundreds of independent retailers selling all sorts of products and services.
You can grab your afternoon tea or coffee from one of the cafes here. There are lots of independent restaurants as well offering a variety of cuisines. If you are a foodie who loves to try multiple cuisines, then Gloucester is the road for you.
20. Spot Deers and Adore the International Balloon Fiesta at Ashton Court Estate
The Ashton court estate is a huge area of woodland and grassland. Ashton Court is actually the mansion present amidst the estate. The estate is serene, beautiful, and wonderful to take walks. One side leads to the mansion and the red deer park where you can spot deer, while the other side leads to the golf and cycle center where you can just cycle or play a game of golf.
The Bristol international balloon fiesta is an annual event held at the Ashton court in August every year. Hot air balloon owners from different countries get their hot air balloons here to participate. The sight of seeing so many hot air balloons in the air is just spectacular.
21. Head Over to The Bristol Zoo to Experience Wildlife
Witnessing wildlife at the Bristol zoo is another one of the few answers to what to do in Bristol. Known as the Bristol Zoological gardens, this is a small zoo with a variety of animals from across the world.
The Gorillas are the best entertainers here. You can experience sea life here at the aquarium and even visit the bug world to see how insects feed. There are plenty of cafes in case you want to grab something to eat.
22. Look at The Serenity in The Heart of Bristol at Queen Square
Queen Square is a lush green park within Bristol city limits surrounded by Georgian architecture. It is the perfect answer to what to do in Bristol if you are looking for serenity inside the city. You can just relax here or play a sport.
23. Enjoy Your Favourite Cinema at One of Bristol’s Movie Theatres
Everyman, Showcase Cinema de Lux Bristol, Cube cinema, and Cineworld Cinema Bristol are where you can spend quality time watching what you enjoy on the big screen.
24. Have Fun with The Models at We The Curious
We the curious is a popular science center in Bristol. You can watch the 2D and 3D planetarium shows and engage yourselves with the interactive exhibits across various subjects. The museum is fun and is welcoming to people of all age groups.
25. Play Board Games at Chance and Counters
Chance and counters is a well-known board game café in Bristol that gives a one-of-a-kind answer to what to do in Bristol. You must head to the cafe if you need a break from technology and want to enjoy traditional board games.
The demand for it is so high that you might need to book the games in advance. It is designed for people of all ages. At help is a friendly staff who will assist you if you need help with the games. It has a variety of food options to offer to its customers.
26. Shop at St. Nicholas Market on Corn Street
Corn Street is one of the oldest streets in Bristol. You must shop at the exchange which hosts the St. Nicholas market that was previously used for the corn trade. The street has a clock with two-minute hands, one tracks the Greenwich meridian time while the other tracks the local Bristol time.
27. Cycle from Bristol to Bath
You can take the 13-mile cycle path from Bristol to Bath along the old railway line and enjoy the green scenes while you ride. En route, you will spot a lot of rivers with beautiful birds. You can grab a coffee from one of the cafes along the way.
So that sums up Bristol. The answers you get to what to do in Bristol serve as a combo offer. Most of Bristol is like one place and multiple things to do.