20 BEST THINGS THAT SHOULD DO IN BRISTOL
20 BEST THINGS THAT SHOULD DO IN BRISTOL, in the UK, Bristol is a fantastic city for art, innovation, and a hip attitude. Bristol is most known for its resident artist, Banksy, who went from being a little-known graffiti artist in his hometown to being a global street art celebrity. Bristol is a maritime city with a rich history that is still evident across the city, in addition to its arty present. The story of the city’s maritime past is told through a variety of museums, vessels, sculptures, and other artifacts.
Bristol is also home to many important engineering developments which helped the UK thrive during the industrial revolution. Throughout the city centuries-old architecture blends seamlessly with the modern, creating a visually exciting place to explore. The city is filled with vibrant neighbourhoods, all offering something a little different for its visitors. Explore Stokes Croft if you enjoy vintage fashion, relaxed bars and the perfect cup of coffee.
North Street is fast becoming a must-visit destination for artists and creatives, while Clifton seamlessly intertwines its industrial history with trendy restaurants. Bristol is also an ideal base for those wanting to see more of the West Country. So here are 20 things to do in Bristol you should not miss out on when exploring this southwest gem.
20 THINGS TO DO IN BRISTOL
1- EXPLORE BRUNEL’S SS GREAT BRITAIN
To uncover Bristol’s engineering and maritime history under one roof, visit Brunel’s SS Great Britain.
The museum consists of the restored SS Great Britain, a Victorian ship, and two museums exploring the life of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his impact on maritime history and engineering.
Both museums are interactive and offer a range of experiences for children and adults alike.
Throughout the year, the museum hosts a range of events, including regular opportunities to climb to the top of the ship’s rigging, offering unique views across the city.
Brunel’s SS Great Britain is at Great Western Dockyard, Gas Ferry Rd, Bristol BS1 6TY.
Top tour: Brunel’s Iconic Engineering Self-Guided Audio Tour.
2- SEE THE COLLECTIONS AT BRISTOL MUSEUM & ART GALLERY
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery is a free-to-enter museum filled with exhibitions of art, history and the natural world.
The museum regularly changes its temporary exhibitions, so check online to see what’s on.
Running in 2023 is a collection celebrating International Women’s Day from female artist Stacey Lynn Waddell and a collection of cave paintings dating back over 21,000 years.
While in the museum, look for Bristol’s favourite, Alfred the Gorilla, the Bristol Dinosaur and a range of glittering gemstones, crystals and ancient fossils.
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery is at Queens Rd, Bristol BS8 1RL.
3- DISCOVER THE OUTDOORS AT CLIFTON DOWNS
Get out of the city and into the fresh air at Clifton Downs, which is an area formed of both Clifton and Durdham Downs.
This slice of natural paradise is a short walk away from some of the major attractions of the city centre, yet it feels miles away.
Enjoy a picnic in the park if visiting on a sunny day, take a moment to relax and stroll through the grounds, or if you are feeling energetic, take to one of the area’s many football pitches.
The park is dog-friendly, too, with plenty of open space for your furry friend to run around and explore.
Clifton Downs is at Stoke Rd, Bristol BS9 1FG.
4- DELVE INTO LOCAL HISTORY AT M SHED
M Shed is another of Bristol’s free-to-enter museums offering film and photographs telling the story of local people.
Visit the Bristol People gallery to learn more about the city and the people who shaped it through engineering, trading and simply working and living in the area.
Follow this up by exploring Bristol Life, an interactive gallery featuring period-appropriate rooms across the city’s history.
Wander through the archives at L Shed, the adjoining building, and see numerous artefacts and items from the city’s engineering and maritime history.
Here you will find machinery, old metal signs and much more archived in this large warehouse-style museum.
M Shed is at Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd, Bristol BS1 4RN.
5- LEARN SOMETHING NEW AT WE THE CURIOUS
We The Curious is a must-visit science centre on Bristol’s harbour.
The building aims to celebrate and share scientific thoughts with the community collaboratively.
The centre includes many interactive exhibits, experiments and more offered to everyone who visits.
The knowledgeable staff encourage visitors to think more broadly about a range of ideas as they explore the collections and enjoy a range of unique experiences.
The centre is unique compared to traditional museums as they fully encourage a hands-on approach and want their visitors to enjoy, discuss and be a part of the exhibitions.
Sadly the museum is closed due to a fire but is expected to open later in 2023, bigger and better than ever.
In the meantime, the team behind the centre are hosting regular activities across Bristol, with more information on their website.
We The Curious is at 1 Millennium Square, One Millennium Square, Anchor Rd, Bristol BS1 5DB.
6- SEE EXTINCT IN THE WILD SPECIES AT WILD PLACE PROJECT
Wild Place Project is the perfect place to spend a day if you love animals.
The project aims to share some of the most beautiful wildlife the UK and beyond offer in a conservation environment.
Wild Place Project spans more than 50 acres of appropriate habitat for its variety of animals.
The centre focuses on conservation research, cares for many endangered species, and raises awareness of conservation efforts in the UK and abroad.
Be sure to stop by Bear Wood, the largest area within the project and the only one in the UK.
Here you will find, extinct in the wild, British species of bears, wolves, lynxes and wolverines living in a beautiful woodland.
Wild Place Project is at Wild Place, Blackhorse Hill, Bristol BS10 7TP.
7- WATCH AN INDIE FILM AT WATERSHED
Watershed is a cultural hub, cinema, cafe and restaurant on the harbour.
They aim to celebrate bringing people together with arts and creativity and encourage visitors to grow their imaginations.
At Watershed, expect to see a range of mainstream and indie films in its cinema or uncover something new with its cultural cinematic offerings.
Relax and unwind on the waterfront at Watershed’s cafe & bar.
The venue is the perfect mix of Bristol’s industrial heritage through natural wooden floors, exposed bricks and pipework, combined with lush green indoor plants and a tasty modern menu.
Watershed is at 1 Canon’s Rd, Bristol BS1 5TX.
8- STEP BACK IN HISTORY AT BLAISE CASTLE
Step back in history and explore the Grade II-listed Blaise Castle and its surrounding grounds.
The folly castle was designed in the early 19th century and famously featured in Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey.
Inside the castle are rooms filled with objects from its history, including a kitchen and a children’s playroom with a model train set, dolls and other toys.
The castle is only open on Sundays and is run by a dedicated team of volunteers, however, the grounds are open daily.
The parkland surrounding the castle spans 400 acres and is filled with woodlands, a children’s playground and many nature walk trails.
Blaise Castle is at Kings Weston Rd, Bristol BS10 7QS.
9- DISCOVER TYNTESFIELD HOUSE
Tytesfield is an imposing Gothic Revival home dating to the Victorian era, only a short drive from the city centre.
The house sits inside 540 acres (219 ha) of parkland, including an apple orchard and shady woodland.
Inside the house is a collection featuring more than 72,000 objects of interest, some showcased in special events by the volunteers.
Wander through the home’s many rooms and experience life during the Victorian age.
Outside the home, wander through the formal terraces and working kitchen garden and enjoy time on the sprawling open lawns.
Have a bite to eat at Home Farm Cafe, set inside the grade II listed dairy, and experience a tranquil moment of reflection at the chapel connected to the main house via a bridge.
Tyntesfield House is at 64 Stable Yd, Tyntesfield, Wraxall, Bristol BS48 1NS
10- ENJOY THE VIEW FROM CABOT TOWER
When exploring Brandon Hill Park, keep your eyes peeled for the unmistakable Cabot Tower.
William Venn Gough designed Cabot Tower in 1897 as a dedication to John Cabot’s voyage from Bristol to North America 400 years before the tower was built.
The tower is bright red as it was built using rich red sandstone and is finished with cream-coloured detailing from Bath stone.
It is possible to climb to the top of the tower for excellent views across the city and the harbour beyond.
While in the park, explore the nature conservation area, children’s play area and plenty of places to stop and picnic in peaceful surroundings.
Cabot Tower is at Brandon Hill Park, Park St, Bristol BS1 5RR.
Bristol: Blackbeard to Banksy Guided Walking Tour – for art lovers
Bristol: Hop-on, Hop-off Sightseeing Bus 48-Hour Pass – save money and explore at your leisure
Aerospace Bristol Entrance Ticket – aviation fans, take note!
Bristol: Clifton Suspension Bridge Vaults Experiences – explore vaulted chambers.
Bristol: Guided Ghost Tour – discover the city’s terrifying secrets.
11- SEE AN EXHIBITION AT ARNOLFINI
Arnolfini is another Bristol destination to head to if you enjoy the arts and creativity.
Arnolfini is the International Centre for Contemporary Arts, alongside other creative hubs such as M Shed and Watershed in Bristol’s harbour.
In the grade II-listed building, Arnolfini offers a public space where a range of artistic endeavours and learning can occur.
Exhibitions inside include works from local and international artists, including Grayson Perry, Sonia Boyce and Paula Rego.
Arnolfini hosts an ever-changing range of events and activities for children and adults alike.
There is also a reading room, plenty of restful spaces for visitors to sit and relax, read or enjoy works of art, and a cafe bar serving locally brewed beers from Bristol Beer Factory.
Arnolfini is at 16 Narrow Quay, Bristol BS1 4QA.
12- ADMIRE BRISTOL CATHEDRAL
Bristol Cathedral has a long history following its founding in the early 12th century.
The cathedral is filled with architectural examples of its early history, including the chapter house and gatehouse, both of which conform to the traditional Norman architecture of the time.
Explore the cathedral and take in its carved vaulted ceilings, colourful stained glass windows and statues depicting various religious figures.
Outside the cathedral is a large, open green space where many relax, unwind, or enjoy lunch outdoors.
Bristol Cathedral is at College Green, Bristol BS1 5TJ.
13- DISCOVER HISTORY AT THE GEORGIAN HOUSE
The Georgian House is a late 1700s home turned museum which explores the history of a sugar plantation and slave owner from the city.
The house is free to enter and includes 11 rooms decorated and filled with objects from its unpleasant history.
Inside the home, explore life above stairs in the dining room with its fully set table, drawing room and study lined with bookshelves.
Below stairs, experience what life was like for the servants of the home in the kitchen and housekeeper’s rooms.
The home is a stark reminder of the history of those profiteering from the slave trade and sugar plantations in the Caribbean.
It aims to educate visitors on this history and its atrocities.
The Georgian House is at 7 Great George St, Bristol BS1 5RR.
14- WANDER THE GROUNDS OF TEMPLE CHURCH
Another of Bristol’s impressive and important historical buildings is Temple Church, a medieval church that survived extensive bombings during WWII.
The church takes its name from the original structure on the same land, a small church built by the Knights Templar.
The original church was round in structure, with its unusual shape marked out within the grounds of its replacement.
English Heritage operates the church, and while there is no interior access, the grounds and graveyard are open to the public to explore.
Temple Church is at Victoria St, Redcliffe, Bristol BS1 6HS.
15- HANG OUT AT QUEEN SQUARE
Queen Square is a lush green Georgian park in the city centre.
The square is often filled with locals taking a lunch break outside their workplace and visitors looking for somewhere to relax before continuing to explore the city.
The square hosts regular events, including concerts, outdoor theatre performances and more.
Beautiful Georgian houses overlook it and is easily accessible from both the harbour and the Old City.
Due to its size, the park does not take long to walk around but offers a welcome slice of nature in the bustling city.
Queen Square is at Queen Square, Bristol BS1 4LH.
16- GO ON A BANKSY TOUR
Set out on foot on a Blackbeard to Banksy Walking Tour to see the street artist’s original and most iconic pieces of work.
Little is known about Banksy besides his year of birth, 1974, and his hometown of Bristol.
On your walking tour, you will find the Valentine’s Day mural in Barton Hill, the Grim Reaper and the Girl with the Pierced Eardrum, both of which can be found in Central Bristol.
Many of the artist’s pieces have been removed to be displayed elsewhere or sold into private collections, however, those that still exist as the artist intended them are well worth seeing.
Banksy Tours departs from Cathedral, College Green, Bristol BS1 5TJ.
17- RELAX AT ASHTON COURT
Ashton Court is an excellent destination for a family day to explore the city’s history and enjoy nature.
Ashton Court is a mansion with 850 acres (344 ha) of grassland, parkland and woodland.
When exploring the parkland, keep your eyes peeled for the resident deer relaxing under the shade of a tree or wandering across the park.
The grounds also include a miniature railway, mountain biking trails and many locations for birdwatching.
It is possible to visit inside the mansion between Wednesdays and Sundays to see a range of art collections and historical artefacts from the building’s history.
After exploring, enjoy a bite to eat at one of two cafes within the grounds.
Ashton Court is at Ashton Ct, Bristol BS41 9JN.
18- WATCH A SHOW AT BRISTOL HIPPODROME
Bristol Hippodrome is one of Britain’s largest theatres and a great destination for a night of entertainment in the city.
The theatre is so popular on the touring theatre circuit that it is fast becoming known as the West End Theatre of Bristol, a nod to London’s famous theatre district.
The theatre has many performances throughout the year, including comedy performances, classic theatrical shows such as The King and I, and family-friendly movie experiences, including sing-a-longs for movies such as Encanto.
Bristol Hippodrome is at St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol BS1 4UZ.
19- RIDE THE AVON VALLEY RAILWAY
Midland Railway opened the Avon Valley Railway in 1869 to connect Birmingham and the South Coast of England.
When the railway was officially closed in the 1960s, this small section of track was preserved and offers visitors a chance to explore this beautiful area of England from the comfort of a steam train.
The train journey spans only three miles however it runs through beautiful countryside in a historical carriage.
Your carriage will be pulled by either a historic steam or diesel train, details of which can be found on the Avon Valley Railway website.
The Avon Valley Railway operates several unique services, including Santa trains and dining trains serving delicious meals in first-class carriages.
Avon Valley Railway is at Avon Riverside Station, Avon Valley Railway, Bristol And Bath Railway Path, Bristol BS31 3ET.
20- ENJOY ART AT THE ROYAL WEST OF ENGLAND ACADEMY
Another of Bristol’s many creative hubs can be found at the Royal West of England Academy, or RWA.
The grade II-listed building has celebrated art and displayed it for visitors since 1884.
The building is architecturally stunning, with large open rooms, high ceilings and ornate carvings.
RWA hosts a range of permanent and temporary exhibitions featuring a collaborative collection of works between Radiohead drummer Philip Selway and artist Stewart Geddes, a celebratory exhibition of photographic techniques and a national touring exhibition focusing on Women in the City.
RWA encourages visitors to unleash their creativity through various workshops and courses at their drawing school.
Courses range from short afternoon sessions to longer courses dedicated to a style of artwork.
Courses include picture book illustration, techniques practised by old masters, and Zoom classes focusing on life drawing.
Royal West of England Academy is at Queens Rd, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1PX.