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21 things to do in bristol

21 Best Things to Do in Bristol, England

Published on January 17, 2019 by Our Roving Reporter

If you are looking for things to do in Bristol, then this free guide is for you...

Bristol, England’s sixth largest city is home to nearly 450,000 People. This city has been populated since the Iron Age, and up to now, it still has evidence of Roman Villas and ancient forts to show for it in the nearby countryside.

Bristol has further flourished as centuries passed by, and what once was a port for trading and journeys to America, has now progressed into a cultural hub for culture, technology, industry, and even aerospace.

The climate in Bristol is oceanic, making it one of the mildest in the country. Moreover, Bristol is also one of the warmest cities in the United Kingdom, so it is tourist-friendly and ideal for exploring.  Even though the city is small, it has a pretty active night life and provides easy access to stunning coastlines and panoramic countryside.

If you’re visiting Bristol, here are things to see and do that you definitely shouldn’t miss:

1. Things to Do in Bristol

Bristol Harbour

Bristol Harbour is an ideal spot to begin your Bristol adventure. The port has withstood the centuries since it was built in the 13th century, primarily because of its great location upon the Avon River. It was the main departure point for ‘New World’ expeditions and a famous arrival destination for Europeans.

Now, the main harbour has moved downstream, but it still remains full of activity and alive with several art exhibits on-site, and different attractions as well. You can board a ferry on a river cruise to learn a lot more about Bristol and other significant locations. You could even schedule your trip in time for the Bristol Harbour Festival.

2. Things to See in Bristol

Clifton Suspension Bridge
Things to See in Bristol Clifton Bridge

The Clifton Suspension Bridge is an iconic and significant landmark in Bristol, England. It was formally opened in 1864, spanning the River Avon and linking the city to the gorgeous Leigh Woods. The bridge was designed by a popular English industrial designer and was inspired by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Don’t miss climbing the nearby Observatory Hill to see one of the most amazing views of the bridge. There is a free tour across the bridge but don’t get scared if it sways gently, since all suspension bridges do. Finish your trip to the Clifton Suspension Bridge at the Visitor Center on the other side of the bridge, in Leigh Woods. It is where you can shop for souvenirs and learn more about this iconic Bristol Bridge.

3. Things to in Bristol with kids

At-Bristol - Also know as @Curious
Things to in Bristol with kids

Aside from a rich historical tapestry that Bristol has, it is also proud of its technological and electronics advancement, which is very much evident in At-Bristol. This place is Bristol’s Science Center that includes exhibits, hands-on activities, workshops, and interactive presentations. Their engaging exhibits cover geography, physics, and the human body.

At-Bristol also offers a lot of activities for the entire family. You can build objects, see optical illusions, and watch planet demonstrations at the planetarium.  You can also visit the Live Science Zone to explore current topics. It also features a different theme, so guests can expect a different experience each time. If you're looking for something to do with the kids when visiting Bristol then @curious should be on your list.

4. More things to do with the kids in Bristol

Bristol Zoo
More things to do with the kids in Bristol

If you’re tagging kids along, the Bristol Zoo is an excellent place to spend the day out. Bristol Zoo houses a large variety of animals, like red pandas, Asiatic lions, and seals.

This isn’t an ordinary zoo, though. It has been dedicated to research and conservation, so much so that it was the first in the world to breed okapis, and one of the few in Great Britain to house aye ayes and lowland gorillas. 

Zoo visitors can visit the Twilight Zone where they could have a unique experience of going through artificial night-time habitats, where they could see nocturnal animals in their natural setting. You'll love it as much as the kids will.

5. Things to Do in Bristol for free

Visit Cabot Tower
Things to Do in Bristol for free

If you are looking for free things to do in Bristol then a visit to the Cabot Tower will fit the bill nicly. Situated in the charming Brandon Hill park is the 32m high tower, Cabot Tower. It was constructed in the late  1890’s to celebrate and commemorate John Cabot’s  expedition from Bristol to North America 400 years earlier.  Cabot Tower is a listed building that visitors can climb through a spiral staircase for an outstanding view across the city.

After getting some Instagram-worthy snapshots of the panoramic view, guests can spend some more time exploring Bristol’s oldest part,  Brandon Hill. It boasts of several gardens that look stunningly beautiful especially in the spring. The  park also has a nature reserve that  houses a wildflower  meadow, a small pond for frogs, and a fascinating butterfly garden.

6. Things to See and Do in Bristol

SS Great Britain
Things to See and Do in Bristol

The SS Great Britain plays a significant role in the history of England; it was once a mighty iron steamship that used  to transport visitors across the Atlantic between Bristol and New York. Built in 1845 and designed by no less than Isambard Kingdom Brunel, SS Great Britain was the world’s longest passenger ship for 10 years.

It could carry as many as 360 passengers and this was a marvellous achievement at that time. Over the years, though, this ship has been utilized to ferry immigrants to Australia and eventually, a warehouse before it was transformed into a floating museum that it is today.

7. Historic things to See and Do in Bristol

St Mary Redcliffe
Historic things to See and Do in Bristol  Bristol-St-Mary-Redcliffe

St Mary Redcliffe, a stunning gothic-style church completed in the 15th century, is built on a historically-significant Christian worship site. The church has earned the praises of Queen Elizabeth I as it is a pleasure to see and an ideal way to discover some of Bristol’s rich history.

St Mary Redcliffe displays antique stained glass windows from the 14th century up to the 1960s. Inside the church, you will also see several monuments and statues, as well as 15 bells in the church tower. Now, however, the church is used as a place for prayer, worship, and hosting choir and organ performances.

8. Things to Do in Bristol in the rain

Things to Do in Bristol in the rain

If it's raining then a visit to the Watershed could be the order of the day. Watershed has been standing on Bristol’s port since the early 1980, thus making it Great Britain’s first dedicated spot for media. What were once warehouses then housed three cinemas, a café, and a string of open spaces for a variety of small businesses and for creative use. This is also the ideal place to enjoy Bristol life, since it is a vivacious place loved by both locals and tourists alike.

It is designed to promote and encourage culture and connection among its patrons. Guests can visit Watershed to catch the latest flicks, as well as talks and various workshops. It is also the venue for festivals and used by the British Film Institute to promote their films.

9. Things to See and Do in Bristol UK

Queen  Square
Things to See and Do in Bristol UK

Queen Square is a famous green space right at the heart of the city. It offers a relaxing and calm retreat from the hustle and bustle of the central city while keeping that vibrant Bristol fun vibe intact. The Georgian Park has existed since the 1620’s when it was a posh place for residents to live.

Now,  though, you can still stroll down the Georgian promenades and marvel at the stunning architectural beauty of the houses. Tourists can also see the statue of John Michael Rysbrack in the middle of the park, which has been standing in its spot since 1736.

10. Things to Do in Bristol for free

Georgian House
Things to Do in Bristol for free

Here's another free thing to do in Bristol. There are a lot of historically significant structures in Bristol, one of the most charming is the Georgian House. It is a historic building constructed in 1790 and presently utilized as a museum. This house features common life in Bristol in the 18th century.

It offers free entry to visitors, so guests can learn a lot about Bristol’s past by going through servants’ chambers and walking through the meticulously renovated resident’s house, which includes a drawing, bedroom, and dining room. Moreover, there is also a small display featuring the history of the family that once resided there and the sugar trade they handled.

11. Things to Do in Bristol in the rain

Royal West of England Academy
Things to Do in Bristol in the rain - Royal_West_of_England_Academy

What better things to do on a rainy day than visit an art gallery?

Built in the  19th century,  Bristol’s first ever art gallery, the Royal West of England Academy, celebrated and recognized local and international artists. The academy has since been dedicated to promote culture and arts in Britain, and the gallery boasts of works by prominent artists like Vanessa Bell, Julian Trevelyan, and Gilbert Spencer.

Royal West of England Academy also regularly feature temporary exhibits that show subjects like landscape portraits, female artists, and even encouraging visitors to join in on workshops to make their own art! There’s nowhere else to experience art in Bristol better than in Royal West of England Academy.

12. Things to See and Do in Bristol

Ashton Court
Things to See and Do in Bristol

Ashton Court is a grand home and grounds that once belonged to a rich family  in Bristol. It sits on 850 acres of land, so there is plenty to see and explore here. The mansion has stood since the 11th century. It is a majestic structure with a mix of various architectural styles, showing the number of renovations and additions that it went through over the centuries.

Guests can walk through the rooms and take a glimpse of what posh life was like in Bristol some centuries ago. Outside the manor, guest could also spend some time on the grounds that have been home to deer for more than 6 centuries. Guests could sometimes encounter deer skipping among  the ancient oak trees. Moreover, there is a hike and bike trail for the more adventurous guests.

13. Things to Do in Bristol on a Sunday

Blaise Castle
Things to Do in Bristol on a Sunday

Not sure what to do on a Sunday in Bristol? Blaisé Castle houses a manor and estate that were constructed in 1798 on a site that has been populated since the Neolithic era. On the estate is a grand manor currently serving as a museum, the castle, and 650 acres of parkland. Visitors can start with a tour around the house to discover what life in 17th century Bristol was like.

The Picture Room is a magnificent gallery showcasing the painting collection of the former inhabitants from over the years. The vividly recreated Victorian school room features early children’s toys and games. The nearby Roman Villa features the only Roman baths in Bristol, stunning mosaic floorings, and a distinctive touch of Roman influence in Bristol. When you are at Blaise Castle, make sure to visit  the woods where you will see  beautiful flora, fauna, and English wildlife.

14. Things to Do in Bristol for families

Take a steam train journey on the Avon Valley Railway
Things to Do in Bristol for families

Avon Valley Railway plays a significant part in Bristol’s culture and heritage. The railway has once served to connect Bristol to Bath, but now it is a tourist attraction that welcomes an estimated 80,000 visitors per year. Avon Valley Railway boasts of a fully-renovated Victorian station to give an authentic and immersive historical experience.

This railway also runs regular steam and diesel rides for guests. For hiking enthusiasts, though, they also allow guests to walk alongside the track. There is a museum as well to discover more about Avon Valley Railway’s history or to shop for souvenirs to take home.

15. Things to in Bristol at night

Bristol Hippodrome
Things to in Bristol at night

If you're at a loose end and looking for something to do in Bristol at night then how about a trip to the theatre? The Bristol Hippodrome, built in 1912, is used as a theatre and performance place, and is one of Bristol’s largest venues. This is one of the best places to go to see a live show. Bristol Hippodrome has  hosted famous acts like Eddie Cochran and Lee Mack.

It is also a popular venue for touring West End theatrical shows, such as Les Miserables and Cats. This historically significant structure provides the biggest names in live acts, all in a breathtaking setting. The architecture of the building, moreover, is an art in its own right.

16. Things to See and Do around Bristol

Blaise Hamlet
Thing to do in Bristol Cottage at Blaize Hamlet Bristol England

Blaise Hamlet was once used to house retired staff from Blaise Castle. Built in 1811, it features a small collection of structures that were kept preserved to this day. The Blaise Hamlet is composed of nine charming cottages that are laid out  around the hamlet’s green, outlining a beautiful scene of the English landscape.

This hamlet was one of the pioneers of its kind and is home to an authentic stone sundial and water pump. It also features occasional events that vary per season, including group runs, wildlife explorations, and landscape sketching sessions.

17. Things to Do in Bristol, England

Spike Island

Once a man-made island used as a  creative space dedicated to promoting and encouraging contemporary art and design, Spike Island has been linked to the mainland and is currently a hub for Bristol’s active cultural activities. This island has a weekly schedule of events dedicated to art and exhibits, showcasing works of modern artists all over the globe.  

Moreover, Spike Island also features talks, workshops, activities, performances, and screenings every week, so there is always something new to try and engage with. Guests can also grab a bite at Spike Island Café for organic and sustainable food with vegetarian and vegan options as well as decadent pastries and baked treats on offer.

18. Things to Do in Bristol city centre

The Old Duke
Things to Do in Bristol city centre - Have a beer and listen to some live jazz at the Old Duke

If you are looking for things to do in Bristol city centre at night then The Old Duke is a must try for fans of jazz and blues. This pub is popular in the jazz and blues scene. It features live music nightly, and even hosts its own jazz fest every year.

The Old Duke was built in 1775 and boasts of its striking architecture and a laid back vibe. It specializes in classic, New Orleans-inspired jazz, and has featured performances from the Blue Notes, Code Red, and Andy Hague. This culturally- significant spot is an ideal venue to spend the evening enjoying some quality music in a relaxing atmosphere.

19. Things to See and Do in Bristol

Bristol Cathedral
Bristol Cathedral

Bristol Cathedral was built in 1140, but it has been rebuilt and renovated over the centuries. The cathedral presents remarkable gothic-style architecture and has played a substantial role in Bristol’s history. This is where the first female Church of England was ordained in this cathedral. Visitors can find antique stained glass windows dating from the 14th century to the 1960s.

Bristol Cathedral also features towering vaulted ceilings, or join a guided tour to know more about the structure’s history, as well as its place in historical riots and archaeological discoveries. BBC’s “Wolf Hall” was filmed here and now features a trail to guide visitors to the spots where their favorite scenes were filmed.

20 Things to Do in Bristol for free

Don't miss the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta
Bristol International Balloon Fiesta

One of the best and—surprisingly—free things to see in Bristol is the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. It is an annual event where over 130 hot air balloons representing countries from all over the world are featured taking off at dusk, creating a breathtaking view that can only be seen in Bristol.
This event was first held in 1979 and is now one of the grandest hot air balloon events in Europe.

The highlight of Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is the Night Glow, where balloons are inflated and beautiful glow to music after dark. This is held during the opening night and is capped off by a stunning display of fireworks after the balloons have descended.

Aside from the eyegasmic display of vividly colored balloons in the night sky, guests can also enjoy trade kiosks, games, and entertainment on the grounds.
As mentioned, this four-day event is completely FREE, except for parking fees.

Bristol, England may not present a picture of your typical tourist destination with a flock of tourists crowding the place with their cameras, selfie sticks and monopods, but it doesn’t make this city any less breathtaking.

Bristol has a string of attractions that would cater to a lot of interests, and this city knows how to do it with class and sophistication. It also has a rich and vivid history peppered with architectural wonders through the years.  If you prefer to travel in a place that would leave you marvelling at its beauty and craving for more knowledge about it, then Bristol is the place to go.

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