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Bristol, UK is an old harbor city that has transformed into a modern cultural hub. Young, vibrant, hip and fun, Bristol is an entertaining destination that far surpasses expectations. To help fellow travelers make the most of their visit, we are highlighting the best things to do in Bristol, England.
Things To Do in Bristol, UK: FAQs
Before we get to our list of what to do in Bristol, UK, we want to answer a few of the most frequently asked questions.
Where is Bristol?
Bristol is situated in the South West of England. The city sits along the River Avon and has a lush, green and hilly landscape. Nearby destinations are the historic city of Bath and The Cotswolds.
What is Bristol, UK Known For?
Historically, Bristol is best known for its maritime past. The city has hosted a port since the 11th century – and many exploration voyages (and slave ships) have sailed from Bristol.
Bristol is also known for its beautiful suspension bridge, the unique Bristolese accent, tasty cider, street art and an epic nightlife.
Are There Things To Do in Bristol for Free?
Absolutely! There are many fun, free things to do in Bristol. In fact, some of Bristol’s best attractions and museums are free of charge – and we highlight them in our list of things to do.
Are There Bristol Attractions for Kids and Families?
Of course! Visitors traveling with kids will find that there are numerous family attractions in Bristol. While our list of fun things to do around Bristol is not dedicated to family activities, there are several kid-friendly sights on our list.
Are There Things To Do in Bristol on a Rainy Day?
Yes! As precipitation is fairly common, there are many things to do indoors in Bristol. Throughout our list we offer top suggestions for things to do on a rainy day in Bristol.
How Many Days in Bristol, England?
We think spending 3 days in Bristol is ideal. Visiting Bristol in 3 days allows enough time to see the sights, visit the attractions and enjoy the nightlife without feeling rushed.
That said, travelers limited to just a couple of days can still see all the Bristol highlights. In fact, with a 2-Day Weekend in Bristol Itinerary, visitors could check off the top sights…and enjoy the nighttime entertainment, too.
Tourists taking a day trip to Bristol or staying for just 24 hours will need to devise a well-planned Bristol One Day Itinerary. With our list of things to do, however, it’s fairly easy to create a perfect Bristol 1 Day Itinerary!
Visiting Bristol, UK: How to Plan Your Trip
Planning a Bristol visit requires more thought than just figuring out what to see and do. Travelers also need to determine how to get there, where to stay and what to pack – and we share our top tips to make trip planning a breeze!
Many travelers visit Bristol as part of a bigger trip to the United Kingdom and beyond. Travelers planning to visit other UK and nearby destinations can use our trip planning guides.
- How To Spend 3 Days in London
- The Best Things To Do in Bath
- What To Do in Edinburgh
- A Perfect 1-Week Ireland Itinerary
Furthermore, tourists traveling to England from abroad can use our tips on How To Plan a European Vacation.
As you plan your Bristol trip, organization is key! We recommend using a travel planner – like our Printable Travel Planner – to stay on top of all the details!
20 Best Things To Do in Bristol, England
We have covered the basics – now it’s time to get to the best Bristol activities! To aid in your trip planning, we have included a helpful Bristol attractions map at the end of the article.
Save, Pin or Bookmark this Bristol blog post so that you can easily access it as you plan – and during – your trip to the UK!
#1 Bristol Cathedral
A massive, Medieval ‘hall church’, the Bristol Cathedral is a landmark sight and visiting it ranks as one of the top Bristol things to do. The elaborate church – formally called the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity – dates to the year 1140, when it served as the St. Augustine’s Abbey.
The cathedral features vaulted ceilings, ornate columns and colorful stained-glass windows. Plus, there is no entry fee, so it’s one of the Bristol free things to do!
#2 Cabot Tower at Brandon Hill Park
Standing at 105 feet atop Brandon Hill, Cabot Tower is another one of the free attractions in Bristol. The spiral stairs inside the tower lead to 360-degree viewpoints of Bristol and the surrounding landscapes. Climbing all the way to the top is one of the fun things to do in Bristol.
The tower was built in the late 1800s to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s expedition and discovery of North America (today’s Canada). He set sail from Bristol in 1497 on a journey commissioned by Henry VII of England.
Green and spacious, Brandon Hill Park is also an excellent spot for a stroll or an outdoor picnic!
#3 Clifton Suspension Bridge
A man-made marvel and engineering feat, the superb Clifton Suspension Bridge straddles the Avon River Gorge on the west side of the city. Walking across Clifton Bridge is one of the top things to do in Bristol, UK – and it’s free!
The bridge sits 330 feet above the water and stretches for a length of 1,352 feet. The toll bridge (it costs £1 to drive across it) opened in the year 1864. Interested visitors can learn more about it’s history in the fantastic Clifton Bridge Visitor Center; yet another one of the free things in Bristol to do.
In addition to the bridge, there are a few more things to do in Clifton Bristol. Be sure to walk up to the Clifton Observatory (a historic windmill that now serves as an observatory and provides entry to the Giant’s Cave) and the St. Vincent’s Rocks viewpoint. Visitors can also explore the affluent Clifton neighborhood to see grand Georgian architecture and majestic residences.
#4 St. Nicholas Market, Bristol
Shopping at the St. Nicholas Markets is one of the best activities in Bristol! Operating since 1743, the covered market is housed in a historic arcade. Independent retailers line the lanes inside the market halls and scrumptious street food is available in the breezeway.
The St. Nicholas Market is a great place to pick up hand crafted and locally made souvenirs. For a tasty bite to eat, shoppers have a wide range of choices – from hearty pies at Pieminister to international cuisine. We personally recommend getting a delicious and fresh Middle Eastern wrap from Matina!
#5 Wapping Wharf
A revitalized neighborhood on the Bristol Harbourside, Wapping Wharf is a cluster of casual eateries, boutique shops, cute cafes and cultural hotspots. Spending time in the Wapping Wharf district is one of the best Bristol, UK things to do – for visitors and locals alike.
Whether looking for vintage threads (Something Elsie), a mouthwatering burger (Squeezed), spectacular cider (The Cider Box) or a pint of Bristol craft beer (Wild Beer Co), you can find it at Wapping Wharf!
#6 M Shed Free Museum Bristol
The M Shed Museum – a former harbor warehouse – is one of the best things to see in Bristol and an excellent place to learn about the city’s past.
The museum features exhibits that detail the history of Bristol and its people. Stories cover a range of topics – from the city’s part in the slave trade to bomb shelters that were used during the war to modes of transportation through the years. Plus, there are personal stories from Bristol citizens about growing up in the city, going to school and hanging out at clubs.
#7 Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
A fascinating museum and a great destination for rainy days in Bristol, the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery is one of the best sights in the city.
The collection includes an array of displays – including Egyptian mummies, dinosaur fossils and artwork – both by masters and by local street artist, Banksy.
Visiting the museum is one of the top free things to do in Bristol for families, couples, friends and solo travelers.
#8 Banksy Artwork and Street Art Murals
Banksy is a worldwide renowned street artist and political activist – and he hails from Bristol. Many of his early artworks still decorate the walls of buildings in the city center – and they are now hot Bristol tourist attractions.
Without a doubt, one of the best free things to do in Bristol is to seek out his artwork – as well as street art murals painted by other artists.
The best Banksy murals in Bristol are the Well Hung Lover, Girl with Pearl Earring, the Mild Mild West and You Don’t Need Planning Permission to Build Castles in the Sky. (You can find the location of these Banksy artworks on our Map of Bristol Things To Do below!).
#9 Brunel’s SS Great Britain
Once reigning as the largest passenger ship in the world, the SS Great Britain is permanently docked at Bristol Harbor. Now, rather than sailing, the ship functions as a museum – and visiting it is one of the best things to do in Bristol Harbourside.
In addition to stepping aboard to explore the interior of the ship, the entry ticket also allows visitors to explore the historic dockyard and view the dry dock.
#10 Stokes Croft Road
Marking the epicenter of the city’s counterculture, Stokes Croft Road – and the area immediately surrounding it – is one of the best places to walk around Bristol.
Exuding a youthful, bohemian vibe, the area is best known for its independent shops, live music scene and street art murals.
A few of the top things to do in Stokes Croft are to seek out famous graffiti artworks (like Banksy’s The Mild Mild West and the See No Evil Gallery), visit the Mickleburgh Musical Instruments shop (the oldest music store in Britain) and have a pint of local beer at The Crofters Rights.
#11 King Street, Bristol
Travelers looking for things to do in Bristol at night should make their way to King Street. The wide street was originally developed in the 1650s and is lined with historic buildings that date to the 17th and 18th centuries.
Today, however, the street is a hub of entertainment and the Bristol main attraction for nightlife.
The best bars on King Street are Small Bar, The Beer Emporium, Kongs of King Street and The Old Duke Jazz and Blues Bar (where they have live jazz music every day of the week). If you need a bite to eat – either before or after hitting the bars – stop by the city’s beloved Three Brothers Burgers for one of the best burgers in Bristol, UK.
#12 The Georgian Museum
One of the interesting places to visit in Bristol for free, the Georgian House Museum is a preserved aristocratic home from the 1790s. The home was built by John Pinney, who was a sugar merchant and slave owner.
Visitors are invited to tour the four floors of the home – from the basement kitchen where the servants worked to the sophisticated rooms on the upper floors.
#13 Castle Park, Bristol
A relatively new green space in the Bristol city center, Castle Park was only established in the 1970s. Formerly, the park had served as the city’s main shopping destination, but it was destroyed in the Bristol Blitz bombing during World War II.
The pleasant park – which is a great spot for picnics and summertime relaxation – is one of the Bristol free attractions. A few relics from the past remain (like the shell of St. Peter’s Church) and newer war memorials dot the park, as well.
On the south side of the park, the curving pedestrian Castle Bridge leads visitors right to Left Handed Giant Brewpub – one of the best attractions in Bristol for fans of quality craft beer.
#14 Watershed, Bristol
A dynamic and exciting cultural center, Watershed hosts an array of diverse films, festivals and events. One of the best things to do at Bristol Harbour is to take in a movie at the Watershed.
The Watershed Cinema shows both indie films, as well as blockbuster hits. Plus, there is an onsite café and bar for nibbles and refreshments.
#15 Red Lodge Museum
Built more than 400 years ago, the Red Lodge is home to a fascinating history. Designed as a guest house, renovated as a rental house, used as the Girls’ Reform School and then converted into a museum, the Red Lodge is jam packed with historical details about Bristol.
The Red Lodge Museum is also one of the top places to go in Bristol for free. Visitors can tour the Great Oak Room – as well as the original lodge, which hosts three of the oldest rooms in the city.
#16 St. Mary Redcliffe Church
A Gothic church with exquisite detail, the St. Mary Redcliffe Church dates to the 13th century. Visiting the historic church is one of the unique things to do in Bristol.
The church was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, who called St. Mary Redcliffe ‘the fairest, goodliest and most famous parish church in England.’ From the spire to the portico to the stained-glass windows, it’s a beautiful church, inside and out.
Interested visitors might also want to seek out the remains of the nearby Temple Church, which is a Medieval church that sits on the site of a former Knights Templar church. Entry is free at both churches.
#17 Queen Square, Bristol
Queen Square is one of the interesting places in Bristol that features a long, twisting history. Today, it is a top Bristol sightseeing destination.
Designed in the early 1700s, Queen Square is ringed by homes that once belonged to the city’s elite merchants. After a riot on the square in 1831, however, the square was abandoned by many of the wealthy owners (in favor of Clifton) and the square was slowly taken over by traffic lanes.
In the 1990s, the square was revitalized and brought back to its former grandeur. Many of the houses around the square have been renovated and the green space is often used for community events.
#18 Bristol Ferry Boats
Taking a Bristol Ferry is a fun way to get around the city. Even better, however, is that the ferry boats in Bristol offer guests an opportunity to see sights from a unique vantage point. The inexpensive fares are paid onboard with credit cards – so need to purchase tickets in advance…just hop aboard!
#19 Underfall Yard Visitor Center Maritime Museum
Developed in 1809, the Underfall Yard has been in integral part of the Bristol Harbor and docks. Now open to the public, visitors can see how the Underfall Yard was essential to Bristol’s maritime past…and present. The interactive museum is free – and there is an onsite café that offers stellar views.
#20 Bristol Harbour Walk
One of the best things about Bristol, UK is how walkable it is – especially around the harbor. In fact, walkways line both sides of the harbor in Bristol, making it easy for visitors to explore on foot. Walkers can complete a 3-mile loop around the Floating Harbour in just an hour.
The route around the Floating Harbour includes several top Bristol sights, as well as scenic viewpoints of the waterway and pretty painted houses that rise above it.
More Things To Do in Bristol, UK
We have outlined our top picks for what to see in Bristol, but there are a few more sights and attractions that fellow travelers might want to add to their Bristol to do list!
The Tobacco Factory Creative Community Space
A converted industrial factory in the Southville district, the Tobacco Factory is one of the fun places in Bristol to hang out. The community space hosts local businesses, including a bar, shop and Sunday market – as well as a regular line up of fun events.
The factory is located on North Street, along with other great eateries, art galleries and the Bristol Beer Factory Tap Room.
Explore Tyndalls Park and University of Bristol Campus
Although the University of Bristol – one of the best colleges in the UK – does not have a main campus, many of the university’s most beautiful buildings are located in the Tyndalls Park district.
We recommend seeking out the Wills Memorial Building, the Royal Fort House and the Victoria Rooms.
More of the Best Bristol Parks
One of the best things to do around Bristol is to enjoy the outdoor green spaces…and the city has plenty of them!
Both Clifton Downs an Durdham Downs offer wide, spacious lawns and are fun, free places to visit in Bristol.
Visiting the University of Bristol Botanic Garden is another one of the fun outdoor activities in Bristol. With there is a small fee to enter the gardens, there are ample walking paths and greenhouses, too.
Blaise Castle Estate
The extravagant Blaise Castle House is a mansion that was built in the 18th century and survives today as a free museum and outdoor space. In addition to the Blaise Castle House Museum, the estate also hosts a hamlet, a dairy, gardens and a café – plus plenty of space for playing sports, having a BBQ or enjoying a picnic.
Visiting the Blaise Castle Estate is one of the things to do near Bristol that is fun for families, couples and friends.
Ashton Court Estate
The sprawling Ashton Court Estate is a lovely place to visit and one of the top things to do in Bristol for couples and families. Developed by the Smyth family from the 16th century, the 850-acre park is now listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of Special History Interest in England.
The 850-acre park offers an array of outdoor adventures, including cycling, walking and golfing. Visitors can also try to catch a glimpse of the herds of red deer and fallow deer reside inside the park.
We The Curious Science Center
An interactive science museum in the city center, We The Curious is one of the top Bristol attractions for families. Top exhibits at the museum are the hands-on displays, fun experiments and the planetarium.
Arnolfini Arts Center
The Arnolfini International Centre for Contemporary Arts is one of the best Bristol free art museums. The center hosts a wide range of artistic mediums, including visual art, dance, film and music – and they aim to engage and inspire their guests.
Bristol Hippodrome Theatre
A sumptuously decorated Victorian-era theater, the Hippodrome ranks as one of the largest theaters in Britain. The theater hosts West End theatrical performances, musicals and opera shows. Attending a performance is one of the fun things to do in Bristol for couples on date night or families on the weekends.
Tours are also available on certain dates for visitors who want to see the grandiose interior.
Many visitors don’t know it, but a labyrinth of tunnels snake under the city of Bristol. Going into the underground world is one of the quirky things to do in Bristol. That said, it can be somewhat difficult to get inside – as they usually only unlock the doors for special events, like film screenings and Bristol Open Door weekends.
The small but well-maintained Bristol Aquarium invites guests into a world of fish and sea creatures. Top attractions at the aquarium are the huge tanks, touch pool, giant botanical house and underwater tunnel.
While visiting the aquarium is one of the top Bristol things to do with family, it’s fun for people of all ages!
Sightseeing in Bristol can be enhanced with the help of a local guide. Visitors who like the idea of a local guide leading the way can opt to join one of the highly rated tours in Bristol, UK.
Best Bristol Walking Tour
A top touted tour, this Walking Tour of Bristol covers the history of the city up to current times in just 2 hours. Participants are led through the city to the best sights and intriguing street art. Reserve your spot here!
Bristol Hot Air Balloon Ride with Champagne
Float up into the sky in a hot air balloon to see the epic landscapes of Bristol and the surrounding countryside. Rides launch at dawn or dusk and include a glass of champagne while in flight. Find out more here!
Cheese and Cider Tour
Get a taste of two of the best Bristol products – Cheese and Cider – on a 2-hour tour. In addition to sampling the local flavors, guests also learn about the history of the city. Book it here!
Day Trips from Bristol
While there are many things to do in Bristol, England, there are sights nearby that are worth sneaking away to see. Travelers with a few days in the city might want to embark on a fun day trip from Bristol – and we are highlighting the best places to go!
By far one of the best places to visit from Bristol is the picturesque town of Bath. Just a 15-minute train ride from Bristol, getting to Bath is easy. Once in the city, travelers can use our guide of Things To Do in Bath or book a tour. The Hop On Hop Off Bus is a great introductory tour or you can let a local guide lead the way to the top city sights on a Bath Walking Tour.
One of the best places to visit near Bristol and Bath is ancient Stonehenge, a mythical site steeped in history. Travelers can reach Stonehenge by train – but it is likely best to book your entry ticket in advance (along with an audio guide!). Get it here!
The Cotswolds – the region just north of Bristol and characterized by quaint villages and stone homes – is a fabulous place to see while in Bristol. Visitors can use public transit to get to Cirencester or Moreton-in-Marsh (the latter from which you can join a minibus tour to see some of the best hamlets).
Use this link to Google Maps for an online version of our Bristol Sightseeing Map.
Bristol Tourism Travel Tips
We have covered what to see and do in Bristol, UK – but we have a few more travel tips that will help you better plan your trip!
When To Visit Bristol
Because of the many things to do in Bristol, UK – inside and outside – the city is a year-round destination. That said, we are highlighting what to expect in each season.
Summertime in Bristol
Summer is an excellent time to visit Bristol. The days are long and the sun is warm…but typically not too hot. Restaurant patios, green parks and the fun harborside buzz with locals and tourists enjoying the great outdoors. Plus, one of the best Bristol events takes place in the summer, The Bristol Balloon Fiesta, which is an extravaganza of hot air balloons.
The downside is that accommodations can be expensive during the summer months and the city can feel a little crowded.
Bristol in Autumn
Visiting Bristol in autumn can be great! The weather is typically cool but comfortable and there are fewer crowds. Prices for hotel rooms also start to come down the autumn months.
Bristol during Winter
Taking a trip to Bristol in winter has its pros and cons. The benefits are that accommodations are affordable and the crowds are thin. Additionally, the Bristol Christmas Market is a fun and festive event (as European Christmas Markets typically are!). On the flipside, however, the weather can be drizzly and cold.
Springtime in Bristol
A Bristol trip in spring can be quite pleasant. Springtime visitors have the best chance of dry weather and hotels are still relatively affordable.
How To Get To Bristol
The airport in Bristol is located 7 miles southwest of the city center. It serves as a major base for low-cost carriers, like Easy Jet and Ryanair. There are flights to regional and international destinations (although, there are no flights to London).
Bristol Train Station
Bristol is well-connected to destinations around the United Kingdom via train. The Bristol Temple Meads Train Station is located about 1 mile from the city center.
How To Get Around Bristol
Options for getting around Bristol include walking, using public transit or taking Uber or taxis. We loved walking around Bristol, however, travelers should be aware that there are some hills.
Where To Stay in Bristol, UK
There are ample places to stay in Bristol, England – from luxury hotels to affordable hostels. We think the best place to stay in Bristol is in the heart of the city so that you are just steps from the top attractions and sights. That said, there are a few downsides to staying in the center – mainly the noise from partygoers and the higher price.
We recommend using our travel tips for Finding the Best Hotels at the Best Price – and thoroughly read reviews before booking a place to stay in Bristol.
Best Bristol Hotels and Hostels
We are featuring a few of the best hotels in Bristol to help you start your search for a place to stay.
Clayton Hotel Bristol City
We searched high and low for a Bristol hotel that ticked all of our boxes –affordable, clean and quiet – and we feel we succeeded with our stay at the Clayton Hotel. The hotel is just steps from Castle Park and the St. Nicholas Market with comfortable rooms and lovely staff. Check rates and availability for your stay!
Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel
Located right next to the Bristol Cathedral, the Marriott Royal Hotel is an elegant, Victorian-style hotel with modern amenities. Guests particularly like the spacious rooms and friendly personnel. Check availability!
YHA Bristol Hostel
Travelers on a budget can find an affordable room or dorm bed at the YHA Hostel in Bristol. Located on the Harborside, the hostel offers guests a community lounge, WiFi access and an onsite café. Check rates!
What To Pack for Bristol
We loved walking around Bristol, but only because we had the right shoes! The best travel shoes are comfortable, lightweight and versatile. I wore my favorite travel sneakers and Kris was most comfortable wearing trail shoes.
Wet Weather Gear
Bristol is incredibly beautiful and photogenic! Upgrade to a real camera so that you can capture the true beauty of the city. We travel with a DSLR Canon Rebel and use an 18-135mm lens. We think it’s a great camera for budget travelers because it takes quality photos, is easy to use and comes bundled with heaps of accessories.
If you are planning long days of sightseeing in Bristol, UK, then you need a good travel day bag to store your essentials (like your travel umbrella!). We used small backpacks for our Bristol trip, but you can find our top picks for the best travel day packs here.
UK Trip Insurance
Don’t already have travel insurance? Check for affordable rates and robust coverage with a reliable travel insurance company.
Travel Planner and Organizer
We Want To Know: What would you add to our list of the Best Things To Do in Bristol, UK? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments below!
More Top European Destinations
Traveling to other European top destinations? Use our travel guides to plan your trip!
- A Perfect 1-Week Paris Itinerary
- How To Spend 3 Days in Barcelona
- What To See in Lisbon
- How To Plan a Trip to Croatia
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