If you’re visiting my home town of Bristol it’s worth being aware that there are some excellent free Bristol museums here that are ideal for families and lovers of history and culture. Here are three great free Bristol attractions that I personally recommend as top Europe travel tips and that are all situated close to each other in the university district of the city that’s also got plenty of nice shops, cafes and restaurants.
Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery
This is in an imposing Edwardian building at the top of Park Street and it’s hard to miss. It’s got the typical mixture of Egyptian mummies, stuffed animals and paintings and the odd curiosity like the biplane hanging from the lobby ceiling or the painted Romany caravan. These in themselves would not make it anything special, but the museum regularly holds excellent touring exhibitions which are also free – the recent Banksy exhibition was one of their most successful but there are many others. I’d recommend that you check what’s coming up or just pop in to see whatever exhibition’s on, you’ve nothing to lose. This museum is also very family friendly, as the open lobby to the rear is given over to a play area for younger children and there are many hands on family activities. On a rainy Saturday or Sunday the place is swarming with families having fun and there’s also a pleasant cafe at the back with tables near the play area where you can keep an eye on your offspring.
The Georgian House
This Georgian townhouse was built in 1790 for a wealthy Bristol merchant, John Pinney who was a slave owner and made his fortune from sugar plantations in the Caribbean. The Georgian House has been restored and is now furnished and laid out as it might have looked when the Pinney family lived there. You can see both the imposing drawing rooms and bedrooms and the kitchen below stairs with it’s polished copper pots, as well as an unusual cold plunge pool in the basement. On the top floor is an interesting small exhibition, with information about the family’s Caribbean business interests and details of the triangular trade in slaves and other goods that brought so much wealth to Bristol. The museum is open Saturday-Wednesday (closed Thursday and Friday) and is free.
The Red Lodge
This old building only hints from the outside at what you’ll find within, as although the house was built in 1580, the exterior was updated and added to in Bristol’s Georgian heyday. The Red Lodge is furnished in Elizabethan, Stuart and Georgian styles and you enter through the impressively panelled Great Oak Room, with its original Elizabethan plasterwork ceiling and carved chimney piece. From the window, you can look down on the restored Elizabethan knot garden and look down on the city imagining the grassy hillside that once separated it from the bustling city centre.
Although the house is quite grand, it was built as a lodge for the much larger Great House, which once stood on the site of the present Colston Hall used for concerts, further down the hill. The house later had other uses such as a school for girls and some of the rooms have mementos from this era. Like the Georgian House, the Red Lodge is open Saturday-Wednesday (closed Thursday and Friday) and is free.
More on European Museums
Find out about more museums in Europe on Europe a la Carte.
More Tips for Things to Do in England
All photos by Heatheronhertravels