The Best of Bristol Tips

While Bristol may not be the city that jumps to your mind when you think of planning a holiday, it is apparently fourth on the list of the most visited cities in England, and when you discover the long list of interesting sights to see in Bristol, you won’t be surprised. As the hometown of  former Europe a la Carte contributor Heather Cowper, we have some very useful inside knowledge and I’ve drawn on Heather’s posts as well as adding some tips of my own to compile this list of top things to do in Bristol.

Things to do Bristol

Bristol Harbour by nicksarabi

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Museums in Bristol

The Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, easy to find in a large Edwardian building on Park Street, includes all kinds of artefacts like Egyptian mummies, a biplane and a Romany caravan, and it also features excellent temporary exhibitions (such as the Banksy Exhibition it hosted a couple of years ago) which are also free to see.

Things to do Bristol
Bristol City Museum by Heather Cowper

Coming soon to Bristol, the M Shed looks set to be the key museum attraction in the city. Located at the site of the former Bristol Industrial Museum, the M Shed has been five years in the making and is due to open in June 2011. It will explore life and work in the city of Bristol and as it is located quayside a number of historic vessels moored in front of it will also form part of its exhibitions.

The Georgian House is a restored townhouse turned museum demonstrating life for the wealthy merchant John Pinney and his family back around the year 1800 – and as a bonus, admission is free. Similarly, the Red Lodge, furnished in a mix of Elizabethan, Stuart and Georgian styles also contains exhibitions from its past inhabitants and is also free to enter.

Things to do Bristol
Georgian House drawing room by Heather Cowper

Landmarks in Bristol

The restored SS Great Britain, a ship that dates back to 1843 and has travelled as far and wide as New York and Australia, is now moored in the Harbourside area and is fascinating to visit.

The SS Great Britain by Heather Cowper

The Clifton Suspension Bridge is probably one of the most recognisable sights of Bristol. Designed by famous Bristol Victorian-era engineer Brunel, construction on the bridge started way back in 1836, although it wasn’t complete until 1864. These days it is not only a tourist attraction but a functional bridge carrying thousands of cars daily.

Things to do Bristol
The Clifton Suspension Bridge by Heather Cowper

The Harbourside in Bristol is home to numerous landmarks including Millennium Square, Pero’s Bridge (complete with horns!) and the Steam Train which runs up and down the quay. You can also use the local ferry service to explore the harbour from the water.

Things to do Bristol
Bristol Harbourside ferries by Heather Cowper

And while the Harbourside area of Bristol gets most of the attention these days, the original Old City is also worth a look. The St Nicholas Market, Castle Park, St Peter’s Church and the areas around King Street and Corn Street all include historical buildings mixed with some interesting modern-day shopping and eating.

Things to do Bristol
Old Fish Market in Bristol by tombream07

The recent See No Evil street art project is the UK’s largest permanent display; it’s the product of more than sixty international street artists.

The See No Evil Street Art Project


Family Attractions in Bristol

The Bristol Zoo Gardens once won Britain’s “Zoo of the Year” and is still a quality zoo to visit. It’s 175 years old and some of the animal highlights include red pandas, pygmy hippos and the seal and penguin section. Animal-loving visitors might want to continue the theme at the Blue Reef Aquarium Bristol, an aquarium designed around a large coral reef centrepiece and including various fish and sharks which can be seen from the underwater viewing tunnel.

Things to do Bristol
Pygmy hippo at Bristol Zoo by crabchick

Families will also have plenty of fun (and a little learning!) at At-Bristol, a large science museum which also includes a Planetarium – housed in a particularly cool building!

Things to do Bristol
Planetarium at At-Bristol by Nick Bramhall

Day Trips from Bristol

The lovely town of Bath is only 12 miles from Bristol.

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More Tips for Things to Do in England

We’ve plenty of travel tips for what to do in England, outside London.