Bristol is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK. This city has something for everyone: museums, art galleries, historic landmarks, active nightlife, and great views. In this article, we will list the best things to do in Bristol.
Take a walk on Bristol Harbour
What is it? It’s a bustling waterfront area full of shops, restaurants, attractions, and fun activities.
Why should you go? This riverside area used to house Bristol City Docks since the establishment of the city. In the 19th century, a floating harbor was constructed to keep up with the rival docks in Liverpool. Bristol City Docks lost their significance after the establishment of the Royal Edward Dock in 1908. Since the 1980s, the harbor has gone through an extensive regeneration process. Today, it’s a popular tourist attraction with many places worth visiting, like the Arnolfini art gallery, Watershed events venue, Antlers Gallery, SS Great Britain, and We the Curious science discovery center.
Specialization Sightseeing, Shopping, & Entertainment
Perfect for Everyone
Spend a relaxing day in the Downs
What is it? This vast open area is the perfect place to spend a relaxed or active afternoon outdoors.
Why should you go? The Downs is a massive green area on the edge of Bristol north of the city center; it consists of Clifton Down and Durdham Down. This green area is the perfect spot to relax and take a break from chaotic city life. Here, you can enjoy the views, stroll through the park, attend one of the local events, or play a game of football at one of The Downs League football pitches. Notable attractions nearby include Clifton Suspension Bridge, Royal West of England Academy, and Clifton Observatory. This place is beautiful during any season, but we recommend visiting it during spring or summer.
Specialization Nature, Sightseeing, & Sports
Perfect for Everyone
Marvel at Clifton Suspension Bridge
What is it? It’s a suspension bridge spanning the Avon Gorge that connects Clifton to Leigh Woods.
Why should you go? Clifton Suspension Bridge is one of the most popular and iconic landmarks in Bristol. This bridge was designed by the legendary engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, although the construction finished only in 1864, after Brunel’s death. Clifton Suspension Bridge is a toll bridge, and drivers of motorized vehicles must pay £1. Pedestrians and cyclists can cross it for free. You can learn more about this bridge and its history in the nearby Visitor Centre. Visiting Clifton Suspension Bridge is one of the best things to do in Bristol.
Specialization Architecture & Sightseeing
Perfect for Sightseers
See a play at Bristol Old Vic
What is it? It’s a theater company based in Theatre Royal, the oldest continuously-operating theater in the English-speaking world.
Why should you go? If you want to watch an amazing performance, we recommend you visit Bristol Old Vic. Known as the oldest continuously-operating theater in the English-speaking world, Bristol Old Vic has been around since 1766. Today, this theater remains one of the major cultural hubs of Bristol. Its repertoire features theater plays, stand-up shows, guided tours, workshops, and other events. Current events available at Bristol Old Vic include Venus, Faun, The People’s Tour, Catts, Tim Key: Mulberry, and The Thunder Run Experience.
Specialization Art & Entertainment
Perfect for Art lovers, families, and children
Expand your knowledge at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
What is it? It’s a wonderful Bristolian museum and art gallery in Clifton with free entry for all visitors.
Why should you go? Visiting the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery is one of the top things to do in Bristol for all museum lovers. The ground floor of this museum is home to exhibits on Assyria, Ancient Egypt, and the wildlife of the South West, as well as Paint Pot Angel, an artwork by Bristol-born artist Banksy. The first floor has more exhibits on geology, minerals, and wildlife, including Alfred the Gorilla and the Bristol Dinosaur. The second floor is home to the art gallery, with art from different places and periods.
Specialization History & Art
Perfect for History buffs and art lovers
Explore the Old City
What is it? It’s a historic quarter at the heart of Bristol that lets you travel back to the Middle Ages.
Why should you go? Home to some of the oldest buildings in Bristol, the Old City is a must-see destination on your trip to Bristol. There are many places of interest worth visiting, chief among them is St. Nicholas Market in an 18th-century Exchange building. Other noteworthy landmarks include the Glass Arcade, Castle Park, Bristol Bridge, Bristol Harbour, Queen Square, and many more interesting places. We recommend visiting this place to look at some of the oldest buildings in the city and to have a great time in the heart of the city.
Specialization History, Architecture, & Shopping
Perfect for Everyone
Swim in the Bristol Lido
What is it? This public outdoor swimming pool in Clifton also has a restaurant and a poolside bar.
Why should you go? Located in the Whiteladies Road area of Clifton, Bristol Lido is a restored Victorian swimming bath with plenty of amenities on offer for all visitors. Completed sometime in 1850, this building was a popular relaxation spot for more than 100 years before falling into disrepair and closing in 1990. After two years of renovation, Bristol Lido reopened its doors in 2008 and is still open today. Apart from swimming in an outdoor swimming pool, Bristol Lido also offers massages, exquisite dining in the restaurant, and delicious snacks at the poolside bar.
Specialization Sports, Food, & Relaxation
Perfect for Families, couples, and children
Spend a fun evening at the Lanes
What is it? This independent bowling alley has a unique retro feel and offers plenty of fun activities for all visitors.
Why should you go? The Lanes is the only stringless bowling alley in Bristol that you can find in the Old City quarter. Here, you can test your skills in five bowling lanes, sing your heart out in one of three karaoke rooms, and play pool or table football. The Lanes is also home to Ray’s Pizza which offers delicious food and tasty drinks. This place is also a venue for many music concerts from various local artists. If you love bowling and have a few friends or family members for company, The Lanes is a great choice for a fun and memorable evening. We recommend you book your spot in advance.
Specialization Sports & Entertainment
Perfect for Families, couples, and groups of friends
Track down local graffiti
What is it? Graffiti artworks in Bristol, the street art capital of the UK.
Why should you go? Bristol is an absolute treasure trove for lovers of street art. It’s the home city of the famous, infamous, and elusive street artist Banksy and an undisputed capital of street art in the United Kingdom. You can find various murals and street artworks throughout the city; it’s best to set aside a couple of days to track them down. If you find yourself in Bristol’s city center, we recommend checking out Nelson Street and the surrounding area. Several prominent artworks can be found in the direction of College Green, including Banksy’s Hanging Man. Bristol is also home to Upfest, the largest street art festival in Europe.
Specialization Sightseeing & Art
Perfect for Graffiti enthusiasts
Take in beautiful landscapes with Bristol Balloons
What is it? Admire the astonishing views of British landscapes from a hot air balloon in the skies of Bristol.
Why should you go? If you want to take to the skies above Bristol, we recommend seeking out Bristol Balloons. This passenger hot air balloon ride operator has many locations scattered across Great Britain, and one of these locations is close to the Ashton Court Estate west of Bristol. The views from the balloon are spectacular and make for great memories and incredible photos. If you don’t want to climb into a hot air balloon yourself, you may want to check out the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. This annual event is the largest hot air balloon festival in Europe.
Specialization Entertainment & Sightseeing
Perfect for Families, couples, and groups of friends
Take a look at marine life in Bristol Aquarium
What is it? This aquarium at the heart of Bristol is also the only one in the UK that features a botanical house.
Why should you go? For those interested in marine life, visiting the Bristol Aquarium is one of the most exciting things to do in Bristol. There are several exhibits on marine life from different regions of the planet, like the Sunken Shipwreck, Bay of Rays, Ocean Floor, Learning Lab, Edge of the Rainforest, Amazing Amazon, and Coral Seas. Another exhibit, Urban Jungle, is something you wouldn’t expect to find in an aquarium: a huge botanical house full of tropical trees and plants. Bristol Aquarium is the only aquarium in the entire United Kingdom with a botanical house.
Perfect for Marine life and animal lovers
Admire breathtaking views from the Clifton Observatory
What is it? It’s a former mill turned observatory located in Clifton Down in Bristol that offers spectacular views of the city.
Why should you go? If you enjoy sightseeing, you can’t miss visiting the Clifton Observatory. Originally, this site was home to a windmill, but the building was damaged during the storm in 1777 and remained derelict for the next 51 years. In 1828, an artist called William West rented the remains of the windmill and converted it into an observatory. West also built a tunnel to the nearby Giant’s Cave, which opened to the public in 1837. Nowadays, the Clifton Observatory offers a breathtaking view of the nearby Clifton Suspension Bridge; it’s also one of the only three places with a working Camera Obscura in the UK.
Specialization History & Sightseeing
Perfect for Families, couples, and history buffs
Come aboard the SS Great Britain
What is it? This former passenger steamship currently serves as a museum ship designed by the famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Why should you go? SS Great Britain is a brainchild of the engineering genius of Isambard Kingdom Brune. She wasn’t a typical, run-of-the-mill boat but a technological marvel that combined the latest technologies of the time. From 1845 to 1854, SS Great Britain was the largest passenger ship in the world, and it was the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Today, this ship is moored in the Bristol Harbour and serves as a part of a massive museum complex with plenty of things to do. You can explore the ship, stroll through the dry dock, explore the historic dockyard, and visit the Dockyard Museum.
Perfect for History Buffs
Admire the beautiful St. Mary Redcliffe
What is it? It’s one of the largest parish churches in England and one of the best examples of English Gothic architecture.
Why should you go? While exploring Bristol, make sure to stop and explore the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, more commonly known as St. Mary Redcliffe. This church has seen its fair share of hardship during its long history. The church spire fell off after being struck by lightning in the 15th century, and the building was heavily damaged during Oliver Cromwell’s tenure as Lord Protector in the 17th century. Nevertheless, this church survived the centuries and is one of the best-preserved examples of the English Gothic architectural style. Among the highlights of this building are beautiful stained windows, a massive Gothic spire, and flying buttresses.
What is it? This area at the heart of Bristol is a historic shopping district with plenty of shops, restaurants, and cafes inside massive cargo containers.
Why should you go? This newest quarter of Bristol is a great spot for shopping, eating, and sightseeing. Located in the historic Bristol Harbour, the Wapping Wharf contains a myriad of different shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars. One of the highlights of this area is CARGO – a space built out of converted shipping containers. There are many independent shops in the Wapping Wharf selling unique goods you may not find elsewhere. Whether you want to relax in a cafe or a restaurant, pop to one of the local shops, or take a walk along the waterfront, the Wapping Wharf has you covered.
Specialization Shopping, Food, & Entertainment
Perfect for Everyone
Wander the Cabot Tower
What is it? It’s a tower in the Brandon Hill public park between Bristol’s city center, Clifton, and Hotwells.
Why should you go? Cabot Tower is one of the most iconic landmarks in Bristol’s skyline. You can find this tower in Brandon Hill, the oldest public park in Bristol. Built to commemorate the journey of John Cabot from Bristol to North America, this tower has been a fixture of Bristol since its completion in 1898. You can climb the steep spiral staircase inside the tower for free. The climb is arduous, but it rewards you with a breathtaking view of Bristol and its Harbourside area.
Specialization Sightseeing & History
Perfect for History buffs
Meet farm animals at the Windmill Hill City Farm
What is it? This mini farm is in the Bedminster quarter of Bristol and lets you pet lovable farm animals without leaving the city.
Why should you go? TWhether you are a kid or a young adult, visiting Windmill Hill City Farm is one of the best things to do in Bristol. If you like animals, of course. This farm is a community project meant to satisfy the needs of the local population through various educational, social, and environmental activities. Visitors can explore the farm, meet farm animals, explore community gardens, and buy local products in a shop. Kids can play in an outdoor play area, and the farm has a robust events program for children and adults alike.
Perfect for Animal lovers
What are the best things to do in Bristol for young adults?
Explore Bristol Harbour.
Find gorgeous graffiti scattered across Bristol.
Take to the skies of Bristol with Bristol Balloons.
Spend a fun evening at The Lanes.
Relax at Bristol Lido.
What are the top things to do in Bristol City Centre?
See a play at Bristol Old Vic.
Learn more about marine life at Bristol Aquarium.
Explore The Old City.
Admire the views from Cabot Tower.
Explore the maze of shipping containers in the Wapping Wharf.