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The best things to do in Bristol, England

Are you going to Bristol and looking for the best things to do in Bristol? Bristol is arguably one of the most fun places to visit in the UK, with its buzzing alternative lifestyle, amazing nightlife and uniquely distinct neighbourhoods that make this city feel much larger than it is! Boasting an important and fascinating history, a great food scene and some of Banksy’s best street art, you’re not going to be short of the best things to do in Bristol once you’ve read this post.

In this blog post, I’m going to highlight the best things to do in Bristol, including the best places to visit in Bristol, the best places to eat in Bristol, the best things to do in Bristol, and the best adventures to go on. This is the blog post for you whether or not you are visiting Bristol for a weekend, for a day trip, or spending a little bit more time in the area. Bristol is one of the best places to visit in England and somewhere that should definitely be on your UK bucket list. Bristol is also home to some of the best things to do in England, as well as some of the top unique things to do in England.

Bristol is located in south west England on the River Avon, bordered by Gloucestershire to the north and Somerset to the South. It’s also not that far from Wales! It’s a fantastic place to meander through the streets and take in the sights, the charming historic architecture, museums, marketplace, plus stop-off at the quirky independent shops, cafes, and restaurants. And let’s not forget to mention the stunning views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, or the annual balloon fiesta! 

If you want to know more about where to find the best cafes in Bristol, the best things to do in Bristol, the best food in Bristol or the best places to visit in Bristol, then keep reading this Bristol travel guide! 

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The best things to do in Bristol, England

Where is Bristol?

Brighton is a city in south west England, situated on the River Avon. It’s about 1.5hrs from London by train, 50 minutes from Cardiff, 3 hours from Bournemouth, 3.5 hours from Leeds,  4.5 hours from Cornwall or 6.5 hours from Edinburgh.

How to get to Bristol…

Bristol is well linked to London and the rest of England by train. Alternatively, you can drive, but parking once you’re there can be expensive. There are 4 Park and Ride services in and out of Bristol (parking is free, you just pay for the bus fare) with regular services (up to every 12 minutes) so this is often a cheaper (and greener!) option. Find out more about the Bristol Park and Ride here.

Once you’re in Bristol itself, everything is within easy walking distance so you won’t need a car to get around.

If you’re in a hotel, AirBnb or staying at a friends, be sure to check the parking situation and whether you have a space allocated. Otherwise it’s a little like London: tricky or expensive. Parking can cost up to £20 a day, which can be a bulky expense on top of your trip.

The train station is right in the centre and walking distance from the centre and the beach front. A great option to avoid car hassle, and more environmentally friendly too!

If you’re coming from further afield, it’s easiest to fly into London and then get the train. But, Bristol does have its own international airport, so double check to see if you can fly directly there! 

Where to eat in Bristol...

Bristol is an absolute foodie haven! If you’re looking for the best things to do in Bristol, you have to check out some of these best places to eat in Bristol. Many of these are located in St. Nick’s Market or Wapping Wharf, but these aren’t the only places to visit in Bristol for good food! We’ve listed some of our favourites here… 

Breakfast & brunch:

  • The Bristolian (amazing fry up)
  • The Crafty Egg (brunch spot that also sells plants)
  • Fed 303 (brunch, bakery and salads)
  • Pinkmans Bakery (brunch and bakery)

Lunch cafes: 

  • Spicer & Cole
  • East Village Cafe (all vegan, coloured lattes!)
  • Albatross

Vegan & Vegetarian food:

  • Koocha
  • Oowee Vegan (Oowee Burger is dotted across the city, but the vegan one is on Baldwin Street)
  • Root (small plate restaurant)
  • Eat a pitta (falafel)
  • Hummusapiens (loaded hummus bowls)

More places to eat in Bristol: 

  • Urban Tandoor (Indian)
  • Nutmeg (Indian)
  • The Thali Restaurant (Indian)
  • The Athenian (Greek)
  • Boscos (pizza)
  • Honest Burgers
  • Paco Tapas
  • Bravas Tapas 
  • Clifton Fish and Chip Bar
  • The Ethicurean (not cheap, but wonderful walled garden restaurant with seasonal food and ethical, sustainable business)
  • Pieminister (pies)
  • Chilli Daddy (Szechuan-style Chinese)
  • The Christmas Steps (cosy, British pub food)
  • Under the Stars (food and drinks on a boat in the harbour)

Desserts and sweet treats:

  • Farro (bakery)
  • Ahh Toots (amazing cake)
  • Mrs Potts Chocolate House (choc)
  • Swoon (gelato) 

Where to get coffee/juice in Bristol...

Bristol is home to many independent cafes and coffee roasters, making it one of the best places to get a cuppa! There are also lots of juice bars. Some of the best cafes in Bristol are… 

  • Cafe Kino (all vegan – they only serve alternative milks)
  • Farro
  • East Village Cafe
  • Full Court Press
  • Little Victories
  • Small Street Espresso
  • Playground (coffee with board games and a slide)
  • Nectar House (save the bees with a Spiced Nectar Latte)
  • Big Juice
  • My Lahey’s (juice bar)
The best things to do in Bristol, England

Where to drink in Bristol...

Bristol has a buzzing nightlife and one of the best things to do in Bristol is to hit the town! Whether you’re looking for a quiet drink at a pub, a fancy cocktail, or you want to go out-out, Bristol has got it all! 

Pubs in Bristol: 

  • The Hatchett Inn (Bristol’s oldest pub)
  • The Ostrich Inn 
  • Kings Street Brewhouse
  • The Left Handed Giant (dog friendly)
  • The Draper’s Arms (micropub)

Bars in Bristol:

  • Chance & Counters (board game cafe/pub/bar)
  • The Rummer (cocktails) 
  • Brozen (owned by two brothers who use liquid nitrogen to make cocktails)
  • Aluna (sciency style cocktails, similar to The Alchemist chain)
  • Mud dock (drinks on the harbour)
  • The Florist (floral decor and themed cocktails)
  • Avon Gorge by Hotel du Vin (overlooks the Suspension Bridge)

Nights out in Bristol: 

  • Motion
  • Area 404
  • Lakota
  • The Island
  • The Black Swan

Another of the best things to do in Bristol is to visit a Speakeasy Bar! Keep reading to find out our favourites… 

The best things to do in Bristol, England...

1. See the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge has been open to the public since 1864 and is now an iconic symbol of Bristol. One of the best things to do is to head to Clifton, one of the nicest places to visit in Bristol, to see it! Not only can you walk or cycle across the bridge for free (£1 if you’re driving) for some great photos and views of the bridge, but you can also get some great shots from the Clifton Observatory on one side of the bridge, and from Leigh Woods on the other side. 

While you’re in Clifton, spend some time exploring the area. Make sure you don’t miss out on seeing some beautiful houses, wandering the village shops, the coloured lattes at East Village Cafe, and a swim in Clifton Lido! 

The best things to do in Bristol, England

2. Walk through Ashton Court Estate and Leigh Woods.

Leigh Woods is a National Nature Reserve and a place of tranquility just outside the hustle and bustle of Bristol. Fun things to do here include enjoying the woodland walking trails, trying your hand at mountain biking and having a picnic. Note that there is no parking at Leigh Woods; the best way to get there is from Bristol city centre, across the Clifton Suspension Bridge. 

Ever so slightly further out into Somerset (but still within an hour’s walk of Bristol city centre) you’ll find the Ashton Court Estate. Once owned by the Smyth family, this is now a historic park that covers 850 acres of land and is home to some magnificent oak trees and gentle deer. Here, there are more fun things to do in Bristol if you’re looking to escape the city: walking, mountain biking, orienteering and pitch-and-put. There is parking here if you are coming from further afield, and a Courtyard Cafe if you’re after refreshments. 

More nice parks and places to walk or have a picnic in Bristol include: 

  • Queen’s Square
  • College Green
  • Castle Park
  • Victoria Park
  • Eastville Park
  • St. Andrews Park
  • Brandon Hill

3. Keep an eye out for the Banksy Street Art in Bristol.

Born in Bristol, Banksy is a world-famous artist known for his controversial artwork that seems to pop up out of nowhere and puts a spotlight on social issues and difficult subjects. 

Having grown up in Bristol, there is a lot of Banksy’s original work here, as well as some of his newer pieces. One of the best things to do in Bristol is to try a street art walking tour (or even a Banksy walking tour) so that you can see as much of the art work as you can. 

Other places to see street art in Bristol include Stokes Croft, Nelson Street (home to “See no evil”, one of Europe’s largest street art projects) and  Dean Lane Skatepark. Depending on when you’re in Bristol, you could also keep an eye out for Upfest, Europe’s largest street art festival, which is free to attend and takes place every summer.

See more unique things to do in England here.

4. Take a boat trip in Bristol.

Bristol was built on the slave trade, and the docks and floating harbour that slave traders used still remain. This has now been repurposed to run Bristol Ferry Boats’ waterbus, which runs 364 days a year between Bristol Temple Meads and the SS Great Britain. You can jump on and off as you please to explore the city.

Alternative boat trips in Bristol include the Number Seven Boat trip (take the boat to Besse’s for cream tea, open from Easter to mid-October), the Matthew (a famous Tudor ship that goes under the suspension bridge), a boat trip from bristol to bath, or an Avon river cruise. You could also volunteer to help clean up Bristol Harbour, a monthly event that aims to clear floating rubbish from the water.

While you’re near the harbour, keep an eye out for live music by the waterfall feature, near Alina. The guy with the sax is amazing!

If you want to stay on the water for drinks or dinner, check out: 

  • The Apple (for cider)
  • Thekla (gigs and clubs nights, rooftop bar)
  • Under the Stars (tapas and cocktails)
  • Grain Bridge (drinks)
  • Three Brothers Burgers (burgers and drinks)
Photo by Martyna Bober on Unsplash

5. Get in the water!

One of the best things to do in Bristol has got to be to get in the water! So what if it’s chilly; here you can do everything from paddleboarding or kayaking in the harbour to swimming in the Clifton Lido, at Portishead open pool or at Clevedon Marine Lake. You can even swim in the channel itself, or try indoor surfing at The Wave! 

Photo by Croyde Bay on Unsplash

6. Check out the many museums and galleries.

Bristol has a really important history for us to learn from, and so one of the best things to do in Bristol is to visit the museums and learn more about this city and its past. What’s more, lots of the museums and galleries in Bristol are free and have changing exhibitions and events throughout the year, so even if you’ve been before there’s always something new to learn about and look at. Some of the best free museums and galleries in Bristol are M Shed (where you can learn about Bristol through interactive displays), Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, Spike Island, Underfall Yard, The Matthew and The Create Centre and Ecohome. You absolutely cannot miss Arnolfini, Bristol’s International Centre for Contemporary Arts, which is also free to enter. Other museums and galleries worth visiting in Bristol (but with an admission charge) are the infamous SS Great Britain, and Aerospace.

7. Climb Cabot Tower.

Cabot Tower was built in the 1800s and still stands strong today. The park surrounding it is lovely, and climbing the tower gives you some of the best views of Bristol. Not only that, but it’s completely free to climb, so make sure you add this to your list of free things to do in Bristol! 

8. Eat your way round St Nick's Market.

One of the best things to do in Bristol if you’re feeling peckish is to head down to St Nick’s (or St. Nicholas’) Market for some food! Here you’ll find all sorts of food from all over the world, vintage stalls, craft, jewellery and more.

Other markets in Bristol worth visiting include:

  • Tobacco Factory Market (food and craft)
  • Bristol Harbourside Market (street food and independent retailers) 
  • Whiteladies Road Market (farmer and fair trade market)
  • Finzels Reach Market (street food) 

9. Have a fun night out.

Whether it’s getting your skates on at Bump Rollerdisco, hitting the bowling pins at The Lanes retro bowling alley, singing your heart out at The Cat and Wheel’s karaoke night, or checking out the magic at Smoke & Mirrors… there are so many fun things to do in Bristol for a night out, you’ll just have to come back so that you can do them all! 

10. Go walking on the Downs.

The Downs, made up of Clifton Down and Durdham Down, cover 442 acres and they are the perfect spot for walking, wildlife watching, having a picnic and generally escaping the city!

Check out the best walks in the UK here.

11. Explore the shipping containers at Wapping Wharf.

Cargo is a unique part of Wapping Wharf that is made of shipping containers, but home to independent shops and eateries. Wapping Wharf has got to be on your list of things to do in Bristol if you’re a foodie, so much sure you check out the restaurants within the Cargo section if you feel like going somewhere a bit different! 

12. Go climbing at the Church

The Church is a climbing centre built inside St Werburgh’s – an atmospheric fifteenth-century church. There’s a climbing wall or course for everyone here, whether it’s your first time climbing or if you’ve done a lot of climbing and you want to improve your technique. I’ve got to say, climbing inside a converted church is definitely one of the most unique things to do in England!

Check out climbing at The Church here. 

Other places to go climbing in and around Bristol include: Flashpoint Bristol, Avon Gorge, The Climbing Academy (several locations), Bloc Climbing and Redpoint Bristol.

13. Explore the Camden of Bristol, Gloucester Road & Stokes Croft.

Stokes Croft and Gloucester Road are hip and trendy parts of town that definitely remind a lot of people of Camden. With their independent shops (Gloucester Road is one of the longest strips of independent retailers in Europe), cool bars, international food selection and absolutely wonderful street art, this is an area in Bristol that you don’t want to miss.

14. Attend Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

Bristol hosts Europe’s largest annual gathering of over 130 hot air balloons from around the world every August. At this free event you can witness the hot air balloons taking off at dawn and dusk as well as the famous Night Glows, when the balloons light up the sky in time to the music.

Find out more about Bristol’s International Balloon Fiesta here.

15. Go wine tasting at Avery's.

You can’t go wine tasting in a city centre everywhere… but you can in Bristol! Whether you’ve never been wine tasting before or you consider yourself quite the expert, everyone is welcome at Avery’s. Now in its 5th family generation, Avery’s offer several different types of wine tasting event, as well as wine education courses and more unusual events such as pop-up restaurants to music evenings, art exhibitions and film festivals. If you’re looking for fun things to do in Bristol, book yourself in for cheese and wine! Check out their event schedule here.

16. Get active on the cycling or mountain biking trails.

If you’re looking for active things to do in Bristol, why not try cycling or mountain biking?! If you’re looking for cycling trails in Bristol, here are a few of our favourites: 

  • Mountain Biking on the Ashton Court Estate
  • Snuff Mills
  • Bristol to Bath railway path,
  • Dundry Hill (also good for great views of Bristol)
  • Bristol Harbour loop
  • Clifton to Clevedon
  • Strawberry Line (through Thatcher’s cider orchards)
4 Days In Southern Finland exploring Helsinki, Salo and Hanko

17. Find and enjoy some live music.

From buying vinyls to experiencing the Bristol Sound, Bristol is the place to be if you love music. One of the best things to do in Bristol is to experience the music scene. You can buy vinyls at record shops dotted throughout the city, and see live music across town too. Venues such as Cosies, Trinity, the O2 arena, The Fleece, The Canteen, and Marble Factory, as well as many others, host an array of live music events for every type of music – there really is something for everyone. 

If you’re looking for music festivals in Bristol, keep an eye on the dates and tickets for Dot to Dot, Love Saves the Day, Bristol Sounds, Tokyo World and Simple Things, among others. 

18. Watch a film, a show or comedy.

Bristol is a thriving cultural hub not only when it comes to music, but also when it comes to theatre, comedy and cinema. One of the best things to do in Bristol is to soak up some of the arts, culture and creativity while you’re here. 

Some of the best cinemas in Bristol are: 

  • The Cube – volunteer-run cinema that brews its own cola
  • Everyman – fancy arthouse cinema with cocktails delivered to your seat
  • Watershed – international films you can’t see elsewhere

For the best theatre in Bristol, head to…

  • Hippodrome or Bristol Old Vic – touring shows
  • Redgrave or Tobacco Factory – cutting edge theatrics 
  • Wardrobe Theatre – intimate performances

If you need a good laugh and you’re up for some comedy in Bristol, check out these venues to see what’s on…

  • A bunch of Japes
  • Riproar comedy club
  • The comedy box
  • Bristol comedy garden

19. Enjoy a cocktail in a speakeasy.

If you’re looking for a fun night out in Bristol or for a special occasion, why not go to a speakeasy bar? These harder to find bars add a little excitement to your night out. They’re often hidden in plain sight, and one of the fun things to do in Bristol is to work out how you get into the bar in the first place, which could be anything from a call on a payphone or locate the secret entrance.

The names of some popular speakeasies in Bristol are: 

  • Hyde & co
  • Milk Thistle
  • Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  • Kinkajou
  • Scarlet Lantern

Check out these fun places to go for cocktails in London.

20. Visit Bristol Cathedral.

At over 1000 years old, we couldn’t write a list of best things to do in Bristol without including the cathedral. With the nave, choir and aisles all the same height, it’s the most prominent example of a hall cathedral in Great Britain, not to mention one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world! 

Photo by V2F on Unsplash

21. Take a day trip to Bath.

Another city on my UK bucket list, Bath is definitely one of the prettiest places to visit in the UK. It’s a beautiful place to visit in winter because the Christmas markets are fantastic! But the best thing about Bath is definitely the thermal baths… I can’t wait to go to these one day! Bath is only 11 minutes by train from Bristol, so it’s the perfect add on to your stay. 

See the best places to visit in England here. 

What are your favourite things to do in Bristol?

Where are the best places to visit in Bristol? Anything you’d add?

Love as always and happy adventuring…

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Iโ€™M MOLLIE AND I STARTED THIS BLOG BACK IN 2013 WHEN I HEADED OUT ON MY FIRST BACKPACKING ADVENTURE.ย 

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