Last Updated on March 29, 2023

Located in the southwest of England just across the Bristol Channel from Wales, Bristol is a vibrant and historic city known for its diverse culture, tantalizing food scene and rich maritime history. From stunning architecture to world-class museums, trendy cafes and bars, Bristol, one of England’s largest cities, has many fascinating features.

Home to two prestigious universities, Bristol attracts a large student population, no doubt contributing to its youthful energy. Add friendly locals into the mix, and travelers find Bristol a fun and must-visit destination.

Here are some things you won’t want to miss on a visit to Bristol. Since it’s less than a half-hour from Bath, the nautical town should be on your radar.

Wander around Bristol Harbour

Bristol has long been rich in seafaring traditions and of no surprise boasts a historic harbour, once a busy dock where merchants and sailors would trade goods and set sail on their many voyages.

Now a bustling hub of restaurants, bars, and shops, it’s a wonderful place to explore on foot. Take a boat tour or simply enjoy the waterside atmosphere while sipping a drink at one of Bristol’s many waterfront cafes.

If you happen to be there on a weekend, the buzz is that the Sunday market here is amazing.

Visit the SS Great Britain

Step back in time and explore Brunel’s SS Great Britain, the world’s first great ocean liner and steamship, and Bristol’s number one attraction. The ship was rescued from rust and wreckage in 1970 and lovingly restored to her Victorian heyday.

Guests can explore the ship and hear true tales regarding its opulent first-class accommodations to the cramped and quarrelsome steerage section. More than just a museum, a tour offers visitors an immersive glimpse into life on board emanating authentic sounds and smells which bring the ship to life.

Visit Clifton Suspension Bridge

The Clifton Suspension Bridge is an iconic landmark spanning the Avon Gorge and the River Avon offering stunning views of the city. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, this engineering masterpiece symbolizes a city of original thinkers and independent spirits.

The toll bridge is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but free of charge for pedestrians and cyclists.

St. Mary Redcliffe Church

This iconic church is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in England and considered a masterpiece of medieval design. Situated on the banks of the River Avon, the church dominates the city skyline with its striking 292-foot tower and spire.

Queen Elizabeth I, on her visit in 1574, is said to have described it as “the fairest, goodliest, and most famous parish church in England.”

Founded in the 12th century, St. Mary Redcliffe has been the site of many important events, including the marriage of John Cabot, the famous explorer who “discovered” Newfoundland.

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

Bristol has a rich cultural heritage, and there are plenty of museums and galleries to explore but we were impressed with this museum and gallery that tells the story of our world in each of its displays from the beginning of time to present day.

Nineteen galleries over three floors reveal fascinating cultures, ancient civilizations, human invention and creativity as well as showcasing our beautiful but fragile natural existence. World-class collections of art, archaeology, geology and natural history are displayed inside this beautiful Edwardian building.

Check out Bristol’s Street Art

The city is renowned for its vibrant street art scene, which includes works by the world-famous street artist, political activist, and film director, Banksy.

Taking a walking tour to discover the best murals and graffiti in the city is one of the most fun and eye- opening experiences you can have, or book an organized tour with a local guide that will provide more in-depth information on location of the murals and graffiti, and its artists.  

Explore the Bristol Zoo Gardens

Home to over 400 species of animals from across the globe, Bristol Zoo is a must-visit attraction for families. Highlights include the Reptile House, Gorilla Island, and the Seal and Penguin Coasts.

The zoo’s primary mission is to maintain and defend biodiversity throughout breeding endangered species, conserve threatened species and habitats promoting a wider understanding of the natural world.

Clifton Observatory

The historic observatory is situated in Clifton Down, a large area of public parkland overlooking the city and River Avon. The observatory was originally built in 1766 as a cornmill and windmill, and was converted into an observatory in 1828 by William West, a Bristol-based artist and inventor.

One of the most notable features of the Clifton Observatory is its camera obscura, installed by William West in 1837 and still in use today. In addition to the camera obscura, the observatory also houses a telescope once used by William West to observe the night sky. 

Visitors can climb the spiral staircase to the top of the observatory for panoramic views of Bristol and the surrounding countryside. The observatory also houses a small museum with exhibits on the history of the building and the science of astronomy.

Shop at St. Nicholas Market

This indoor market is one of the oldest in the country, trading since 1743 and offering a wide range of stalls selling everything from fresh produce to artisan crafts. Visitors will enjoy exploring a maze of quirky vendors, street food, and the surrounding historic architecture in the heart of the old city. 

Hot Air Ballooning

The World Famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, situated in Bristol, UK. Courtesy of Deposit Photos.
The World Famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, situated in Bristol, UK. Courtesy of Deposit Photos.

Up, up and away!

Bristol is one of the few cities in the world where you can take a hot air balloon ride right from the city center. It’s a unique and unforgettable way to get birds-eye views of Bristol and the surrounding countryside as you drift quietly through the air. 

If you happen to plan a trip to this area this summer, the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is Europe’s largest ballooning event held here every summer. This year it will run from August 10-13.

Enjoy a night out in Clifton Village

Clifton is one of Bristol’s trendiest neighborhoods, with plenty of bars, restaurants, and live music venues. This pristine Georgian enclave may be the city’s best-kept secret, usually discovered when visitors find it on the way to the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Whether you’re looking for a quiet drink or a night on the town, Clifton is a super fun place to be.

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