Top five things to see and do when Visiting Bristol
Bristol – the hub of the south west of England – is well known for its hilly landscapes, thriving nightlife and of course, boats and balloons. Easily accessible by train or coach from near-enough anywhere in the country, or car via the M4 or M5 motorways, Bristol offers fantastic opportunities for visitors. Even as a someone who’s lived in Bristol for over twenty years, there are still gems I’m discovering.
There are of course, key attractions that every visitor to Bristol should experience – Bristol’s proudest landmarks and experiences that are quintessential to the city. Covered here are five of Bristol’s most iconic and essential experiences for everyone to enjoy – so let’s jump right in.
1. The Clifton Suspension Bridge
Lying just north of the busy city centre in the affluent suburb of Clifton, and above the Avon Gorge, stands the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge. The bridge, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and opened in 1864, offers stunning views at both day and night, and has plenty of green space at its ends for picturesque picnics.
The 412-metre-long bridge can be crossed by foot or car (50p toll for cars), and links Clifton to Leigh Woods, North Somerset. It’s also just a short walk from the centre, making it an ideal and convinient landmark to visit. At night, the bridge is fully lit and makes for an amazing view, even when driving along the Portway underneath.
There are also some closeby pubs and guesthouses lining the roads from where the bridge is visible, making for an amazing afternoon pint with a view.
2. At Bristol
Situated just off the harbourside on Millenium Square, and listed in VisitBritain’s top ten UK family attractions, At Bristol provides an amazing interactive science experience, perfect for all ages. Get hands on with science and explore DNA, put yourself in a giant bubble, and walk through a tornado – all things you can experience within At Bristol.
It also plays host to the UK’s first 3D Planetarium – where you can take an incredibly immersive and visual trip through the stars with full surround-sound. Afterwards, you can relax in many of the nearby waterfront bars or restaurants.
Featuring hundreds of exhibits, live shows and activities, At-Bristol is a must-visit for anyone new to Bristol – and like many of Bristol’s top attractions, its central location means after you’ve finished your visit to At Bristol, there’s plenty more to do just around the corner.
3. Brunel’s SS Great Britain
Coming in from Trip Advisor’s top ten UK attractions of 2014-2015, is one of Bristol’s most popular attractions: the world’s first ocean liner, Brunel’s SS Great Britain.
This huge ship has been around the world more than 32 times, and has covered more than a million miles. Now, everyone can experience the SS Great Britain for themselves. Explore the decks, get on-board the ship, or visit underneath the ‘glass sea’ to see the lower hull from underwater for an amazing experience.
Located right in the heart of Bristol’s iconic harbour, it’s close to the centre and makes for a fantastic visit in the day, before exploring the fantastic bars and restaurants lining and lighting up the harbourside at night.
4. Bristol Cathedral
Standing in the West End of the city on College Green, is the vast and beautiful Bristol Cathedral. It holds a unique place in British architecture, because the nave, choir and aisles all stand at the same height. This makes Bristol Cathedral one of the finest examples of a medieval hall church that exists anywhere in the world.
Open 365 days a year to the public, it’s difficult to not be inspired whilst walking within the cathedral. Guided tours are available, and there are many scheduled events and services at the cathedral all year round. Even if you don’t visit, you’ll almost certainly hear the bells ringing at set times if you’re in the area.
Bristol’s City Hall also lies opposite the cathedral, lining College Green amongst water fountains and its large grass area – popular for sunbathing and lounging with a book – creating a fabulous sight within the hustle and bustle.
5. Cabot Tower & Brandon Hill
If you’re interested in simply getting out and about in Bristol and exploring outside, a visit to the oldest park in Bristol: Brandon Hill, is essential.
Offering incredible views across the city, winding walking paths and endless spots to sit or sunbathe, this park is on a steep incline with Cabot Tower sat atop. Built in 1897 to commemorate John Cabot’s famous Bristol-North America voyage over four-hundred years ago, visitors to Cabot Tower can climb its infamously steep and narrow spiral staircase (watch out for other people coming down) to reach two viewing balconies – one higher than the other – where broad, stunning city views can be admired.
Brandon Hill can be accessed from multiple entrances situated around the park just off Park Street and the harbourside, and makes for an incredible place to spend a sunny day.
But there’s also so much more.
From michelin-starred restaurants to some of the most highly-rated nightclubs in the world, there’s never a dull moment in Bristol. You could take a trip to Cabot Circus for the one of the best high-street and designer brand shopping experiences around, all underneath a striking glass roof. Or you could take a walk around the docks, with amazing sights behind every corner. Banksy’s most famous artwork can be viewed in all its original, graffiti-like glory within the city, too.
Depending on the time and length of your visit, you could experience things such as the famous Bristol Balloon Fiesta, the Harbourside Festival, or even a giant outdoor water slide down a closed-to-traffic Park Street. There’s always new events and experiences popping up every day – so get out there and see what’s happening whilst you’re here.
Whatever you fancy getting up to whilst in Bristol, there’s something to satisfy anyone. After so many years in this city, I still find new reasons to fall in love with Bristol – and I hope visitors to the city love it as much as I do.