What to do in Bristol, the top attractions guide for a day in this lovely city!

So, we’ve been home from our European backpacking adventures for 3 months now before we set off on the 2nd of November for our Asia and Australian leg of our round the world tour. But we thought we would make the most of this time by seeing a little more of the UK. Having only ever been to the South West of the UK once, and only down to Newquay, when I got the invite to have a day in Bristol whilst my dad attended a football conference I was exited to see a little more, I have always wanted to visit Bristol, so what an opportunity! I didn’t know what to do in Bristol until I turned up, but to I found some amazing Bristol attractions to keep me busy! I am glad to confirm those accents are indeed real, Banksy had made his presence known and the city is gloriously beautiful and lived up to my Victorian passions! Here our Bristol guide!

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Here’s what to do in Bristol

SS Great Britain

designed for the Great Western Steamship Company‘s transatlantic service between Bristol and New York by Isambard Kingdom Brunel she was the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic. Making her land-breaking journey in 1845 in a time of only 14 days is revolutionised passenger travel and freighter transport. At the time of her launch in 1843 it was the largest ship in the world and carried thousands of immigrants from the uk to Australia from 1852 to 1881.

Now docked permanently on the historic docks of the Bristol harbour from where it once sailed it has been transformed into a museum to this  pioneering age of travel. You can even scale the heights of the crows nest! It has to be up there with one of the most impressive Bristol attractions and makes the top of our Bristol Guide!

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Cabot Tower

Standing high above the city this beautiful tower sits on the top of the picturesque Brandon hill. A grade II listed building it was built in the 1890’s to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s journey from Bristol to Canada. The viewing platforms at the top are free and open to the public, standing at 105ft and 334ft above sea level it offers a stunning panoramic over the city! This is top of our free things to do in our Bristol guide!

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Banksy & Street Art hunt

A different type of Bristol attraction, the street art dominates part of the city. Banksy has gone on to world wide fame as a street artist, using satire, humour and sometimes cruel irony to comment on everything from politics to the quirks of everyday life. But Bristol is the hometown of this now multimillionare graffiti artist and so it is both home to many of his earlier works and is still a testing ground for new ideas to this day. His work can be spotted all over the city and really is like going on a treasure hunt!

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Not only is Bristol the home to Banksy but it is also a breading ground for many of the uk’s best street artists and a mecca for the worlds best to showcase their skills. An wander around the city is sure to impress those who love their street art and the area around the galleries and university is one of the best. Just the street art is enough to have made me want to visit Bristol! A Bristol guide would be incomplete without mentioning this colourful and creative side to the city!

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Check out this website here: Banksy Map of Bristol, for a map of all the Banksy’s in Bristol!

Bristol Attractions: The Cathedral and surrounding gardens

One of the most wonderful areas of the city to explore is that around the Cathedral. The wonderful old church which dates back to 1140 and is a grade I listed building dominates the gardens it sits in. The tall gothic cathedral is one of the most stunning in England and has many original stained glass windows and notable architectural features such as the first use of pointed arches in the country. Sitting in College Green the semi circle gardens also include the beautiful City Hall and makes a wonderful place to sit back on a warm summers day!

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What to do in Bristol: The Clifton Suspension bridge

One of the most well known attractions in Bristol and top of our “what to do in Bristol” list it has to be one of the first things to do when you visit Bristol! Built over the stunning Avon Gorge and the River Avon below it spans from Clifton in Bristol to Leigh Woods in North Somerset. A triumph of Victorian engineering it was designed once again by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and opened in 1864. It is not only one of the most jaw dropping constructions in the region but a symbol of the city and one of Britain’s most cherished bridges. Watching the sunset from the nearby viewpoint is just wonderful. The Clifton Suspension bridge is not only the highlight of our Bristol guide but one of the must see attractions of the uk as a whole!

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Visit Bristol: The harbour and docks

One of my favourite areas of the city and one of the top Bristol attractions. If someone was to ask me what to do in Bristol this would be my second highest choice. As a lover of all things victorian I just have to pay the docks a visit whilst in Bristol. Another of our old pal Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s designs the harbour was created due to the rising trade route through Bristol and the fact that the natural river Avon was now not fit for purpose. Being a tidal river and also full of silt the size of ships that could sail down the Avon were limited and often ships would have to be fastened down before the tide went out, reducing the working hours of the river. This is also where the phrase “Ship shape and Bristol fashion came from!” 

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So a new harbour was dug out by the hands of thousands of underpaid men and children and a new path for the river created, called the “New Cut”. This harbour used lock gates to control the flow of water and the docks are said to be “floating”. This allowed for much larger loads to be brought to the city throughout the day and larger passenger ships to set sail, a true revolution! Today the site is mostly a tourist area and one of the major Bristol attractions with many beautiful multicoloured home, museums and leisure boats, a must when you visit Bristol!

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Have you ever been to Bristol?

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Nicola Hilditch-Short

Nic is one half of the Roaming Renegades, a passionate traveller, climber, adventurer, photographer and artist who has a B.A in Fine Art and M.A in Design & Art Direction.
  • Passports & Pigtails

    I love that Bristol embodies everything we love about travel and about Europe in general. It seems there is something for everyone in our family, and a perfect place to spend some time when we visit the UK someday! Would love to go up the tower, and the Banksy art hunt and the amazing street art in general would be awesome to see!

    • Yes, it is just such a lovely city that is so diverse! Make sure you come up to our city of Manchester too when you do!

  • Gokul

    The Cathedral looks majestic. The place looks like it will keep you busy once you are there.

    • Yes, that area around the cathedral is really lovely, the city is great to walk around!