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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 04 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Sian Lewis

Effortlessly marrying a thousand years of history as a busy port with bang-up-to-date food, art and music scenes, the city of Bristol is the beating heart of life in the UK’s South West.

Known for its underground street art, friendly locals and gorge-ous gorges (Avon Gorge spans the edge of the city, and wild Cheddar Gorge is close by), there’s a lot to do, but Bristol is also delightfully easy to explore on foot or by bike.

Walk around the pedestrianised centre and then branch out to other neighbourhoods such as pretty Clifton or street art hub Southville to experience the two faces of the city: its modern, urban culture (this is the metropolis that produced Banksy, the guerrilla graffiti artist), and its elegant green spaces, which range from the rolling woodland of Ashton Court to the yawning chasm of Avon Gorge.

This city’s history is always on display – cross Clifton’s iconic Suspension Bridge, learn more about the slave trade that shaped the harbourside or climb aboard Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s SS Great Britain, the ‘ship that changed the world’.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Bristol, United Kingdom (UK)

One of Bristol’s most iconic landmarks, the Clifton Suspension Bridge is a spectacular sight, 75 metres above the dramatic geography of Avon Gorge.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free

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Bristol’s Street Art

Bristol, United Kingdom (UK)

The streets of Bristol – the city Banksy calls home – are synonymous with subversive street art, best discovered on a guided walking tour or during the Upfest Festival of Street Art and Graffiti.

Best for ages: 8+ | Free

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Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

Concorde in airplane hangar
Experience

Aerospace Museum

Bristol, United Kingdom (UK)

Science buffs shouldn’t miss this careful chronicling of the history of air and space travel – the highlight is the chance to climb aboard a retired Concorde.

Best for ages: 4+ | £1,750

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Grand, stately court with lawn in front
Experience

Ashton Court Estate

Bristol , United Kingdom (UK)

A pocket of wild in the city home to herds of red and fallow deer, this sprawling wooded country estate is a wonderful spot for a picnic and a stroll.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Forecourt with statue in front of cathedral
Experience

Bristol Cathedral

Bristol, United Kingdom (UK)

Set on College Green in the heart of the city, Bristol Cathedral dates back to the 12th century, and is famous for its spectacular stained glass windows.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Various cheeses for sale on a stand
Experience

Bristol Cheesemonger

Bristol, United Kingdom (UK)

Feeling peckish? Pick up the workings for a very Bristolian picnic with goodies from this smart deli, which stocks specialist artisan cheeses with a focus on Southwest-made goodies.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

Blackbeard to Banksy - The Ultimate Walking Tour of Bristol

Blackbeard to Banksy - The Ultimate Walking Tour of Bristol

Bristol

A fun, informative and educational tour through 1000 years of history and the city's wealth of street art.

£12 | Rating 4.90 / 5 [811 ratings]

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Guided Walking Tour of Bristol Old City and Harbour

Guided Walking Tour of Bristol Old City and Harbour

Bristol

Walking around a city, whilst listening to a tour guide, is a perfect form of exercise. 1000 years of Trade and Industry made Bristol the UK...

£20 | Rating 4.98 / 5 [82 ratings]

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

The Rodney Hotel

Bristol, United Kingdom (UK)

A graceful hotel with Georgian features, a picturesque walled garden and a great location in the heart of buzzy Clifton village

Official star rating:

Bristol Harbour Hotel

Bristol, United Kingdom (UK)

A stylish boutique hotel set in a gorgeous old bank heritage building, ideally located in the best part of the city. There’s a fine seafood restaurant, and a luxury spa housed in the former bank vaults.

Official star rating:

Brooks Guesthouse

Bristol, United Kingdom (UK)

A contemporary boutique guesthouse in the heart of Bristol with the added quirk of four Retro Rocket airstream caravans on the roof.

Official star rating:

Avon Gorge by Hotel du Vin

Bristol, United Kingdom (UK)

Surely the best room with a view in Bristol? The Hotel du Vin Avon Gorge offers rockstar-worthy suites in exclusive Clifton Village.

Official star rating:

When to go

Bristol is a rewarding destination to visit year-round, but summer is the busiest and buzziest time to visit, when the streets come alive with festivals and café culture.

Upfest Street Art and Graffiti Festival brings the streets of the neighbourhoods of Southville and Bedminster to life with vibrant new artworks each summer, and in August the skies above Avon Gorge are filled with hundreds of hot air balloons in a rainbow of colours for the Bristol Balloon Fiesta.

Christmas is also a rewarding time to spend a long weekend in the city, especially up in Clifton, where the streets are decked out merrily and there are boutiques and market stalls selling tempting gifts.

Getting there and away

Bristol Airport is easily reached in 15-20 minutes from the city centre by car or by hopping on the Airport Flyer bus (departs up to every 20 minutes). The city is well-served by train, with central Bristol Temple Meads Train Station and Bristol Parkway on the outskirts. Taxis are easy to find, and bikes and electric scooters are available for hire.

Getting around

While it’s hassle-free to drive in Bristol (although parking can be a pain in the centre), it’s much nicer to explore like a local by renting a bike and touring the city on two wheels. The town’s website offers free cycle maps, and there’s a 13-mile cycle path between Bristol and Bath if you fancy exploring another city.

Rent bikes from Black Boy Cycles to tour Clifton and around, or from Cycle The City to tour the harbourside.

Where to eat or drink

Some of Bristol’s finest chefs and delis are packed cheek-by-jowl in the converted shipping containers that range along Wapping Wharf – Gambas, 7 Lucky Gods, the Bristol Cheesemonger and The Olive Shed are highlights.

To get down with the cool kids – and get your fill of street eats, independent designers and record shops – wind your way up Stokes Croft as it becomes Gloucester Road, one long street of tempting goodies.

Out on the town? Clifton’s upmarket boutiques and smart restaurants make it the perfect one-stop-shop for an evening out – our top pick for supper is the Lido, a restored Victorian swimming pool where you can eat fresh Mediterranean fare while watching the dippers below.

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