Things to do in Bristol
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!
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)
- Spicer & Cole
- East Village Cafe (all vegan, coloured lattes!)
Vegan & Vegetarian food:
- 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)
- 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)
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:
- Area 404
- The Island
- The Black Swan
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!
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.
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)
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!