Welcome to our Bristol guide: Fun things to do in Bristol England, including top Bristol attractions as well as some great options of additional things to do near Bristol. We also include the Bristol Tourist Map – an interactive Google map with 50 things to do around Bristol
In 2017 Bristol was voted the best city to live in England. I actually grew up just south of Bristol, in Somerset, and on regular visits back to Bristol the rapid evolution of the city in the last 15 years has been amazing to see.
The city was founded sometime before the early 11th century, and over time became one of the most important ports in the UK. With it’s famed Street art and maritime history, you’ll find modernity and the past co-exist in an exciting harmony. Plus, the importance of good, local food and drink has pushed Bristol forward as the west countries foodie capital.
From landmarks, to historic attractions, foodie activities and some of the best craft beer and cider in Bristol. Discover our top picks for fun things to do in Bristol England below.
Table Of Contents: Fun Things To Do In Bristol England
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Fun Things To Do In Bristol England (Inc. Bristol Attractions & Activities)
This section includes some of our top picks of non-food related Bristol attractions and things to do around Bristol. Some of these are included on the official Bristol Tourist Map as well – along with 50 other Bristol Attractions to consider.
The Bristol Street Art Tour
Bristol is the home of one of the world’s most famous street artists, Banksy. As such, Bristol has taken a front seat in promoting this modern art form and eye catching expressions can be seen all over the city – including a number of Banksy’s famous works.
Where The Wall‘s Bristol street art tour is an in depth story of street art from the early 70’s through to today, told through the walls of Bristol. As well as world famous pieces, you’ll discover lesser known and unexpected art from gigantum tower block murals to chewing gum sized pavement art. Why have these works appeared where they are? How do they fit into the social history of Bristol, the UK and even the World?
The answers to these questions and the chance to take an expertly guided tour of Bristol’s burgeoning street art scene is available with the critically acclaimed Where The Wall Bristol street art tours (year round, a top choice for things to do around Bristol).
Fun Things To Do In Bristol England: SS Great Britain
A visit to the SS Great Britain is one of the essential things to do around Bristol.
When launched in 1843, the SS Great Britain was the largest iron hull ship to ever sail. Not only that but also the first steamship to move from using side-mounted water wheels to a rear, fully submerged propeller.
The SS Great Britain was the brainchild of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, one of Bristol’s most famous residents from history, and also considered one of Britain’s most important historical figures due to his massive contribution to engineering.
Through the life of SS Great Britain, it’s been an Ocean liner, an emigration vessel travelling from the UK to Australia, a cargo ship, a supply ship in World War I, and now, a tourist attraction.
After being purposefully scuttled in the Falkland Islands in 1933, the ship was eventually re-floated and transported back to Bristol in 1970 where it has been faithfully restored and placed in dry dock on Bristol harbour.
As well as being able to go on board the ship and see the re-constructions of how life aboard would have been in the 19th century, you can also head under the waterline of the dry dock to explore the iron hull. The site also has a full museum that will give you a complete history of the SS Great Britain and an in-depth look at Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s life and works. Great for both kids and big kids, like us. It’s worth staying nearby to beat the crowds too, and with Bristol boasting some of the UK’s most incredible holiday cottages, this definitely won’t be a problem.
See where the SS Great Britain is located with the Bristol Tourist Map below.
Fun Things To Do In Bristol England: Bristol Aquarium
The Bristol Aquarium features 40 different marine environments where you can discover sea life from around the world. From coral reefs to the Amazon. Feeding time is always a lively event and one of our favourite parts of the experience was meeting Ravioli the stingray, who was so excited to get fed he was literally leaping out of the tank.
Aerospace Bristol – Aviation Museum
Concorde, the world’s first and only supersonic commercial passenger jet, was jointly developed by France & The UK. The original UK Concorde test flight happened at Aerospace Bristol, in Filton on 9th April 1969.
The recently opened Aerospace Bristol Museum celebrates the history of aviation as well as its connection to Bristol. The museum houses the last Concorde ever to fly, it travelled from London Heathrow to Filton on 26th November 2003. Visitors can take a walk on board to view the cockpit as well as the passenger areas.
M Shed Bristol
M Shed tells the story of Bristol from prehistoric times until the modern day. With interactive exhibits, this free museum is a great way to get to know Bristol.
Bristol Attractions: Clifton Suspension Bridge
The Clifton Suspension bridge spans 214 meters across the Avon River and is Bristol’s most famous landmark. Another marvel of engineering designed by Brunel, who actually won the commission at the age of 24 as a result of entering a competition to design a bridge to span a gap previously believed too wide to build across.
Although the construction began in 1831, financial constraints left the project uncompleted until after Brunel’s death. Brunel’s original plans were adapted in order to complete the bridge in 1864.
The bridge also has a visitor centre on the Leigh Woods side if you want to learn more. (Find the visitor centre with the Bristol Tourist Map below)
Fun Things To Do In Bristol England: Bristol Waterfront Quay
Although Bristol grew as a city around the River Avon and River Frome, the central Bristol Harbour was actually created artificially. The first stage was in the 1240’s when medieval engineers created an artificial deep channel and diverted the river Frome into it, and further, that channel then led into the River Avon creating a connection directly to the sea from central Bristol.
This was later upgraded in the early 19th Century to include a lock system to reduce tidal effects on the Bristol Harbour.
Today, the Bristol Harbour is an epicentre for food, culture and leisure.
Bristol Attractions: Bristol Cathedral & College Green
The current Bristol Cathedral started life as St Augustine’s Abbey, constructed from 1140 to 1148 – though some scholars believe a church existed at this location before that time. Some parts of the original 12th century abbey still exist within the structure, though most of what we see today was built between the 14th & 16th centuries, with some repairs also made in the 19th century.
The Cathedral sits opposite College Green, a small park and gathering point. (Find the Cathedral on the Bristol Attractions Map below.)
Fun Things To Do In Bristol England – For Food & Drink Lovers
Bristol is getting quite a name for itself as a culinary centre within the UK. A focus on local products, independent producers and multi-cultural cuisine make it an exciting place to explore international food made local as well as a place to celebrate historic foods of the region. So, food & drink are certainly some of the best things to do around Bristol.
St Nicholas Markets
St Nicholas Market has grown in recent years into a bustling food and craft market. Small independent food stalls serve hungry Bristolians at lunch, daily. Expect to find home cooked Italian, Caribbean and even Sichuan chilli that goes up to level 5 spicy.
Outside of the main glass roofed market, out onto Corn street, market stalls have spilled out all along the pedestrian area, with many more stalls present on Saturdays.
The original market building, The Exchange, was completed in 1743 and has long had a connection with market trade – Corn was famously traded there in the 19th Century so the building is also called the Corn Exchange.
(Locate the St Nicholas Market with the Bristol tourist information map)
Urban Honey @ Source Food Hall & Cafe (The Exchange)
Near the south-west exit of the Exchange, you’ll find Source Food Hall & Cafe. This deli restaurant focuses on local produce, including chutneys and sauces made from west country beer and domestically grown chilis as well as cheeses and the best meats. They are also involved in the BS1 Honey project – where urban beehives are producing honey on the roofs of buildings around the Corn Exchange (in the BS1 postcode, hence the name).
Cargo @ Wapping Wharf – Independent Food & Drink Market
This recently developed shipping container project on the south side of Bristol Harbour is home to some of the city’s best independent food and drink – all in one place.
The Bristol Cheesemonger
The Bristol Cheesemonger only stocks cheese produced within easy driving distance of Bristol. In fact, the owner drives out to local farms every Monday (when the shop is closed) to taste and collect cheese right from the source. This small shop is packed to the rafters with west-country cheeses you need to try.
Bristol Cider Shop: Try A Huge Variety Of Local Ciders
The Bristol Cider Shop specialises in Ciders which are produced within a 50 mile radius of the shop. Small batches and artisan ciders that cannot be found in supermarkets are a major focus. The Bristol Cider Shop is fully licenced which allows them to have regular tasting events as well as the opportunity for customers to grab a seat and a pint of cider (With prices as low as £3 a pint, at time of writing, it’s cheaper than the pub!).
Learn More about the History Of Cider On Our Podcast, The Dish. (Coming Feb 2019)
Craft Beer & Real Ale
Real ale, the grandfather of craft beer, has had a strong presence in the west country for hundreds of years. In Bristol, you’ll find an excellent balance between traditional real ale and cutting edge craft beer production.
Wild Beer at Wapping Wharf
Wild Beer Co. offers a wide range of unique micro-brewed beers including “sleeping lemons” a preserved lemon and salt which they use to make their lemon cheesecake.
The Beermuda Triangle
If you walk into Bristol’s King street, you might never come out. Or you may wake up on a park bench nearby 3 days later… The Beermuda triangle is a dense concentration of pubs specialising in real ale and craft beer that could quite easily trap you in malt & hops paradise.
Moor Beer was named after the nearby Somerset Moors, where the company was founded in 2007. Since changing owner and moving to Bristol, the name has also become their handily catchy slogan – Drink Moor Beer. The company also made the move to selling their beer in kegs and cans only – no bottles!
As the only craft beer company in the UK to date to have had a canned ale accredited by CAMRA (The Campaign For Real Ale), it seems like this trailblazing move is paying off. Not least because it’s led to even more puns in the form of the “canbulance”, their converted ambulance beer delivery vehicle.
Visit the Moor Beer Taproom to try an extensive range of on-site brews.
A small brewer with a focus on experimentation, having brewed over 300 different beer varieties since there humble beginnings in 2007. Maybe this is why the aptly named “The Ego Has Landed” has won a place in our hearts as our best beer of 2018 – it’s a beer that any brewmaster could have an ego about. An American pale with intense floral hop notes but not overly bitter. I can’t vouch for the other 300 beers, but this is a winner.
Look out for Arbor ales around Bristol (We drank this at Three Brothers Burgers – see below) or visit their limited hours taproom (check Facebook Page For Latest Hours).
The Hatchet Inn
The Hatchet inn has been wetting the whistles of many a happy patron since 1606, making it Bristol’s oldest pub. Although it has seen major structural changes to the building since then, some parts of the original structure remain. It’s also rumoured that the pirate Blackbeard may have once drunk there. So don your best bushy beard and grab yourself a beverage.
The Treasure Island Pub
Another classic Bristol Pub, The Llandoger Trow, has been around since 1664 and may have a historic connection with Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. It’s said the pub was the inspiration for the Admiral Benbow Inn, described in Treasure Island. Some even say that Stevenson may have written some lines here over a beer or two…
Avery’s Wine Cellars
Avery’s Wine Merchants have been in business on the same site in Bristol since 1793. This makes them one of the oldest wine merchants in Britain still working today. Their underground cellars, below their park street shopfront, were completed in the 1850s, and later augmented using scrapped ship parts from the famous Mauritania Ocean liner that was scrapped in the 1930s.
They were the first Wine Merchant to bring the famed Château Pétrus wine to the UK. Their history not only includes introducing amazing wines to Britain but also working with vineyards around the world on creating their own Avery’s blends. They even make their own branded Avery’s gin.
Take a visit to the Avery’s cellars to both try and buy some fantastic wines and spirits. Also, look out for special wine events.
Three Brothers Burgers
Good Burgers paired with an ever changing range of craft beers & ciders. Simple but effective. Three Brothers Burgers serve you from onboard a moored boat in Bristol harbour, with a real wood fire in winter.
This place can get super popular on weekends so make sure to make a reservation in advance.
If you are looking for a snappy lunch special, grab a “bab” from Bambalan. There extensive and inexpensive loaded flatbread babs are a great city centre choice for students and all other hungry people. Also, open for dinner.
While we were there they had a 2 for 1 cocktail special that certainly helped the night get cheery. Bambalan also has a fantastic outdoor area that is covered. So you can stay sit outside and enjoy the fresh air while devouring their tasty food.
Seasonal, local, affordable. The Canteen is part of the slow food movement putting out custom creations with whatever is fresh that day. This place can get quite busy on weekends so don’t be put off if you have to wait a bit for a seat.
Fun Things To Do Near Bristol England
Take a drive outside the city to discover some amazing food and history.
Thornbury Castle & Restaurant
Henry VIII, the king who had 6 wives. One of England’s most famous kings. How would you like the opportunity to sleep in the same room as he stayed with his 2nd wife Anne Boleyn? Well you can at Thornbury castle, so long as you book about a year in advance. Stays in “The Dukes Bedchamber” are typically limited to one night only, due to demand.
If you can’t sleep in Henry’s room, Thornbury castle also has many other rooms, or you can visit for a meal or to look around the grounds.
The restaurant is fine dining style plates, served in a historic dining room, directly below the King’s Bedchamber. Exceptional service and expertly fashioned dishes. You’ll find a real focus on local meat (we had pheasant in Autumn), seafood, and produce. There is an on-site herb and vegetable garden, chicken coup, beehives built into the castle fortifications and even grape vines which are used in conjunction with another local vineyard to make Thornbury Castle’s own white wine.
As well as a full lunch and dinner menu which makes the best of seasonal products. High tea is also available – A great option for days out near Bristol.
Or visit the Thornbury Castle Website for restaurant reservations.
6 O’clock Gin
At 6 O’clock Gin, they produce every drop of their transparent dynamite in just one still. Masterfully watched over by Edward Kain and his team. The family tradition of enjoying a gin at 6 o’clock eventually turned their family happy hour into a family gin business.
Expert distilling and the finest botanicals including juniper, coriander seed, angelica root and many more, combine to create a strikingly smooth gin, in a striking blue bottle.
Their classic Bristol blue bottle London dry gin (Bristol blue glass has been an iconic product of the city since the late 18th century), along with a number of other products like their sloe gin and damson gin make up a range that has become very popular in the Bristol area.
As well as finding the gin around the city of Bristol, you can also book a place on their distillery tours which run at weekends.
Cheddar Gorge, Cheese & Caves
The name Cheddar may be known worldwide because of Cheddar cheese, but relatively few people know that the cheese was actually named after the town of cheddar, a 40 minute drive south of Bristol. The original cheddar cheese was first aged in the caves at Cheddar. The earliest record of the cheese is from a purchase record by King Henry II in 1170, though the cheese was likely produced long before that, with cheesemaking methods believed to have been brought to the region by the Romans centuries earlier.
Although the name cheddar now refers to a range of cheddars, “West Country Farmhouse Cheddar” is a DOP (domain protected) product which can only be produced using dairy from the region and traditional cheesemaking techniques.
While on your cheese adventure, you can also visit the show caves of Cheddar as well as the Cheddar Gorge which you pass through from Cheddar to Bristol by road. (Find Cheddar Gorge With the Bristol tourist attractions map)
City Of Wells
I actually grew up in the Cathedral City of Wells – named after it’s natural water wells, water still flows down the sides of the high street. The Gothic Cathedral is one of the biggest in the region (much bigger than Bristol cathedral) and the traditional church clock, originally dating from the 14th century, still puts on a mechanical performance of knights on horseback as the clock strikes.
Wells is also the seat of the bishop of Bath and Wells with the moated palace being a big tourist attraction, and locally famous for the annual boat race around the moat.
Vicars Close, pictured, is considered the oldest lived in residential streets in Europe – completed in 1430. Originally the houses were built for members of the clergy to live in a small gated community, connected directly to the Cathedral. Now the houses are lived in by members of the public as well as the church.
Bath & The Roman Baths
Another perfect destination for days out near Bristol would be a visit to the City of Bath. The Roman baths, which the city was named after, were constructed shortly after Roman occupation of England, starting around 60 or 70 AD. That said, it’s believed the original Celtic people who lived there before the Romans, also bathed there. Naturally occurring hot springs make this a perfect place to get warm and clean in the cold British winter, and the Celts may have been doing so from 836 BC or earlier.
Today, the Roman baths still stand and have been preserved to a surprising degree. Original pipework and mechanisms still move water and you can visit many parts of this extensive complex. But, if you want to bath in the healing mineral waters, you’ll need to go to one of the spas nearby.
Accommodation in Bristol
Hotel Du Vin
A wine themed hotel with affordable luxury right in the heart of Bristol? Where else would two travelling foodies like ourselves stay? Hotel Du Vin takes both wine and food seriously. Each room is named after a specific wine. And the breakfast, perfect! The full English is always a winner (pictured below) but the galettes were the surprise number one dish for me. Local cheddar cheese, gloriously melted over west country ham.
The hotel itself is inside a building that was a 19th century sugar house. In fact, in those days, the harbour used to come right up to the door. That old harbour has been filled in, but Hotel du Vin is still only a 5 minute walk from the current harbourfront. So, super central.
I have to mention the en-suite bathroom. A claw foot bathtub, perfect for a sneaky private wine and bubble bath. Also, the rain head shower could be one of our favourite showers ever.
Stay in the heart of Bristol @ Hotel du Vin:
I explained the history of Thornbury Castle in the things to do near Bristol section above. The opportunity to stay in a historic castle should be enough of a draw in itself 😉 But, it also helps that the bedchambers are beautifully furnished – some with 4-poster beds.
Don’t forget, you might need to book one year in advance for Henry The VIII’s room (The Dukes Bedchamber).
Stay a short drive north of Bristol at Thornbury Castle:
More Accommodation in Bristol:
Search for all accommodation options in Bristol:
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Bristol Tourist Map – 50 Fun Things To Do In Bristol England
This Bristol Tourist Map includes some, not all, of our top picks from above, as well as many additional Fun Things To Do around Bristol. Courtesy of Visit Bristol. You can enlarge the Bristol attractions map using the square logo in the top right of the map.
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