With Bristol’s inherent hipster laid back vibe, there should be no surprise that there are a huge number of great things to do in Bristol.
From discovering educational museums and pensive art galleries, to wandering in the great outdoors, to free walking tours and even free festivals, Bristol really doesn’t disappoint those who are on a budget.
So without further adieu, here are 30 free things to do in Bristol…
Free Attractions in Bristol
Clifton Suspension Bridge
This bridge is the most iconic image associated with Bristol, and yet, it’s completely free to visit and photograph.
Clifton Suspension Bridge was designed by the great Isambard Kingdom Brunel and has been used as a toll bridge since 1864.
Although it’ll cost you £1 to cross it in a car or on a motorbike, it’s free to cross by bike or on foot.
St Werburghs City Farm and Windmill City Farm
Just because you’re in the city doesn’t mean you can’t see farmyard animals, such as pigs, goats, sheep and chickens.
Their on-site farm shops are also well worth a visit as you can buy fresh jams, preserves, eggs and unique gifts.
Try to aim for either sunset or a sunny day in order to see the best (and most romantic) views.
Just remember that the 109 steps inside Cabot Tower are steep, small and the corridors narrow, so passing others on the stairs can be a little tricky. But the climb is so worth it for the views!
The Harbourside Market and St Nicholas Indoor Market
Whether on a rainy day or a dry one, wandering around a unique city market is always a good idea (especially if they’re under cover!)
The Harbourside Market runs every Wednesday and Thursday afternoon (12pm – 2.30pm) and on Saturdays and Sundays (11am – 4pm) under the covered walkway outside the Tourist Information Centre. This market mainly sells handcrafted (and locally made) gifts and items such as artwork and jewellery, but is also a great place to pick up some second hand books and bric-a-brac.
While the St Nicholas Indoor Market is open every Monday to Saturday (9.30am – 5pm) and holds Bristol’s largest gathering of independent retailers. You’ll find so much in here, from clothes, to homewares, to jewellery, to Bristol-inspired gifts and more.
Visiting England’s Cathedrals has been at the top of tourists’ bucket lists for centuries. And Bristol Cathedral certainly does not disappoint.
You’ll just love admiring the intricate stonework and vast size, and with free daily admission, this is a great free thing to do in Bristol!
Free Museums in Bristol
Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery
If you’re keen to learn more about Bristol’s culture and heritage, and if you’re also into art, then a visit to the Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery is well worth it.
You’ll even find a statue made by Banksy himself here!
The M Shed is another fantastic free museum in Bristol, offering a number of exhibits, events, shows and talks on a regular basis.
Find out more about what it’s like to live and work in Bristol (both now and in the past) and enjoy learning more about Bristol’s maritime history as well… all for free!
If you love art (especially unique and modern art), then a trip to Arnolfini along the Harbourside should be calling your name.
You can visit each of the exhibits for free, while a quick look around the on-site bookshop will also help you to uncover unique finds.
Although not technically classed as a museum, I’ve listed Create within this category as you do have the chance to see interesting exhibits here.
From art and photography exhibits, to events and seminars about environmental issues, this centre is one of learning… and of fun.
Their approach is very hands-on so come here and enjoy getting stuck in!
Blaise Castle and Museum
Set within the extensive grounds of Blaise Estate near Henbury in Bristol, a trip to the Blaise Castle and Museum won’t cost you a penny.
Full of 18th Century toys, clothes and domestic objects, as well as period features galore, you’ll find it really interesting to learn about the Victorian Era, while feeling like you’ve been transported back in time yourself.
Free Festivals in Bristol
International Balloon Fiesta
Held towards the start of every August in the grounds of Ashton Court Estate, the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is the world’s largest meeting of hot air balloons, seeing over 130 balloons take to the skies every year.
It’s been running for over 40 years and is completely free!
If you head to the festival itself, you can see the balloons up-close, as well as watch them light up in time to music at night for the popular ‘Night Glow’ event, and even hop onto fairground rides.
But if large crowds aren’t really your thing, then you can also find a quiet spot in most areas of the city to watch the balloons sail overhead.
Bristol has never shied away from its strong ties to the street art and graffiti world, especially when we remember that Banksy originated here.
And in celebration of just how much Bristol doesn’t shy away from this heritage, an annual street art festival called Upfest calls for local artists to make their mark on the various shopfronts and buildings within Southville and Bedminster (in the southern parts of Bristol).
The festival is usually held at the end of July, but there’s also nothing stopping you from walking the streets of these two districts at other times of the year in order to see the artwork.
About half-way through July each year, Bristol’s Harbourside Festival is a fun (and free) celebration of Bristol’s greatest assets — it’s thriving harbour, port and maritime history.
During the festival, various events and demonstrations happen, such as those of lifesaving swimming dogs, flyboarding and there’s even an annual cardboard box boat race.
It’s great fun (especially if the sun is shining)… so come on down!
St Paul’s Carnival
Although St Paul’s Carnival seems to have stopped happening every year recently, it still occurs regularly enough to make it onto this list.
This carnival is a celebration of everything Afro Caribbean related, including food and music within a carnival atmosphere, which emphasizes Bristol’s multicultural diversity and acceptance.
When the carnival does take place, it’s usually in early July. 2018 saw the 50th carnival take place, although it’s still currently undecided whether 2019 will also see the carnival take place.
Free Walking Tours in Bristol
Self-Guided Banksy Walking Tour
Did you know that the famous street artist, Banksy was born in Bristol? What this means is that Bristol is home to a number of his earliest (and lesser known) works of art.
I recently devised my own set of self-guided Banksy walking tours and published them on my blog. There’s the choice of either a 1.5 mile, 3 mile or 5 mile walk (or you can do all three if you’re really keen).
This blog post is one of the most viewed blogs on my website — visitors to Bristol (and locals) just can’t seem to get enough of Banksy’s hometown!
Bristol Free Walking Tour
If you’re interested in seeing Bristol’s highlights via a guided tour, then there is a group entirely devoted to showcasing the best of Bristol via a free walking tour, which generally happens on weekends.
There’s no need to book or register … just turn up at the start of the walk and discover Bristol (as shown by a local) for free!
The Grand Appeal – Wallace & Gromit Trail
Since 2013, The Grand Appeal charity has created a number of walking trails during summer months.
It started with their first ‘Gromit Unleashed’ walking trail, which saw over 50 large Gromit sculptures painted and decorated in different styles and placed throughout the city.
Since then, they’ve used large Wallace sculptures, Shaun the Sheep sculptures and yet more Gromit statues in the same vain.
Are you wondering why they used Wallace & Gromit sculptures? The TV shows and movies were filmed in Bristol! Just another reason why Bristol is so fantastic!
Visit Bristol Audio Tours
Our tourism board, Visit Bristol, has created some fantastic MP3 audio tours you can download for free.
Ranging from a harbourside and docks tour, to exploring Bristol’s churches, walking in the paths of slaves, and even embarking on a literary tour, there’s something for everyone.
Free Parks & Outdoors Adventures in Bristol
I’ve always said that one of the best things about living in Bristol is its ability to blend city and country living so seamlessly. This means that other top free things to do in Bristol include walks and getting out and about in a variety of parks and woodlands. Here are my pick of the best parks and outdoor adventures in Bristol.
Offering flat dry paths as well as cycle paths through beautiful woodlands, Leigh Woods is the perfect way to start this list. The woods include a viewpoint of Clifton Suspension Bridge, and if visiting during April and May, it’s the perfect place for spotting bluebells.
The Downs in Clifton is a very popular parkland and picnic spot with fantastic views across the city, and at 440 acres, it’s one of the largest green spaces in Bristol. There’s also the chance to see Avon Gorge and the Clifton Suspension Bridge from another angle.
Conham River Park
Following the River Avon, Conham River Park is one of my favourite places in Bristol. The walk itself is flat and follows the river, while it’s also a great place for horse-riding, cycling and even coarse river fishing. When in Conham River Park during the summer months, it’s a must to visit Beese’s Riverside Bar for ciders or a roast dinner in the sun.
Oldbury Court Estate and Snuff Mills
Near to Fishponds, Old Court Estate is easy to miss unless you know about it. The main paths are flat while you also have the chance to walk in woodlands and along the riverside. There are also coffee shop kiosks, play parks and toilet facilities on-site, so it’s very popular with families (despite its historic connection with ‘snuff’ aka tobacco).
Brandon Hill Park
Brandon Hill Park is where you’ll be able to find the Cabot Tower (another free thing to do in Bristol), but the park itself is stunning. It offers yet more fantastic city views, as well as pretty water features and fun play parks.
Castle Park is the go-to park within Bristol’s City Centre. It offers superb views of the River Avon, plenty of place to picnic and chill with friends, as well as the chance to photograph the remains of a medieval castle and an old church as well!
Leap Valley is one of Bristol’s hidden secrets. Found on the outskirts of Bristol, it’s a circular route, which combines streams, forests and field walks in one. It’s also super popular with dog walkers so it’s the perfect place to take your pooch!
Frome Valley Walkway
The Frome Valley Walkway connects a number of stunning green spaces and parks across the city, making this the perfect walk for first time visitors to Bristol, and those who love long walks. The walk starts in Castle Park, and takes you through places like Oldbury Court Estate, Huckford Quarry Nature Reserve and Old Sodbury.
The Harbourside is one of the most popular attractions in Bristol, and a walk along the river is a really relaxing one. It’s also the perfect place to see the SS Great Britain and colourful rainbow houses that overlook the harbour.
YoBike Cycle Hire
Bristol has recently joined the number of cities that offer bike hire for a fee of just £1 per hour via YoBike. But you can currently get a £1 free credit when downloading their app, so you can get the first hour of cycle hire for free… how’s that for thrifty?
I hope this list of the best and most fabulous free things to do in Bristol has been helpful. Where do you think you’ll go first? Let me know in the comments…
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