Bristol is full of history, quirkiness and surprise to all who visit. This list of 75 things to do in Bristol showcases the best of what the city has to offer first time visitors. Whether you choose to do 5, 10, 15 or all 75 of these things, you’re sure to find something you’ll love doing!
1. Walk across Clifton Suspension Bridge
Clifton Suspension Bridge is the most iconic image associated with Bristol. The bridge was designed by the great Isambard Kingdom Brunel and has been used as a toll bridge since 1864. Although it costs £1 to cross it in a car or on a motorbike, it’s free to cross by bicycle or on foot, and the views you get of Avon Gorge and Bristol when walking across it are fantastic!
2. Go on a hot air balloon ride over the city
Hot air balloons are so synonymous with Bristol, thanks to the International Balloon Fiesta, that going in one just had to be mentioned. There are several companies offering balloon rides in Bristol such as Bristol Balloons, Bailey Balloons and Virgin.
3. Go on the hunt for the perfect ice cream
Bristol offers several unique options when it comes to ice cream and is a great way to spend a summer-time trip to the city. Some of our favourite ice cream parlours include Vee Double Moo and Zyka Desserts. Or, if those don’t quite float your boat, try some of these on for size.
4. Pet the animals at St Werburghs City Farm or 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. Both St Werburghs City Farm and Windmill City Farm offer you this opportunity, entirely for free, and it’s great fun for all the family. Their onsite farm shops are also well worth a visit as you can buy fresh jams, preserves, eggs and unique gifts.
5. Head to the top of Cabot Tower
Located in Brandon Hill Park, Cabot Tower is free to climb up and has incredible views across Bristol. Try to aim for either a 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!
6. Marvel at animals in the Bristol Zoo
No visit to Bristol should be complete without a visit to Bristol Zoo, which is the perfect escape from the city hustle and bustle. There are a large variety of animals to see here, including penguins and gorillas. But that’s not all – imagine wandering through a zoo, escaping into wildlife, only to spot houses overlooking you… talk about unique!
7. People (and boat) watch at the harbourside
The harbourside is a bustling and thriving area of Bristol, especially on warm evenings, and is a great place to go to take a relaxing walk, grab a drink in one of the pubs dotted along the harbour, or to just sit and watch the boats go past. There are multiple benches along the riverside, as well as ample room for sitting on the edge with your legs dangling over.
8. Wander around the aquarium
The Bristol Aquarium has all the usual marine life you would expect, but what is really cool are the deckchairs that are in the greenhouse. On a warm day, it’s so relaxing to lounge around on them (providing the aquarium isn’t overrun with screaming children of course!)
9. Try escaping from a locked room
Escape rooms have sprung up all over the country and we’ve done several within Bristol itself. Out of them all, we have only good things to say about PuzzLair, which currently has 6 themed rooms in Bristol. They offer useful clues throughout the game if you’re struggling too, which is so helpful. So… go have some fun trying to escape from a locked room!
10. Take a chilled walk through Leigh Woods
There are lots of great walking spots in Bristol, but one of our favourites would have to be through Leigh Woods. It’s not too busy here, the walk is fairly easy as it’s flat and there’s also a viewpoint of the Clifton Suspension Bridge to enjoy.
11. Shop at The Harbourside 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.
12. Try adults-only night at We The Curious science museum
We The Curious (formerly known as At-Bristol) is a science museum that children love. But every few months or so, they put on adults-only nights (events that are called After Hours). These are great fun as you can explore the museum and catch a Planetarium show as normal — but without kids around and with a few beers in hand.
13. Splash about at Clifton Lido
Clifton is a very popular spot in Bristol. Often known as the posh bit, and boasting some great shopping options, it’s also home to Clifton Lido. Complete with sauna and steam room, this is a great place to come for a bit of a splash about.
14. Check out the 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!
15. Play some pirate-themed mini golf
Bristol has a few great mini golf (or crazy golf) options, but we’d highly recommend trying Pirate Bay Adventure Golf near Hambrook. As the name suggests, it’s pirate themed — you even have to pull yourself in a boat across water to get to some of the holes. Scott and I have gone here once every year since living in Bristol together… yes, it’s that good!
16. Visit Bristol Cathedral
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 thing to do in Bristol!
17. Attend an open air cinema or theatre showing
There are various opportunities for an open air cinema date in Bristol. Your best bet with these would be to join a few Facebook groups, or keep an eye on the Cult Screens website, as they’re usually announced on there. Equally, nearby National Trust property, Dyrham Park has a Shakespeare open air theatre showing every year. Keep an eye on the NT website for details.
18. Sip cocktails in a sexy speakeasy
Although The Milk Thistle is no longer a secret, it’s still a highly sexy and seductive speakeasy. Relax in the leather armchairs, drink cocktails and enjoy chatting with your partner while surrounded by super lush decor.
19. Take a look around the M Shed
The M Shed is a 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!
20. Bounce, bounce and bounce some more at a trampoline park
There are several trampoline parks in Bristol, which are great fun for everyone. You’re basically thrown into a huge warehouse space filled with trampolines for an hour – expect to be very tired by the end of it! Be sure to check out Groupon for cheap options that occasionally pop up.
21. Discover interesting art at Arnolfini
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 onsite bookshop will also usually uncover some unique finds.
22. Head to a comedy club
Head to the Rip Roar Comedy Club near the harbourside for a few laughs. It’s a small club, but the seating areas are quite private, so you’ll enjoy just chilling out and watching some live comedy. Just watch out for the comedians picking on you!
23. Try urban axe throwing
Bristol is recently home to its very own urban axe throwing venue on All Saints Street. Urban axe throwing is a bit like archery in that you’re aiming at a target for points. But the difference (obviously) is that you’re throwing axes rather than shooting arrows. It’s a lot of fun and definitely a unique thing to do in Bristol!
24. Go back in time at 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.
25. Look up at the International Balloon Fiesta
Held at the start of every August in the grounds of Ashton Court Estate, the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is Europe’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 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.
26. Follow the old railway line
Cycle paths in Bristol are second to none, and are also pedestrian friendly. A really popular one follows the old railway line, and could take you as far as Bath if you wanted it to. Whether you come here for a wander, run or cycle, this is a great place to use up any excess energy you may have.
27. Check out interesting and new street art at Upfest
Bristol has never shied away from its strong ties to the street art and graffiti world. In celebration of that, 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.
28. Have fun at the annual Harbourside Festival
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!
29. Go shopping along Gloucester Road
Boasting one of the longest roads of independent shops, you can spend hours mooching along Gloucester Road. From quirky clothing, to unique gifts and amazing patisseries, there’s so much amazing shopping on offer along this stretch of road. Don’t say we didn’t warn you and your credit card though!
30. Discover famous and not so famous street art
Not only is Bristol the home of the International Balloon Fiesta, but it’s also the home of Banksy (or at least it used to be). He was born and grew up here, so some of his earliest and unknown works of art can be found throughout Bristol. Although you can embark on a guided walking tour, finding the street art on your own can also be a great way to see the city.
31. Dance the night away at St Paul’s Carnival
St Paul’s Carnival is a celebration of everything Afro Caribbean related, including food, music and the carnival atmosphere, emphasizing Bristol’s multicultural diversity and acceptance. The festival is usually held in early July with 2018 seeing the 50th carnival take place.
32. Seek out the best views in Bristol
One thing we both love about cities is the views you’re able to see when up high. Being able to see the rooftops for miles, sometimes framed by a sunset or bright blue skies, is just magical… and very romantic! Some of the best views in Bristol can be seen from the Clifton Observatory, Clifton Suspension Bridge and Cabot Tower.
33. Shop in Clifton Village
Clifton Village is a superb place for shopping, particularly if you love independent boutiques and a bit of luxury. Clifton Village is actually really popular for jewellery shopping in case you’re looking to add a bit of sparkle to your life. Some of the best independent jewellery shops are Clifton Rocks, John Titcombe and Clifton Village Jewellers.
34. Head out on a free city 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. Check them out here. 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).
35. Catch a boat to a bar
Bristol is home to many riverside walks, but the one at Conham River Park can also include catching a boat to a bar, which is such a novelty! Beese’s Riverside Bar is only open during the summer months (in winter, it’s basically underwater) and you can catch their boat across the river for just 50 pence per person (return).
36. Hunt for Wallace & Gromit on a fun summer-time trail
Since 2013, The Grand Appeal charity has created a number of walking trails in Bristol during the 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. Keep an eye on their website for when the next trail is coming to Bristol. 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…
37. Try a new watersport
As can be expected from a city that prides itself on its youthful, fun vibe, you can take part in many watersports activities at the harbourside. Some of these include paddle boarding, sailing, windsurfing and on some occasions, even dragon boat racing!
38. Listen to Visit Bristol’s interesting audio tours
The tourism board for Bristol, 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. Check them out here.
39. Picnic on The Downs
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.
40. Learn some history at the SS Great Britain
Brunel is an amazing designer and has created some fabulous works across the South West of England, including the SS Great Britain – a Victorian passenger boat, that even sailed to Australia! This museum lets you see the underside of the boat, and explore the first class cabins inside, as well as the top deck. This ship is best seen on a sunny day so that you can admire the views across the harbour, and enjoy the top deck (rather than slipping and sliding in puddles).
41. Go underground in caves
Bristol’s neighbouring county, Somerset offers some great day trip ideas for cave lovers. It is of course home to Cheddar Gorge & Caves (yes, where the cheese comes from), but is also home to Wookey Hole Caves – another set of vast (and deep) caves! And if you’d prefer to stay in Bristol itself, you can also head to Giant’s Cave!
42. Walk along the river at Conham River Park
Following the River Avon, Conham River Park is one of our 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.
43. Suck on a shisha at The Full Moon
The Full Moon in Stokes Croft has one of the best shisha tobacco gardens in the city, allowing you to try all kinds of flavours including apple and strawberry to name a couple of firm favourites. As The Full Moon is also a backpacker’s hostel, you’re sure to meet some really interesting people here.
44. Watch slacklining hipsters at Brandon Hill Park
Brandon Hill Park is where you’ll be able to find Cabot Tower, but the park itself is also stunning. It offers yet more fantastic city views, as well as pretty water features and fun play parks.
45. Walk your dog at Oldbury Court Estate and Snuff Mills
Near to Fishponds, Oldbury 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 onsite, so it’s very popular with families (despite its historic connection with ‘snuff’ aka tobacco).
46. Walk around pretty Leap Valley
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 if you have one!
47. Check out the 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.
48. Eat at one of Bristol’s best restaurants
Bristol is awash with local, trendy, bustling restaurants. Whether you’re after a slap-up posh affair, a sizzling pizza or the most fabulous of afternoon teas, Bristol caters for the foodie in us all in any way possible. Check out our Bristol city guide for a list of Bristol restaurants worth heading to!
49. Get on your bike!
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?
50. Picnic in Brandon Hill Park (or any green space)
Bristol has lots of choice when it comes to picnic spots. Castle Park is easy to get to and is very central, as is Queen’s Park, while Brandon Hill is great for city views. There are plenty of other green spaces and parks in Bristol though, so grab your picnic and go and scout them out!
51. Watch the latest blockbuster at the cinema
Bristol is home to a number of cinemas showing the latest blockbuster movies. Our favourite cinema is Showcase Cinema De Lux in Cabot Circus as the prices are good, the seating is extra comfy and the complex itself is really plush! But there’s also an Odeon in the centre, as well as a number of Vue cinemas at the out of town parks, such as at Longwell Green or Cribbs Causeway.
52. Window shop at designer boutiques at Quakers Friars
Quakers Friars near the Cabot Circus shopping centre is home to many of Bristol’s high end boutiques (mostly fashion) such as Harvey Nichols, Michael Kors, Ted Baker and Hobbs. If you can afford to shop here, then you’ll be spoilt for choice… otherwise, it’s also fun to window shop here too. The displays at Harvey Nichols are magical year-round as you might expect!
53. Eat (or drink?) the original Bristol freak shake
Freakshakes, aka milkshakes capable of inducing sugar comas, have been taking the world of social media by storm over the past few years. They supposedly originated in Canberra, Australia, but as with most things cool and indulgent, other countries and cities soon followed suit. And The Beehive Coffee House in Downend was the first place to jump on this cool new foodie trend within Bristol.
54. Get all retro with some Pokémon Go
The hugely popular mobile phone game, Pokémon Go, is not only a fun game, but is great for helping you get to know a new city or area. There’s a thriving gamer community in Bristol so whether you’re hunting for Pokéstops, Gyms or just Pokémon, you’ll likely spot a number of other people playing the game at the same time as you. Sound fun? Check out our guide to all things Pokémon Go in Bristol.
55. Buy lots of food and gifts at the German Christmas Market
Every year throughout November and December, Bristol’s city centre is home to a large German Christmas Market. Full of glitzy Christmas decorations, original handmade crafts, tasty street food and all manner of gifts, you’ll love getting into the festive spirit here! Learn more about what a Christmas in Bristol looks like in our special festive guide.
56. Try some open air ice skating
In the run up to Christmas, a couple of open air ice skating rinks spring up in Bristol. There’s one at Millennium Square in the centre and another opens up outside of the Cribbs Causeway shopping mall. So… this winter, grab your partner, hire some skates and attempt to stay on two feet!
57. Admire some of Bristol’s oldest architecture
Throughout Bristol’s ‘Old City Centre’, there’s lots of stunning Georgian and Victorian architecture to admire. Some of our favourite spots include Corn Street, Clifton, College Green and Broadmead.
58. Step back in time at Tyntesfield
Found on the outskirts of Bristol, Tyntesfield is a great place to come to for history, luxury and beautiful gardens. The house, run by the National Trust, really is exquisite with its Victorian Gothic Revival style – it almost feels like you’ve stumbled across an old vampire’s lair or something! And don’t forget to check out their Christmas events too!
59. Try some traditional afternoon tea
We think that a visit or day out in Bristol should always involve afternoon tea. After all, who doesn’t love scones with lashings of cream and jam, perfect cakes and soothing cups of tea? Some top places to go for afternoon tea in Bristol are The Jetty Restaurant, Berwick Lodge and No 4. Clifton Village.
60. Scare yourself silly at FEAR at Avon Valley
Held every October, FEAR at Avon Valley is a ‘scream park’ akin to something you might find at Thorpe Park. There are several live action mazes (the center focus of the whole experience), various street theatre performances, pyrotechnic displays, stage shows, fairground rides and a number of food and drink stalls as well. It’s lots of fun and definitely worthy of a few screams! For more info on what you can expect, take a look at our review from last year.
61. Stop to smell the flowers at the University of Bristol Botanic Garden
If you love nature and are after something cheap to do in Bristol, then a visit to the University of Bristol Botanic Garden is a must. Inside, you’ll find a huge number of different plants, trees, flowers and shrubs… a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of Bristol.
62. Feed the ducks at Slimbridge Wetlands
Not too far up the M5 from Bristol are the Slimbridge Wetlands. This is a huge nature reserve, specifically catering to birds, ducks and marine life. You can watch the birds, feed the ducks or just go for a walk, making this a super relaxing day out away from the busy city atmosphere.
63. Head to a board game café
Chance & Counters, next to the Christmas Steps, is Bristol’s only board game café. In essence, you come here to drink, eat and play retro board games; they actually have over 850 games dotted around the bar! As massive board game lovers ourselves, we think this is most definitely one of the best things to do in Bristol!
64. Shop at the St Nicholas Indoor Market
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.
65. Head to the beach
Bristol is in a great location for beach trips. Whether you’re after an adventure further away in Devon or Cornwall, or prefer to stay closer to home, there are plenty of options. Some of our favourites include Croyde Bay, Woolacombe and Weston-Super-Mare.
66. Have a historic day out in Bath
Bath, home to incredible (and historic) Roman Baths is a great day out and is super close to Bristol. Although it’s possible to drive there in around 45 minutes, our recommendation would always be to opt for public transport as parking in Bath can be both a nightmare and expensive. And with a train getting you to Bath in just 12 minutes, or a bus only taking an hour, it makes sense!
67. Look for bats at Conham River Park
Conham River Park is home to a natural bat cave, which can provide you with a glimpse into the dark side of nature to see our nocturnal friends. The cave is signposted up a sloping path just across from where you can catch the ferry to Beese’s Riverside Bar, making for a very unique day out in Bristol! All we ask is that you try to keep quiet when seeing the bats… let them sleep and just opt for a quick glimpse each time!
68. Sail on The Matthew
The Matthew is another one of Bristol’s most well known attractions. The ship you see today is a replica of the original ship that John Cabot used to sail to Newfoundland in 1497 and it’s free to visit. You can even hop on board to sail along Avon Gorge or the Bristol harbour!
69. Discover Bristol’s historic timezone
Up until the introduction of train travel in 1840, Bristol used to have its own timezone and ran 10 minutes behind London-time. The clock on the Exchange building on Corn Street still has Bristol’s old time on it — the red minute hand shows Greenwich Mean Time and the black minute hand shows Bristol time.
70. Drink cider!
Cider is often the drink of choice for Bristolians as the West Country is famous for it. So pick a bar, any bar, and try some good old fashioned cider. Some of our favourite cider bars in Bristol include The Apple, The Orchard Inn and The Stable.
71. Catch a theatre show at The Hippodrome
The Hippodrome is Bristol’s largest and most well-known theatre. Although it’s not quite the West End, it does offer many of the most popular shows when the performers go on tour around the UK. It’s also often home to comedians and other performers too although you’ll need to book most tickets about 3-4 months in advance to get the best seats.
72. See airplanes up close at Aerospace Bristol
Aerospace Bristol is a museum based in Filton (near the Airbus campus), which houses lots of airplane artefacts and exhibits and even entire aircraft you can see up close and go inside. In fact, Concorde Alpha Foxtrot, the final Concorde to be built and the last to fly can be found here — how cool is that?!
73. Join a Morbid Curiosity Tour at Arnos Vale Cemetery
The cemetery at Arnos Vale is no ordinary cemetery. It’s often home to open air theatre and movies, as well as something called the ‘Morbid Curiosity Tour’. During this nighttime tour, you’ll hear plenty of ghost stories and tales of murder. Spooky? Yes. Fun? Very.
74. Book a gin distillery tour
Bramley and Gage, found just slightly north of Bristol in Thornbury, is a well-known gin distillery in the area and offers several distillery tours each month, which end in gin tasting and a free drink. The tour is called The 6 O’Clock Gin Distillery Tour and is a must if this is your favourite tipple.
75. Unlock the city at the Bristol Open Doors Festival
For one weekend every year, Bristol unlocks over 100 doors that are normally closed to the public, thanks to the Bristol Open Doors Festival. From old houses, to decrepit bank vaults, historic museums and sacred churches, this is your one chance every year to see something in Bristol that you wouldn’t ordinarily see. In 2019, the festival is on from September 13th – 15th.
We hope you’ve loved reading this post as much as we’ve loved writing it! What do you think you might do in Bristol first? We’d love to hear about your plans…
Want more Bristol info? Take a look at our favourite articles about our favourite city:
- Epic Bristol Itinerary: How to Spend One Day in Bristol
- 15 Epic Date Ideas & Romantic Things To Do in Bristol
- 30 Free Things To Do in Bristol (Written By A Local!)
- Banksy in Bristol: 3 Walking Tours (With Printable Maps!)
- Where to See the Best Views in Bristol
- 23 Epic Facts About Bristol (You’ll Never Believe #6!)
- 20 Very Good Reasons Why You Should Visit Bristol
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