Must-Visit Attractions in Bristol, UK

Bristol offers quirky, colourful vistas along the River Avon
Bristol offers quirky, colourful vistas along the River Avon | © Joana Kruse / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Colette Earley
4 June 2021

The city of Bristol, in southwest England, has a reputation as a creative, multicultural hub where there’s a lot to see and do – this is the home of Banksy, after all. If art’s your thing, Spike Island and the Arnolfini are worth a visit. The scenery isn’t bad, either – with Clifton Suspension Bridge and the Observatory to view it from. Here’s our pick of Bristol’s best bits.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Bridge
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Morning mist in the Avon Gorge at Clifton Suspension Bridge. Bristol. England. UK.
© James Osmond / Alamy Stock Photo
Talk to anyone from Bristol about a must-see spot and you’re guaranteed to be told about the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge. With views across the gorge and the entire city, this is a fun and romantic location. Walk across the bridge, drive over for a small toll fee or simply sit on the surrounding grass or in a local pub and soak up the views. Don’t miss how it lights up at night.

SS Great Britain

Historical Landmark, Museum
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Brunels SS Great Britain is a museum ship and former passenger steamship at Bristol Harbor, Somerset, England, UK
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Brunel’s SS Great Britain is a huge ship that has taken up residence in the Bristol Harbour. You can visit the ship, which was first launched in 1843, and soak up its history and marvel at its structure. There are a bunch of different events held here throughout the year, from sports to literary-themed days.

Arnolfini

Art Gallery, Bookstore, Store
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The Arnolfini art gallery is legendary among Bristolians, and not just for the incredible exhibitions that are on display. As well as being home to a cafe-bar that’s perfect for enjoying a post-exhibition coffee or glass of wine, there’s also an in-house bookshop boasting a range of different specialist publications. In the summer months, locals love sitting outside the building to enjoy the harbour views.

Bristol Harbour

Market, Shop
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Bringing us onto our next must-see spot, taking a stroll around Bristol Harbour is something everyone should do when visiting the city. With pretty views of the bobbing boats and an abundance of pubs to stop off in for a tipple along the way, this is a great way to spend an afternoon. There’s also a regular market here that’s extremely popular with locals.

Ashton Court

Park
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Ashton Court Mansion, Bristol, UK
© Redorbital Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
This huge country estate, not too far from Bedminster (south of the river) hosts a number of events including markets and a hot-air balloon festival. With a golf course, deer park and bikes available to rent, this is the perfect location for a day out.

Christmas Steps

Architectural Landmark
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This historic street located near the fountains in the city centre is essentially a set of steep, slanted steps with shops located on either side as you walk down (including the well-established barber shop Harry Blades). There’s also the convenient and aptly named Christmas Steps pub, positioned right at the bottom.

Upfest

Art Gallery
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Upfest is one of Europe’s biggest street art festivals. While the event only takes place once a year, the incredible artwork is on display all year round, adorning shopfronts and sides of buildings. Take a stroll from top to bottom and marvel at the colourful work by some of the world’s most renowned graffiti artists.

The Bearpit

Art Gallery
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The Bearpit has been described as an outdoor art gallery. The space which is located below St James Barton roundabout has been transformed in recent years and now features colourful street art and a number of independent restaurants through one of the tunnels. This is a great route to take if you’re walking from town to the aforementioned Stokes Croft.

Bristol Aquarium

Aquarium
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Bristol Aquarium, Bristol, UK
© christopher jones / Alamy Stock Photo

You’d be hard pressed to spot many fish peering over the edge of the harbour, but happily there’s a place right there on the harbourside where you can see fish and other marine life from all over the world. With more than 40 displays based on different sea and freshwater habitats, you can spend hours exploring. It’s also the only aquarium in the UK to feature a large botanical house, so you can meet some interesting plantlife as well.

Aerospace Bristol

Museum
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Bristol has a special significance in the UK’s skyfaring history, having been the birthplace of the Concorde. Now you can step inside the cockpit of the famous but ill-fated aircraft – and plenty more – at Aerospace Bristol. The museum features a timeline of aeronautical achievement dating back to the very first planes ever to be built right to the cutting edge, with plenty of interactive exhibits and special talks.

Spike Island

Art Gallery
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A great counterpart to the other, older galleries around the city, Spike Island is the place to go to see contemporary art in Bristol. It provides a home for an international community of more than 70 different artists, featuring everything from sculptures to paintings to things which almost defy definition. Sitting just up from Wapping Wharf, on the banks of the Avon, it’s a perfect setting for the art displayed there, and is open year round with special exhibitions happening all the time.

Wild Place Project

Zoo
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Next to the Zoo and Aquarium, Bristol plays host to a third place devoted to animals. The Wild Place Project was set up by the Bristol Zoological Society to support the conservation of African and European wildlife, and is fully open to the public. You can meet giraffes, lemurs, bears, baboons cheetahs and much more, all within reach of the city centre.

Clifton Observatory

Building
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Clifton Observatory, Clifton Down, Bristol, Somerset, England, UK
© Jane Tregelles / Alamy Stock Photo
If you’re seeing the suspension bridge, the Clifton Observatory is a great place to stop off at on your way. Built in 1766 as a windmill, it was later converted into an observatory, complete with a camera obscura that’s still in working condition. The observatory leads into a cave, which is also open to the public, so you can learn about the natural and manmade history of this spot, as well as taking in the postcard-worthy views.

Additional reporting by Callum Davies.

These recommendations were updated on June 4, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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