The Best Historical Sites in Bristol, UK

Bristol isn’t short of historic attractions – among them, the SS Great Britain, which is dry-docked in Bristol Harbour
Bristol isn’t short of historic attractions – among them, the SS Great Britain, which is dry-docked in Bristol Harbour | © James Osmond Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Callum Davies

Over 1,000 years old, Bristol is brimming with history. From the port to the centre of town, buildings, statues and landmarks can be found in every corner of this city, each telling its own story. Here are six of the best monuments to visit.

1. Clifton Observatory


Clifton Observatory, Bristol.
© Tony Watson / Alamy Stock Photo
Clifton Observatory is special because it isn’t just one point of interest, it’s three. It was converted from a mill into an observatory by William West in 1828. West also installed a camera obscura, which still works to this day. As if that wasn’t enough, he also built a tunnel into the nearby Giant’s Cave, enabling people to travel through and explore the grotto as well. The observatory is located right next to the Clifton Suspension Bridge and tickets for all attractions can be booked online.

2. The Red Lodge Museum

Museum, Park, School

England Bristol West End Park Row Red Lodge Tudor knot garden
© Neil McAllister / Alamy Stock Photo
Who doesn’t love a Tudor house? Almost every large British city has one and the best kept examples are like big time capsules. The Red Lodge is no exception to this rule, built in the late 16th century it has played host to royals and aristocrats for generations. Now it stands as a free museum for everyone to enjoy. The Red Lodge is in the near centre of Bristol next to the O2 Academy. Entry is free and it’s open 11am to 4pm, April to December.

3. Berkeley Castle

Historical Landmark

3. Berkeley Castle
© Laura Facchini / Alamy Stock Photo
Sitting just outside the city, Berkeley Castle is the site of a fascinating event in British history; the murder of King Edward II in 1327. One of the only examples of regicide in Britain, the cell he was kept in before he was killed can still be seen. The castle remained in use for centuries after his death and now stands as a popular tourist destination. Berkeley Castle is around 30 minutes from Bristol by car.

4. Kings Weston Roman Villa

Historical Landmark

Long before Bristol was the city we know today, the area was occupied by Romans. Evidence of this is scattered across the region, but perhaps the best preserved is Kings Weston. It contains the only Roman bath suite in Bristol, as well as two mosaic floors and even evidence of Roman central heating. Kings Weston is near Avonmouth, 20 minutes by car from the city centre. It’s free and open year round.

5. The SS Great Britain

Historical Landmark, Museum

s s great britain floating harbour bristol
© graham bell / Alamy Stock Photo

Bristol’s entire history is rooted in shipping. The city began on the banks of the Rivers Avon and Frome and grew into one of the biggest, busiest ports in the country. The SS Great Britain was a huge passenger ship which ran between Bristol and New York. Now dry docked, it serves as a museum for visitors. The SS Great Britain is a 20-minutes walk from the city centre.

6. King John’s Hunting Lodge

Historical Landmark

The medieval square in Axbridge, Somerset, England, UK. The half timbered building is King Johns Hunting Lodge, now the museum.
© travellinglight / Alamy Stock Photo

Despite the name, this excellently preserved 15th-century building did not belong to King John. It was thought to have been a wool merchant’s house, and now serves as one of the best examples of local history in the region. King John’s Hunting lodge is in Axbridge, 35mi (56km) south of Bristol, and is open all year round.

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