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The Top 10 Things To Do and See in Bristol
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The Top 10 Things To Do and See in Bristol

Picture of Marianna Hunt
Updated: 9 February 2017
This European city is a perpetually buzzing hive of life and activity. With its bustling markets, vibrant festivals and excellent entertainment, there’s no better place to explore the best of the UK’s culture, food, and history. The multi-cultural nature of Bristol makes it a fantastically diverse city, offering no end of interests. Follow our guide to discover the best of what this English metropolis has to offer.
The quays in Bristol | © Ubaían/Flickr
The quays in Bristol | © Ubaían/Flickr

Banksy’s Street Art

Banksy: notorious graffiti artist and Bristol’s most famous creation. This English city is famed for the world-class street art that adorns the back alleys, underpasses and pretty much any accessible areas of Bristol. Street artist Banksy lifted this reputation to new heights when he shot to fame, defying capture by police, bedaubing the city with his bold, controversial murals. Banksy is now famous across the world, and visitors flock from all four corners of the globe to admire these priceless pieces of graffiti by the true master of street art. Maps and walking tours are available to ensure you don’t miss anything in the outdoor gallery that is Bristol’s streets.

One of Banksy's world-famous pieces of street art in Bristol | Courtesy of Marianna Hunt
One of Banksy’s world-famous pieces of street art in Bristol | Courtesy of Marianna Hunt
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The Watershed

A must-visit for culture lovers, this creativity and media-centre houses three cultural cinemas, a media studio, events spaces, and a café-bar. The hot hang-out of Bristol’s young, hipster population, this striking building is located inside various former warehouses on Bristol’s harbour side, one of the best settings in the city. The refurbished transit sheds provide a stylish and modern backdrop to the incredible range of films here at the Watershed, with everything from world-famous blockbusters and award-winning documentaries to niche art-house films and the up-and-coming stars of foreign cinema. The complex plays host to many film festivals, such as Encounters Film Festival, Wildscreen, and Afrika Eye, where it promotes the unknown masters and tomorrow’s stars of modern film.

The Watershed, Waterfront Bristol, City of Bristol, BS1 5TX, +44 117 927 6444

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The SS Great Britain

The SS Great Britain, one of Brunel‘s world-famous creations, is one of the most important historic ships in the world. In its time it was the most powerful and pioneering ever constructed. Discover the ship’s fascinating history, and how it was rescued from ruin and brought back to its home in the Bristol docks. Hear real stories, amusing anecdotes, and day-to-day gossip from the accounts of the ship’s passengers. Afterwards, visitors can opt to harness up and be led by one of the ship’s expert climbing instructors up to the top of the rigging for a breathtaking view of Bristol’s harbour and a true crow’s nest experience. The whole complex has been designated a site of outstanding national importance by Arts Council England.

Opening hours: Mon-Sun 10am-5.30pm

Brunel’s SS Great Britain, Great Western Dockyard, Gas Ferry Rd, Bristol, BS1 6TY, +44 117 926 0680

The view from Brunel's SS Great Britain | Courtesy of Marianna Hunt
The view from Brunel’s SS Great Britain | Courtesy of Marianna Hunt
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Bristol Zoo

The city’s charming Zoological Gardens are a perfect place to while away a sunny day in Bristol. The daily feeds and talks offer incredible opportunities to learn fun facts and intriguing details about these exotic animals. The zoo conducts vital conservation work and has helped to save more than 175 species of animals from extinction. This zoo, the fifth oldest in the world, is home to a whole host of amazing creatures, ranging from huge gorillas and lions to tiny and delicate rare butterflies. The ZooRopia high-wire adventure course is a fantastic opportunity to monkey about on rope swings and zip wires while zooming over the zoo’s lush, green grounds. Bristol Zoo also offers unique Animal Experiences – unparalleled opportunities to meet one-on-one your choice of the zoo’s fascinating creatures.

Opening hours: Mon-Sun 9am-5pm

Bristol Zoo Gardens, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 3HA, +44 117 974 7300

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Try Bristol’s street food

This colourful and diverse city is famed for being a melting pot of different cultures and nationalities, and there’s no better way to experience the best and brightest of Bristol than in its outstanding array of street food. Weekly markets are lunch-time hot-spots where locals rush to in order to experience some of the best ethnic cooking in the UK. Middle Eastern mezes, dainty English cakes, piquant Indian curries, melt-in-your mouth Jamaican jerk chicken: Bristol’s food scene truly has all to offer. Come and discover the rising stars of the UK’s food scene at the permanent St Nicholas Market or the pop-up Wine Street, Bristol Eats, The Tobacco Factory, and Temple Quay Markets.

St Nicholas Market, All Saints Ln, Bristol, BS1 1LJ

Some of Bristol's delicious street food | Courtesy of Stefan Hunt
Some of Bristol’s delicious street food | Courtesy of Stefan Hunt
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Bristol Art Gallery

Ancient mummies, exhibits of regional wildlife and natural history, and outstanding collections of art in Bristol’s celebrated art gallery. Exhibitions from world-famous painters, artists, and sculptors have decorated the walls of the historic building throughout the years. Archaeology, geology, anthropology, biology, and artistic excellence all rub shoulders in the three floors and 19 galleries of this fascinating museum, which truly does offer something for everyone. The beautiful Edwardian building almost rivals the art it contains in terms of beauty.

Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10am-5pm; Sat-Sun 10am-6pm

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Queens Rd Bristol, City of Bristol, BS8 1RL, +44 117 922 3571

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M Shed

This museum is a true celebration of Bristol life. Come and explore the places and people that have earned this English city its fame. The museum is home to exhibits on the city’s history, from its pre-historic beginnings right up to modern day, with fascinating ancient artefacts and wonderfully quirky present day stories and anecdotes that make visitors truly feel a part of Bristol life. Some of the best art and photography to have come out of the city are displayed here and the exhibit on the local Aardman Studios, animators of Wallace and Gromit, is particularly interesting. The museum also owns an historic steam train and visitors are able to enjoy jaunts along the harbour side.

Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10am-5pm; Sat-Sun 10am-6pm

M Shed Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd, Bristol, City of Bristol BS1 4RN, +44 0117 352 6600

A Banksy masterpiece on display in Bristol's M Shed museum | Courtesy of Marianna Hunt
A Banksy masterpiece on display in Bristol’s M Shed museum | Courtesy of Marianna Hunt
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Go on a boat trip

Bristol’s harbour side is a buzzing hive of activity hosting markets, festivals, and street performers. The area itself is a wonderful location to sit and soak up the best of Bristol’s artistic atmosphere in a picturesque waterside setting. For those seeking to get even closer to those sun-dappled waves, why not embark on one of Bristol’s famous boat trips? Bristol’s ferry boats are a quick and cheap way to commute across the river to explore the opposite banks of the city, or for a more extensive excursion the Bristol Packet Boat Trip Company offers river tours and harbour cruises with award winning commentary about Bristol’s history.

Opening hours: Mon-Sun 9am-5pm

Bristol Packet Boat Trips, Wapping Wharf, Gas Ferry Road, Bristol, City of Bristol, BS1 6UN, +44 117 926 8157

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Cross the Clifton Suspension Bridge

Inaugurated in 1864, this masterpiece of engineering is one of the world-famous creations by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. A Grade I listed structure, the Clifton Suspension Bridge spans the Avon Gorge and offers an unrivalled panorama of the spectacular natural landscape all around. There is a visitor centre which provides information about the bridge and its tale throughout history. The Clifton Suspension Bridge was voted the Best Tourist Attraction of 2015 by ShoutOut radio. The bridge is a true Bristol landmark and an iconic sight which features on postcards and posters all round the city.

Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust, Bridgemaster’s Office, Bridge Rd, Bristol, BS8 3PA, +44 117 974 4664

Clifton Suspension Bridge | © Vaidotas Mišeikis/Flickr
Clifton Suspension Bridge | © Vaidotas Mišeikis/Flickr

Shopping

Bristol’s shopping is famous across the UK. Shopaholics will find themselves in heaven wandering along the streets of this superb city. The newly built Cabot Circus is a huge, stylish and modern complex which houses all the high-street favourites as well as a vast array of designer stores. Given Bristol’s young and trendy student population, the vintage shopping in the city is some of the best in the UK. Make a beeline for Bristol’s Park Street, Gloucester Road, or one of the city’s vintage fashion warehouses to grab the best bargains. For those simply seeking to ogle at exquisite artisan wares during a day of window shopping, the boutiques and jewellers of Bristol’s St James’ Arcade are an unmissable stop.

By Marianna Hunt

Marianna is a languages student and travel blogger with an eye for the unusual, a heart for exploration, a stomach for food adventures, and a penchant for a pun. Visit her blog, A Hunt Around Russia, or follow her on Instagram to discover more.