The Swankier Side of Bristol: Clifton in 48 Hours

Observatory and caves of Clifton in Bristol
Observatory and caves of Clifton in Bristol | Through the lens's eye / Flickr
Gemma Roxanne Lake

Colourful Victorian terraces, symmetrical townhouses and Regency railings – the vibrant and historic suburb of Clifton, to the west of Bristol’s bustling centre, is lined with cafes, wine bars and beautiful boutiques. It’s one of the city’s most affluent areas – we’ve selected five fundamentals for a 48-hour trip.

1. Clifton Suspension Bridge


Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol
© Stu Smith / Flickr
Sitting thousands of feet above the Avon Gorge, Clifton Suspension Bridge is without doubt one of the most defining features of the Clifton area. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and completed in the late 19th century, this majestic bridge links Clifton with Leigh Woods. There is a small toll charge for motorbikes and cars, but you can breathe in the sights on foot, bike or horse for free via a pedestrian footpath that overlooks the city and the surroundings of Somerset.

2. White Lion Bar and Terrace

Bar, Pub, Pub Grub

The White Lion Bar
© Sam Saunders / Flickr
If you’re looking for views, the White Lion Bar won’t disappoint. Next to the suspension bridge, this gastropub is part of the Avon Gorge Hotel and has one of the largest heated terraces in the southwest. With umbrellas and wooden benches in abundance, this local favourite, open throughout the year, can get busy during summer. But come in winter and enjoy the warmth of the wood-panelled interior, large leather sofas, real ales and gourmet pies.

3. The Lido


Clifton Lido, Bristol
© Nick/WikiCommons
One of the oldest surviving lidos in the country, this 19th-century outdoor swimming pool, tucked away in the heart of Clifton, is open to the public all year round. Framed by pastel-coloured changing cabins and an award-winning poolside restaurant, the 24m (79ft) pool is also heated. Other features include a hot tub, sauna and a steam room, with a number of treatments available such as bamboo massage, and a tearoom to relax in afterwards.

4. Clifton Down


Peering down onto the Avon Gorge, Leigh Woods and the Severn Estuary, you may find it hard to believe that the populous parts of Clifton are only moments away. The botanically rich 162ha (400-acre) expanse of Clifton Down is a public park where you’ll find wild flowers in summer through to a golden palette in autumn. Bordering Durdham Down, Clifton Village and Redland, the limestone grassland, a Green Flag award-winning site, also encompasses an observatory, a rockslide and a railway tunnel.

5. Clifton Observatory


Through the lens's eye / Flickr
Situated on Clifton Down, this Grade II-listed former snuff mill provides the perfect opportunity to home in on the horizon. Dating back to the 18th century, it houses a working camera obscura, which projects a true image of the Suspension Bridge, Leigh Woods and the Avon Gorge onto a table using a convex lens and sloping mirror. Below the deep-rooted structure, a tunnel to St Vincent’s Cave also survives, leading to St Vincent’s Rocks on the cliff face.

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