There are many things for which Bristol is famous for. From graffiti artists and 90s music legends to our lucrative (if not somewhat troublesome) maritime heritage, thanks to a rich and colourful history over the centuries Bristol is home to a huge array of unusual and fascinating attractions.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor to our beautiful city or a seasoned Bristolian like the rest of us, there’s always something to be discovered on your doorstep. We’ve got something for everyone - if you’re a history buff or a seasoned foodie with a mighty thirst for local craft beers, our little city in the South West is packed full of activities to keep you busy. Take a gander at our Bristol Bucket List and plan a fun-filled weekend without breaking the bank.
Cabot Tower (Brandon Hill)
At the top of everyone’s bucket list has to be this slice of Bristol’s history. Sitting atop the beautiful Brandon Hill is Cabot Tower - built in 1897 to commemorate John Cabot’s journey to and discovery of the continent of America 400 years earlier. This 105ft tower can be seen glinting throughout the city and offers arguably the best view of Bristol on a sunny day. Pack a picnic and bask in the beauty of Brandon Hill, the oldest park in the city, just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of busy Park Street.
Bristol’s Historic Boats via Ferry (Harbourside)
If the story of John Cabot’s journey has captured your imagination, take a trip down to the harbourside to have a peek at the Matthew - a replica of the vessel our John used to sail to Newfoundland. Better yet, take in the splendour from the water by booking a round trip on the Bristol Ferry, taking you past other famous landmarks such as late-night student hotspot the Thekla, a nightclub on a boat, and of course Brunel’s impressive SS Great Britain, which paved the way for trade across the Atlantic from Bristol to New York.
King St (Central Bristol)
Party like a true Bristolian on King Street. This little cobbled street in the middle of the old city truly comes alive on the weekends, and is home to several of Bristol’s most infamous pubs, including the super-cheap King William, The Llandoger Trow, and the legendary jazz pub The Old Duke. At the far end sits Bristol’s famous cider boat, the Apple, an absolute must-visit on a sunny evening for a pint of 8% scrumpy with your pals. Alongside these old stalwarts are a handful of popular newcomers - craft ale paradise Small Bar, home to quirky brews and fried chicken; the Beer Emporium, a beer-lover’s dream tucked away in a vaulted cavern below the street above; and the uber-trendy Kong’s, with its arcade machines, ping pong and pinball. It's also just happens to be home to Bristol's best loved eat-out app, Wriggle of course.
Arnos Vale (Totterdown)
History buffs, it’s time to get spooky. Step into Arnos Vale, a vast Victorian cemetery in the south of the city. Saved from development after falling into rack and ruin in the 1980s, it now operates as a charity hosting numerous events and shows throughout the year, alongside weddings and of course, remembrance ceremonies. Alongside the stunning gothic architecture of their Anglican Chapel and the Spielman Centre is a vast wilderness home to a wealth of wildlife which you can take a stroll in. Take one of their brilliant guided tours to spot the famous Bristolians amongst the headstones, and after all that walking be sure to stop off for a slice of cake and a brew at their beautiful caff on site.
Clifton Suspension Bridge, and White Lion Pub
We’d probably be banished from the South West if we didn’t include the Clifton Suspension Bridge on our Bristol Bucket List. Brunel’s masterpiece sits straddling the Avon Gorge, linking beautiful Clifton with the stunning scenery of Leigh Woods. On a sunny day, there is nothing better than taking a stroll over its wrought iron beauty, stopping to snap a picture of the gorge below. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, soak in its magnificence from the comfort of arguably Bristol’s best beer garden - the White Lion pub sits overlooking the bridge, and is quintessentially Bristolian when the hot air balloons from the nearby fiesta drift over as the sun goes down.
Claustrophobes, you might want to give this one a miss. Once home to the smugglers of Bristol, these man-made caves lie underneath the streets of Redcliffe, carved out over centuries by glassmakers who used the fine sand to fuel the city’s roaring glass trade. Later, the caves became the ideal place for storing cargo which came in through the docks, including that under nefarious means. Word on the street is that the vast labyrinth of tunnels is supposedly haunted by the ghosts of sailors past, which has sparked numerous ghost-hunts and tours over the years. They’re not normally open to the public, so if you’re looking to pay them a visit, keep an eye out for events being hosted here, including the ace Bristol Open Doors day, or watching horror films on Halloween in the deep cavernous belly with little more than candlelight for company.
Clifton Observatory (plus Giant’s Cave and the Clifton Rockslide)
Take in another stunning 360 view of the entire city from the top of Clifton Downs, by climbing the Clifton Observatory. Once a windmill, this historical structure houses a camera obscura which has been charming generations of Bristolians since the Victorian era, alongside the secluded ‘Giant’s Cave’ with a cracking view of the Avon Gorge. While you’re up this neck of the woods, take a detour to find another hidden secret - the Clifton rockslide. This smooth patch of rock just underneath the suspension bridge is the result of thousands of Bristolian bottoms polishing a natural slide in the gradient over the years, and is a gert lush bit of free fun.
St Nick’s Market (Corn Street)
Step into the historical halls of St Nicholas Covered Markets - known colloquially simply as ‘St Nick’s’ - and bask in the vast array of food and boutiques at your fingertips. Sitting in the heart of the old city for over 275 years, there are a few clues to its past on the outside - take a peek at the clock with two separate minute hands, depicting ‘London time’ and ‘Bristol time’, a relic from pre-GMT railway days. In Exchange Hall and the Covered Market lies numerous stalls, selling everything from crystals and clothing, to records and retro sweets. But it’s in the Glass Arcade for which a hearty crowd flocks here every day; St Nick’s Market is truly a food-lover’s heaven, with every type of cuisine you could imagine lining the beautiful central thoroughfare, plus farmer’s markets and street food stalls in nearby Corn St throughout the week.
Bristol International Balloon Fiesta (Ashton Court)
For one weekend every August, the entirety of Bristol wakes up to the gentle whoosh of hundreds of balloons making their ascent into the morning sky as the International Balloon Fiesta kicks off for another year. Taking place at Ashton Court Estate in the south of the city, the fiesta has been an institution since 1979, welcoming balloonists from all over the world for a weekend of events. Mass ascents take place at 6am and 6pm every evening under the right weather conditions, and there is the famous ‘nightglow’ event on Thursday and Saturday evenings. You don’t need to be at the fiesta to enjoy the view, though - climb any hill in Bristol at the right time and you’ll be treated to a spectacular sight.
Live music (across the city)
It’s no secret that Bristol has always been home to a flourishing music scene. From the likes of trip-hop legends Portishead, Massive Attack and Tricky to the brilliant contemporary punk band IDLES, Bristol bands have been ripping up the best venues across the city for generations. Head to murky underground indie venues such as The Exchange, Rough Trade, Hy Brasil, and The Marble Factory, or charmingly grubby pubs such as The Louisiana, The Old England or The Crofters Rights (to name but a few) to see the next up and coming thing before they hit the big time.
Bristol Food Tour
If you’re excited by the prospect of eating your way across the numerous cafes, restaurants and bars that Bristol has to offer, but are a little overwhelmed, then luckily help is at hand. The Bristol Food Tour does exactly what it says on the tin, running eating tours of various neighbourhoods of the city. These include their brilliant East to West tour through edgy Old Market and up through the Centre, or the ‘South of the River’ tour taking in Wapping Wharf and picturesque Southville. Your enthusiastic tour guide, recruited for their knowledge and love for all things Bristol food, will take you on a walking (or cycling!) adventure through some of the lesser known spots to fill up on some of the tastiest grub imaginable. Perfect for parties and larger groups, or great to just get to know some of the more underground food offerings which you might not know about just yet.
What’s the first thing that you think of when you think of Bristol? Cider, balloons and Banksy? Our home-grown king of street art has left his mark over the city throughout the years, alongside other respected names like Andy Council, Inkie, Cheo and Cheba. Take a walk through Stokes Croft to take in some of the best street art in Europe, including Banksy’s arguably most famous mural, the Mild Mild West. A stroll along the harbourside towards the marina will uncover his latest work, the Girl With The Pierced Eardrum, or Park Street is home to his Well Hung Lover. If you venture south of the river, North Street in Bedminster is home to urban art festival Upfest every summer, and as a result is adorned with incredible work by a huge range of artists.
Cargo at Wapping Wharf (Harbourside)
From food critic-approved fine dining to the best burgers in the city, this jumble of shipping containers houses independent-only venues, so you won’t find a Costa or Greggs here. Instead, you’ve got a multitude of dedicated chefs working out of their postage stamp-sized units to bring you some of the most inventive and delicious cuisine in Bristol, from mouth-watering brisket sandwiches to steaming bowls of ramen, via Michelin-recommended haute cuisine and mile-high tacos. If your group can’t decide on one venue, don’t fret - grab a takeaway and perch on the benches that line the harbourside, perfect for a spot of people-watching. Check out our foodie guide to Cargo & Cargo 2.
If it’s scorchio outside then cool off with a refreshing dip at the Clifton Lido. Tucked away on a back street just off Whiteladies Road, this charming Victorian baths was saved from development into flats and is now one of the city’s most treasured hidden gems. Pop in to have a swim in their beautifully luxurious heated pool, unwind with a treatment at their in-house spa, or if that’s not your thing simply breathe in the atmosphere in their award-winning restaurant and stunning poolside cafe while sipping on a cocktail or two.
A Night at the Theatre
If you have a penchant for pantomime or a dedication to dramatics, then you are truly spoiled in Bristol. With the historic Hippodrome showcasing the best big shows and musicals from the West End and the newly renovated Bristol Old Vic presenting the best of new theatre, you certainly won’t miss out on the hottest tickets in town. If the fringe scene is more your cup of tea, make sure you check out the brilliant Wardrobe Theatre in Old Market, the long-standing Tobacco Factory on North Street, the Redgrave Theatre in Clifton and the Loco Klub underneath Temple Meads, all bringing the best of up-and-coming talent in the theatre scene.
The Bristol craft beer scene has been slowly brewing for a number of years (sorry, we couldn’t resist), with a recent flurry of fantastic local beer producers setting up shop in industrial estates across the city. Luckily, a lot of these brewery taps aren’t too far from one another, and present a fantastic opportunity for a beer crawl across Bristol. If you want to do it in proper Bristol style, hire a garish yellow Yo Bike for a couple of quid to ferry you on your journey. Otherwise, hot-foot it from St Phillips along the cycle path towards Easton, to discover Moor Beer, Good Chemistry, Left Handed Giant, Dawkins and Arbor, all with their own unique charms. If you make it to the end and are still standing, then wobble over to St Werburghs for achingly cool Wiper & True and newcomers Fierce & Noble. Just remember to get some grub half way through!