Located in South West England, Bristol is one of the most exciting cities to visit in England. The town has a long and rich history as well as a thriving local culture. For many years, it was the shipbuilding capitol of the British Isles. While today it still functions as a major seaport. The city is also a center of the arts and learning. No trip to Britain can truly be considered complete without at least a brief visit to Bristol. Today, we’ll look at 10 interesting attractions and things to do in Bristol, England.
10. Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery is an amazing showcase of everything from modern art to ancient relics. The museum houses a very interesting collection of ancient Egyptian and Assyrian artifacts from the Middle East, an exhibit of well-preserved dinosaurs and other rare fossils, an extensive mineral and gemstone collection, and a stunning art gallery, just to name a few of its attractions.
Included in the art gallery are paintings from all parts of Europe as well as several examples of pottery and ceramics from Asian nations. There are also rotating special exhibits put on periodically by the museum. It is small wonder that this is one of the most well-known tourist sites in Bristol, as it has something to offer for virtually everyone. The museum also features a full cafe and gift shop for the convenience of the public and is open from 10am-5pm on weekdays and 10am-6pm on weekends.
9. Walk the Clifton Suspension Bridge
The Clifton Suspension bridge is an amazing feat of engineering. Spanning the River Avon, the bridge is an incredible 1,352 feet in length, and sits 245 feet above the river. The bridge was first opened in 1864, and is one of the earliest suspension bridges still in regular use today. As such, it has become a common tourist activity to walk the length of the bridge when visiting Bristol. For anyone interested in architecture or engineering, walking over the Clifton Suspension Bridge is a real treat.
The bridge features two towers, which are non-identical, in order to solve some of the weight distribution problems involved with designing and engineering such a marvel. The bridge has come to be seen as a symbol of the city itself and many of the best vistas in Bristol are viewed from its deck. For those who appreciate building and architecture, a walk across the Clifton Suspension Bridge is simply a must.
8. Shop till You Drop at Cabot Circus
Cabot Circus is a huge shopping center located in the city of Bristol. Specializing in high end technology and apparel stores, Cabot Circus is a choice destination for those who love to shop. The enormous center is home to 140 businesses, including shops, restaurants, and even a movie theater. In addition to these business outlets, the site features several rented office spaces, a tourist hotel, and even a 250 unit apartment complex.
Unsurprisingly, this is one of the great attractions of Bristol for both tourists and natives alike. For a day spent at the shops, it is difficult to beat the sheer variety of Cabot Circus. To cope with the high volume of visitors, Cabot Circus maintains sufficient parking for up to 2,500 vehicles, making it easy to find parking space when visiting. The shopping center is open from 10am-8pm Monday through Saturday, and from 11am-5pm on Sundays.
7. Visit Millennium Square
Millennium Square is a large city square centrally located within Bristol. It has become a popular tourist attraction due to its architecture and statuary. Featured prominently in the square is a bronze statue of actor Cary Grant, who was born and raised in Bristol before going on to become one of the most popular actors of early film.
Millennium Square is also the home of one of the 21 BBC Big Screens. These television screens are approximately 270 square feet in overall size and are used for public news broadcasting as well as airing other BBC programs. Millennium Square is one of the trademarks of the city so anyone visiting Bristol should take the time to pay it a visit. As it is in a central part of the city, it is also close and convenient to other key locations and attractions. Millennium Square is one of the most beautiful outdoor spaces in the city of Bristol, and is certainly a worthy stop for any tourist.
6. Bristol Cathedral
Bristol Cathedral is one of the most important historical sites in the city. The cathedral is built on the former site of a 12th century Augustinian abbey. The current cathedral and its architecture are the result of many centuries of selective rebuilding, making it a representation of many different architectural styles. Most notably, the cathedral is famous for its early examples of certain styles of Gothic vaulting. It is also a classic example of a Medieval hall church—few of which remain today.
The current structure has remained largely unchanged since a final building project took place in 1888. To the lover of classic architecture, Bristol Cathedral is a site that must be seen. Today, the cathedral is still in use, although it has been an Anglican cathedral since the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. Services are still held and Bristol Cathedral is open to the public for tours, which highlight the history, architecture, and significance of the site.
5. Bristol Zoo Gardens
The Bristol Zoo Gardens is a large botanical and zoological attraction focusing on rare and exotic plants and animals. Among the 400 species of animals that can be found at the zoo are gorillas, gibbons, penguins, red pandas, and an impressive assortment of reptiles. In addition, the gardens contain examples of many rare and unusual plants, including the Chilean Monkey Puzzle tree and a living fossil dating originally from the Jurassic era.
Like most top notch zoos, the Bristol Zoo Gardens offer attractions and play areas for children so this is one attraction that will capture the attention of the entire family. The zoo is also equipped with a full service restaurant on premises for easy and convenient dining. Specialty programs are also common, so it can be useful to check online to find out what special events may be going on the day of your visit. Admission to this excellent attraction is very reasonable, and 10% of all revenues are donated to fund global conservation projects. It doesn’t get much better than that!
4. Bristol Balloon Fiesta
The Bristol Balloon Fiesta is an annual hot air balloon festival that features hundreds of hot air balloons participating in simultaneous flights. The fiesta is generally held during the first full week in August and is one of the largest balloon festivals in Europe. The Bristol Balloon Fiesta has been an annual tradition since 1979, when 117 balloon flights were performed for spectators and enthusiasts.
One of the most popular events to take place during modern fiestas has been the celebrated night glow. During this event, all attending hot air balloons are inflated after sunset, and the light given off by the flames powering them lights up the entire balloon in the dark. The event, due to its space requirements, does not take place within the confines of the city of Bristol, but instead on the grounds of Ashton Court—a large nearby manor house. The Bristol Balloon Fiesta is the single largest annual event in or around Bristol and draws spectators by the thousands, with crowds growing every year.
3. Search For Street Art (Famous Graffiti)
Bristol is home to a large culture of street artists. In other cities around the world, graffiti is simply something to be painted over. In Bristol, however, it becomes its own art form with buildings and walls as publicly available galleries. Bristol has been home to many urban art movements, including the recent “See No Evil” event; a series of street art events that was organized by a group of well-known street artists.
Unlike other cities, these artists are not prosecuted for destruction of public property, but are instead hailed as innovators in new art forms that reflect the modern urban artistic spirit. Many street art tours are available throughout Bristol, so visitors may choose to either seek out this unusual form of art on their own or be guided through the more major creations by knowledgeable tour guides. Artists from other cities and countries have also been known to come to Bristol to create their masterpieces.
2. Brunel’s SS Great Britain
Brunel’s SS Great Britain is a floating museum made out of a former transatlantic steamship. The SS Great Britain was the first iron hulled steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and was the largest ship in the world at the time. In its 170 year history, the ship has been all over the world.
In the 1970’s, a complete restoration project was undertaken to make the ship like new again. Despite the extreme difficulty involved in restoring a vessel so old, the project was eventually completed and the vessel was set afloat as a museum ship in Bristol harbor. Since then, it has offered visitors a firsthand look at the seafaring history of the 19th century. The vessel itself is now considered a part of the National Historic Fleet, and is one of the oldest active ships in the world. Continuing conservation efforts seek to ensure that the SS Great Britain stays afloat for decades to come, and maintenance on the ship is ongoing.
1. M Shed
The M Shed museum is a series of exhibits dedicated to the history, people, and places of Bristol itself. A visit to the M Shed brings a trip to Bristol full circle by presenting other attractions within the larger context of the city itself. The M Shed presents every aspect of Bristol and its culture to the viewer.
Exhibits range from early photographs, examples of machines used in the dry docks at various stages of shipbuilding, archeological finds from the region’s ancient past to modern films, and examples of the way of Bristol life. There’s even Bristol’s very own hometown dinosaur fossil; a well preserved Thecodontosaurus. Every stage of the city’s history and livelihood is well represented at the M Shed museum, and a visit to it is the perfect way to round out your time in Bristol. M Shed is truly a picture of the city and its people as a whole, giving tourists the chance to experience local life firsthand.