Attractions in Bristol are all about the ‘Bs’: we have Brunel, boats, bridges, bikes and beautiful countryside. Everywhere you turn there is something spectacular to see and do in Bristol. The city is steeped in history and our historical and heritage sites, like Bristol Cathedral and the Lord Mayor’s Chapel, are not to be missed. If you’re looking for things to do with the family then we guarantee that Bristol will wear the children out with so many fun things on offer.
Bristol, set inland on the Avon River and with access to the Bristol Channel, has an illustrious history as one of England’s oldest ports. It was a favored port of departure for the New World following John Cabot’s voyage to North America in 1497. To celebrate that event, Cabot Tower in Brandon Hill Park was erected on the 400th anniversary of Cabot’s voyage. Bristol was also a trading center and Royalist headquarters during the English Civil War. Shipbuilding has been a pillar of Bristol’s economy for centuries, reaching its pinnacle with I.K. Brunel’s SS Great Britain. Built in 1838, this was the first steamship to make regular Atlantic crossings. In addition to designing the famous suspension bridge spanning the Avon Gorge, Brunel was also the engineer in charge of completing the Great Western Railway between London and Bristol.
Among Bristol’s tourist attractions are 30 art galleries and a number of parks. For families, there’s Bristol Zoo Gardens and At-Bristol, which is especially designed to engage young minds. Ashton Court Estate provides a wide variety of outdoor activities. Between all these and a day trip just outside of town to Cheddar Gorge, you’ll find plenty of things to do during your stay in Bristol.
1 Bristol Harbour
The old Port of Bristol on the Avon River has been given a new and imaginative lease of life, its many wharves and warehouses restored or converted to contemporary uses. Traditionally known as the Floating Harbour, the area is now home to museums, galleries, exhibitions, the Bristol Aquarium, At-Bristol Science Center, and the Arnolfini visual arts, music, and performance center.
2 St. Mary Redcliffe
When Queen Elizabeth I visited Bristol in 1574, she described St. Mary Redcliffe as “the fairest parish church in England.” Built in the 13th century and extensively renovated in the 15th century in the Baroque style, the church is located on the south side of Floating Harbour and takes its name from the red cliffs on which it stands.
3 Bristol Cathedral
Originally the church of the Saint Augustine Abbey, Bristol Cathedral took almost 600 years to achieve its present form. The east end, superbly rebuilt in the Decorated style by Abbot Knowle, dates from between 1298 and 1330. The central tower and transepts were completed in the 16th century, and the nave and towered west facade are from the 19th century
4 Brunel’s SS Great Britain
The SS Great Britain, the world’s first iron-hulled passenger ship, lives on at the same dock from which the great vessel was launched in 1843. The work of the famed engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, it also was the first use of screw propellers on a ship. Located at Bristol’s Great Western Dock, the ship is a testament to Brunel’s engineering ingenuity
5 Llandoger Trow
The famous triple-gabled, half-timbered Llandoger Trow building in King Street, built in 1664, is where Alexander Selkirk is said to have told the story of his shipwreck to Daniel Defoe, who immortalized the tale in Robinson Crusoe.
6 Clifton Suspension Bridge
Another work of the famed British engineer I. K. Brunel, Clifton Suspension Bridge spans the 260-foot-deep Avon Gorge on the west side of the limestone plateau known as Clifton Down and Durdham Down. Measuring 702 feet between its piers, the bridge was completed in 1864, 33 years after Brunel had first submitted his prizewinning plans
7 Bristol Old City
Bristol Old City is a warren of historic buildings from a long stretch of the city’s history. St. Stephen’s Church on St. Stephen’s Avenue is the parish church of Bristol and dates from 1476.
8 Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
Part of Bristol Museums, an association of six fine museums in the city, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery has three floors filled with Egyptian mummies, wildlife, dinosaurs, gemstones, glass, pottery, oriental arts, and a collection of Old Masters. An entire section is devoted to I. K. Brunel and his many technical achievements.
9 Blaise Castle House
late 18th-century mansion house and estate, Blaise Castle House provides a feel for the lifestyle of a prosperous family on a country estate. The Picture Room, with a domed glass ceiling, is decorated with paintings, and the house is known for its collections of children’s toys, including doll houses and furniture, trains, and toy soldiers
10 Cheddar Gorge
Just 18 miles from Bristol, Cheddar Gorge makes an excellent day trip. Highlights of this National Nature Reserve include its dramatic 450-foot cliffs and stunning stalactite caverns. Other attractions include the spectacular Gough’s Cave, with its hidden chambers, as well the soaring chambers of “St. Paul’s Cathedral” and the towering spires of “Solomon’s Temple.”