Most tourists who visit England visit London. However, many other treasures within the country are worth discovering.
Bristol is one such example.
“Bristol? It’s not a lot.”
This was the usual reply I received from locals when I mentioned that I was headed to Bristol.
My expectations were low. However, I went anyway. There is no “must-see “, meaning there is no “must ski”.
Upon my arrival, I was pleasantly surprised to find a college town full of amazing restaurants, delicious ethnic food, beautiful sights, and lots of green space.
Bristol is the English Seattle. Most travelers use it as a base to travel to Bath. They rarely explore the city and return to London.
Bristol, with approximately 500,000, is the second largest city in southern England after London. It is also the country’s largest shipping port. King Edward VII granted it a royal charter in 1155. Before the advent of Liverpool and Birmingham, it was also one of the largest cities in England.
Bristol was heavily bombed during World War II, which led to a decline in its manufacturing sector. The city is now a vibrant college town. The University of Bristol is the dominant institution in the city. It provides a lot of income for the community, and students also provide jobs.
Here are my top picks for things to do and see in Bristol.
This stunning cathedral was dedicated in 1148. It was built in Romanesque style and had a similar design as Notre Dame in Paris. The cathedral originally called St. Augustine’s Abbey at one time, now spans over 300 feet. While much of it is being rebuilt, some parts of the original structure remain.
Free tours are offered on Saturdays at 11:30 am & 1:30 pm. A donation of 5 GBP is recommended.
Wander King Street
King Street was originally laid out in 1650. It is an interesting, historic part of Bristol. This was once where sailing barges used to dock after returning from South Wales. This area is now the heart of the theatre district and boasts great bars and restaurants. Some pubs dating back to the 17th century are still in existence, including The Hatchet Inn, which was built in 1606.
The Clifton Suspension Bridge is a great example of this.
This is Bristol’s most iconic landmark. The bridge is suspended high above the Avon Gorge, River Avon and offers sweeping views over the river and surrounding parks. In the 1970s, one of the first bungee jumps was made in this area. It can handle 10,000 vehicles daily and stretches 1,352ft (412m). A small visitor center is located nearby. It’s open every day from 10 am to 5 pm.
It is bustling and lively with many shops you can browse in an hour. Many farmers’ stalls sell amazing local produce, vintage clothing shops, and second-hand books. This market dates back to 1743. It is a great place to explore, wonder, and watch people.
Visit the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
This museum was established in 1823 and covered everything from archaeology to dinosaurs, English history to art. Its wide range of exhibits makes it interesting enough that even non-history enthusiasts will find something to enjoy. It is the largest museum in the region and my personal favorite. Although the museum has tens of thousands of items, it isn’t overwhelming and can be seen in just a few hours. It’s also free, as with all English public museums.
Enjoy a Walking Tour
Bristol is an ancient city that has served as a port for nearly a thousand years. It’s no surprise that Bristol has a lot of ghost stories. Take a ghost walking tour with Haunted or Hidden Ghost Walks to hear some of these tales while you’re exploring the city. The 5 GBP tour takes about 90 minutes and is well worth it!
Street art tours are a great alternative to haunted walks. Many Banksy works are found in Bristol and many other murals. The Where is the Wall tour lasts 2 hours and covers the best public art in the city.
The S.S. Great Britain website
It was too large to build and took six years to complete. The owners were bankrupt shortly after its launch. The ship ran aground shortly after it was launched and sold to salvage. The ship was repaired and used to transport passengers to Australia between 1852-1881 when it was made all-sail. It was eventually scuttled in the Falkland Islands, where it sank in 1937.