Bristol tourist attractions

Bristol sightseeing

As well as its vibrant nightlife, Bristol boasts a roster of top tourist attractions. This English city is the ideal place to visit for an overnight stay, but to do it real justice, try to stay for one weekend – if not a day or two longer. What follows is the best Bristol tourist attractions.

  1. Arnolfini
  2. Cheddar Gorge
  3. Bristol Aquarium
  4. Bristol Floating Harbour
  5. Banksy
  6. Bristol Cathedral
  7. Llandoger Trow

Bristol is a vibrant, attraction-packed city that has plenty to offer every kind of traveller. There are great museums and galleries for art lovers, rich maritime exhibitions if that’s what floats your boat, and there’s also amazing architecture on display – like the city’s famous suspension bridge! Start your trip right with one of these great Bristol holiday packages.

In collaboration with
Rough Guides

1. Arnolfini

The Arnolfini is one of the country’s leading centres for contemporary arts, with galleries, a contemporary café-bar, and cinema/theatre auditorium in a skilfully converted 1830s tea warehouse overlooking the floating harbour. If you’re a fan of modern art, or interested in learning more about it, there’s no better place to see the best new artists and exhibitions than this incredible space.

Extra: There’s a dynamic programme of special exhibitions and workshops throughout the year.

2. Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge may be a day-trip from Bristol, but it comes highly recommended. Located 18 miles from Bristol, Cheddar Gorge is a National Nature Reserve that feature deep caverns, needle-like stalactites and tumbling cliffs.

Extra: If you’re feeling fit, climb the 300-odd steps to reach the Lookout Tower.

3. Bristol Aquarium

At the Bristol Aquarium, more than 40 habitats, playing host to 7,000 fish from 750 different species, take you on a journey from the British coast, through warmer waters and tropical rainforests to exotic coral seas. On the way, you get to have close encounters with sharks, stingrays, sea horses, giant octopus and shoals of colourful fish. The aquarium is imaginatively presented with an underwater tunnel of reinforced glass, where you can literally come face to face with all manner of marine life. In a 300,000-litre tank you can see a shipwreck display, complete with sharks and rays.

Extra: There are also daily talks, feeding displays and a Learning Lab, where you can get up close to baby seahorses.

4. Bristol Floating Harbour

It’s worth a visit to Bristol for its picturesque harbour alone, where boats and barges sit against a backdrop of colourful houses rising on the hill behind. It gives a relatively vague idea of what this old port of Bristol used to look like and how it once operated; that said, it’s largely changed its function today, with converted wharves and warehouses catering to the increasingly hipster scene.

Extra: Take a ferry ride from the harbour along the Avon River, which also operates a hop-on-hop-off service.

5. Banksy

One of Britain’s most popular living artists is also the least recognised. Banksy, who was born in Bristol, keeps his identity secret, but that hasn’t stopped his particular brand of street art from gaining a massive following. An impromptu show of his work at Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery in 2009 had queues round the block. You can take a self-guided tour throughout the city to view the artist’s most famous works – this is incidentally one of the best ways to explore the city. Details are available from the tourist information office.

Extra: A veritable outdoor urban gallery, there’s plenty more fantastic street art to discover besides Banksy.

6. Bristol Cathedral

Bristol’s beautiful Cathedral is a highlight of any trip to the city. It was originally the church of an Augustinian abbey, built around 1140. It is a rare example of a hall church, in which the roof is at the same height throughout the building. This makes it extremely strong – though Bristol was heavily bombed during World War II, the cathedral escaped relatively lightly.

Extra: The Saxon stone sculpture ‘Harrowing of Hell’ is one of the most important pieces of Saxon sculpture in England.

7. Llandoger Trow

Located on popular King Street, the 17th century-built Llandoger Trow looks historic enough with its gabled, timbered frames – but the history doesn’t stop there. This is believed to be the site where Alexander Selkirk told the story of his shipwreck to a certain Daniel Defoe, who then went on to write about it in Robinson Crusoe. 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.

Extra: Now a restored building, the Llandoger Trow connects to the equally historic Theatre Royal via an underpass.

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