Top free things to do in Bristol

Must-see free things to do in Bristol

Bristol has a significant history, steeped in maritime and trade; visitors can make the most of finding out more about its heritage at a number of museums and even a replica boat. As well as Victorian-designed architecture that still forms iconic parts of Bristol’s identity today, one of its more modest and, well, anonymous products is Banksy, the notoriously unidentified street artist whose work is world-renowned; and many of whose pieces can be spotted from various public buildings dotted around the city. Best of all, the following attractions are all completely free, meaning that you can get beneath the surface of Bristol without blowing the budget.

  1. Clifton Suspension Bridge
  2. Banksy walking tour
  3. M Shed
  4. Brandon Hill
  5. Bristol Cathedral
  6. Spike Island
  7. The Matthew

In collaboration with
Rough Guides

1. Clifton Suspension Bridge

The unmissable Clifton Suspension Bridge isn’t just an iconic sight in Bristol, but in England itself. The high, white bridge, originally designed in 1831 by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, is a Grade I listed structure. Its informative visitor centre (also free) on the North Somerset (Leigh Woods) side of the bridge allows you to find out more about the bridge’s history, from construction to completion.

Best for: Fans of tall heights.

While you’re there: Cross the bridge for picture-perfect views.

2. Banksy walking tour

Pay homage to one of the most mysterious artists in Britain with a self-guided walking tour of Banksy’s street art. Adorning the sides of walls in busy and quieter parts of the city, his works are steeped in political and social messages; don’t miss The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum in Albion Docks and Well Hung Lover on Frogmore Street.

Best for: Street art.

While you’re there: It’s also a great way to get your bearings around the city, and to scope out other attractions.

3. M Shed

M Shed, situated on the hipster harbourside of Bristol, tells the story of the city’s history. Not only will you find out more about its trading past and industrial history, but you can find out more about its creative side too, as well as addressing previously underrepresented areas such as its role in the transatlantic slave trade.

Best for: A slice of city history.

While you’re there: Check out the working exhibits surrounding the outside of M Shed, which includes steamboats and trains.

4. Brandon Hill

Fancy walking through a part of Bristol’s history? Its Brandon’s Hill is the oldest park in the city, where upon reaching the top you can appreciate the incredible views back down over the city. At the top of the hill sits the 105ft-high Cabot Tower, where you can climb the spiral staircase to the top for even higher and more impressive views. If you’re considering Bristol holidays, a trip to Brandon Hill will see you take in some of the best views, and Cabot Tower is one of the stand-out sights of Bristol’s skyline.

Best for: Great views

While you’re there: Wind your way around the pathed trails and take in the nature conservation area.

5. Bristol Cathedral

To best soak up sacred spaces in Bristol, you can’t go far wrong with its city Cathedral. This impressive sight is free to explore; check out the beautiful stained-glass windows, be left in awe at the tall church nave and swing by for choral evensong.

Best for: Ancient architecture

While you’re there: Note that it is a working church, so be respectful to other worshippers there.

6. Spike Island

For something quirky – this is Bristol after all, the home of eccentric hipsters – head to Spike Island, a centre that promotes the development of contemporary art and design. The range of exhibitions here invite discussion and reflection, and during some periods of the year you even have the chance to ask the artists about what they do and see them in work.

Best for: Developing industries.

While you're there: Unwind at the Emmeline Cafe.

7. The Matthew

The Matthew is a replica ship of the original 15th ‘caravel’ that sailed from Bristol to Newfoundland, all the way back in 1497. Not only is it an icon of Bristol’s maritime past, but you can board The Matthew when it is moored at the quayside. While it still heads out on public trips (note that this costs extra), some of the features have been brought up to date since its 15th century origin!

Best for: Maritime voyages, and learning about them.

While you’re there: While it’s free to enter, donations are welcomed.

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