Bristol’s history as a trading port began in 1051. The city’s history as part of the slave trade is well documented at M Shed, the museum telling the story of Bristol. After two centuries as a busy commercial port, the harbour has been transformed into a leisure space with visitor attractions, boat trips, water sports, restaurants and bars. A number of companies operate ferry rides and themed cruises.
The area around the Floating Harbour has a range of independently run restaurants, cafés and bars all with views of the water and maybe see The Matthew glide past. Try Bordeaux Quay, a brasserie, bar, deli, bakery and cookery school, Casamia, a family-run trattoria turned Michelin-starred restaurant or Za Za Bazaar, the UK’s largest restaurant dishes up a variety of buffet-style global cuisine.
Architecture and entertainment
Bristol’s Old City has cobbled streets and alleyways lined with some of Bristol's oldest buildings. King Street is home to a world-class theatre and craft beer pubs while Queen Square is lined with elegant Regency town-houses and is a peaceful retreat in the heart of the city.
Climb the mighty hill of Park Street to explore a variety of independent, high street and high end shops, cafés and bars. The road is overlooked by the Wills Memorial Building, home to the University of Bristol.
Near the top of Park Street is Brandon Hill, the oldest park in Bristol in which sits Cabot Tower, a free local landmark with inspiring city views. At the bottom of the road you can see Banksy’s Well Hung Lover opposite City Hall. On the other side you will find College Green, a popular lunch spot for locals, as is Castle Park near Bristol Shopping Quarter.
Elegant, leafy and filled with chic boutiques, cosy cafés and Georgian buildings, Clifton is one of Bristol’s most beautiful places to visit. The area is home to Clifton Suspension Bridge, a stunning structure designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and completed in 1864. The bridge is free to walk and cycle across (cars chargeable) and offers magnificent views of Avon Gorge.
The Victorian Clifton Arcade houses an array of stores, selling everything from vintage jewellery to home interiors. The Lido, on Oakfield Place, has been fully restored and offers year-round outdoor swimming, spa treatments and award-winning dining. Clifton is also home to Bristol Zoo Gardens, set in twelve acres of landscaped gardens with more than four-hundred species of exotic animals.
Stokes Croft and Gloucester Road
Stokes Croft is the home of some of Bristol’s best street art, including Banksy’s famous Mild Mild West. The Cube Microplex on Dove Street is a cinema and arts venue presenting cinema, music, cabaret and more. Some of the city’s most famous music clubs are based here, including Lakota and the Blue Mountain, and there is plenty of live music to be found in the many bars and pubs.
One of the most popular green spaces in Bristol is The Downs, made up of Clifton Down and Durdham Down. This huge area of protected parkland on the northern fringes of Clifton is home to Bristol University’s Botanic Garden and hosts various annual events.
Just across Clifton Suspension Bridge is Ashton Court, a wonderful location for walking, jogging, golf, cycling and annual events, including the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.
Where to stay
Bristol and the surrounding areas have a wide variety of accommodation to choose from, whether you are visiting for business, leisure or making wedding plans. Here are our top picks:
Tyndalls Park Hotel is an elegant warm and friendly hotel situated in the leafy suburb of Old Clifton and three-quarters of a mile from the city centre. In the heart of Bristols most fashionable shops, the hotel is within walking distance of the Museum, Art Gallery, University, Theatres, Exhibition Centre and Bristol Zoo. The prices are competitive for a luxury hotel and free parking, unlimited Wi-Fi and full English breakfast are included.
The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel is located a short distance from Bristol Temple Meads railway station. The hotel is within easy walking distance of Cabot Circus, Broadmead and The Galleries Bristol, as well as being conveniently situated for visiting Bristol's historic Harbour-side area.
The Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel is a leading provider of venue hire and meeting room hire in Bristol Centre. The hotel has ten meeting and event hire rooms and is able to accommodate events ranging from a few people to 500 people seated theatre style in the largest of the meeting rooms.