Bristol has quickly become one of the most vibrant cities in the UK, known for its animated music scene, historic architecture, and natural beauty. You can visit the old city markets, take a long walk across the Downs, or even go to one of Bristol’s live music venues. However, with so much to discover, it’s tough to decide how best to spend your time.
Ensure you see the iconic sights of Bristol, and uncover some hidden gems, with this guide to a summer getaway in the largest city in the South West.
Old City Bristol
Bustling with unique restaurants and bars, the Old City of Bristol is definitely worth paying a visit. Its cobblestone streets and Georgian architecture on King Street add character to this part of the city, and with the one of the oldest theatres in England at its heart, there’s always a show on to attract a crowd.
As someone who spends a lot of time in Bristol, my personal favourite venue in the Old City is Mr Wolf’s, a jazz bar which does frequent open mic nights and jam sessions, as well as hosting both local and touring artists. Thekla is also very popular: a historic cargo ship sitting at the edge of Old City that hosts artists almost every night of the week!
Starting in the Old City, you can do a self-guided walking tour of Banksy’s works in Bristol. The mysterious street artist grew up in Bristol, meaning the city is home to 12 pieces that can be explored through various routes, depending on how much walking you’d like to do.
St Nicholas Market
Another highlight of the Old City is the indoor market, which hosts over 60 sellers of everything from fresh food, to jewellery to handmade clothes. Named as one of the UK’s top 12 markets, the buzzing St Nicholas Market offers choices for everyone who wants some retail therapy, or just a browse.
If the indoor market feels like it’s too much for a hot summer's day, there’s also outdoor sellers on the road adjacent to the market.
Not even a five minute walk from the Old City is Harbourside, filled with restaurants, bars, and amusements, ensuring everyone on your getaway has something to enjoy. Attractions include The Bristol Wheel, allowing you a birdseye view of the city, M Shed, an interactive museum experience about Bristol’s history, and Bristol Aquarium: home to coral, jungle, and rainforest exhibitions.
M Shed now houses a Banksy painting that was originally done on the side of Thekla, making it the perfect destination to complete your Banksy tour, and then explore some of the city’s local history.
In between all this action, you can sit and relax at one of the restaurants, with my personal recommendation being ZaZa Bazaar, a harbourside eatery with over 300 global dishes to choose from.
Another area of Bristol that has its own distinct personality is Clifton Village, which is known for the Clifton Observatory overlooking the Suspension bridge. At over 245 feet high, some visitors may find it daunting, however it not only provides a scenic walk out of the city, but offers a stunning view over the River Avon. Guided tours are available, or you can simply explore!
My suggestion is, after seeing the Suspension bridge, take a picturesque walk across Clifton and Durdham Downs to the University of Bristol Botanic Gardens, for an enthralling experience of over 4,500 plant species from tropical, subtropical, and rainforest collections. Both an educational, and idyllic visit, The Botanic Gardens also host events and workshops, for the creative ones on your getaway.
Bristol Harbour Festival
Over 250,000 people gather each year for this multi-venue festival of live music from the latest Bristolian artists, circus shows, and on-the-water action with jet ski stunts.
Since the festival is free entry, there’s no reason to not discover all Bristol’s historic floating docks have to offer! There are also lots of food stalls and bars in the amphitheatre to make it easy to sit back and enjoy the performances.
If it’s relaxing summer walks you’re looking for, vibrant live music, or seeing the famous landmarks by foot or car, Bristol is the perfect city for your visit. Spend your time in the stunning South West of England how you’d like, with such variety on offer and being such a walkable city, Bristol is the destination for you.