A holiday in Bristol, England's largest seaport, is guaranteed to be memorable as the city is bursting with things to see and do. Some of the sights are quite unique, like the graffiti of local street artist Banksy and the restored Victorian ocean liner, SS Great Britain.
Bristol has a vibrant nightlife, exciting shopping, and a fascinating maritime heritage that is preserved and showcased in the lively Old Harbour area. Visiting Bristol also presents opportunities for excursions to all the popular tourist destinations of Southwest England.
The River Avon winds picturesquely through the bustling city centre of Bristol, and has played a key role in the development of the city as a major English commercial port. Surrounded by a charming hilly landscape and the spectacular, ice-carved Avon Gorge, Bristol is a scenic mix of history, commerce, and culture.
The city contains a mishmash of architecture, spanning over 400 years, much of which has been rebuilt, destroyed, relocated, or vandalised over time. Today, few of the city's earliest treasures remain, particularly because Bristol was severely blitzed during World War II. Although there is little to no visible evidence of Bristol's 11th-century origins, the city is not devoid of character by any means, and there has been an attempt to restore the remaining jewels, evident in the beautiful Queen and Portland Squares.
There are plenty of Georgian and Victorian churches, buildings and monuments to be seen and the city's strong maritime history remains palpable. Modern Bristol is known for its many artists and eco-activists and is carving out a vibrant and unique identity.
In roughly 1140, the Abbey of St Augustine was founded by Robert Fitzhardinge. Over the years, the abbey was altered, eventually becoming the model of the 'Hall Church' style in England. When the abbey was finally dissolved in 1539, the nave was demolished and rebuilt, and became what is now the landmark Bristol Cathedral. The original Abbey Gatehouse and the Chapter House (which dates back to 1165) remain, and visitors can enjoy the beauty and peace of this ancient holy site and its garden surrounds. The Bristol Cathedral also hosts free music recitals at certain times of year. Public guided tours of the cathedral are available; check the website listed below for times and details. There is a shop and cafe on the cathedral grounds.
The Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery is an impressive collection of exhibits, objects and artworks, housed in a beautiful Edwardian Baroque building. As well as the permanent exhibits of regional, national and international artefacts, the museum hosts a range of temporary exhibitions and has a variety of different periods of artworks on display in its galleries. From natural history to the World Wildlife Gallery, decorative arts collections and archaeological displays, the Bristol City Museum and Gallery has something for everyone. The museum and gallery also plays host to various special events, workshops and children's activities throughout the year. Budget at least two or three hours to take it all in.
Children will love spending a fun-filled day at the Bristol Zoo and Garden, where more than 450 species of animals can be found. Most of the exhibits are undercover, making this the perfect destination for family outings come rain or shine. Featuring themed habitat areas, kids will be amazed by Gorilla Island and the Seal and Penguin Coast, where an underwater viewing area makes things a little more exciting. There is also Monkey World, a reptile house, aquariums, exotic birds and an adventure course (ZooRopia) for children of any age to let off some excess energy. The zoo also features a café, gift shop and picnic areas. There is so much to see at Bristol Zoo that a full day's visit is strongly recommended. Parents of children with special needs will be delighted to know that Bristol Zoo prides itself on its accessibility, with all areas navigable by wheelchair.
Bristol's climate is unpredictable, much like the rest of the United Kingdom. Situated in the southwest of the country and sheltered largely by Exmoor and the Mendip Hills, Bristol is in fact one of the UK's warmest cities.
Summers are usually sunny and warm, while winters are cold and wet. Summer days, however, can start out overcast and damp, clearing later. In summer, temperatures average between 53°F (12°C) and 71°F (22°C); and in winter, temperatures average between 37°F (3°C) and 48°F (9°C). Rain is possible in any season, but late-autumn and winter are the wettest seasons.
The best time to travel to Bristol is during the summer (June to August) when it is usually warm and sunny. Winters are wet, but comparatively mild temperature-wise. A good time to plan a short break in Bristol is at the end of July when the popular Harbour Festival takes place, one of the largest free events in England with music on five stages, street theatre, markets and a fireworks display.
Bristol is an easy city to negotiate on foot, with plenty of attractions close to one another. There are, however, taxis, trains, and an extensive bus network, and Uber and similar mobile app-based taxi services are also available.
There are plenty of car rental agencies as well, though the city centre can get congested and hiring a car is probably only worthwhile if travelling beyond the city. Bristol is a popular place for cyclists and, despite plenty of hills, the city has excellent urban bike routes. The Bristol Ferry Boat is a fun and relaxing way to explore the city; it offers leisure and commuter services in the harbour.
Bristol has something to offer visitors of all ages, but will particularly appeal to families and twenty-somethings keen on the vibrant street culture. Younger travellers will enjoy the nightlife of this lively university city.
Bristol's busy city centre contains a number of excellent museums, galleries, parks, and churches, including the Bristol Cathedral. As a hub of creativity and alternative culture, exhibitions and projects are always on the go, and the city's tourism industry is rapidly expanding for good reason. Known as the birthplace of trip hop, which emerged in the 1990s, Bristol's music scene is still thriving with a variety of events for all tastes.
Bristol's green lung has long been the Downs. Over 400 acres of grassland stretching from Avon Gorge to the Victorian-built suburbs of the city, and locals and visitors alike flock to enjoy the peace and quiet they offer. Other great sights in the city include the Bristol Zoo and Gardens, and the Bristol Clifton Observatory, near the eye-catching Bristol Clifton Suspension Bridge.
The diversity and muddled history of the city make it well worth the visit, and it is also a convenient distance from the nearby city of Bath, as well as the fascinating site of Stonehenge.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination