Last Updated on 03/04/2022 by secretmoona
I am the type of person who likes to plan my trips, getaways and weekends well in advance. But sometimes, I travel impulsively. Bristol was my whim. It was sunny in London and the surrounding area for a few days. So I decided to visit this colourful city.
Bristol is surprisingly bigger than I thought but relatively small, which means you can do a lot on foot. I wasn’t prepared to walk, but I did a lot and was glad I had comfortable shoes. Bristol is a diverse and arty city with a complex history. Planning a weekend in Bristol? Read on.
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Explore the Old City & city centre
Strolling the Old City is the best way to discover the city and its architecture. The architecture mixes different styles, from beautiful Victorian buildings to half-timbered houses or modern buildings with brick facades. Getting lost in the streets and exploring the alleyways and cul-de-sac is one of my favourite things to do.
My friend and I did more than 25,000 steps in one day, exploring Bristol. Explore the pedestrian zones, tiny streets and open markets to get a sense of its charm. Although the city has no remains of its medieval walls, the narrow streets synonym of medieval towns is present. Despite this, exploring the old town is still is a must.
Visit the cathedral
During your stroll in the Old City and city centre, you will undoubtedly come across Bristol Cathedral. Situated on College Green, the Gothic-style cathedral was built in 1140. We couldn’t resist visiting it, especially since it’s free. The cathedral deserves a visit, especially for its stained glass windows, wooden doors, majestic vaults and small garden.
Take a walk on the harbourside.
Taking a walk on the harbourside was the highlight of my weekend in Bristol. The walk was super nice, taking us past the harbour and marina. We discovered a nice view of the city and the iconic colourful buildings. The SS Great Britain is one of the most famous attractions in the city. The restored ship is now a museum with interactive activities. The museum helps visitors to imagine what travelling on the boat was like. We sadly skipped it as we didn’t have much time, but I hope to explore it next time I am down in Bristol.
If clothing is your thing, Park Street (near the harbourside, about a 10-minute walk to Cargo) is an excellent stop for vintage and second-hand shops. Gloucester Road, a long road in the north of the city, offers lots of local and alternative shops, cafes, and restaurants. It is the most significant stretch of independent shops in Europe. Head over to Cabot Circus, a nice shopping centre with nearly 150 shops and stores for more high street brands.
Head to Clifton Village
We visited Clifton Village following a colleague’s recommendation. The neighbourhood located on the city’s heights is another place worth a visit. It is excellent for food with many restaurants, pubs, and independent shops.
The area is famous thanks to the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which opened in 1864. The emblematic bridge crosses the River Avon. The view of the Avon Gorge and the city beyond are the best. Crossing the bridge is free for pedestrians; however, cars must pay £1. After crossing the bridge, we headed to the Clifton Observatory to get a breathtaking view of the bridge. You can grab a coffee and sit on the small terrace while admiring the spectacular view of the bridge.
Go on a street art tour
It is simply impossible to visit bristol without mentioning Banksy and seeing street art. A native of the city, the graffiti artist first started his work by decorating walls in Bristol. While strolling along the streets and alleys of bristol, you will see some of Banksy’s works and those of other artists. If you genuinely love street art and can allocate some time in your itinerary, I recommend you join one of the tours on offer. Visit Bristol offers walking tours. You can also download the “Self-Guided Street Art Cultural Walking Tour” app on your phone if you prefer to discover the murals at your own pace.
Visit St Nicholas market
St Nicholas Market is an excellent place to visit during your weekend in Bristol. Established in 1743, it is one of the oldest markets, packed with many stalls. You can find a lot there, from food stalls to independent and artisans shops. The market is a great lunch spot for locals as well as tourists. The food section is worth a detour: the Caribbean, Moroccan, Chinese and Middle Eastern; they are all delicious. We recommend the Eat a Pitta stand which had a massive queue. The falafel sandwiches were super tasty.
Visit M Shed / Bristol Museum
An activity for those who want to learn about the history of Bristol or on rainy days is visiting the Bristol Museum. M Shed Museum is a living museum located in a large old transport shed on the pier. M Shed’s primary focus is the history of Bristol, the people who shaped the city, and slavery. While visiting, you can see historical films, music and artefacts showcasing Bristol’s industrial maritime and social history. The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery is another museum worth a visit. Entry for both is free, but donations are welcomed.
I had no idea about Bristol’s involvement with the slave trade until the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pushed into the city’s water during a Black Lives Matter protest nearly two years ago. Bristol Port was one of the most important ports in Europe, where ships departed for Africa to enslave people. While exploring the city, you can see where the wealth generated from the slave trade was used: the Theatre Royal in Bristol, the Clifton suspension bridge and Bristol Cathedral’s stained glass windows are some of the buildings financed with money from the trade.
The Bristol Slave Trade Walk takes people into the history of Bristol’s participation in the English and British slave trade and its impact on the city. £10 adult/£5 child, Sundays 12 pm-3 pm
Practical information about Bristol
- Where to stay during your weekend in Bristol
We stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton, only 10 minutes away from the train station. It is well located and close enough to the city centre for the main attractions. The room was spacious, comfortable and with all the necessary amenities.
- Getting to Bristol
Getting to Bristol is simple no matter your method of transport. Travelling by train is the most convenient and rapid way of getting into the city. London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads is around one hour and 30 minutes.
Thanks for reading our weekend in Bristol guide. Let me know what I have missed or what you love in the city.