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10 Cool things to see in Bristol…in a day!

Bristol is one of the most culturally diverse cities I have ever visited and has a unique identity like no other. From its rich maritime history, world renowned graffiti artists, year round festivals, trendy vintage scene and distinct music and art culture – no wonder it was named the fourth inspiring city in the world in a recent online survey!

With my best friend at my side, I aimed to see as much of Bristol as I could on the day trip we took, so here are 10 cool things to see in Bristol…in a day!

1) Victoria Rooms

Originally opened in 1842, the Victoria Rooms in Bristol was built as a music hall but fast became the cultural centre of the West of England as a exhibition and conference centre. It now belongs to the University of Bristol’s department of music. It’s a really striking victorian building with its Ancient Greek inspired columns and statement statues representing the strength of the former British Empire (like the lions guarding the front!).

It’s en route to Bristol city centre from the train station so it can’t be missed!

2) Clifton Arcade

The Clifton Arcade was opened in 1878 and is home to rows of quirky art and vintage shops. It is a really unique shopping experience, not just because of the treasures you can find in this gorgeous little victorian arcade but because of the beautifully kept interior design such as the elegant staircase and Venetian inspired decor.

3) Clifton Suspension Bridge

Clifton Suspension Bridge was our absolute favourite sight from the day! It is over 150 years old and completely unchanged since it was opened in 1864.

At the time of its construction it was intended to be the highest and longest suspension bridge in the world but as it took 33 years to build due to ongoing cash flow issues, other bridges had sadly beaten the record during its construction.

Despite not achieving the world records engineers had hoped for, the Clifton Suspension Bridge is still an incredible feat of engineering. It is so unique that it is still a stunning sight to behold for tourists visiting Bristol today, as it would have been for tourists over a century ago, observing ships coming down the Avon gorge from 250ft.

The bridge has been at the centre of many interesting stories and legends, the most memorable for me was one in which a victorian woman attempted to end her life after a lover’s spat by jumping from the bridge into the gorge. However, a gust of wind blew her dress up and acted as a parachute so she landed without a scratch on her! Surviving such a shocking fall must of given her a sense of appreciation for life as she ended up living for a further 62 years and died at the age of 85!

4) Royal York Crescent

No visit to Bristol should be without a walk down Royal York Crescent, one of the most expensive streets in town (with a basement flat selling here for over half a million pounds!). These are some of the most beautiful houses I think I have ever seen…and total Instagram fodder! The street features a row of gorgeous Grade II listed terrace houses overlooking Bristol Harbour with colourful doors and features giving each residence its own personality.

Take a stroll down here en route to the harbour and experience how the other half live 😉

5) Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital School (aka Hogwarts!)

You wouldn’t think that a school would be a ‘cool’ thing to see in any city, let alone one that is famous for vibrant street art and an eclectic music scene but Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital School has been here since 1586!

Not only does Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital School have a cool history, it was reportedly one of the inspirations for Hogwarts as JK Rowling grew up near Bristol.

6) Cabot Tower on Brandon Hill

Aside from Clifton Suspension Bridge, Brandon Hill’s Cabot Tower boasts one of the best views in Bristol. The 105ft tower was built in 1897 to commemorate John Cabot’s famous voyage from Bristol to North America four hundred years earlier, plus its free to go in which is even better!

The park that Cabot Tower sits in is really pretty too so make sure to take advantage of the beautiful gardens whilst visiting the tower.

7) Banksy street art

Banksy street art is definitely one of the BIG highlights of coming to Bristol for anyone (but particularly massive street art fans like me!) because it is Banksy’s hometown and his art can be found all over the city. We managed to see two of Banksy’s pieces during our day trip which included the “Well Hung Lover” on Frogmore Street en route to Bristol Harbour and the “Paint Pot Angel” in Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.

The “Well Hung Lover” is very tongue in cheek as it is on the side of a sexual health clinic! However, the “Paint Pot Angel” has got a more significant meaning as it intends to challenge what people expect to see in a museum and question the value we place on art.

8) College Green

College Green is a beautiful open square where Bristol City Hall and Bristol Cathedral can be found. The square was originally closed off as part of St Augustine’s Abbey (Bristol Cathedral) as far back as the 12th century but after King Henry VIII became head of his own church (The Church of England), the abbey became a collegiate church so the square was then opened up to the public.

Now, College Green is like no other central city square as it inhabits so many juxtaposing features of what makes Bristol so individual and special. With a Banksy on one corner, a Queen Victoria statue on another, a 12th century cathedral and the seat of local government, it’s a really interesting place to see and hang out!

9) Bristol Harbour

Bristol has its roots in Maritime history as there has been a trading port here since 1051! By the 14th century Bristol was trading with Spain, Portugal and Iceland but ships also left here for the New World. How cool is that?!

Bristol’s Harbourside is no longer home to sailors and merchants instead it is now thriving once again with a wide variety of restaurants, trendy bars and hotels. It’s so picturesque though you could very well spend an entire day just here!

Also along Bristol Harbour you can explore Brunel’s ss Great Britain (the world’s first great ocean liner), At-Bristol Science Centre, Bristol Aquarium and M Shed – a brilliant exhibition on the history of Bristol.

10) Bristol Planetarium

Bristol Planetarium is right by Bristol Harbour and is a great stop for science lovers and curious visitors alike as they have loads of interactive and hands-on exhibitions for you to explore.

The most famous of its attractions is, ‘The Big Silver Ball” which is the UK’s first 3D Planetarium, which you can have fun playing with mirrors on the outside but on the inside you can take a trip to the stars in an amazing immersive experience.

Want more?

Check out my best of Bristol…in a day video to see loads of extras from from the day 😉

Have you ever visited Bristol? Which things would you like to see in Bristol? Let me know in the comments below! 😊

About the author

Hi! I'm Mel a full-time Marketeer and part-time adventurer. I’m a British travel blogger who loves nothing more than immersing myself in different cultures and exploring new places. My goal is to inspire all of you office dwellers to follow your travel dreams whilst still working your 9-5.

  • Bristol is fun isn’t it? I think it suffers from being in the shadow of Bath – but it definitely has it’s own character – as you’ve shown

    • Mel

      I’d love to go to Bath too! Bristol has really got it’s own personality though and is completely different. I imagine people that are in the area only have time to do one or the other. This time Bristol, next time Bath ;)

  • Anna Johnston

    Holy moly… how freakin cool is the story about the lady on the bridge?! I want to know what she did with the next 62 years of her life, I do hope she really, really lived every day with much gusto and appreciation. Also… I hope she was the one that invented those terrifying bat wing freestyle suit things. :)

    I appreciate the tongue in cheek approach to art Bristol has very much, seems to be more in line with how I take in art. Ha!

    • Mel

      I know, how lucky was she? She must of thought that she was kept alive for a purpose so went on to live a full and happy life afterwards! She must of at least been an inspiration for the wing freestyle suits right?! ;) I love it when art is fun and you can interpret in your own way, Bristol had it in heaps so was really fun to find!

  • Maxine Hamilton

    Wow awesome list, really enjoyed it. Seeing some Banksy art in person is definitely on my bucket list. The planetarium immersion experience sounds pretty cool too!

    • Mel

      I just LOVE Banksy art, I tried not to drive my friend mad by going on about it all day but his art is all over the city so you really feel like he plays a part in Bristol’s cool personality. I wish we could have seen more!

  • We’ve never been to Bristol, but would love to visit this beautiful city one day! Thank you so much for your tips and infos! We’d love to visit the Bristol Grammar school, the suspension bridge, and also the Clifton Arcade and all the vintage shops!

    • Mel

      If you find yourselves travelling in or near London, take a day trip to Bristol, it’s not far and you can get so much done in a day, you’ll have a great time! It’s so different to any other city I’ve been to.

  • CarrieEMann

    The harbor looks so charming and colorful! And I’d love to check out the Clifton Arcade — quirky shopping areas are often my favorite parts of a town. Seems like it’s possible to cover a lot in just a one-day visit — thanks for the tips!

    • Mel

      You can definitely cover a lot of ground in a day that’s for sure! I’d probably do a weekend as there was lots more we could of seen but you can do and see a lot in just one day and you still get a really good feel for the city :)

  • megan_claire

    I’ve not yet been to Bristol, so it was cool to hear about its attractions, and how culturally diverse the city is. The buildings seem to throw back to an amazing era of architecture – the Victoria Rooms look stunning. Defintely see the Greek influence! I have actually heard of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and it would be awesome to be there to personally witness such a cool fete of engineering.

    And OMG I’m a mad Harry Potter fan, so I would be super keen to go back to school :D! Thanks for this guide to Bristol!

    • Mel

      No problem Megan, thanks for your lovely feedback :) Bristol is a lovely place for a day trip, if you get chance to go the Harry Potter fan inside you won’t be disappoint ;)

  • Laura Lynch

    You did so many things there! I saw a few of those in the one day I spent, but I got hung up around the harbour because there’s so much to see just along there. I do love the street art around there.

    • Mel

      The harbour in itself could be a day so I don’t blame you for spending most of your time there Laura! I was disappointed not to have enough time to go see the old ship they have there, it looked really cool but just didn’t have enough time. The street art is amazing and again would probably take you a couple of days to see all of it, we must go back! ;)

  • Candiss Koenitzer

    Bristol has so much to offer that I did not know about! I would love to see some more Banksy pieces and check out that bridge it looks super cool!

    • Mel

      I know the Banksy art is amazing! :)

  • Hi Mel,
    Thanks for sharing this inspiring guide to Bristol. I have never been to the city, but it looks like a cool and diverse destination. I think the Clifton Suspension Bridge would be my favourite too. can’t believe a basement flat costs over half a million pounds. You can buy a home with a yard for less where I live and people are complaining about housing costs!

    • Mel

      The housing market is just scary! They are certainly beautiful flats but if I had half a million pounds I don’t think I could bring myself to buy one!