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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! The adventure-seeking vegan travel blogger behind Footsteps on the Globe. On this blog you'll find my latest adventures, travel inspiration as well as tips and tricks on how to be vegan around the world. You don’t have to give up being vegan to follow your travel dreams and I’m here to show you how!