Bristol an insider guide things to see and do.

The bridge across the Avon

I have lived in Bristol for most of my life and I still love the city. I would like to introduce visitors to some of the history as well as offer some suggestions for  more unusual places to see and things to do. Whether you visit the city frequently or will be visiting for the first time, I would  like to offer some inspiration.  If you are enjoying some escapism and dreaming of your next adventure let me introduce you to some of the sights and sounds of my city.

Bristol is often seen as the gateway to the south west and South Wales. It has two universities with a large student population. Very high house prices and heavy traffic particularly during rush hour reflect how popular it is to live here particularly in areas such as Clifton.  In recent years it has become a centre for television and film making famous as the home of the BBC natural history unit and Aardman animation makers of Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep.

It also has a vibrant culture scene. You can find all types of live music in the local pubs and also listen to more established artists at the Bristol hippodrome or St. George’s, a converted church which is now a well loved concert hall. Many visitors love discovering the street art. The tourist office run free Banksy tours. Locals are not always so happy about the graffiti.

Wallace raising money outside Bristol children’s hospital.

The port of Bristol

A boat passing the colourful houses on Bristol harbourside
The colourful houses of Hotwells

Bristol is a port city although nowadays the river Avon is too tidal and to shallow for large boats to come into the centre. The old harbour area has been made into an attractive  and bustling tourist hub with restaurants, cinemas and art galleries. If you want to discover more of its past I recommend visiting Bristol industrial museum, M shed

Because of its position on the west coast Bristol was able to grow rich on the triangular slave trade. I discussed some of the difficulties we have dealing with the aftermath here.   I also wrote about Isambard Kingdom Brunel who designed Temple Meads, Bristol’s main railway station, the Great Britain and the Suspension Bridge here

For suggestions for activities for families near the harbourside click here.

More unusual places to discover the history of Bristol

I love history which I studied at university and I belong to a history walking group. We enjoy discovering more about the history of Bristol and nearby towns and cities. I have written several posts about more unusual places to discover parts of the story of Bristol.

Parks and Green Spaces.

Reeds fringe the lake #Stoke Park
Reeds fringe Duchess pond Stoke Park estate

Visitors to Bristol will be pleased to learn that Bristol has a lot of Green Spaces. It is the only British city to hold the title of European green capital. The most famous open areas are probably Clifton Downs home to Bristol zoo and Ashton Court where you will be able to watch the deer.  However if you explore further afield you will find a large local park usually with a children’s playground in most districts. The Mendip hills are only a short drive or bus ride away and you will find plenty of places to hike or go rock climbing.

If you are a keen gardener  you will enjoy a visit to Bristol University botanic garden .

or the Avon gorge and Downs wildlife garden at one end of the Suspension bridge. Bristol Zoo is also justly famed for its gardens.


How about following the river Frome to Eastville Park and beyond.

Frome riverside walkway

Stoke Park one of Bristol’s newest parks

Tips for visitors

The Bristol tourist information office

The Bristol tourist office is situated on the harbourside by cascade steps and has information about all the major tourist sites as well as maps and souvenirs.

Farther Christmas in Cabot circus #Bristol christmas


Bristol has two large shopping centres at Cabot circus in the centre of the city and at Cribbs Causeway where you will find all the major department stores. If you like looking for more unusual gifts and vintage clothing try Gloucester Road which has a large selection of independent shops. You should also visit St. Mark’s Road in Easton which is a wonderful collection of shopkeepers from all over the world. St. Nicholas market has everything from antiques to postage stamps.

Eating and drinking

Bristol has an enormous range of restaurants from Michelin starred restaurants to global street food  stalls in and around St. Nicholas Market. Locals love to eat in one of the restaurants on the harbourside overlooking the water. You should also visit one of the many historic pubs near the centre where you can find out more about Bristol’s maritime past.  

Getting around

The city  is home to Cameron balloons and an unusual way to see the city is from a balloon. If you would like to check availability and prices click here.

Bristol balloon festival is held at Ashton court every summer and weather permitting visitors can see dozens of balloons floating over the city.

A good way for tourists to see the city is to catch a hop on hop off bus.  A word of warning during the rush hour traffic can be very heavy making the journey quite slow.

I hope you are going to enjoy my home city too.