Bristol is an artsy, characterful and exciting city that you’ll fall in love with after you discover its rich history, eclectic architecture and trendy restaurants.
We recently drove to Bristol from Oxford and we were overwhelmed by the number of places to see and things to do. On this post, I will be sharing our itinerary and top recommendations to help you plan your day trip to Bristol.
- Related post: Easy day trips from Oxford
Enjoy the awe-inspiring views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge
Start your trip at the Clifton Suspension Bridge – a truly impressive sight that remains one of the largest hanging bridges in the world. The construction of the bridge was completed in 1864 based on Isambard Brunel’s ingenious design (you’ll hear a lot about Brunel in Bristol by the way!). You can walk or drive through the bridge but in my opinion, the best way to appreciate the bridge is from the Clifton Observatory Hill.
Learn about Bristol’s maritime history at Brunel’s SS Great Britain
If you’re visiting Bristol for the first time, don’t miss Brunel’s SS Great Britain – one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. Also designed by Brunel, it remains one of the most iconic ships in the world for its innovative design as well as being the longest passenger ship in the world during the 19th century.
Entrance fee: £16.50 (adults)
Wander around the Old City
If you are feeling peckish by now, head to the Old City where you will find plenty of eateries to choose from. For a light bite on the go, check out the Glass Arcade at St Nicholas Markets. St Nicholas is the oldest market in Bristol and is where you can find independent cafes, top quality street food and fresh-baked pies.
Walk off your meal with a stroll around the Old City. The buildings here are so beautiful you’ll find it hard to resist photo opportunities at every corner! While on Corn Street, don’t miss Cosy Club. This cocktail bar/restaurant is located in one of the most majestic buildings in the Old Town and they’ve done a great job at making it feel welcoming and cool.
While in this area, you must visit Bristol Cathedral. Founded in the 12th century, it is one of the few prominent examples of German Gothic architecture – absolutely stunning! On Saturdays they organize guided tours so keep that in mind if you’re visiting on a weekend.
Indulge in authentic Italian gelato at Swoon
When we visited in July, sunny and warm weather called for a cheeky gelato at Swoon Gelato just opposite College Green. Highly recommended if you like ice-cream (I mean who doesn’t!). We particularly loved the coffee and mango flavour.
Relax at Brandon Hill and climb the Cabot Tower
After an activity-filled afternoon, you’ll appreciate taking a break at Brandon Hill Park – a true oasis in the middle of Bristol. Here’s where you will find the Cabot Tower, which commemorates John Cabot’s famous voyage from Bristol to North America in 1497. If you still feel energetic, make sure to climb up for spectacular views (it’s free!)
Finish your day at Portishead
If you happen to visit Bristol by car like we did, why not make a 20min trip to this coastal town for a nice dinner overlooking the marina? We absolutely loved the food at the Italian restaurant La Marina. They specialise in authentic south Italian dishes – we tried the pasta, fish platters and desserts and they were all delicious! Prices are reasonable, plus they have weekly specials like Tuesday Fish Night and Wednesday Steak Night.
Getting to Bristol
If you’re visiting from London, train is probably the fastest and most convenient way to get to Bristol. Great Western runs direct trains from London Paddington Station to historic Bristol Temple Meads throughout the day. The journey takes about an 1h45m.
Where to stay in Bristol
If you decide to spend a weekend in Bristol, these are some of the most recommended hotels in the city centre:
For more budget-friendly options, book your hostel here
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