My perfect day in Bristol

I don’t speak with a “Brizzle” accent, I can’t claim to be born and bred in the West Country, but Bristol is the city I’ve called home for the last 20 years. When friends come to visit they are always amazed that there’s so much to see and do here and of course so many people who come here to study at one of the two universities or many language schools end up staying. I’m a migrant from London who flew down from London with my husband looking for a better place to bring up a family and haven’t looked back since. So let me tell you about my perfect day in Bristol so you can get a taste of this city through my eyes.

Heather with the statue of John Cabot in Bristol Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Heather with the statue of John Cabot in Bristol

My Perfect Day in Bristol

As I’m busy at work all week, my perfect weekend day is about relaxing with friends and family, perhaps a little bit of shopping and some nice things to eat. Living in north Bristol, I often head for Clifton village at the weekend to have a late breakfast with friends at a neighbourhood cafe like Rosmarino or take my teenage kids out for brunch at the always crowded Primrose Cafe, so we catch up on their week and have some family bonding time.

Breakfast at Rosemarinos in Clifton, Bristol Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Breakfast at Rosemarinos in Clifton, Bristol

Clifton has a sociable, village atmosphere, with classical Georgian squares and of course the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge. I love wandering around all the independent shops and boutiques, selling unusual clothes and things for the home, with lots of little cafes and restaurant where you can while away an hour or two chit-chatting over a cappuccino. If I had my sister or a girlfriend with me, I might head for The Lido and book one of their spa and lunch packages as a special treat. We’d laze around in the steam room and sauna, do a few leisurely lengths of the heated outdoor pool, then warm up again in the jacuzzi outside. After dressing and drying my hair in the boudoir we’d have some tapas or lunch in the cafe with full length windows overlooking the pool, watching the swimmers go up or down.

Pool at the Lido, Clifton, Bristol Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Pool at the Lido, Clifton, Bristol

From there it’s an easy walk back into Clifton village, probably bumping into a few friends as I walk around to see what’s new in the shops. My favourites for clothes shopping are Maze and its grown up sister store at 18 The Mall,  but there are many other boutiques to choose from. Shopping for gifts or pretty things for the home I’d stop off in Pod or wander down the Clifton Arcade, a  Victorian shopping arcade that has been restored where I like to window shop for collectibles, vintage, antique jewellery and interesting arty finds.

Bar Chocolat in Clifton, Bristol Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Bar Chocolat in Clifton, Bristol

Ready for another break I might stop at one of my favourite cafes to have a hot chocolate and cake at Bar Chocolat. If I was showing visitors around, of course we’d walk across the Clifton Suspension bridge for views down the Avon Gorge and pop into the Visitor Centre on the other side, or walk up to the observatory which is a favourite viewing spot for the balloons during the Balloon Fiesta in August for that iconic Balloons over Bristol shot.

Balloons over the Clifton Suspension Bridge Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Balloons over the Clifton Suspension Bridge

From Clifton Village it’s a pleasant walk or a short bus ride on the No 8 bus down Park Street to the centre of Bristol for an evening of music or culture. The Hippodrome is the place for a musical or ballet, while for a more classical sound you can’t beat the concerts at St George’s Brandon Hill, in a beautiful old church with fantastic acoustics – I always try to get to one of their Christmas concerts. For theatre I would book a performance at the Bristol Old Vic which has re-opened after a long renovation with wonderful creative performances. For my pre-theatre dinner I’d book in at Goldbrick House as their 2 course early evening menu before 7pm is delicious and excellent value at £10, although there are plenty of great places to choose on Park Street.

Bristol City Museum Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Bristol City Museum

A Perfect day in Bristol for families

My kids are now teenagers but when they were younger, my perfect family day out in Bristol might look a little different. The Bristol City Museum on Park Street would be my first stop for an hour or two, as it’s free and very family friendly. Towards the back of the museum is the cafe in an open atrium, with a small children’s play area which is popular at weekends. It’s right next to the exhibition area where I’ve seen everything from Banksy to Leonardo da Vinci in the past and the museum is one of those old fashioned places where you can go from the Egyptian mummies to local archaeology to a painted gypsy caravan.

Time for a snack and we would head across the road to Rocotillos, an American style diner which makes legendary creamy milk shakes as well as great breakfasts and burgers – our choice is always a plate of cheesy fries. Walking down Park Street we might detour into Brandon Hill Park, where there’s a children’s playground and Cabot tower to climb for older kids – with 360 degree views over Bristol.

Cabot tower on Brandon Hill in Bristol Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Cabot tower on Brandon Hill in Bristol

For the rest of the day, I’d hang out around the Harbour area, where there are so many fun things to do within easy walking distance. Millennium Square is a fun place to start especially if the weather’s good, where parents can relax on a bench while the kids have dabble in the fountains and water features and find the statues of Cary Grant and and other good citizens of Bristol.

Conceptual art at the Arnolfini, Bristol Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Conceptual art at the Arnolfini, Bristol

On one side of Millennium Square is the At-Bristol hands on science centre, which includes the Planetarium – that’s the large silver globe you can see from outside or try the Bristol Aquarium next door to walk down the undersea tunnel. Walk over Pero’s bridge with the sculptural horn weights and you then walk along the quayside up to the Arnolfini. Older children with artistic inclinations will enjoy this free contemporary arts centre, where there’s normally something conceptual or downright weird on display. Across the small bridge you’ll find M-shed, a colourful free museum in the old industrial buildings that’s all about the story of Bristol and has a family friendly cafe.

Bristol M-shed Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Bristol M-shed

Just outside you’ll find the steam train that runs at weekends and holidays and is staffed by enthusiasts, running up and down to take you as far as the SS Great Britain. This award winning attraction is an iron hulled, steam powered ship, built by Victorian engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel which has been beautifully restored to keep you busy for a few hours. From there you might cross over the harbour on the small ferry or get one of the yellow and blue Bristol ferries that go up and down the harbour for a fun sightseeing tour from the water.

Steam train on Bristol Harbourside Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Steam train on Bristol Harbourside

Although I’ve mentioned a number of different attractions, some free, others with an entry charge, each one can easily keep you busy for a couple of hours or more, so it’s probably best to check them all out on the Visit Bristol Website and then home in on just one or two things to visit to make your perfect day in Bristol.

This post is part of the initiative 100 cities to home swap before you die from Knok.com – do take a look at how you could spend a perfect day in some other cities around the world.

More things to do in Bristol

Free and Fun in Bristol – 20 things to do that won’t cost you a penny
Is Bristol the Street-art capital of the world?
Climb Cabot tower on Brandon Hill for a panoramic view of Bristol

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

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  • Reply
    John Martin
    March 14, 2013 at 7:18 am

    Conceptual Art is superb..

  • Reply
    Barbara Weibel
    March 17, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Heather, I gained five pounds just reading this 🙂 I’m looking forward to seeing all of these sites (perhaps not all the restaurants) when I visit this spring.
    Barbara Weibel´s last blog post ..PHOTO: Gorgeous Glacial Peyto Lake Nestled in an Alpine Valley in Banff National Park, Canada

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      March 17, 2013 at 10:01 pm

      @Barbara I’ll be happy to show you the best of Bristol

  • Reply
    March 19, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    I’m so wondering what that breakfast dish is? It looks amazing but greasy:)
    Bread with ham and some kind of sauce?
    Sofie´s last blog post ..In search of the light: Chasing a shepherd in Umbria

  • Reply
    Tiana Kai
    August 23, 2013 at 1:33 am

    This is an amazing list, I had no idea so many great galleries were there. I will be there for two nights in a week and was wondering which little area I should stay in. I will have a car, but would like to walk around by where we stay and feel like we are in a cool neighborhood.

    Thank you!!

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      August 23, 2013 at 4:42 pm

      @Tiana for a lively atmosphere Id suggest you stay in the harbour side area or for a lovely village style atmosphere I would stay in Clifton Village

  • Reply
    Tiana Kai
    August 23, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    Thank you for the advice! I can’t wait to get there. 🙂
    Tiana Kai´s last blog post ..My 30 day UK road trip

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