Bristol's Top 10 Bristol's Historic Attractions
Brunel's SS Great Britain
No visit to Bristol would be complete without stepping on board the world's first great ocean liner. This awe-inspiring steamship, built in 1843 by the Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, is easily one of the city's top visitor attractions (and one of two of Brunel’s must see structures - see number 2 in this list). Fascinating and educational for all the family, you are free to explore the old ship’s galley, dining saloon and surgeon's quarters, with its replica sounds and smells. Glimpse the the SS Great Britain below water and strap into a harness to climb the ship's mast. As well as talks, interactive experiences and storytelling, this attraction offers you a memorable opportunity to step back in time and revel in local maritime history. Located at the Dockyard on Gas Ferry Road. Charges apply, although concessions are available.
Clifton Suspension Bridge
At 76-metres high, the Clifton Suspension Bridge spans the Avon Gorge and is one of the most photographed landmarks in the city. Designed by the great Bristol engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel with work beginning in 1831 (the bridge wasn’t completed until 1864), the bridge has since earned Grade-I listed status and is regarded as one of the crowning achievements of Victorian engineering. It's a must-see on any visit to Bristol, where you can walk or cycle over it for free, taking in the magnificent views. Of course the bridge is a thoroughfare for traffic (forming part of the B3129 linking Ashton Court and Leigh Woods with Clifton Village) with cars paying a £1 toll. There's also an interesting visitor centre on the west side of the bridge if you would like to find out more about this construction marvel. Free tours are also available.
St. Mary Redcliffe Church
This 800-year old church on Redcliffe Hill boasts resplendent Gothic architecture, intricate stained glass windows and majestic ironwork. Regarded as one of the most beautiful churches in England - and rightly so - if you're visiting Bristol, a peek inside this building is obligatory. Make sure you take a look at the church's world famous organ while you're there. It's free to visit the church outside of worship times and it's open daily. An on-site cafe and toilets are also available for visitors.
Bristol boasts a rich maritime history, given that the city has been trading as a port since 1051. Due to very high tides, a floating harbour was erected in 1809. Today, the Harbourside area of Bristol is a lively and pleasant hub for dining and shopping, as well as soaking up the history of the local area. Many of the city's top attractions are located here, especially around Millennium Square, including Brunel's SS Great Britain, Bristol Aquarium, the Watershed and the Arnolfini. In particular, if you're interested to discover more about the history of Bristol, make sure you visit M Shed. The new development at Wapping Wharf, set just behind the M Shed, plays host to some brilliant restaurants and local brewery Wild Beer.
Bristol Old Vic
As the oldest working theatre in Britain, Bristol Old Vic dates back to 1766. Despite undergoing a major refurbishment to provide modern facilities, this playhouse still oozes nostalgic charm. The theatre comes with a bar and a kitchen, so you can enjoy refreshments before or after your show. In addition to a range of talks and shows, you can experience a guided tour of the premises, delving into the theatre's intriguing history. The Old Vic is located on King Street, just behind glorious Queen Square, in the heart of Bristol’s historic Old City.
Dating back to the 12th century, although undergoing a makeover during the 19th century, Bristol Cathedral is considered to be one of the best 'hall churches' in Britain, where the nave, aisles and choir are all the same height. Situated at the end of Park Street in the West End of the city, overlooking College Green, it is little wonder that this attractive setting is the place for many ceremonies and graduations. Open daily, it’s free to visit this majestic building and guided tours are available if you would like to learn more about the cathedral's history.
The old quarter in Bristol gives you a fascinating glimpse into the history of the city, so simply stroll around and admire the historic buildings in front of you, many of which are now converted into bars and restaurants. Pedestrianised Corn Street is a good place to start, with its lively atmosphere and weekend markets (foodies might want to check out the Ox, arguably the city’s best steak restaurant hidden away down some steps below the Commercial Rooms pub). Make sure you drop by the Corn Exchange to pick up some local handmade goods. The Old City district is also home to Castle Park, Queens Square and the old inns and warehouses.
National Trust owned Tyntesfield is a Victorian country house near Bristol. The Grade-I listed building, bought by William Gibbs in the 1830s, exudes a Gothic style and boasts a fascinating collection of over 5,000 antiques and works of art. The outside of the building is just as alluring as the inside, where you can enjoy pleasant strolls in woodland. The Visitor Centre is also a great place to purchase local produce and plants, while the cafe is a welcoming place for a spot of lunch. The property is open all year round and admission charges apply except for National Trust members which get in for free.
If you want to admire Bristol's uninterrupted skyline, then possibly the best view in the city is atop Cabot Tower. This 105-ft ornate, red sandstone tower built in 1897 commemorates John Cabot's voyage from Bristol to North America. Situated in Bristol's oldest park, Brandon Hill, this is a pleasant spot to relax and unwind, where you can enjoy a stroll or let youngsters loose in the play area. Cabot Tower is open daily and it is free to climb up it.
Arnos Vale Cemetery
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and step inside this tranquil setting comprising 45 acres of attractive greenery. A leading example of a Victorian garden cemetery, you can expect to find beautiful classical architecture here, including Grade-II listed monuments. There are lots of peaceful nature trails to explore if you fancy a walk, where you can spy an assortment of flora and fauna. A gift shop and cafe are also located on-site and guided tours are available. The cemetery also plays host to outside theatre, including Shakespeare. Arnos Vale is open all year round.