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What to see and do in Bristol – a guide to notable attractions and landmarks

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Bristol is one of England’s most cultural cities, and innovation is part of its essence. Industrial relics rise out of the hillside next to graceful Georgian architecture. The river Avon turns through the city, lined with modern restaurants, bars and cafes; kaleidoscopic graffiti decorates streetside buildings. Bristol’s creative spirit is painted, built and in motion all over the city - it’s just a case of tracking it down.

Emily Wilson

My Destination local expert on

Bristol

Start by visiting the great engineering feats of Brunel – his Clifton Suspension Bridge and SS Great Britain are historical landmarks. Bristol is also famous for its street art – its Bansky’s hometown. To entertain children, there are even more options. Visit the At-Bristol Science Centre for attractions including a planetarium, or wander over to Bristol Zoo Gardens for a lovely break from city life. Finish off in a cosy pub for some live music and a handle full of local scrumpy cider.

 

Design heritage

 

Bristol combines a range of different architectural styles. Start off with some of Brunel’s innovations. A legendary Victorian engineer, he built the Bristol landmark Clifton Suspension Bridge, which rises strikingly out of the Avon Gorge. Then, you can visit the SS Great Britain, another Brunel masterpiece, and the world’s first luxury ocean liner. This steam ship was restored in 1970 to some of its former Victorian glory, and the sounds, smells and sights of the ship are all recreated in a fascinating multisensory experience.

 

Street art

 

Bristol’s tradition for street art rivals anywhere else in the UK. You can see it just by walking around the city, or take part on a street art tour – 2 hour walking tours cover all the most important pieces. See the early work of internationally renowned artists like Banksy, but also more tightly kept secrets – there are currently over 50 operating street artists in Bristol. You can also visit Nelson Street in the city center of for See No Evil, a permanent street art project, which commissions internationally leading street artists to cover the side of a row of buildings.

 

Live music

 

Aside from Brunel and Banksy, some of Bristol’s great artists have been musicians. The birthplace of trip hop and drum and bass in the 90s, it’s still a place of great musical innovation and is home to many contemporary musicians. Why not head to one of Bristol’s many quirky music venues to see them in action? Thekla is a boat-come-bar, which has hosted acts from Parisian piano man Yann Tiersen to Canadian new-wavers Metric. Alternatively, visit Colston Hall for bigger acts – pop stalwarts like Katie Melua and Scissor Sisters have played here.

 

Cider tasting

 

Try ordering ‘Thatchers and slice’ or ‘Thatchers and dash;’ locals’ favorites which add either a slice of lemon or a dash of lemonade to classic cider Thatchers Original. The Apple is a great venue for cider sampling - located on a converted barge at Harbourside, it’s one of Bristol’s many floating venues. Old Bristolian is the local cider here, and has a pleasantly sweet taste with a dry finish. For another eccentric traditional venue, you can head to the Avon Packet; a pub with its very own duck pond and a welcoming array of local organic ciders.

 

Family fun

 

Bristol is home to a range of quirky museums and attractions to entertain children. Bristol Zoo Gardens is a small enough to nip around in an hour or so, but is a great way to spend an afternoon. It houses all the traditional zoo favourites - like lions and gorillas - but also more unusual critters like pygmy hippos and giant tortoises. Alternatively, visit At-Bristol - an interactive science center located at the Harbourside. Its dazzling planetarium is a popular attraction. The center also features a range of fun, educational exhibitions exploring everything from inside your brain to animation.