A Guide to Bristol for The First-Time Tourist


Bristol is a fantastic destination for a weekend break or a longer holiday. Not only is it an exciting city with plenty to see and do – it’s also the perfect base to discover the beautiful southwest of England.

In 2017, the Rough Guide named it one of the top 10 cities to visit in the world. But what should you see, do and enjoy during your stay? Here’s a guide to the very best of Bristol for first-time visitors.

Visit the Historic Attractions

There are plenty of big historic attractions to explore in Bristol, many of which you can visit over a few days during your stay here. In fact, you’ll probably need to make numerous visits to the city in order to see them all.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol’s most famous landmark, is simply unmissable if you’re visiting Bristol for the first time (just ask any Bristolian). Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s ingenious engineering project still looks stunning, and it is a must-see highlight during your time in the city.

Some of tother top historic attractions include:

  • Bristol Cathedral
  • Clifton Observatory
  • SS Great Britain
  • Cabot Tower

Hit the Shops

Despite a poor reputation in the 80s and 90s, Bristol’s shopping is now outstanding – even the most enthusiastic shopaholics will find themselves spoilt for choice. From big high-street names at Cabot Circus and Cribbs Causeway to small independent stores on Gloucester Road and Stokes Croft, you’ll find something for every taste here.

Where will you find the best? There are a few places you’ll want to visit while you’re in Bristol:

  • Cabot Circus
  • The Mall at Cribbs Causeway
  • Clifton Village
  • Gloucester Road & Stokes Croft
  • Park Street
  • St Nicholas Indoor Market for independent retailers

Any of these places will provide you with plenty of options to shop ‘til you drop.

Enjoy the Outdoors

Bristol is a beautiful city, full of stunning outdoor areas to relax, walk and spend time – especially during the summer. Bristolians are spoilt for parks and green spaces, with Victoria Park, Clifton Downs, St Andrews Park, St George’s Park, Eastville Park and Snuff Mills being just a few.

Or you could head to the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge for some great views over Avon Gorge, before heading over to the sprawling Ashton Court Estate (perfect for dog walkers) or Leigh Woods (which features some great mountain bike trails).

Got access to a car? Drive out of the city (or take the train) and explore some of the surrounding countryside. There are lots of big attractions nearby, including National Trust properties and estates like Tyntesfield and Dyrham Park.

Museums and Art Galleries

Cultural attractions abound in Bristol. This is a big city for art, and being the home of Banksy, street art is prevalent around parts of the city like Stokes Croft and North Street (where the annual street art festival Upfest is held every year). Nelson Street also has some of the best murals in Bristol.

Museums and art galleries include:

Or take a short trip to Blaise Castle Museum on Henbury Road where you can discover Bristol’s past for free as well as explore 400 acres of land.

Music and Theatre

You will be spoilt for choice if you’re looking for some entertainment during your stay in Bristol. One of the must-do activities is to see a show at the Bristol Old Vic, the best venue in the city. Or you can visit the Bristol Hippodrome or the Redgrave Theatre, both of which will provide you with a great night out.

You’ll also find a fantastic live music scene in Bristol, and all the top acts include Bristol on their tours. There is something going on every night, and you might even be able to time your visit to coincide with a big-name act.

Exchange on Old Market is where some of the biggest gigs are held, but there are plenty of other venues including The Louisiana on Wapping Road.

Experience the Nightlife

As you might expect from a city with two universities, there is plenty going on in Bristol every night, including lots of bars and nightclubs, so there is plenty to choose from whatever your style.

Fancy partying the night away in the famous Thekla boat nightclub? What about the O2 Academy or Motion, which DJ Mag ranked as 11th best club in the world in 2019. Other clubs like Przym and SWX ensure you have plenty of choice.

There is also a huge selection of pubs and bars throughout the city, many of which will provide you with the perfect opportunity to try out some local cider. And don’t miss Bristol’s speakeasies – these secretive bars (like Milk Thistle) are the perfect setting to try a local craft beer.

Eat Out at the Best Restaurants

Eating out is one of the joys of any weekend break, and you will be spoilt for choice in Bristol because there is something for every style and budget. If you’re into fine dining, below are four of Bristol’s finest restaurants at the time or writing:

  • Pasture on Portwall Lane, which opened in 2018, is a popular option where you will find all the best steaks in a warm and welcoming atmosphere with an open kitchen so you can watch the chefs at work.
  • Adelina Yard on Welsh Back offers delicious British food made with local ingredients in a relaxed setting – try its six-course tasting menu for something really special.
  • Pasta Loco on Cotham Hill is the place to go for the best pasta dishes. Cosy, casual and great value, it’s also got a good selection of delicious desserts.
  • Wilks on Chandos Road is a Michelin-starred restaurant serving up seasonal food in an elegant restaurant setting. Try the 7-course tasting menu or the Sunday roast.

This is only a small sample of Bristol’s bursting culinary scene and there are eateries to suit the more modest budget as well as all diets and tastes.

Book Your Trip

As you can see, there are plenty of things to see and do in Bristol. And if you are visiting Bristol at the right time of year, you might even be able to enjoy one of its big annual events like the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta at Ashton Court or the now annual Downs Festival, which last year featured a headline performance from Lauryn Hill.

Whenever you visit and whatever you plan to see, make sure you find the perfect place to stay. We’ve got plenty of top-quality short-stay accommodation options at Hopewell, so find your ideal accommodation and start planning your visit to Bristol today.