10 Famous Bristol Landmarks to Visit

A happening place to hang out, chock-full of heritage and history, Bristol is a one-stop-shop for visitors looking to discover new and exciting landmarks, with plenty to satisfy even the most voracious of sightseers.

Visit Bristol and you can explore a city closely associated with the country’s biggest cultural icons, including engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and graffiti artist Banksy.

Check out these brilliant Bristol landmarks below and uncover a city brimming with culture, history and some very special critters – more than enough to keep you amused for a short holiday in this fine location.

Direct trains to Bristol Temple Meads can be caught from stations across the network, including London Paddington, making it an easy and relaxing way to visit these top attractions.

We ask all passengers to wear a face-covering in stations and on trains. Make sure you plan your journey in advance, reserving a space and downloading tickets to a mobile device if you can, and avoiding travel when it’s busy. For more safety guidelines, visit gwr.com/safety.

1. Bristol Zoo Gardens

At the heart of one of Bristol’s prettiest neighbourhoods, Clifton, full of cosy cafes and elegant eateries, is one of the country’s most popular zoos. Established way back in the Victorian era, Bristol Zoo Gardens has long been dedicated to breeding and conserving endangered species, and home to around 300 mammals, including red pandas, gorillas, penguins, meerkats and more. For those of you looking for a little extra, don’t forget to purchase a ticket to the exhilarating ZooRopia, an adventure ropes course that will see you swinging through the treetops like a gibbon.


2. Clifton Suspension Bridge

This masterpiece of British engineering was designed by top-hatted icon Isambard Kingdom Brunel and completed in 1864. Spanning the Avon gorge, linking Clifton to Leigh Woods in North Somerset, the Grade I-Listed structure was originally designed to serve horse-drawn traffic. Today, it supports more than four million vehicles per year, making it an engineering triumph, and one of the prettiest bridges you’re likely to encounter. Make your way to the Clifton Observatory for the best views of Brunel’s gem and the fabulous Avon Gorge. If you’re hungry for historical details, make sure you visit the bridge’s visitor centre in Leigh Woods, open Wednesday–Saturday.

3. Clifton Observatory

As well as being the ideal spot to see Brunel’s famous bridge, the Clifton Observatory is a great fun attraction in its own right, home to one of only three working camera obscuras in the UK. It also offers access to the Giant’s Cave, a natural cave, deep in the Avon Gorge. Don’t miss out on the observatory’s café, which boasts some of the best views in the country, perfect for a little Bristol sightseeing.


4. SS Great Britain

As well as being a famous bridge builder, Brunel was also a pioneer in the construction of ocean-going vessels, launching SS Great Britain in 1843. Built into a specially designed drydock, the ship’s impressive iron hull can be explored close up, letting visitors see the sheer scale of Brunel’s SS Great Britain. Onboard, the ship has been painstakingly restored to appear as it did back in its heyday as Britain’s foremost luxury liner.


5. Banksy walking tour

Banksy’s hometown is dotted throughout with the world-famous graffiti artist’s ground-breaking murals. Follow this arty stroll around the city to take in some of his best-known works, as well as early creations from the budding star. It’s the perfect way to explore the city, meanwhile discovering works by one of the 21st century’s most important visual artists – perhaps the closest thing you’ll get to a Banksy museum in Bristol.

6. Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

A great all-rounder, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery has a top collection that includes art, nature and history, as well as excellent temporary exhibitions. Check out real-life Egyptian mummies, discover dinosaur fossils from the South West and admire breath-taking Renaissance masterpieces – all under one roof! So, if you’re looking for an art gallery in Bristol, this is a great place to start, before venturing forth and discovering the Royal West Of England Academy and the Arnolfini.


7. M Shed

If you’re looking to uncover Bristol’s fascinating history, from prehistoric times to the present, then look no further than M Shed. Formerly an industrial building overlooking the historic wharf, the museum delves into how the city has changed over the years and how residents have reshaped what it means to be a Bristolian. Don’t miss Banksy’s Grim Reaper, first painted on the side of the boat and live-music venue the Thelka in 2003, now on long-term loan to the museum.

8. Bristol Old Vic

The oldest continuously working theatre in the English-speaking world, the Bristol Old Vic has seen many a great star tread its boards, with Oscar-winning actors Olivia Coleman and Daniel Day-Lewis among those who launched their careers at the esteemed venue. Known for its ambitious, ground-breaking productions, the theatre helped inspire many a playwright, including Tom Stoppard, and continues to impress to this day. Check out the latest productions and support the arts. Feeling parched? Grab a drink at the stunning rainbow cabins that have just opened!


9. Bristol Aquarium

The perfect place for a day out with the kids, Bristol Aquarium has thousands of amazing aquatic creatures for you to discover. The excellently designed thematic displays, including a sunken ship, an urban jungle, the mighty Amazon, and coral seas, let you experience the animals up close and personal. Top among Bristol’s tourist attractions, Bristol Aquarium lets you come face to face with sharks, rays, octopi and loads more weird and wonderful creatures.

Tropical floor-to-ceiling display at Bristol Aquarium, with children in silhouette

10. Queen Square

This stunning Georgian park in the heart of Bristol is popular among locals as a daytime hangout when the weather is fine. The elegant square is surrounded by graceful townhouses – most of which are now offices – and home to an equestrian statue of William III. It was an important site during the 1831 riots, which saw Bristolians take to the street in protest against the rejection of a bill that would have seen the area gain greater representation in the House of Commons.

https://youtu.be/75jshLj1-Cs

Upgrades in the Bristol area

Rail improvement work will run from Saturday 10 July to Friday 3 September 2021 to remodel the track layout and improve capacity on the approach to Bristol Temple Meads station. This will impact some journeys into Bristol during this period, visit Bristol Rail Regeneration to find out more and plan your journey.


8 June 2021
History and culture I Places to stay I
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