A small city that feels like a big city, holidays in Bristol have a lot going for them. Take for instance a wealth of architectural landmarks like the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Cabot Tower and Byzantine Granary (all of which examples of Late 19th Century eclecticism) and see them juxtapose the medieval marvel of a 12th Century cathedral to one side, and the undulating form of its 21st Century Life Sciences Building to the other.
Or delve into a hot pot of contemporary culture that feels a far cry from this old port’s swashbuckling past where you’ll discover a flourishing food, drink and art scene that will whisk your senses away on a tour through pop-up street food markets, gallery exhibitions and music festivals.
If you’re thinking that this all sounds a bit grown-up, you’ll be pleased to know that Bristol caters brilliantly for kids as well. As you’d expect from most good cities, there are a host of child-friendly activities to enjoy like visits to the aquarium, exploring the museums, playing in its gardens and surfing.
Surfing you say?! Well…just outside of the city lies The Wave, the UK’s first inland-surfing destination of its kind, where people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities can experience the joy of surfing. Using 100% sustainable energy to power its enormous wave pool, The Wave is a manmade surfing lake that delivers a new wave every 8 to 10 seconds, meaning you don’t have to wait on the tide or wind to create the perfect conditions for you to be able to take to the water.
The waves are produced by Wavegarden Cove technology which can generate up to 1,000 quality waves per hour, ranging from 50cm (1.7ft) to almost 2m (6.5ft) in height. Importantly, the whole surfing experience has been designed to ensure each surfer has the space, time and serenity to enjoy their surf at The Wave without ever needing to contend with the crowds. But it’s not just about surfing. It’s about getting back to nature, improving health and well-being, connecting with other people, enjoying great food and drink, having a great day out and having a load of fun in the process!
This has got to be one of the coolest things to take place in the UK and it happens every year! Europe’s largest hot air balloon festival lasts for four days in early to mid-August and is one not to be missed so even if you have some way to travel, we suggest finding yourself a holiday cottage in Bristol and making a weekend of it.
The proceedings kick off from Ashton Court with a morning ascent followed by the Nightglow event where balloons light the night sky. The main showcase sees 100 balloons from all over the world take off together for the fiesta, when they make their way over Bristol for a spectacular aerial display over the city.
The Fiesta is jam packed with activities for all the family including a kid’s entertainment area, a bandstand for acoustic local music and over 100 trading stalls.
The famous steam ship which was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and launched in 1843. Hop on board this historic pleasure cruiser and experience life as a seafaring Victorian tourist or step into the shoes of the seamen who sailed her and brave the heights of the rigging! You won’t be voyaging to New York but you will have an experience that’s out of this world!
Cabot Tower in Brandon Hill Park offers some of the best views of the city, and if you fancy a bit of fresh-air dining you’ll be able to picnic in the adjacent park complete with rolling lawn and sprawling trees.
Take your very own self-guided tour of Bristol’s most iconic and mysterious graffiti artist where you’ll be able to spot his earliest and lesser-known works in situ.
Gloucester Road once boasted the longest road of independent shops in all of Europe and is still a fantastic place for a browse.
Whether its window shopping or a full-on spree, there are more independent shops along this road than you can shake a stick at so expect quirky clothing stores, unique gifting and delicious home-bakes among others.
Bristol Cathedral is one of England’s great medieval churches founded in 1140 by prominent local citizen, Robert Fitzharding with its most vivid remains being its Chapter House and Abbey Gatehouse. Admission is free and there is a beautiful garden to explore as well as a café where you may even be able to indulge in the cathedral’s own limited edition Chapter House gin.
What sets this museum apart from the host of other good museums in Bristol is that M Shed is entirely focused on the city’s past, present, and future, and delves into its neighbourhoods, the people who have made Bristol the city that it is today, and what it is about the place that people love so much. A range of media is used to tell its story from interactive displays to film and photography.
Free to the public, it’s a must-see along with The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery where among other things you’ll witness an exhibition of Egyptian mummies, artistic works by French and Eastern painters, and a collection of Bristol Delftware and Bristol Blue Glass.
Also designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel the bridge is one of the most iconic landmarks in Bristol so shouldn’t be missed! It dates back to 1864 and costs £1 to cross it by car or you can walk across it for free. It also happens to be the site of the first corporate bungee jump in the world which took place in 1979.
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