Bristol is a gem. Both a city and a county near Somerset, it marries beauty and history with the best elements of a buzzing city and the peaceful countryside. On top of that, it’s cool. Music, culture, architecture and a fresh, forward-thinking energy make it the jewel of the south west, and a place everybody should get to know. And here at Plum Guide, we really do know it, which is exactly why we want to share our expert knowledge with you. Here’s our pick of things to do in Bristol.
Marvel at the Clifton Suspension Bridge
The Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol, UK
Bristol’s most famous landmark, the suspension bridge is as beautiful as it looks in all the pictures. Crossing the gorge since 1864, it’s grade I listed and is considered to be Brunel’s finest achievement. Although it’s beautiful at any time of the day or night, a sunset visit to the viewing benches is one to pull from up your sleeve if you’re looking for an impressive romantic gesture. After you’ve wandered across and enjoyed the view, head to the secret stone slide up the hill to the right of the Clifton-side entrance (you’ll immediately recognise it thanks to the generations of bottoms that have worn it shiny and smooth), forget about your mortgage and pretend you’re a kid again.
Peruse the stalls at St. Nick’s market
This beautiful 18th-century building, the last of its kind left in the UK, is notable enough by itself. What’s within it is even better. A huge, sprawling food market occupies the Exchange building, the adjoining Glass Arcade and the surrounding streets, selling produce, meats, cheeses, sweets of all kinds and anything else you could imagine. Best of all is the street food. From tagine to falafel to burgers to the best pie you’ll have in your life thanks to Bristol-founded Pieminister, we’d advise wearing your loosest pair of trousers here and perhaps even going for a long walk beforehand.
Admire some street art
You might feel as though you’re too old to roam the streets checking out graffiti - but Bristol’s graffiti is unlike anywhere else (and don’t you want to appear hip to your kids? This will get you instant clout). Street art is one of the city’s most famous exports, and finding your favourite artwork is one of coolest things to do in Bristol. There are tours you can take, but otherwise head to Stokes Croft, Nelson Street or Deans Lane skatepark in Bedminster. To see huge murals that will put your bosses’ Banksy in their townhouse to shame, try checking out underneath M32 flyover where enormous, ever-changing artworks by well-known artists will have you calling your art advisor.
Drink like a Bristolian
Step into any pub in the west country and Bristol’s favourite beverage will immediately become clear - cider. And not like the stuff you drank as a student - cider is serious business here, and it’s delicious. Becoming a cider connoisseur should definitely be on your list when you’re considering things to do in Bristol. Those who want to be in the know should head to The Coronation Tap, a city institution, for half pints of their lethal Exhibition cider. If you’re staying in the city centre, head to The Apple, a cider pub on a boat near the harbour, where you can sit and sip different varieties for hours until you find your favourite brew. If you’ve had one too many nights out on cider as a young’un and can’t quite face it now, Bristol also has an excellent beer scene. Try drinking at Bristol Beer Factory, Moor Beer or Wiper and True.
Go for the chicest swim of your life
Bristol Lido, England, UK | Photo by nicksarebi is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Built in 1850, the Bristol Lido was restored in 2008 after lying fallow for 20 years and has been a magnet for seekers of relaxation and luxury ever since. Tucked away down a quiet residential street in Clifton, the swimming pool is a thing of beauty. Get changed in one of the dinky traditional (but still top-notch quality) changing rooms at the side of the pool and luxuriate in swimming under the open sky. There’s also a sauna, a hot tub, an icy cold water plunge room, and you can get any kind of massage you desire. When you’re finished with the pampering, pop upstairs to the restaurant and viewing gallery where you can indulge in one of the city’s best restaurants (we recommend the set menu - you’ll be hungry following your swim, after all). You’ll leave relaxed, refreshed and feeling as though you’ve ticked off one of the best things to do in Bristol.
Explore the surrounding area
One of the best things to do in Bristol is to get out into the nearby countryside and do some exploring. This Somerset hub is ideally placed for a day trip to Bath - make sure to check out our list of things to do in Bath, if you're visiting - or even to head further down the country and explore all the fabulous places in Dorset. Bristol makes a great base for exploring the west country and getting to know the surrounding area.