The capital of the West Country in England, Bristol has something for everyone ranging from boats to zoos, so check out our guide to the top tourist attractions in Bristol.
Clifton Suspension Bridge
The Clifton Suspension Bridge was opened in 1864 as a route across the Avon Gorge and as a memorial to its legendary designer, engineer extraordinaire, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Brunel had died three years earlier and it is testament to his incredible skill and invention that he left this world aged just 53. The bridge is breath taking from just about every angle and the views from it equally so. At the Leigh Woods end of the bridge there is a visitors’ interpretation centre. It is open all year, seven days a week from 10am to 5pm.
Brunel’s SS Great Britain
Though not a Bristolian by birth – he was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire – Brunel did much to shape the Bristol we know today. The SS Great Britain is Brunel’s masterpiece passenger ship for the Great Western Steamship Company. She was designed to ferry travellers in luxury between Bristol and New York. In 1845 she became a record breaker: the very first iron steamer to traverse the Atlantic and the fastest of any kind of ship to do so taking a mere fourteen days.
A visit to the SS Great Britain, now in dry dock in Bristol promises a feast of sights, sounds and smells. From the opulence of first class dining to the privations of steerage this unusual museum is certainly an education. Oh, there’s a talking toilet too!
You’re welcome aboard all year from 10am – 5.30pm April to October and 10am – 4.30pm November to March. www.ssgreatbritain.org
Bristol Zoo and Gardens
Bristol Zoo is number five in the list of oldest zoos in the world. It opened its gates to the public in 1836 and since then has attracted millions of visitors from all over the world. Set in award winning gardens spread over twelve acres, there is something for everyone to enjoy at this premier tourist attraction. Upon entering the zoo, you are welcomed by a sea of flamingos. Not all the animals are quite as cute though: visit the twilight worlds of reptiles and bugs to see for yourself.
For the more energetic amongst you, there is the Zoo-ropia aerial assault course that takes you over the areas housing gorillas and gibbons climaxing in an exciting descent down the zip slide (additional costs and safety restrictions apply).
Opening times are 9am until 5pm, seven days, all year. www.bristolzoo.org
This is an innovation in museums. It charts Bristol’s history from prehistoric times to the present. There are abundant displays and collections but what really sets M Shed apart is its interactive areas and fully functioning exhibits including trains, boats and cranes. M Shed doesn’t shy away from the controversial periods of Bristol’s history and includes exhibits on the city’s role in the slave trade. In every way this is a living museum.
Open year round from 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Friday and until 6pm on Saturday and Sunday. Www.mshed.org
For the nerds and geeks amongst you, or those who just like to be amazed, a trip to the science discovery centre @ Bristol is for you. The centre can best de described as an ‘exploratorium’ and within its site you will find an I-Max cinema, planetarium, tiny explorers’ zone and the curiosity zone to name but a few. This is a science museum built around interactive exhibits that are suitable for all members of the family from the youngest to the oldest. If you’re not at all interested in science, a visit to @ Bristol will change all that!
Open school term time from 10am-5pm (6pm at weekends and school holidays). Www.at-bristol.org