Bristol Things to Do Tips by TheLongTone Top 5 Page for this destination
Bristol Things to Do: 282 reviews and 494 photos
Bristol City Museum hasn't really got any drop-dead unmissable exhibits, but it's certainly well worth a visit, particularly if you're interested in the history of the city: not only are there old maps showing the development of Bristol from the 12th century onwards but also there are many paintings of local subjects in the collection of paintings and drawings. Which has some very nice works - there's curretly a stunning Howard Hodgekin on display - and the occasional thing of the sort that gives painting a bad name: see photo. Otherwise, there is (inter alia) a small collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts including a very fine late portrait mask and a (barely illuminated) encaustic portrait, some nice china, the mandatory exhibit of dinosaur bones (always a crowd-pleaser) and the replica of a Bristol Boxkite (one of three built for the film 'Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, and as flyable as something with a maximum speed of 40kt can be.)
The rather fine art-nouveau chandelier is part of the fixtures and fittings.
The cafe does a very good cup of tea and excellent cakes.
Address: Queen's Road, Clifton
Directions: Smack next to the Wills Memorial Building
Monday - Friday : 10am-5pm Weekends: 10am-6pm. Admssion is free.
Millenium square is a large public space between the warehouses of St Augustine's Reach and the vast post-modernist Lloyds building. Its most prominent feature is the huge mirrored ball containing @Bristol's planetarium, a great challenge for photographers: there's also a most useful electronic fingerpost, which changes direction and has a varying display which tells you how far away some other lump of the universe is. And there are several examples of the Bristol tradition of very dodgy sculptures depicting famous Bristolians, which occupy some of the benches: Archie Leach (aka Cary Grant) and Thomas Chatterton, seated opposite William Tyndale.
Cabot Tower was built in 1897-8 to commemorate John Cabot's Bristol-financed voyage to the New World in 1497. Whatever it's architectural merits, (eclectic Late Victorian to put it kindly, the work of the delightfully named local architect William Venn Gough, who also had a hand in the Granary and was responsible for Colston Girl's School) it makes a picturesque enough landmark from a distance and obviously affords a fantastic view.
Cabot Tower has just been reopned, having been clsed for th last four years for a £420,000 restoration to stop it falling down.
Directions: Behind the Council House. Can't miss it, it's a tall building on top of a hill. Everything possible has been done to make it obvious.
The Arnolfini Gallery is a publicly-funded art gallery occupying a converted Victorian warehouse at the end of Narrow Quay. Apart from it's programme of art exhibitions spread across gallery spaces on three floors, they also run a programme of films and performance events. The exhibitions are generally of interest, and additionally they have a good bookshop and a cafe/bar. When the weather permits you can take your drink outside and enjoy the fine vista of the Floating Harbour.
The gorilla is nothing to do with the Arnolfini. It's one of 60 or so painted fibreglass gorillas that (Aug 2011)
are enlivening the cityscape. But that is the Arnolfini in the background.
Address: 16 Narrow Quay, Bristol BS1 4QA
Bristol Cathedral is a bit of a mixed beast. Founded in the twelfth century as the church of Bristol abbey, it only gained cathedral status in the sixteenth century after the dissolution of the monasteries. Much of what you see from the outside is in fact Victorian Gothic Revival, and I'm always depressed by the number of tourists I see photographing the eastern end: neither using their eyes nor their guide books.
The entire nave is the work of G E Street, (responsible for London's wonderful Law Courts, whose facade forms the north of the bottom of Fleet Street). This makes a nonsense of the overall effect of the interior: the vista east down the aisle is underwhelming in the extreme., but the real main space of the building is the choir, best viewed on a diagonal from the choir stalls (which are fabulous examples of wood carving).
The Elder Chapel, on the north side immediately east of the transept is the original place of worship of the abbey and is most charming: very good early C13 carvings, and rather curious windows: a pair of slim pillars supports the inner face of each window embrasure, corresponding to the mullions of the lancet windows. The other side chapels are also worth looking at.
The most interesting bit of the building is probably the chapter house, which is the oldest part of the building that the public has access to. (Unfortunately very difficult to photograph owing to the way it's lit.) It's reached via a cloister which has some very ancient fragments of stained glass and, among the other memorial plaques, a particularly unusual and beautiful mosaic Art Nouveau memorial to the choristers who died in the Great War depicting an angel with a halo made of mother-of-pearl.
There's a cafe and a very tranquil little garden tucked away behind the cathedral, reached from the same cloister as the chapter house.
Castle Green is a pleasant area of greenery in the centre of Bristol, situated on the bank of the Floating Harbour just upstream of Bristol Bridge. Until November 1940 this was very much part of the heart of the city's mercantile quarter: after the war it was not redeveloped but rather left as a reminder of the consequences of war, with the bombed-out shell of St Peter's church in its centre.
If you are doing the tourist thing it's a good place to have a picnic lunch (weather permitting): you could eat proper food bought in the nearby St Nicholas' market (I recommend the cheese stall in particular).
The park also contains what little remains of Bristol Castle (hence the name). This is one of the ruins that Cromwell knocked about a bit, or rather razed to the ground. That'll larn 'em for supporting the egregious Prince Rupert and all those other useless fops. Part of this can be seen in the photo: the structure in the foreground, another example or Bedminster Baronial, is one of the few public lavatories in Bristol which combines architectural interest with utility.
Well, I've been here three or for times now, and I'm beginning to get a bit fonder of it. But only a bit. It styles itself 'Bristol's museum, Bristol's stories', and divides the exhibits into three galleries: Bristol People, Bristol People and Bristol Life. I don't quite see the distinction: Bristol life is largly what happens to Bristol people in err, Bristol places, and there certainly isn't much about 'Bristol People who decided to Live Somewhere Else'
On the downside, much of what is here is very poorly or confusingly displayed and some of the labelling is plain wrong or misleading. I take real exception to the use of the term Bristol Byzantine other than in jest, for instance. And here it is, used in a display on all the local types of building stone which is illustrated by a big picture of... a brick building. Very very sloppy. I won't mention what they say about the Bristol Boxkite, it's simplytoo distressing.
On the other there is a lot of stuff here and even if much of it is trivial to the point of being ludicrous there is enough left over to be entertaining*. And the staff are very friendly and (to an extent) well informed, although while I was standing by the sectioned Bristol Pegasus engine vainly trying to find the advertised silver model of the Bristol Type 142 'Britain First'
I did have to explain to one of them (and a bloke to boot) the basic principles of an Otto-cycle engine. (The interactive display had already been broken)
Whatevr this place is, it's no substitutute for the Bristol Industrial Museum it replaces.
*If you're not a surly teenager who has been dragged away from his x-box, that is.
Directions: Wapping Wharf, just by the line of four defunct cranes that dominate the floating harbour opposite Canon's Marsh.
Tue-Fri 10 am to 5pm Sat & Sun 10 am - 6pm, closed Mondays.
This, as the name suggests, is an eighteenth century house: built in 1780 for John Pinney, a Bristolian who had amassed a fortune from sugar plantations in the West Indies. Four of its six floors are open to the public, those on the ground floor housing furniture that actually belonged to the original owner and the remainder furnished with a fine collection of pieces of the right period, and a selection of paintings which are overspill from the Bristol City Museum. (Frustratingly you can't examine these in any detail, since the rooms are roped off)
The living rooms are very pleasant and some of the furniture is very fine indeed, but I enjoyed the kitchen and other downstairs offices the most. And given all the general breast-beating about the slave trade (tobacco grown by slaves, that's what made Bristol great...incidentally Pinney was the owner of Pero, the victim of the slave trade after whom the horned bridge is named) it would be nice to have more reminder than this of the army of servants necessary to live in this style: the garret bedrooms are closed to the public. Although if you ask nicely you may be able to get a quick look at the back stairs, twined round a dumb waiter running the height of the house.
Open Saturday - Wednesday 10am-5pm. Closed Thursday & Friday.
Entry is free.
Address: 7 Great George Street
Directions: Off Park Street, about half-way up on the right.
Unusually for an English church the Lord Mayor’s Chapel does not present as a stand-alone building: rather the West wall and entrance is integrated into a street facade. Directly across College Green from the cathedral at the bottom of Park Street
What is particularly nice about this building is it’s integrity. Churches are much prone to alterations, additions and restorations of various degrees of sensitivity and sensibility: what you experience entering this building is fundementally more or less as laid down in the early thirteenth century, garnished with some rather splendid memorials dedicated largely to (no surprise) former lord mayors of this city. (There’s a pun here about corruption that I can’t be bothered to put together.)
While taking the photo I noticed the curious fact that the frontage onto College Green is not strictly symmetrical: the apex of the roof is not quite centered on the traceried window. This is because the facade is not normal to the axis of the building.
Directions: Open Wed- Sat 10am -4pm. No photography inside, I'm afraid. And difficult to photograph the outside: there always seems to be a truck parked outside. Hence the oddly cropped picture. I am working on it.
This is a truly wonderful building, and is undoubtably one of Bristol's must-sees. Good Queen Bess is reputed to have declared it the fairest and goodliest parish church in all of England, and I'm not going to argue. It is at one and the same time magnificent and almost austere, simply a huge church of the basic pattern of aisled nave, transepts and choir: it's magnificence the product of it's huge height, the pillars sweeping upwards to the wonderful vaulted stone roof. This is where simplicity gives way to luxuriance: apart from the actual patterning of the vaulting every intersection of ribs is marked by a gilded boss. The church contains well over a thousand of these bosses. Every one is different, and they include several representations of the Green Man, a survival of the Old Religion. I do like a nice bit of synchretism
Also remarkable is the North Porch, through which one enters the building. This is the oldest part of the building: the truly peculiar hexagonal outer chamber being fourteenth century while the smaller inner space dates from the twelfth. The bulk of the church is fifteenth century.
There's generally a couple of well-informed volunteers manning the place who will be more than happy to answer any idle inquiry.
Directions: Redcliffe Way, just over the Floatin Harbour from Queen's Square.
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