As you’ll know if you read my recent post, the best 48hr Bristol itinerary for those on a budget, this UK city has quickly become a favourite English destination of mine!
Having stopped off here for a weekend as part of my recent summer European trip, I was really delighted to discover what a hip and happening place Bristol is (and yes I did just use the term ‘hip’ so feel free to cringe)
Honestly though, I think the cultural vivacity of this growing metropolis, teamed with its independent spirit and rich heritage puts it on a par with London and, one thing’s for sure, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper!
So now, to really show you how much of this city you can explore for, well, literally nothing, here are the 10 best free things to do in Bristol …
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#1 Soak up the Cathedral and College Green
If is that’s old-school, quaint and classic English vibe you’re looking for, then I definitely recommend heading to the Bristol Cathedral, which is over 1000 years.
Free to enter, this ornate building is quite astounding and taking a wander inside really is worth it.
Outside you can admire the lovely College Green area (a great picnic spot btw) , as well as marvel at the other very prestige buildings around, including some rather special unicorns!
This part of town definitely feels very Oxford / Cambridge to me, so if that’s your thing, this is the place to head!
#2 Discover some Great Street Art
On the completely opposite side of the spectrum seeing some of the city’s famous street art is another of the best free things to do in Bristol.
Offering a strong level of social commentary, Bristol’s street art is generally found on buildings that are, well, slightly less glamourous than the Cathedral!
One of the most famous pieces can be seen on the side of an ex-sexual health clinic on Frogmore Street for example.
Titled Well Hung Lover, this piece was created by the very famous Bristol-born artist, Banksy and showcases many of the iconic hallmarks of his now world-famous style, including more than a touch of sardonic humour!
There’s some more great examples of Bristol’s Street art along Nelson Street too.
Most of these are huge pieces taking up the whole sides of buildings, which makes them quite the logistical, as well as artistic feat.
I suggest just strolling around to discover them or else check out Visit Bristol’s website, which has some great walking itineraries that will point you in the right direction.
How to Visit Bristol on a Budget
Getting Here: Flying from across Europe to Bristol can be done cheaply through the budget airline EasyJet. Check out Skyscanner for the best deals. Otherwise, trains can get you to Bristol from around the UK – although they can be pricey if not booked in advance. Check out Trainline if you want to compare routes and fares, plus they have a handy journey planning feature and live departure updates, making them my one-stop shop when it comes to organising all my UK train adventures. Cheaper than trains are coaches and buses, so check out the Megabus for the best deals here.
Getting Around: Walking is of course free in Bristol and very easy as the city centre is compact and accessible. Otherwise, there is a good local bus service too, as well as bikes readily available for hire. The Bristol Ferry Boats are really good value when it comes to cruising up and down the Avon, or a Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour is only £14 when booked online in advance. Uber is the way to go if you’re looking for some private transport.
Staying: Kyle Blue is my pick of budget accommodation in Bristol, because this hostel is set within a houseboat, moored right on the River Avon – too fun! Otherwise, Homestay Bristol and Rock N Bowl Hostel offer very good value and are located right within the heart of the city.
#3 Climb Cabot Tower
At the top of Park Street sits Brandon Hill, the oldest park in Bristol and home to Cabot Tower.
Perhaps the city’s most iconic landmark, climbing to the top of the Tower and surveying the incredible views of the city below is certainly one of the best free things to do in Bristol.
#4 Visit M Shed
The perfect place to acquaint yourself with a bit of Bristolian history, M Shed is a free social history museum that tells the wonderful story of this city and its people.
Located right in Bristol’s historic Harbourside, this museum offers both films, photographs and interactive displays, as well as some restored Banksy artwork, and is open every day except Monday.
If museums are your thing, then you may also want to check out the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, which is yet another totally free attraction in the city.
Situated at the top of Park Street, this cultural centre is housed in a gorgeous Edwardian building and boasts world-class collections of art, archaeology and natural history.
#5 Marvel at St Mary Redcliffe Church
The gothic masterpiece of St Mary Redcliffe, really is quite the spectacle and marvelling at it is definitely is one of the best free things to do in Bristol … even if you’re not that into churches!
That’s because the 800 year old architecture alone of this huge building can’t fail to impress you with its soaring spires that reach 89 metres into the air!
And if architecture is your thing, then wandering the cobbled streets of Bristol’s old town is also likely to be something you enjoy.
With its tiny alleyways and old English pubs, it’s the perfect place to get lost in!
#6 Enjoy the Arnolfini
Another of Bristol’s great cultural attractions, the Arnolfini is an internationally-renowned contemporary art space with a very active programme of exhibitions, performances and talks.
Taking a few hours to explore this great gallery there is certainly one of the best free things to do in Bristol.
#7 Revel in the Atmospheric Markets
It’s got to be said that I’m a serious market lover and no matter where I go in the world I always try and sniff out the best ones.
So friends, I’ve done the hard work for you and can unequivocally say in Bristol the best market award has to go to St Nicholas!
Dating from 1743, this historic marketplace sits in the centre of Bristol’s old town and is still a thriving centre of community life, much as it has been for hundreds of years.
Home to a huge diversity of food stalls from across the globe, this is a great place to pick up a well-priced local, lunch and take your pick from Asian to Italian to a traditional west county pie!
#8 Stroll the Famous Suspension Bridge
Designed by the famous Bristol engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel (you can tell by the name he was destined for great things!) the Clifton Suspension bridge has majestically straddled the River Avon for 150 years.
Something of a symbol of Bristol, you really can’t come to this city and not enjoy the views the bridge gives … for free!
For the best photos however, it’s also worth ducking into the nearby Avon Hotel and snapping the scene from their stunning terrace and maybe enjoying a drink there too!
#9 Catch some Great Jazz at The Old Duke
A Bristol classic, the Old Duke pub, located on King Street, is a great place to catch some free live music in the city almost any day of the week.
Famous for its jazz, you can also relax here with a drink, some food and a spot of live music on a Sunday lunchtime too.
Another great free music venue in Bristol is The Canteen over in Stokes Croft, so head here any night of the week to hear from great music from Samba to Hip Hop.
#10 Step Back in Time at the Royal York Crescent
Strolling along this majestic Georgian Terrace is like stepping back in time to a scene from some historic English novel.
Once reputed to be the longest terrace in Europe, the strip occupies one of the prime real estate spots in Bristol perched on Clifton’s hillside.
I’d hate to think about how expensive the homes here are, but wandering along (pretending you live here) is totally free and a lot of fun!
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From galleries and museums to landmarks and lookouts, these 10 free things to do in Bristol demonstrate just what a great budget travel destination this city is!
So do let me know, are you a fellow Bristol fan?
What’s your favourite activity to enjoy in the city?
5 thoughts on “10 Best Free Things to do in Bristol”
Ahh I wish I found this blog post before I went to Bristol last month! We were able to tick one or two of these off but we found there not to be too much to do on a Sunday. If I’m ever down there again I’ll have to remember these!
Oh David that is a shame! I know the St Nicholas Markets shut on a Sunday, but pretty much everything else on this list is open I’m sure! Fingers crossed, next time you go, you have my list saved on your phone!! Can I ask what was the best thing you did see or do?
The wall art seems as an awesome experience. Will have to see them when i plan to visit Bristol. Thanks for pointing these places out.
Thank you David! The street art in Bristol is really fantastic and definitely one of the city’s highlights. Enjoy your visit there – I know you will 🙂