Introducing guest blogger Claire from Go South West England
Bristol is a vibrant, quirky UK city that is famous for its ship-making history and street art. The largest city in South West England, Bristol has a fun, positive atmosphere and beautiful urban scenery.
As a student hub, Bristol is famous for its nightlife and is a popular city with young adults. However, it is also an excellent place to visit with children.
From the best walks around Bristol to kid-friendly museums, this list will give you all the information you need to know about visiting the South Western city as a family!
This post is part of our Explore My City series – come and visit cities around the world through the eyes of locals
Things to do in Bristol as a Family
SS Great Britain
The SS Great Britain is, perhaps, the best attraction in Bristol. Constructed by engineering marvel Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the SS Great Britain was the world’s largest ship when she first set sail in 1845. Unusually for Victorian times, she also used steam power.
The boat mainly acted as a passenger ship, first taking tourists to New York and later migrants to Australia. After a brief period of being a warship, she was abandoned in the Falkland Islands until 1970. Then, a monumental restoration project meant that she was salvaged and brought back home to Bristol.
Nowadays, the SS Great Britain is a museum permanently located in the Bristol dry dock (there were rumours that she would set sail again, but then everybody realised that they were published on April 1st this year!).
The museum is in four parts – one hall focuses on the boat, another is about Brunel, and the actual ship has been remodelled to look like it did as a migrant clipper. You can also venture downstairs to see the hull!
You’ll be able to explore the third and first-class cabins, complete with statues of people who may have travelled on the ship, the kitchen, which is full of typical food, the storage area and the first-class lounges and dining rooms. You’ll get a real sense for how people travelled back in the day!
The interactiveness of the boat ensures that children will find the SS Great Britain interesting, and there are some other kid-friendly exhibits in the two museums.
Clifton Suspension Bridge and Museum
The other main attraction of Bristol is the Clifton Suspension Bridge. This was also designed by Brunel and opened in 1864. Initially, it was constructed for horses and carts, but nowadays, up to 12,000 motor vehicles cross it every day!
It’s a marvellous bridge, and the scenery from it is spectacular. The gorge dramatically descends in the river below, and although it is within walking distance from the city centre, you will feel like you’re in the midst of nature as you cross it.
There’s also the visitor centre, which is free to enter and explains the bridge’s history a little more. So if you have a budding engineer in tow, there’s plenty for them to learn about here!
Bristol Packet Cruises
A lot of Bristol’s culture is about the water – and there’s no better way to see it than on a boat tour! The Bristol Packet Boat Cruises will take you around its beautiful harbour, detailing some information about its history on the way.
You can choose to listen to the audio guide or simply enjoy being on the boat and pointing out things that you can see on the way! This is an excellent activity if you have kids who tend to get tired of walking.
We the Curious Science Museum
We the Curious is the most kid-friendly museum in Bristol. It’s a large science exhibit, with lots of hands-on activities for children. It’s a fantastic place if you’re looking for things to do in Bristol in the rain, especially as it’s a fun educational setting for your kids!
Explore Ashton Court
Ashton Court is a large park just on the edge of Bristol. Technically in North Somerset, Ashton Court is a fantastic place for woodland walks and exploration, and there are two fields with beautiful deer! It’s walking distance from both the city centre and Clifton, so it’s an easy place to visit if you want a quick nature fix.
See Bristol Cathedral and College Green
Bristol Cathedral isn’t as large or imposing as other UK city Cathedrals, but it’s still worth visiting. Founded in 1140, Bristol Cathedral has long been a site of historical significance in the city. It’s free to enter and explore. Outside is the large College Green, a popular place to soak up the sun on hot days in the city!
Enjoy the bright street art of Southville
Bristol is famed for its street art. Stokes Croft is the most popular place to see it, but this isn’t always a kid-friendly area, especially at night. It’s a popular nightlife destination, which means that there is a slightly elevated crime risk in the area. Plenty of people, including families, do visit Stokes Croft safely – but if you go, just be aware that it certainly isn’t the most family-friendly area of Bristol!
However, I would recommend taking your family to visit North Street in Southville. There’s plenty of vibrant street art here, including a large mural of Greta Thunberg and a house that has been decorated like a fishbowl!
There are plenty of restaurants on this road too, lots with kid-friendly meals. I recommend The Burger Joint, which is a Bristol business with two branches.
See Blaise Castle
Blaise Castle isn’t what you might think it is – it’s actually a very small building built in 1798 as a fake castle – although it’s still well worth seeing!
Blaise Castle Estate is a lovely place to enjoy nature and go for walks. You can explore the river and walk through the woodland – and there’s also a children’s playground.
There’s also a small museum on site, where you can learn all about the castle itself.
Head to the Bristol Museum
The Bristol Museum is located on Park Street and is a great spot to learn more about the city. There are exhibitions about Bristol, the surrounding area and further afield, including an ever-popular Ancient Egyptians exhibit. It’s free to enter, so it’s well worth popping in and seeing what you find!
Go surfing at The Wave
Located in the northern suburbs of Bristol, The Wave is the city’s own inland surfing venue. Whether you’re a beginner to surfing or a pro on the waves, there are a variety of safe surfing opportunities that you can try. It’s the only inland surfing destination in the country, so it’s well worth visiting while you’re there!
If you are in Bristol with older kids or teenagers, you can start with a beginner children’s surf lesson (50 GBP for 1.5 hours), or if you are confident of your and your kids’ surfing abilities, you can do a safety briefing and just take to the waves for 40 GBP!
There is even accommodation available at The Wave, so you can make a weekend of it if you desire!
Where to stay in Bristol
The Avon Gorge by Hotel Du Vin is a famous hotel in Bristol. While it is a luxury venue, it has plenty of family rooms, and they welcome kids. It overlooks the gorge and the beautiful suspension bridge and has spacious, well-appointed rooms.
Future Inns Cabot Circus is run under the Future Inns brand, but it’s a great place to stay in Bristol City Centre. There are family rooms available, and it is spacious and luxurious at a relatively low cost.
Kyle Blue Hostel is located on a boat – it offers unique budget accommodation with family rooms.
If you are looking at other accommodation in Bristol, the most family-friendly areas are the city centre or Clifton.
Bristol is a fantastic place to visit as a family. With centuries of ship making history, it’s an educational place for both children and adults, and there are lots of museums and landmarks for everyone to admire. Furthermore, Bristol’s enviable position on the edge of the countryside means that there are some amazing places to get out and see nature as well. If you’re looking for a city break in the UK, Bristol is definitely one to consider!
About the Blogger
Claire is a South West England travel expert. She has lived in Bristol, Bath and Devon, and writes about her home region on her blog, Go South West England. When she’s not blogging, she’s hiking, cooking, or reading about history!
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