Free Things To Do In Bristol

London Calling

Bristol has so much on that many of the city’s greatest delights can be had without even opening your wallet. So whether you like history, architecture, live music or a breath of fresh air, take a look through our selection…

Pop into M Shed
Opened in 2011 in a former industrial building on the harbour front, M Shed charts the history of Bristol. The museum comprises 3000 exhibits in three permanent galleries exploring the places, people and life in the city, and there’s also a temporary gallery to check out. With historic boats moored out front and displays from the likes of Nick Park (Wallace and Gromit) and Massive Attack, there’s something for everyone in this modern, accessible, and free museum.

M Shed is open Tues-Sun plus Monday Bank Holidays.

Cross the Clifton Suspension Bridge
Perhaps the most famous icon in the city, Brunel’s Bridge spans the Avon Gorge in a jaw-dropping feat of Victorian ingenuity. Opened in 1864, the bridge links Clifton and Leigh Woods and although it’s a long way down, it’s certainly less scary than the bucket that Brunel was famously pulled across in, prior to the bridge’s construction. There are two great viewing spots nearby: Sion Hill looking up at the structure, and Observatory Hill which offers breath-taking views across the valley (as well as slippery rocks to slide down!). Both of these are on the Clifton side of the river. Explore the new visitor centre on the Leigh Woods side whilst you’re there.

Learn more about the bridge and its Visitor Centre here.

Soak up some Jazz at the Old Duke
Head down to King Street for some of the best live jazz you can hope for, as well as one of the most legendary pubs in Bristol. ‘The Famous Old Duke’ hosts local acts every night of the week with a range of jazz, blues and even a bit of funk. The entertainment is completely free (although a collection bucket is sent around towards the end of the night) and the place is frequently buzzing with regulars and visitors alike. The pub’s not large so expect it to be crowded. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a musician beat a violin with his bow in the most beautiful way you can imagine.

The Old Duke is at 45 King St, Bristol BS1 4ER.

Peer out from Cabot Tower
For some of the best views of the city, head to Cabot Tower at the top of Brandon Hill. Situated just off Park Street near the centre, the tower was built in 1897 to celebrate the four-hundredth anniversary of John Cabot’s voyage to America. Although the tower itself only stands at 32 metres, thanks to the hill it peers almost 80 metres above the harbour below, and a clamber up the narrow staircase is a fair exchange for the views it commands. Brandon Hill itself was fortified during the Civil War, and as you climb you’ll quickly discover why it was so key to the city’s defence. In 1843, 30,000 people even watched the launch of the SS Great Britain from here, so take a picnic and enjoy the view.

Brandon Hill is open at all times and Cabot Tower is open from 8am until dusk.

Explore the Floating Harbour
One of the best ways to discover Bristol’s ‘Floating’ Harbour is to walk a full loop around it, taking in the SS Great Britain, the Matthew, Millenium Square, Bristol Cathedral, the Arnolfini, M Shed and plenty of local pubs – to name but a few! If you fancy a drink stop at either the Nova Scotia, Grain Barge or the Pump House, all situated near the Cumberland Basin end of the walk. At two and a half miles the route will take you less than an hour, and is easy enough to cover with children. You can start at any point, but we’d recommend either the SS Great Britain car park or At-Bristol for ease of parking.

Find a map and directions for the walk online.

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