The best of Bristol this summer. Whether you are Bristolian and want to make the best of the city this summer or coming into Bristol with a day or several to spend. This is a few of my, genuinely, favourite things to do in the city and beyond. An eclectic list which, I hope, reflects how much the city has to offer.
Underfall Yard is my go-to place when I have visitors from outside of Bristol. The visitor’s centre has a huge map of the city’s rivers and a handful of interactive harbour themed games that captivate children for more than enough time to drink a cuppa and a cake from Pickle cafe (in peace). This working boatyard always something interesting to see. Underfall yard has one of the best views in the city; the harbour, a great spot to watch the world go by. On offer in September is the chance to see behind the scenes. The sheds, containing the original Victorian engineering technology which maintained the harbour and docks, will be open for guided tours. I was given a preview tour and it is really is fascinating history (from someone with zero interest in engineering). Keep an eye on the website: Underfall Yard.
The Bristol Ferry
Pick up The Bristol Ferry and enjoy the harbour at it’s best, from the water. The ferry is ‘make-you-smile’ transport and its impossible to resist the urge to wave at strangers as you pass.
I’m very lucky, Wapping Wharf is on my route to and from the city centre and is a place I regularly visit. A busy hub of converted shipping containers each space containing something unique; get a massage, visit the cheesemonger or buy vintage clothing. With the added bonus of being just beside the harbour. Mostly, Wapping Wharf is a destination for food and drink. Everyone has their favourites; mine include; Mokoko for tea and baked on the premises cakes. The Athenian for Greek wraps that burst at the seams. Tacos and margaritas from Cargo Cantina, Mexican but with an interesting twist.
SS Great Britain
I’ve written before about how much I enjoy the SS Great Britain, abroad this summer you’ll find a Summer Spectacular; circus-themed antics every day.
The Balloon Fiesta is the height of a Bristol summer,and the whole city looks up. Hundreds of balloons take the sky over the fiesta weekend, early morning or evening, a sight that will charm even the hardest of hearts. If the actual fiesta is all too much (it gets very busy), there are calmer options. I’m reliably informed that getting up really early and watching the morning ascent from Ashton Court is a very special experience. Alternatively, pack a picnic and see the balloons drift overhead from The Downs or Victoria Park. The Balloon Fiesta social media feeds share wind directions and flight information.
Paintworks, Arnos Vale and Bristol Blue Glass.
For something more thoughtful, head to Paintworks and The Royal Photographic Society. Currently hosting an exhibition of Celebrating 50 years since the luna landings; ‘Beyond the Moon’, photographs taken by the astronauts. Next door is the Martin Parr Foundation – vibrant photos of British life. For food and drink try Bocabar bar on site. Hop over the road and take a walk in Arnos Vale Cemetary, a peaceful space full of wildflowers and history, with a good cafe and interesting exhibition space. On the same stretch of road is Bristol Blue Glass, this is on my ‘meaning to’ list. Friends have really enjoyed the opportunity to blow your own glass bauble.
Outside of the city
Bristol is a good base for various days out. Take a walk amongst the trees at Westonbirt Arboretum. Under an hour’s drive from Bristol, and kids go free this summer.
For the seaside, Weston-Super-Mare is 30 minutes by train from Temple Meads. The Grand pier has everything you’d want from a traditional pier.
Who doesn’t love koalas? England’s only koalas now live at Longleat. A full day out, Longleat brings visitors up close to the animals. We visited at the beginning of July. My 11-year-old and I loved the drive-through safari (takes around 2 hours), an opportunity to see different species; including giraffes, big cats, and monkeys, in big, natural spaces (top tip remove aerials before entering the monkey section). The ferry to see gorillas and sea lions was loads of fun and worth queuing for. Our highlight, so good we went back twice, was the koalas; fluffy eared balls of cuteness.
This is a small flavour of the best of Bristol this summer, Visit Bristol website has many more ideas.
Disclosure: I’m a Visit Bristol ‘influencer’ for their #summerinbristol campaign. These are my opinions on the best of Bristol, based on my own experiences, recently and previously. Regularly readers will know that I often write about things I love in Bristol. I wasn’t paid, however, I did receive complimentary entry to Longleat, Underfall Yard tours and a ferry ride. This is definitely a love project.