Riverside city Bristol is known for its maritime history and vibrant cultural scene. Although it’s an old city, Bristol has a young feel to it, and it’s superb for food and drink. For pet sitters, there are so many parks and green spaces to choose from that you won’t know which one to visit first!
We love this lively city and its surrounding countryside. Here’s our guide to what to do in Bristol, covering attractions, food and pet-friendly days out.
Which Bristol attractions should you visit first? If you’re not staying for long, make sure you prioritise these key city attractions.
1. SS Great Britain: Brunel’s revolutionary steamship is now a museum and Bristol’s best-known attraction. There’s also a quayside museum. An absolute must-visit to understand Bristol’s innovative spirit.
2. Bristol Cathedral: this beautiful church dates back to the 12th century and each generation has left its mark. The result is an awe-inspiring building that combines sweeping architecture with wonderful little details. It’s free to visit (but you’ll want to spend some money in the cathedral cafe…).
3. St Mary Redcliffe: the cathedral isn’t the only incredible Gothic church in Bristol. St Mary Redcliffe has stood above the floating harbour for 800 years and it’s where Bristol’s merchants prayed before and after their voyages.
4. Bristol Ferry Boat: Bristol is a maritime city, so one of the best ways to appreciate it is by boat. Tours last an hour and they’re a great way to see the city.
Free things to do in Bristol
If you’re on a budget, there are plenty of free places to visit in Bristol.
1. Bristol Museum and Art Gallery: natural history, archaeology, art… There is so much to see in this incredible museum, and the most incredible thing is that it’s free to visit. The permanent collection is awesome and look out for its packed programmes of visiting exhibitions.
2. M Shed: this is the best place to come if you want to know more about Bristol’s history. It takes you through the city’s story, from prehistory to the present day. Check out the programme for tours and special exhibitions.
3. Spike Island: visit this arts centre for Bristol's contemporary scene. There are films, events and exhibitions. Honestly, it’s almost hard to believe just how many fantastic free art venues this city has...
4. Cabot Tower: it’s free to climb this 105-foot Victorian tower, which stands in lovely parkland at Brandon Hill. The views over Bristol are worth the effort.
Fun things to do in Bristol
Are you looking for fun things to do in Bristol? There’s so much going on in this busy city and we’ve picked a few highlights.
1. Clifton Suspension Bridge: another of Brunel’s masterpieces. It’s free to walk across this iconic bridge and there’s also a visitor centre.
2. Banksy walking tour: not much is known about Banksy, but one thing is certain: he’s from Bristol. Join a tour that takes in some of his earliest work in situ.
3. St Nicholas Market: you can buy anything at this large indoor market, that’s been trading since the 18th-century. Try to catch the street food market on Tuesdays and Fridays.
4. The Wave: looking for something more energetic? The Wave is an inland surfing destination that’s suitable for all levels of experience. There’s also great food after you’ve worked up an appetite on the water.
What to do in Bristol with your pet?
Bristol has more than its fair share of excellent parks, so there’s a great choice of places to exercise the dog. Here are a few of the best things to do in Bristol with a pet.
1. Leigh Woods: these lovely woods are a locals’ favourite dog walking spot. They’re out of town in Abbots Leigh, but there is a handy car park. There's a good choice of routes through the woods and, we are reliably informed, plenty of squirrels to gaze at...
2. Observatory Hill: this stunning viewpoint in Clifton overlooks the Avon Gorge and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. It’s another popular place with the local canines and you can call into Alfie & Bella’s pet store when it’s time to go home.
3. Eastville Park: if you want to keep to the city centre, this park is an excellent option. There are woods, a lake and plenty of open, grassy fields for a good old scamper.
4. The Lazy Dog: where else would a pooch go to chill out in Bristol? This friendly pub is super dog-friendly, right down to providing treats. The resident pub pups will make sure your dog feels welcome in their inn (the human food’s fabulous, too).
5. The River Avon Trail: even the most energetic pup won’t make it all the way to Bath; however, there’s a lovely stretch of this famous riverside route at Conham River Park. This section is about 45 minutes long and dogs can walk off-leash here.
Best restaurants in Bristol: Food and drink
Bristol has a great reputation for food and there’s a real diversity to what’s on offer. The local larder, from both land and sea, is superb and of course, Bristol’s history as a port means it’s long had associations with worldwide cuisines.
There are a lot of great places to choose from, so we’ve come up with a selection of our favourites.
Best restaurants in Bristol for lunch
There’s nothing like a pause in the middle of the day for some delicious food, especially in a relaxed atmosphere and beautiful surroundings. Here are a few of the best restaurants in Bristol for lunch and brunch.
1. Las Iguanas: this lively Latin American place is perfect for a spot of brunch. It serves Latin American Indian, Spanish, Portuguese and African-inspired food. There are two branches in Bristol: go to the Harbourside one for atmosphere.
2. Three Brothers Burgers: superb quality burgers, served on a boat: what could be better? Head back to the harbourside for excellent food in a unique environment.
3. Bar & Cafe at Bristol Old Vic: the theatre's recently refurbished bar is a great place to stop for lunch (or a craft beer) while you’re in the city centre.
4. The Square Kitchen: a stylish and popular restaurant in Clifton, that’s great for brunch as well as lunch. Local, seasonal ingredients and a great cocktail list (maybe book a table and a taxi for the evening, too?).
5. Spitfire Barbecue: what better to do on a sunny afternoon than head down to Hannover Quay for a proper Texan BBQ. Incredible grilled meats in an appealing waterside venue.
Best restaurants in Bristol for dinner
Bristol’s a lively place in the evening and the restaurant scene is fantastic. Try these places for dinner during your stay:
1. Root: this excellent small plates restaurant is in the popular harbourside development. Great for veggies, although there are some meat and fish dishes
2. Riverstation: this contemporary-style restaurant is housed in the former river police HQ. The terrace is one of the best settings in Bristol and the menu makes the most of the excellent local produce.
3. Bravas: a much-loved and lively tapas bar, serving Spanish classics. It’s a sociable place, with a bustling main restaurant area and outside seating.
3. The Ox: the almost-hidden basement restaurant on Corn Street is famous for its heavenly combination of steak and cocktails. It has low lighting and a stylishly decadent feel.
5. Souk Kitchen: call into Souk Kitchen for a delicious dinner of Middle Eastern and North African food. The dishes are vibrant, authentic and absolutely packed with flavours.
Many of Bristol’s fantastic eateries are super-sociable places and can be good opportunities to connect with new friends. Find out more about building a social scene during your house or pet sit in our helpful blog post.
There’s a great choice of activities in Bristol and it’s no wonder it’s become such a popular destination. If you love art, history and food, it’s one of the best cities to visit in Britain. If you were wondering what to see in Bristol, we hope we’ve been able to help.
Like the idea of house and pet sitting in Bristol?
With so many things to see in Bristol, it’s a good place to choose for house and pet sitting. And all those parks! It must be great to be a dog in this friendly city.
Take a look at our pet sitting assignments to see what’s available in Bristol and the South West of England. If you’re new to the TrustedHousesitters’ pack, find out more about what pet sitting involves.