Buzzing Bristol: Ten-tastic places to visit with the family
Bristol is one of those cities you’ll fall in love with the moment you arrive and no matter how long you stay, you will never have seen it all. It's one of our favourite cities for family day trips and city breaks. I feel so lucky to live less than an hour away from this vibrant and creative hot spot that offers so much for children (and adults) of all ages.
No matter how many times we visit its colourful period properties and historical centre always draw me in and I find myself staring up at all the beautiful homes, designer cafes and boutiques. Like London, Bristol is always changing, with many new developments happening all the time, especially around the floating harbour and Princes Wharf, which is a real hub of galleries, museums and family-friendly food spots.
I love that Bristol -- despite being a big urban city -- offers so many ways to connect with nature especially along the waterside, dotted with beautiful canal boats and barges. Plenty of city parks provide the space for children to run free as well as be inspired by all the street art, good food and an abundance of free museums. It all adds up to opportunities to enjoy yourselves and learn in a fun and organic way. Here are my top 10 spots for eating, staying and seeing.
This is a great place to start your Bristol adventure. Not only does it have a fantastic spot beside the river Avon next to the floating harbour but also because it's a free museum all about Bristol. Set across three floors, it houses a permanent exhibition on the ground floor with a full-sized double decker bus for kids to climb aboard as well as Bristol’s own dinosaur, the Thecondontosaurus.
Only a few minutes walk from M Shed, this ship museum explores the history of the fascinating former passenger steamship that changed the way we travel forever. You can learn about what life was like above and below decks and also get up close with the hull and propeller below the waterline. If you’re feeling especially brave you can even climb the rigging and be rewarded with one of the best views across the harbour. Best of all the ticket gives you unlimited visits for a whole year.
We love this little green haven, which provides children the chance to experience farming right in the heart of the city as well as run free through the small fruit and apple orchard in the community farm. There is also a lovely cafe with play area and space to have a picnic. The admission is free, although it is a charity so donations are welcome.
If your children naturally lean towards the creative arts or you want to encourage it, this is just the place. It’s a centre for contemporary arts featuring visual art, dance, film, music and more. All of the exhibitions in this converted warehouse, right on the historic harbour, are family friendly and have activity packs to work through as you make your way around the galleries. They also run a variety of family events and workshops during the school holidays, plus their café menu promises to be “junk-free” – hurrah!
Something of an institution, this independent, award-winning food spot housed within a red brick warehouse is a great place not only for little ones but also for interior-loving adults who want to relax in a space that will inspire, while dining on some fantastic food.
If you’re looking for somewhere to blow the cobwebs away then this 850-acre country park with manor house is the place to go. Make use of the many cycle paths, keep your eyes on the lookout for the wild deer that live in the park or enjoy a wonderful homemade cake at the beautiful courtyard cafe.
A small but perfectly formed cafe in one of the most desirable parts of Bristol. They serve up delicious brunch options as well as divine homemade cakes and coffee. The interior is simple and stylish, and staff are welcoming, making this a great place for a moment of calm after a morning of activities.
This has got to be one of the most beautiful lidos in the country and a very upmarket affair for those who fancy a dip in the pool all year round. Children are welcome although only between the hours of 2-4pm Monday to Friday. It’s worth it to turn up: it really does offer a special kind of experience and something I would highly recommend for budding young swimmers.
Most people will know of Bristol Zoo but you may not have heard of the Wild Place Project, which aims to bring conservation alive through play and learning with an emphasis on protecting wildlife. There is an array of animals to see as well as a barefoot trail and fun fort.
If you’re looking for a truly unique place to stay during your visit to Bristol then Brooks is certainly it. In addition to boutique rooms lined with Cole & Son wallpapers, they have a collection of Airstream-style caravans, aka rockets, on the roof (!). A 20-foot rocket provides enough space for two adults and two children and is located right in the heart of the city just above St Nicholas Market.