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Review: Bristol


City of Bristol, United Kingdom

Ahoy there!

  • By SilverTraveller Jean-Vranic

    9 reviews

  • Mar 2012
  • Husband

20 people found this review helpful

Would be sailors can experience the romance of sailing whilst staying in Bristol, which has a rich maritime history.

Start by visiting SS Great Britain – the world's first ocean going liner, now moored in drydock in the heart of the city. This was the first iron ship in the world, and it was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The ship has been completely refurbished after being rescued as a wreck from the Falkland Islands.You enter the attraction via a very detailed museum telling the whole story of the ship from its construction to its later rescue.

On board the ship, you are handed a taped commentary and you can choose whether to listen to life on board as a first class or steerage passenger. All the recordings are taken from genuine passengers' diaries.The interior of the ship has been recreated as it was in Victorian times, complete with smells, which certainly appeals to children. You can see the cramped accommodation shared by those poor passengers travelling steerage to make a new life in America or Australia, and the luxurious accommodation in first class. It is fascinating to see how the food was prepared, the work of the surgeon on board, and the exercise deck. Below the ship you can have access to the dry dock area, which is constantly being dehumidified to preserve the ship from further corrosion. (Also useful for drying out wet clothes, as we disvoered!) To visit the whole exhibition you should allow at least a couple of hours. There is a shop and cafeteria on site and car parking nearby. There is access for wheelchairs, but not for large electric ones., Currently an entrance ticket is valid for a whole year, so you can go back if you don't want to do it all in one visit. If you take the small ferry boat you can get off at the ship. The SS Great britain has been awarded the 2012 Michelin Travel Guid'es top rating and numerous other awards. Prices start at £6.25 with many different family and grandparent packages.The is an undercover picnic area. More information from

Near to the SS Great Britain, the tall ship "The Matthew" is moored during the low season. This is a replica of the ship used by John Cabot who set sail in 1497 for Asia, hoping to trade goods and commodities. However, he actually arrived in Newfoundland and was in fact the first to discover North America, not Christopher Columbus. Entrance is free, as it is owned by a trust. During the spring and summer months it sals around the south of England and will take part in the Thames celebrations for the Queen's Jubilee. This tiny ship gives an insight into the bravery of the early sailors. More information on

Further along the docks there is a new museum – M Shed – which tells all the stories about the history of Bristol. This only recently opened and is free.

You can take a ferry ticket to tour the harbour. There is a bus and boat combination day ticket which allows you to hop on and off at different attractions all in one priced ticket (£15 adult, £7.50 children.

Maybe you fancy learning about pirates? Regular talks and walking tours of the pirate haunts are held regularly starting at the Anchor Square outside the Aquarium.

Away from the Maritime trails, Bristol has lots to offer mature visitors. There are two live theatres, the Aquarium, the University Botanic Garden. and @ Bristol Sciience Museum which includes a planetarium and hundres of hands-on enhibits -ideal with grandchildren.

Keen shoppers wil enjoy the different pedestrianised shopping centres at Cabot Circus and The Galleries as well as the Christmas Steps quarter which is full of arts and crafts shops. The St Nicholas Market holds many tiny stalls in an ancient building and here you can find lots of little stalls offering ethnic and British foods. It has a real buzz an it a good spot for lunch.

Eating out is delightful as there is so much choice from different ethnic types of cuisine. Harbourside is particularly lively and is near to all the major attractions. Tthere are numerous pubs and retaurants wll with outside terraces alongside the water.

The older parts of Bristol are mainly Georgian in architecture, especially in Clifton Village which is is the venue for lots of boutiques and up market restaurants. This is on the way to the Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge, which is another world famous attraction. Free guided tours are available at 3 p.m. weekends from Easter to October. There are many mediaeval churches to explore including Bristol Cathedral.

We stayed in the Bristol Hotel right on Harbourside. This is a lovely hotel and has an added bonus of free parking over weekends in the adjacent car park. You can unload your luggage on the same level as your room. We were able to reach all the attractions on foot and didn't need to use the car the whole weekend. There are frequent buses near the hotel and taxi ranks nearby as well. There is a shared taxi service at night for afixed fee of £4.

There is an excellent tourist information centre on Harbourside, but note it does not open till 11 a.m.

Bristol has an excellent website: It has the facility to work out your own selection of attractions and then provide an itinerary for you to print off.

We will certainly return.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 4 Comment(s)

  • blackbird
    over 6 years ago
    We visited SS Great Britain a few months ago and found it fasinating I would recommend it to anyone ...we wanted to tie it in with a river trip but sadly that wasn't an option so had to use the bus from Bristol Temple meads it was very quick and easy.
  • ameliapitt
    over 6 years ago
    Sounds amazing! I'd love to go!
  • SilverTravelUser_201
    over 6 years ago
    What a helpful review - it sounds fascinating, and a lovely blend of the cultural and the relaxing. For some reason I have only passed through Bristol, never stayed there - this needs to change!
  • SylviaML
    about 7 years ago
    Thank you for your detailed review of Bristol. I recently visited the city briefly for the first time and can endorse your comments about the pedestrian shopping area at the Galleries and especially the Christmas Market which my daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed.

    Unfortunately we did not have time to visit the dock area and the SS Great Britain but your review has inspired me to include these in a future visit.