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If you’re looking for free things to do in Bristol, you’re in the right place!
Bristol is a beautiful city in South West England, only 13 miles from the famous city of Bath but worlds away in atmosphere and culture. Bristol also enjoys the reputation of being one of the most expensive cities in the country – outside of London, that is!
The cost of living in Bristol is pretty high, but if you are just visiting for a few days, there are plenty of ways to cut costs and enjoy Bristol on a budget. One of these is to experience all of the fantastic free things that there are to do in Bristol!
From walking over the iconic suspension bridge to checking out some of the city’s best free museums, there’s plenty to enjoy in Bristol at absolutely no cost. Let’s check them out!
Here are some of the best free things to do in Bristol!
Where to Stay in Bristol UK
Don’t forget to research and book your Bristol hotel so you can enjoy these free attractions. Here are some great Bristol accommodations!
Clifton Suspension Bridge and Visitors Centre
The most iconic attraction in Bristol, and one that doesn’t cost a penny, is the Clifton Suspension Bridge. This bridge was designed by local Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who some claim to be the best engineer who ever lived.
The Clifton Suspension Bridge stretches from Clifton Village in the east to rural Somerset in the west. It crosses the highest point of the Avon Gorge – you’re a whopping 101 metres in the air here!
It’s free to walk across the bridge on foot, and you can also visit the Clifton Suspension Bridge exhibition centre for no cost.
Lots of locals frequent the bridge and the area around it, and having a picnic on the grassy spot on the Clifton side of the suspension bridge has become one of the most popular Bristol date ideas.
With an uninterrupted view of the most iconic structure in Bristol, and the chance to climb up to the bridge for sweeping views of the city, there are fewer places more romantic!
On the Somerset side of the suspension bridge is Ashton Court. This 850-acre country park is home to woodland, grassland, a stately home, manicured gardens, and lots of deer. The beautiful deer take up residence in two parts of the park and aren’t camera-shy!
Ashton Court is a great place for an afternoon walk, cycle, or jog. There are also plenty of activities on offer here throughout the year – from foot golf to the Bristol Balloon Fiesta.
M Shed Museum
If you want to know the story of Bristol, the M Shed is the place to go. This museum details Bristol through the eyes of locals, discussing intriguing characters who have shaped the city and drawing connections with different neighbourhoods.
It’s a refreshing take on the city, and it’s well worth the zero-pound entry fee!
Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
I won’t put too many museums on this list (one thing that the UK is great for is free museums), but the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery is well worth a visit.
There are exhibitions on Ancient Egyptians, wildlife in the South West, dinosaurs, a large taxidermied gorilla named Alfred, and various art galleries showcasing work through the ages. Sitting on Park Street, near Bristol University’s Wills Building, it’s a must-do in the city.
Explore the outside art gallery at Stokes Croft
Not all of Bristol’s galleries are inside – Stokes Croft is home to plenty of amazing street art that showcases the dynamic modern culture of Bristol. Bristol is the home of Banksy, possibly the most famous street artist of all time (although his identity still remains anonymous!).
There are some Banksy pieces in Stokes Croft, including a mural depicting ‘the mild, mild west.’ But you can also enjoy plenty of gorgeous murals and thought-provoking pieces throughout the entire neighbourhood.
If you’re staying south of the river, you could also check out the murals and art in Southville, particularly on North Street.
Visit St Mary Redcliffe Church
Bristol effortlessly fuses the old and new, traditional and contemporary, and the stunning St Mary Redcliffe Church depicts this. A church may have been on this site since Saxon times, and the current building is thought to have been there since the 15th century.
Queen Elizabeth I herself praised the church for being “the fairest, goodliest, and most famous parish church in England,” and its breathtaking Gothic architecture able to be enjoyed inside and outside for free.
Go back in time at the Arnos Vale Cemetery
The Arnos Vale Cemetery is a traditional Victorian cemetery nestled in South Bristol.
Established in 1837, Arnos Vale was privately owned and was once the most fashionable place to be laid to rest in Bristol. It is now owned by Bristol City Council, has been lovingly restored, and is open for visitors for free from Monday to Friday.
Its 45 acres compose both the cemetery, with beautiful Gothic headstones, and various nature trails. You can pick up a free discovery trail leaflet to tell you more about the area and take you around the site.
Climb to the top of Cabot Tower
Sitting at the top of Brandon Hill, Cabot Tower offers one of the best viewpoints in Bristol. Brandon Hill is the oldest park in Bristol and is a popular spot for locals who use the area to BBQ, enjoy the vistas of the city below and take a walk very close to the centre.
Cabot Tower is perched at the top, and visitors can climb up the spiral staircase to its summit and enjoy epic views of the city. See the entire harbourside in one snapshot, as well as the southern suburbs of the city and Clifton.
Cycle to Bath
As I mentioned, Bath is a mere 13 miles away from Bristol. It’s easy to cycle between cities using the cycle trail that connects the two. This trail goes along the River Avon and is a wonderful breath of fresh air between the two cities.
Once you’re in Bath, you can either spend some time exploring this city, cycle back, or take a return train to Bristol – it’s only 10 minutes away!
Learn the intriguing history of John Wesley’s Chapel
John Wesley’s Chapel is the oldest Methodist building in the world. Constructed in 1739 as a ‘new room’ where people from two religious groups could meet, it was a site for charitable donations and a free medical dispensary. It’s a building that has shaped Methodism as we now know it.
It is free to enter the chapel and experience it nearly as it was back in 1739. There is also a small museum on-site, which details the life of the Wesleys and their work in Bristol, in the UK, and overseas.
See the city from a ship
The Matthew is a reconstruction of the ship that John Cabot sailed to North America in. He made the voyage from Bristol to Newfoundland in 1497, being the first European explorer to do so.
The European arrival to North America brought a lot of hardship to Native American communities and completely changed the world. This remains an important, yet often sombre, part of Bristol’s history to learn about, and the volunteers on The Matthew depict it excellently.
The ship is located near the M Shed and is completely free to enter and look around.
Try to be in town for one of the many free festivals!
Bristol has festivals year-round, and plenty of them are free entry. The Bristol harbourside festival celebrates all that is awesome about this small city, with the opportunity to drink lots of cider and support local businesses.
St Pauls’s Carnival is a festival that celebrates the diversity of Bristol, hosted by the city’s African and Caribbean communities. Rave on Avon is a Stokes Croft-based music festival that plays electronic music for an entire day and night (day entry is free).
And lastly, head back to Ashton Court for the Bristol Balloon Fiesta. This free, family-friendly festival sees hundreds of hot air balloons float into the sky every August.
It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to explore Bristol – as you can see, these budget-friendly free things to do in the city are enough to give you a taste of it without spending anything.
If you stay at one of Bristol’s cheap hostels and eat street food at St Nicholas’ Market, you could have an exceptionally cheap city break here!
Meet the guest author: Claire
Claire is a British travel blogger and writer. She currently runs two websites, Claire’s Footsteps and Go South West England.
She is an advocate for overland travel and completed a trip from Bali to London without flying in 2019. However, she also loves experiencing the small aspects of local travel, whether that is going to a museum in her hometown or eating at an excellent restaurant.
Are you planning a trip to England? That’s so exciting! I have many other great England posts to help you plan your itinerary.
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