Once a busy dock where sailors and merchants would trade goods and set sail for voyages of discovery, Bristol's Harbourside is now an attractive, modern development filled with restaurants, bars, shops and hotels.
The area is alive with the buzz of Sunday markets, waterside restaurants and bars and a whole host of sports and activities including yachting, paddle boarding, cycling and rowing. Stroll around the water’s edge and you will find Millennium Square acting as a fantastic central hub, with its fountains and big screen as well as world-class attractions such as Brunel’s ss Great Britain, At-Bristol Science Centre, Bristol Aquarium, Watershed and M Shed. Or you could just let the world pass you by whilst watching the boats head in or the swans swim past whilst dangling your feet over the edge with a cold glass of cider in hand.
A bit of Harbourside history
Bristol's history as a trading port stretches back to 1051 when it was listed in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. By the 14th-century, the city was trading with Spain, Portugal and Iceland, and ships were also leaving Bristol to found new colonies in the New World. Bristol's history as part of the triangular slave trade is well documented. In 1809, Bristol was transformed by the opening of the Floating Harbour to overcome the challenge of the second highest tidal range in the world. Over the next two centuries the harbour grew as a busy commercial port and has now transformed into an amazing destination for leisure, business and residence. Visit M Shed for its excellent permanent exhibition on the history of Bristol.
There's plenty of fun to pack into a Harbourside visit, including a ferry boat ride (or a walk!) to Bristol's award-winning attraction, Brunel's ss Great Britain. Isambard Kingdom Brunel's engineering masterpiece, was the world's first great ocean liner and offers plenty to explore, from the sumptuous surrounds of the first-class dining saloon and the cramped bunks in steerage, to the iron hull under the glass 'sea' and the massive turning engine. 'Go Aloft' offers a unique opportunity to climb the ship's rigging and see Bristol from the yardarm. Free audio tours are available on board in several different languages.
Learn more about life underwater at Bristol Aquarium, which is home to native and tropical marine and freshwater creatures from around the world, all living in naturally-themed habitats.
Right next door is At-Bristol Science Centre, where over 300 hands-on exhibits beckon the inner-explorer to be unleashed. Present a weather forecast, walk through a tornado or learn more about the stars in the Planetarium at this hub of fun discoveries. At-Bristol is also home to Animate It!, where visitors can become animators for the day and see models and props, including a set from Aardman's Wallace and Gromit animation, A Matter of Loaf and Death.
Internationally-renowned contemporary arts rub shoulders with the history and heritage of local people in the Harbourside's thriving cultural attractions. Bristol's Harbourside renaissance began in the mid-1970s with the opening of the Arnolfini, which has become an internationally-renowned contemporary arts centre presenting dance, theatre, performance, literature, film and visual arts. The regeneration continued with the launch of Watershed in the 1980s. Both venues have helped to shape the creativity and innovation at the heart of Bristol's cultural identity.
One of the best ways to embrace Bristol's maritime culture is by taking to the water. The Matthew, is a replica of the boat used by John Cabot when he discovered Newfoundland in 1497. It was built in Bristol to mark the 500th anniversary of Cabot's voyage and hosts trips around the Harbourside alongside longer sailing voyages.
The history of Bristol can be further explored at M Shed, which shares the city's amazing past through the objects and stories of the people who have made the city what it is today. Underfall Yard at the western end of the Harbourside is a working boat yard where visitors are welcome.
Where to eat and drink on the Harbourside
From pizza and steak to Asian street food, the Harbourside serves up a global platter of flavours. There are many bars and restaurants around the Harbourside and Millennium Square, including Steak of The art, a gastro gallery of great food, cocktails and art. The Stable serves award-winning pizzas and more than 60 types of coder while locally-brewed beer can be sampled at venues including The Grain Barge, Watershed Cafe Bar and No.1 Harbourside.
Some of Bristol's finest restaurants are found on the Harbourside including Bordeaux Quay - a brasserie, bar, deli, bakery and cookery school. The modern River Grille restaurant at The Bristol Hotel offers fantastic views across the Harbourside, as does Britain's biggest restaurant, Za Za Bazaar, which serves up a variety of buffet-style global cuisine inspired by the atmosphere and buzz of Asia's night markets.
Those cycling through the city should stop at Mud Dock Cafe and Cycleworks on The Grove for their excellent seasonal food, served in a stylish renovated warehouse, before taking a browse of the shop.
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Modern grill restaurant offering a range of dishes, with emphasis on fresh produce
Shore Café Bar restaurant on the Harbourside offers simple chic at its finest
Enjoy a lively programme of independent film, digital media and events at this fantastic media centre in the heart of the Harbourside
Hands-on science and technology centre, with interactive exhibits and a whole load of fun for all the family.
Cafe bar serving up quality food and drink in a relaxed Harbourside location
The spectacular Bristol Aquarium in Bristol's historic Harbourside area takes you and your family and friends on a spectacular undersea safari.
Bristol Aquarium showcases native and tropical marine and freshwater creatures from around the world...
Step on board the most extraordinary time-machine. Brunel’s ss Great Britain, the world’s first great ocean liner is Bristol’s no.1 attraction and in the top 10 in the UK (TripAdvisor 2014/15).
Brunel’s ss Great Britain has enjoyed over 170...
As one of the city’s premier places to stay, The Bristol Hotel offers visitors a unique opportunity to be in the very heart of Bristol’s beautiful Harbourside. Located in the cultural centre of the city, the hotel is surrounded by galleries,...
Explore Bristol's Harbourside by ferry, go on a trip with friends or colleagues, or simply get from A to B without worrying about traffic
The Brunel Institute is a world-class conservation and education centre alongside Brunel’s masterpiece, the ss Great Britain
Take your taste buds on a food tour of the world at Za Za Bazaar, Bristol's finest banquet-style global cuisine restaurant
All-in-one eco restaurant, brasserie, bar, deli and bakery.
Sit back and relax on the distinctive red open top buses, and enjoy the Original Bristol Tour from an unrivalled platform.
Relaxed café bar inside the Arnolfini gallery right next to the Harbourside
The elegantly modern River Lounge, located at The Bristol Hotel, is the perfect place to enjoy afternoon tea with friends, cocktails with colleagues or just to relax and watch the world go by.
A high quality, four star hostel providing a relaxed oasis in the heart of Bristol. This friendly, vibrant and culturally rich and diverse city, boasts many world famous attractions.
A great city centre location makes this a perfect base. ...
Alongside the historic Great Western Dockyard, the tired and thirsty will find Brunel's ss Great Britain's new Dockyard Café Bar. Enjoy superb views and food within this delightful new venue.
A leading centre for the contemporary arts, Arnolfini presents an ambitious programme of visual arts, performance, music and film, and offers a wide range of engaging family events.
A fantastic location for meetings and catching up with friends.
Try stand up paddleboarding with SUP Bristol and see Bristol Floating Harbour from a truly unique angle.
Stand up paddleboarding is the perfect activity for locals and visitors alike. Explore the vibrant and historic Bristol Harbourside...