Home to iconic landmarks and big world-class attractions, Bristol also has its share of smaller, unusual and fascinating museums which shouldn't be overlooked...

John Wesley’s New Room

Tucked away in the heart of Bristol's main shopping district is the world’s oldest Methodist building, The New Room at John Wesley’s Chapel (Poldark fans may recognise the chapel, which was transformed into a courtroom in the BBC’s second series). One of the Founding Fathers of Methodism, John Wesley, preached his first open air sermon in Bristol on April 2, 1739. By May 9, the religious societies had grown so much that Wesley bought land and laid the foundation stone for what he called, ‘our New Room in the Horsefair’.

Following a £4.5 million extension in 2017, The New Room opened a new three-story visitor centre to include an expanded museum, education centre, resource library, archive facilities, café and shop. The museum tells the story of the Wesleys and Bristol in the 18th century and how Methodism developed across the country and made its way to America. Visitors will discover original objects and furnishings from Wesley’s time at the New Room as well as interactive displays. Make sure you keep an eye on their What’s On pages for upcoming events – The New Room hosts everything from folk music concerts, to film clubs and crafts.

Interior display at John Wesley's New Room in central Bristol - credit John Wesley's New Room

Being Brunel

Ok, technically this is part of Brunel's SS Great Britain - one of the country's finest attractions - but we couldn't not mention the brand spanking new addition, Being Brunel. Devoted entirely to the life and works of the remarkable Victorian engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the museum sits alongside one of his finest achievements, the magnificent SS Great Britain and tells the story of the man behind the extraordinary engineering feats - mistakes included. Being Brunel provides visitors with an immersive experience of Brunel’s story, brought to life with personal possessions, documents and artefacts.

Step inside his mind with wrap-around sights, sounds and smells from extraordinary moments in his life, climb on board a rocking 1830s railway carriage to try and complete a drawing challenge, or take a peek inside his Grade II* Listed Drawing Office, where Brunel originally designed the SS Great Britain. Afterwards, climb aboard the ship to discover how sea voyages would have been experienced by Victorian passengers and crew.

Exhibition space with large head of Brunel on wall
Image - Being Brunel at Brunel's SS Great Britain

The Red Lodge Museum

Did you know Bristol has its very own Tardis? Behind a nondescript red door on Park Row lies an Elizabethan house with a fascinating history. Discover how the lodge has changed over the years –from a 16th century ‘royal party house’ to a Victorian reform school for girls. A must-visit location for Tudor buffs, three of the rooms are among the oldest in Bristol and include the last complete Tudor room in the UK. There’s also an Elizabethan-style knot garden, which inspired the design of some of the ceilings. The lodge is open from April until the end of December.

Fireplace and historic interiors at The Red Lodge Museum in Bristol - credit Visit West
Image - The Red Lodge Museum 

The Georgian House Museum

From the late 1600s to the early 1800s, Bristol played a significant role in England's maritime trade in tobacco, wine, cotton and other goods. Restored townhouse The Georgian House Museum is a fascinating example of how a wealthy Bristol merchant would have lived in the 18th century. Former home of John Pinney, a sugar plantation master and slave owner, visitors can discover what life was like above and below stairs from a hidden staircase and bells used to summon staff, to the Harbour views where Pinney would have seen the ships transporting his goods. Incidentally, Pero’s Bridge on Bristol's Harbourside is named after Pinney’s servant of African descent, Pero Jones. From the house, it’s just a short wander down Park Street to the Floating Harbour.

Kitchen at the Georgian House Museum in central Bristol - credit ristol Museums, Galleries & Archives
Image - The Georgian House Museum. Credit: Bristol Museums

Blaise Castle House Museum and Estate

The Blaise Castle House Museum sits inside an impressive 19th century mansion house, surrounded by 650 acres of parkland, a folly castle, picturesque wooded gorge and children’s play area. Explore their fabulous collections and discover beautiful paintings, toys and costumes dating back to the 18th century, a Victorian school room and a nearby ancient Roman Villa.

Blaise Castle House Museum in the summer
Image - Blaise Castle House Museum

Underfall Yard

To understand Bristol’s ship building past, present and future, head to Underfall Yard’s hands-on visitor centre. Part of an historic 19th Century working boatyard, that counts William Jessop and Brunel among the famous engineers linked with its past, you’ll get a real sense for the nuts and bolts of the industry. After exploring the interactive exhibits in the visitor centre, pop over for a cuppa at the on-site café.

Boat on slipway at Underfall Yard - credit Underfall Yard
Image - Underfall Yard

Frenchay Village Museum

Discover the story of the Frenchay area of Bristol and its former residents, including a mountain explorer, Hollywood film star, chocolate manufacturer, and assistant to Brunel! You’ll find a fascinating collection of objects including the oldest bar of chocolate in the world, a sword used in the 1831 Bristol Riots, a Victorian ice pick, traditional toys to play with and clothes to dress up in. Look out for the annual vintage vehicle day in conjunction with the Frenchay Flower Show - it makes for a truly traditional English day out.

Displays at Frenchay Museum - credit Frenchay Museum
Image - Frenchay Museum

Palestine Museum and Cultural Centre

Founded by local activists in June 2013, this is the only Palestine Museum in Europe. Journey through the history, heritage, culture and political life of Palestine, from the late 19th century through to the present day. See unique photographs, clothing and exhibits and discover Bristol’s connections with Palestine - including Banksy’s work. Visitors can also walk around a replica of the separation wall dividing Israel and the Occupied Territories and see the lights of The Walled off Hotel.

Interior of the Palestine Museum & Cultural Centre in central Bristol - credit Bristol Palestine Museum & Cultural Centre
Image - Palestine Museum

Kingswood Heritage Museum

Located inside the former William Champion 18th century zinc and brass mill at Warmley, the foundry is thought to have been the largest industrial area in Europe back in its heyday. See models of a zinc foundry and workers’ housing alongside explanations of the zinc and brass making processes, discover more about Edwardian Kingswood and take a guided walk around the nearby Warmley Historic Garden and Grotto.

Displays at Kingswood Heritage Museum - credit Kingswood Heritage Museum
Image - Kingswood Heritage Museum

Glenside Hospital Museum

Over in East Bristol, beyond Oldbury Court Estate, you can follow the path down to the river Frome, where trails lead towards Frenchay, and up the hill is the Glenside Hospital Museum. The former hospital cared for people with mental illness from the 1860s to the late 20th century. Nowadays the museum tackles the difficult subject matter of mental health through the ages as well as the history of the hospital (when it became Beaufort War Hospital) during the First World War. There's also the story of the Dower House, Stoke Park which became a hospital for disabilities and learning difficulties, 1909-1997. Open free to the public every Wednesday from 10am - 1pm and Saturdays from 10 - 4pm.

Photo of Glenside Hospital Museum - credit Glenside Hospital Museum
Image - Glenside Hospital Museum

George Müller Museum

Located in Ashley Down, this museum is devoted to George Müller who cared for 10,000 orphans in Bristol during the 1800s, founding the Ashley Down Orphan Homes and later ‘Scattered Homes’ for destitute children. The museum reveals what life would have been like for a Victorian orphan in one of his Orphan-Houses through photographs, artefacts, original girls’ uniforms to dress up in and more. 

Displays at George Müller Museum - credit George Müller Museum
Image - George Müller Museum

Oakham Treasures

Take a journey down memory lane at Oakham Treasures, a treasure trove of retail and farming memorabilia from the last century, about a 20-minute drive from Bristol city centre. Investigate a collection of over 100 tractors dating back to 1910 as well as farm machinery and old engines used on the land from days gone by. Or venture back in time to a fascinating recreated grocery store, haberdashery, chemist, off licence, tobacconist, sweet shop and hardware store all displaying the original contents, packaging, advertising signs and merchandising used throughout the last century.

Displays at Oakham Treasures- credit Oakham Treasures
Image - Oakham Treasures