Bristol welcomes tens of thousands of students every year, so we asked University of Bristol student Bethany Barrett to round up some of the top attractions to visit when you're getting acquainted with the city...

I’m proud to call Bristol my ‘uni-home’, and I’m sure that the many first-years starting their university journey in this amazing city will feel the same in no time. But therein lies the problem- campus, and the city as a whole, begins to feel like home so quickly that you forget about all of the tourist destinations that surround you.

When I recently dragged my parents down to Bristol for the week over summer, I found myself being far more of a tourist around the city than I had ever been during my entire first year as a student. I just wish that I’d visited these places before, because I certainly will be going again!

With that in mind, here’s my round-up of the tourist destinations that students often forget to visit during term-time, and why they are great reasons to leave the university ‘bubble’.

1.    Wills Memorial Building

Before you say anything, I am fully aware that Wills, being the flagship building of the University of Bristol, is firmly within the university ‘bubble’ that I am encouraging you to step out of. But hear me out - student access stops at the sixth floor, but every Saturday (as well as the first Wednesday of the month) volunteers run tours of whole the building, all in aid of Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Appeal, the charity supporting Bristol Children’s Hospital.

Seeing the views from the top of Wills was incredible, as was actually feeling Great George (the bell) as it rang. Getting to sit in the Vice-Chancellor’s chair was pretty cool too! I would recommend this activity for when family members come to visit, as it is a great opportunity to show them around one of the University’s best buildings, as well as get some enviable Instagram shots!

To book, go and sign the sheet outside the Porter’s Lounge in Wills, or simply turn up on the day.

Wills Memorial Building and top of Park Street in central Bristol
Image - Wills Memorial Building

2.    The University of Bristol Botanic Garden

I walked past the University of Bristol Botanic Garden almost every day, as I stayed in one of the halls in Stoke Bishop. Yet I never properly looked round, something I totally regret now that I am not living as close to it!

It’s free for University of Bristol students and it is a great alternative to walking around the Downs if it is sunny.

The tropical pool at the University of Bristol Botanic Garden, credit University of Bristol Botanic Garden
Image - University of Bristol Botanic Garden

3.    Brunel's SS Great Britain and the harbour

This is a little pricier, at £15 for students, but you do get unlimited returns within a year included in the price of the ticket, so if Brunel's SS Great Britain is the sort of thing which will really ‘float your boat’ (again, I am not apologising for that one), then it’s well worth a visit. Another great museum, M Shed, is close by too. It's free to enter, and their exhibitions are 'Pay what you feel'.  

In general, the harbourside is a lovely place to sit and chat with friends, new or old, during the (hopefully) warm weather of Freshers. 

Exterior of the SS Great Britain at the Great Western Dockyard in Bristol - credit Brunel's SS Great Britain
Image - Brunel's SS Great Britain

4.    Clifton Suspension Bridge

A must for every Bristol student - the Clifton Suspension Bridge has to be the city's most iconic sight! There are several viewing points along the edge of the Downs, and a Visitor Centre at the Leigh Woods end of the bridge.

There are also tours which run frequently if you want to learn about the history of this quintessential Bristol landmark.  

A side view of the Clifton Suspension Bridge - Credit The Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust
Image - Clifton Suspension Bridge

5. We The Curious

We The Curious is an interactive science museum, with the UK's first 3D planetarium (that’s what the massive silver ball in Millennium Square is!). 

We went to one of the planetarium’s stargazing shows, and we were not disappointed; it really is ‘out of this world’ (I’m not even going to apologise for that pun, you all knew it was coming). This is perfect if you just need a bit of chill time to yourself, away from the hectic chaos of Freshers. I guarantee you will also learn something new!

This can be a bit pricey as usually you have to pay for a ticket to the museum on top of one to the planetarium, so look out for special events and offers.

Audience sitting inside the Planetarium at We The Curious Bristol - credit Lee Pullen
Image - Planetarium Nights at We The Curious

University is about experiences and making memories (as well as getting a degree, I suppose), and whilst many of those may centre around university-run activities and the local student nightlife, do not forget that the city is more than university, and it need not be too expensive to become a tourist around your own university now and then!

About the author

Bethany Barrett is a third-year Law student at the University of Bristol, and enjoys writing articles in her spare time for several blogs, including her own. Her favourite parts of Bristol are by far the Harbour Steps, which she has visited since a child, and the Wills Memorial Building (even if it does contain the library!)