Blue O’Connor is a proud Bristolian, keen adventurer and travel writer. We asked him for his must-do checklist for any Bristol resident or visitor, and this is what he came back with...

1. Hop on a steam engine train at Avon Valley Railway

Avon Valley Railway

Credit: Oliver Jordan

This historical railway line which originally opened in 1869 is a great way to step back in time and enjoy the pleasures of a coal-driven steam engine train. Relish the restored Victorian station over a cup of tea in their adjacent café, or enjoy a meal in one of the beautiful vintage carriages.

It doesn’t stop there though, the station holds beer festivals, murder mysteries, Santa specials and much more. 

Local's Top Tip: Get there early to catch the first departure and avoid the crowd. 

2. Have a drink at The Old Lock and Weir 

Lock and Weir pub

Credit: Oliver Jordan

This peaceful riverside cottage pub is set in the heart of the Hanham Abbots conservation area. Enjoy a bite to eat before you take a walk around the tranquil conservation area, set alongside the meandering River Avon. 

Local's Top Tip: Be aware that on weekends with sunny weather there is fierce competition for a table. 

>>> Take the scenic route to the Lock and Weir with Bristol Packet Boat Trips

3. Watch glass making at The Original Bristol Blue Glass

Bristol Blue Glass

Credit: Oliver Jordan

The Original Bristol Blue Glass was started back in 1988 by James Adlington, with the help of glass maker Peter St Clair. The aim was to re-establish a glass making tradition back into Bristol that had been lost for over 60 years.

Local's Top Tip: Book ahead to watch the mesmerising glass blowing in action. 

4. Have a stroll around Arnos Vale’s Victorian Cemetery

Arnos Vale Cemetery

Credit: Oliver Jordan

Just across the road from The Original Bristol Blue Glass is Arnos Vale, where 45 acres of unique Bristol heritage awaits your discovery. This Victorian garden cemetery is home to some of Bristol’s past tenants and an enchanting forest. 

Local's Top Tip: Grab a coffee and cake in local favourite Kate’s Kitchen.

5. Play board games at Chance and Counters on Christmas Steps

Chance and Counters

Credit: Oliver Jordan

Bristol’s first dedicated board game café is home to over 650 board games. Gurus are on standby to recommend, teach and steer you through an array of options. 

Local's Top Tip: Be quick to book a table as this place fills out fast in the evenings.

>>> Make sure you check out the rest of Christmas Steps when you visit Chance & Counters

6. Admire the architecture at Bristol Cathedral

Bristol Cathedral

Credit: Oliver Jordan

One of the world's finest examples of a medieval 'hall church' stands at the heart of Bristol and is free to enter and explore. 

Local's Top Tip: Grab some food nearby to go and take a seat on College Green to enjoy the atmosphere and hopefully the weather.  

7. Visit the eco-village and community farm at St Werburghs

St Werburghs City Farm

Credit: Oliver Jordan

A stone throw from the city centre, this area couldn’t feel any different. An eco-village, community farm, local pub, healthy café, indoor rock climbing centre, tranquil park and more make this small inner-city area a rarity of sights. 

Local's Top Tip: Head to the community farm during the Farm Summer Fair in June to enjoy live music, fresh food, local ales and all-round fun.

>>> Stay in the green heart of St Werburghs at inner city campsite Ennywevvers

8. Immerse yourself in nature at Leigh Woods

Leigh Woods

Credit: Oliver Jordan

This wilderness of tranquillity is set against Brunel's famous suspension bridge. You can pick from a myriad of walking routes or mountain biking trails to enjoy your adventure. 

Local's Top Tip: Take the path that leads down to the River Avon for an impressive view from underneath the infamous Clifton Suspension Bridge

9. Eat quintessentially British fish and chips at Chew Valley Lake

Chew Valley Lake

Credit: Oliver Jordan

At the UK’s fifth-largest artificial lake you can sail, go fishing, walk or just relax. Whatever you do, make sure you stop off in Salt and Malt for some award-winning fish and chips.

Local's Top Tip: On the way to Chew Valley Lake, stop off at Dundry Church for some panoramic views of the city of Bristol. 

10. Explore Blaise Castle Estate

Blaise Hamlet

Credit: Oliver Jordan

The extensive grounds of Blaise Castle Estate showcases a 19th century mansion, 400 acres of parkland, café and children’s adventure playground

Local's Top Tip: Be sure to see the unique Blaise Hamlet - a collection of nine rustic cottages based on site that dates back to medieval times. 

About the author:
Blue O’Connor writes about travel and lifestyle at Bearded Travel. All the photography in this blog was shot by Oliver Jordan

Top 10 Things to do in Bristol


Avon Valley Railway
Steam Train at Avon Valley Railway Bristol

Avon Valley is your friendly, local, steam railway and they’re bringing back the sounds and smells of steam to the Avon Valley.

The Original Bristol Blue Glass - Studio/Shop
Factory Outlet
The Original Bristol Blue Glass - Studio/Shop

Take a factory tour, see glass blowing demos from the public viewing gallery or just browse the gallery shop

Clifton Suspension Bridge
Historic Site
Clouds over Clifton Suspension Bridge Bristol - CREDIT GARY NEWMAN

The world famous bridge and the iconic symbol of Bristol, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1831 and completed in 1864 after his death

Chew Valley Lake
Chew Valley Lake

Perfect, pastoral, picturesque peace.

Blaise Castle House Museum and Estate
Blaise Castle House Museum and Estate Bristol

Unique mansion that houses some stunning period costumes and everyday Victorian objects, including model trains, dolls and toys

Blaise Castle Estate Playground
Adventure Park/Playground
Blaise Castle Estate Playground

Come and enjoy Blaise Castle Estate's 650 acre parkland, which includes a museum and castle and a children’s play area.