A visit to Bristol doesn’t need to be an expensive one, in fact we’ve got 60 ideas for totally free things to do in Bristol. 

1. M Shed

Located in a huge 1950s transit shed right on Bristol’s Harbourside, the M Shed museum explores over 2000 years of Bristol’s history and is free to enter. Learn about Bristol People and Bristol Places and keep an eye out for the special exhibitions on the top floor. 

M Shed - CREDIT Quintin Lake

Image: M Shed - CREDIT Quintin Lake

2. Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

A magnificent space of art, archaeology, geology and natural history in 19 galleries over 3 floors. Don’t miss the box kite, gypsy caravan and the ‘Bristol Dinosaur.’

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

Image: Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

3. Spike Island

Spike Island is an international centre for contemporary art and design. The Gallery is free all year round and hosts exhibitions from world-renowned artists. 

Spike Island - PatrickStaff_Max_McClure

Image: Spike Island - Credit Max McClure

4. Underfall Yard 

Underfall Yard is a working boatyard that welcomes visitors. Explore the free visitor centre with lots of hands-on displays and a giant interactive map of Bristol’s floating harbour and water system. 

Underfall Yard

Image: Underfall Yard

5. The Matthew

Step aboard The Matthew, a modern reconstruction of the original ship that John Cabot sailed to Newfoundland in 1497. When the ship isn’t taking trips, she’s moored at Prince’s Wharf outside the M Shed. Go onboard, climb the steps to the upper decks and get a sailor’s eye-view of Bristol Harbour. 

The Matthew - -CREDIT-Shawn-Spencer-Smith

Image: The Matthew - Credit Shawn Spencer Smith

6. Clifton Suspension Bridge

Bristol's most famous attraction, the Clifton Suspension Bridge is totally free to admire, walk across and take that all important selfie with. There's also a free visitor centre on the Leigh Woods side of the bridge and free guided tours of Clifton Suspension Bridge at 3pm every Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday from Easter to October. You'll find your volunteer guide by the Clifton Toll Booth (Bristol side of the bridge) wearing a high vis jacket. 

Clifton Suspension Bridge - Gary Newman

Image: Clifton Suspension Bridge - Credit Gary Newman

7. Banksy walking tour

You may know that Bristol is the hometown of infamous street artist Banksy and as a result there's plenty of his work around the city that you can go and see. Take our self-guided tour of his artworks, download the Banksy Trail app or join the experts on a street art walking tour to discover more.  

Banksy Mild Mild West

Image: Banksy's Mild Mild West

8. See the street art 

However, it's not just Banksy that has street art to write home about, Bristol's walls are an ever-changing free gallery of incredible art and there's always something new to discover. Find out more about Banksy and Street Art in Bristol here.

Cosmo Sarson Dancing Jesus

Image: Cosmo Sarson's Dancing Jesus

9. Cabot Tower and Brandon Hill 

Visit Brandon Hill to spot squirrels, explore the nature reserve or climb the 105ft Cabot Tower for panoramic views of the city below. 

Cabot Tower and Brandon Hill

Image: Cabot Tower and Brandon Hill

10. Georgian House Museum 

The Georgian House Museum is an 18th century, six storey townhouse which has been restored and decorated to its original gloryThe house was built in 1790 for John Pinney, a wealthy slave plantation owner and sugar merchant, it is also where the enslaved African, Pero Jones lived. Pero's Bridge, the footbridge across Bristol's floating harbour was named in commemoration of Pero who lived and died in the city. The Georgian House Museum is currently free to visit but donations are welcome.

The Georgian House

Image: The Georgian House Museum

11. Ashton Court Estate 

On the outskirts of the city, you'll find Ashton Court Estate, 850 acres of woods and grasslands in total, designed by Humphry Repton. Discover the magnificent old oak trees, whizz down the mountain bike tracks and see the deer graze in an estate that first became a deer park over 600 years ago. Ashton Court Estate is also home to the free Bristol International Balloon Fiesta in August every year.

Ashton Court Red Deer - Chris Bahn

Image: Ashton Court Red Deer - Credit Chris Bahn

12. College Green 

Soak up the view of Bristol Cathedral and City Hall and gaze up the hill of Park Street towards the Wills Memorial Building from College Green. A pleasant city centre green space that is favoured by lunchtime picknickers and often host to events and free art exhibitions. See if you can spot the statue of Raja Ram Mohan Roy between the Central Library and Bristol Cathedral.

College Green

Image: College Green

13. Queen Square 

Completed in 1727, Queen Square has leafy plane tree-lined avenues and plenty of space for picnics, playing catch or just relaxing. It’s home to festivals throughout the summer including the free Bristol Harbour Festival

Queen Square

Image: Queen Square

14. Arnos Vale Cemetery 

Arnos Vale Cemetery is a stunning heritage site, steeped in Victorian Architecture and set amongst 45 acres of woodland. There are themed self-guided walks around the estate and changing free exhibitions in the West Lodge and Spielman Crypt.

Arnos Vale Cemetery

Image: Arnos Vale Cemetery

15. Bristol International Balloon Fiesta 

Bristol's most well-known event, the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is completely free! Held over a weekend in August each year, you'll see over 100 hot air balloons taking off at dawn and dusk as well as the famous Night Glows, when the balloons light up the sky in time to music. Read more about the Balloon Fiesta here.

Bristol Balloon Fiesta - Credit Paul Box

Image: Bristol Balloon Fiesta - Credit Paul Box

16. Bristol Harbour Festival

A highlight of Bristol's summer calendar, the Bristol Harbour Festival is an annual free dance, music, entertainment and arts extravaganza which stretches from both ends of Bristol Harbour. Be sure to check out the amazing family activities, music, dance and circus stages, food markets and visiting vessels.

Harbour Festival

Image: Bristol Harbour Festival

17. Bristol Open Doors 

Bristol Open Doors is an annual chance to peek behind closed doors and discover buildings and rooms that are usually closed to the public. Explore fascinating buildings, join guided tours - all for free!

Bristol Open Doors - Engine Shed

Image: Bristol Open Doors - Engine Shed

18. Windmill Hill City Farm

Visit the working farm to meet the animals, stroll through the community gardens and play in the outdoor play areas at Windmill Hill City Farm. There are also other free city farms to visit; St Werburghs City Farm, Hartcliffe Community Farm, Grimsby Farm Kingswood and Lawrence Weston Community Farm.

Windmill Hill City Farm

Image: Windmill Hill City Farm

19. Red Lodge Museum 

A historic Elizabethan house that is currently free to visit but donations are welcome. The Great Oak Room is the last complete Elizabethan room in Bristol and the beautiful garden reflects a typical Elizabethan knot design.

Red Lodge Museum Elizabethan Knot Garden

Image: Red Lodge Museum Elizabethan Knot Garden

20. Bristol Cathedral 

Bristol's historic Cathedral is free to visit and open to the public 365 days a year. As well as exploring the beautiful building and gardens there are often free exhibitions and free lunchtime concerts for you to enjoy.

Bristol Cathedral

Image: Bristol Cathedral

21. St Mary Redcliffe 

St Mary Redcliffe is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and some 800 years old.  Inside you'll find a superb collection of carved bosses, elegant 18th century ironwork, beautiful stained glass and a world famous organ.

St Mary Redcliffe

Image: St Mary Redcliffe Church

22. Bristol Walk Fest

Bristol’s month-long walking festival, offers a huge variety of mostly free walking events. There are historical tours, nature walks, street art tours and walking sports. Walk distances range from less than a mile to more than ten.

Bristol Walk Fest. A May Meander - Credit Jenni Nott

Image: Bristol Walk Fest. A May Meander - Credit Jenni Nott

23. Blaise Castle House Museum and Estate 

Blaise Castle House Museum and Estate is free to visit and features a 19th century mansion, set in 400 acres of parkland and woodlands. Explore the folly castle and the amazing children's adventure playground. Nearby you'll also find Blaise Hamlet, a group of quaint and picturesque cottages now owned and maintained by the National Trust.

Blaise Castle House Museum and Estate

Image: Blaise Castle House Museum and Estate

24. Kings Weston Roman Villa

Explore where Romans used to live and see a Roman bath suite and mosaic floors. Unescorted visits to the site may be made by individuals or family groups (up to 6 people) by simply picking up a key from Blaise Castle House Museum or Bristol Museum & Art Gallery during opening hours.

Kings Weston Roman Villa - Credit Bristol Museums

Image: Kings Weston Roman Villa - Credit Bristol Museums

25. Architecture Centre

A free gallery located on Bristol's Harbourside with regularly changing exhibitions on an architecture and design theme. The centre also runs events including talks, guided walks and family activities, many of which are free.

The Architecture Centre

Image: The Architecture Centre

26. Oldbury Court, Snuff Mills and the Frome Valley Walkway

Oldbury Court and Snuff Mills are beautiful and diverse estates in East Bristol. There are wide open green spaces, children's playgrounds and riverside walks. You can follow the path along the river Frome as part of the Frome Valley Walkway and look out for kingfishers, herons, foxes, owls and bats along the way.

Oldbury Court - Credit Claire Routledge

Image: Oldbury Court - Credit Claire Routledge

27. Pero's Bridge

Pero's Bridge is a pedestrian footbridge that spans Bristol's floating harbour. It was named in honour of Pero Jones, who came to live in Bristol as the slave of John Pinney. Pero's Bridge has become Bristol's 'lock bridge' in recent years and features a stylish horn design.

Pero's Bridge

Image: Pero's Bridge

28. Big Screen in Millennium Square

Take a seat in Millennium Square outside We The Curious and watch the Big Screen for free. There's movies, documentaries, sporting events and local and historical occasions. While you're here you can also wave to the Cary Grant statue.

29. St Nicholas Market

Take a wander through St Nicholas Market, established in 1743 and Bristol's oldest market. Soak up the smells, sights and sounds of the covered halls and glass arcade and browse more than 60 stalls. Make sure you check out the 'Nails' brass pillars located outside the market on Corn Street. Dating from the late Tudor/early Stuart period they were used for the Exchange of money between traders and customers.

St Nicholas Market

Image: St Nicholas Market

30. Treasure Island Trail

Take the free Treasure Island Trail around the Bristol's Harbour and explore Bristol's connections with Robert Louis Stephenson's Treasure Island. The walk is about a mile long and will take you to eight 'Black Spots' that highlight the story in sequence around the city. You can find the Black Spot barrels yourself or download the app for £1.99.

Treasure Island Trail

Image: Treasure Island Trail

31. Bristol Blue Glass

Bristol is famed for it's distinctive free-blown Blue glass and you can visit the factory and shop and watch the glass being made by highly skilled craftspeople. You can also blow your own bauble for a few pounds, please ring ahead to book.

Bristol Blue Glass

Image: Bristol Blue Glass

32. Visit the beach at Weston-super-Mare

The quintessential English seaside, Weston-Super-Mare boasts miles of sandy beach, perfect for families, beach sports and fabulous sunsets. Read our local's guide here.

Grand Pier at Weston-super-Mare

Image: Grand Pier at Weston-super-Mare

33. Poets Walks Clevedon

Poets' Walk is a popular footpath which runs along the coast with fantastic sea views along the way. The walk is said to have inspired poets such as Alfred Tennyson, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Makepeace Thackeray, who visited the town. Read our Local's Guide to Clevedon for others local spots to visit.

Poet's Walk Clevedon - Credit Wild Walks with Kids North Somerset

Image: Poet's Walk Clevedon - Credit Wild Walks with Kids North Somerset

34. The Downs

The Downs is a huge area of protected parkland that neighbours Clifton and the Avon Gorge. Perfect for walking, sports, flying a kite and home to events throughout the year including the annual Downs Festival. Make sure you head to 'Sea Walls' to take in the view across the Avon Gorge all the way down to the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

The Downs

Image: The Downs

35. Troopers Hill Nature Reserve

Troopers Hill Nature Reserve in the St George area of Bristol is a lovely hillside with wild plants, animals, rocky crags, stunning views and two listed chimneys. It's also a great spot for watching hot air balloons fly over the city.

36. Hollow at Royal Fort Gardens

Hollow is a permanent public artwork created by artist Katie Paterson with architects Zeller & Moye for Bristol's Royal Fort Gardens. Hollow houses a miniature forest of 10,000 unique tree species from around the world.

37. River Avon Trail

The River Avon Trail runs for 23 miles all the way through Bristol from Pill in North Somerset to Pulteney Bridge, Bath. You can walk the full trail or just enjoy a section at a time.

38. Leigh Woods

Explore the beautiful and diverse woodland on the plateau above The Avon Gorge. Maintained by The National Trust, Leigh Woods has been a haven for Bristolians for decades and offers grassy glades, shady woodland and lovely views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge

Leigh Woods view of Clifton Suspension Bridge

Image: Leigh Woods view of Clifton Suspension Bridge

39. Hengrove Play Park

Hengrove Play Park is a large open space which includes the biggest free play park in Bristol for all ages and an additional wheels park. The Play Park includes a 12 meter high dome with a jungle play experience, swings, and many other play attractions.

Hengrove Play Park - Credit Bristol City Council

Image: Hengrove Play Park - Credit Bristol City Council

40. Birdcage Walk

Take a stroll through Birdcage Walk, a peaceful graveyard in Clifton Village and all that remains of St Andrew’s Church - built in the 12th century but destroyed in the Bristol Blitz. Beautiful trees create a spectacular fairytale arch over the path.

Birdcage Walk

Image: Birdcage Walk

41. Slide down the Clifton Rock Slide

Whizz down the Clifton Rock Slide near Bristol Observatory, a strip of glassy rock that has been smoothed by thousands of Bristolian behinds over the years.

Clifton Rock Slide near Clifton Observatory

Image: Clifton Rock Slide near Clifton Observatory

42. John Wesley's Chapel

Visit John Wesley's Chapel in the heart of Bristol Shopping Quarter. It was built in 1739 by John Wesley and is the oldest Methodist chapel in the world. There is also a paid-for museum detailing the life and works of Wesley and other Methodist preachers, The New Room Museum.

John Wesley's Chapel - 'The New Room'

Image: John Wesley's Chapel - 'The New Room'

43. Festival of Nature

Festival of Nature is the UK’s largest free celebration of the natural world with free interactive exhibitions, live performances and talks every summer in Bristol and Bath.

Festival of Nature. Willow Sculpture by Sarah Edwards - Credit Jon Craig

Image: Festival of Nature. Willow Sculpture by Sarah Edwards - Credit Jon Craig

44. Christmas Steps

Step down the cobbled streets of the Christmas Steps Arts Quarter, which dates back to the 1600s. Often compared to Diagon Alley in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, it’s a magical place to explore.

Christmas Steps Arts Quarter

Image: Christmas Steps Arts Quarter

45. Willsbridge Mill

Willsbridge Valley in Longwell Green is an oasis of wildlife. The Siston Brook stream runs through the site. You could try pond-dipping near the mill, where the ponds are brimming with frogs, toads, dragonflies and insects.

46. Portishead Lake Grounds 

The Portishead Lake Grounds are a great spot to spend some time. There’s a lake where you feed the ducks and hire rowing boats in the summer. There’s also a large playground and lots of lovely open space for picnics and playing games, flying kites and relaxing.

Portishead Lake Grounds - Credit North Somerset Times

Image: Portishead Lake Grounds

47. Stoke Park

Stoke Park is a vast open space to the North-East of the city and has lots to offer. Walk through woodland, near lakes and across fields all whilst gazing up at the bright yellow Dower House and the futuristic-looking Purdown Transmittor which both tower above the estate.

Stoke Park

Image: Stoke Park

48. St Paul’s Carnival

St Paul’s Carnival is an iconic Bristol event which takes place in July. It represents the best of African Caribbean culture, as well as the diversity, creativity and vibrancy of the city. As well as the carnival procession there are music stages and street food stalls.

St Paul's Carnival

Image: St Paul's Carnival

49. Head to a Martin Parr Foundation exhibition

The Martin Parr Foundation in the Paintworks complex, features revolving free photography exhibitions throughout the year.

Martin Parr Foundation

Image: Martin Parr Foundation

50. Palestine Museum and Cultural Centre

The Palestine Museum is a free permanent exhibition of Palestinian heritage, culture and political life. Only open on Saturday and Sunday. Just down the road is the Edward Everard building in Broad Street. A Grade II* listed building built in 1900 with a Pre-Raphaelite art nouveau style façade

Palestine Museum and Cultural Centre

Image: Palestine Museum and Cultural Centre

51. Royal York Crescent

Royal York Crescent was once reputed to be the longest terrace in Europe. Marvel at the incredible Georgian and Regency architecture as enjoy views of Bristol Harbour.

52. Temple Church and Gardens

Discover Bristol’s very own leaning tower. The top of the tower leans 1.64 metres (5 ft 5 in) from the vertical. The church was bombed in 1940 in the Bristol Blitz so is now an empty shell, but you can walk around the ruins and the nearby gardens for a fascinating insight into Bristol’s history.

Temple Church and Gardens

Image: Temple Church and Gardens

53. Bristol to Bath Cycle Path

Travel between Bristol and Bath on the The Bristol and Bath Railway Path. A 13 mile off road route which is open to walkers and cyclists. Discover some fascinating history, spot wildlife and visit intriguing places just off the path such as the Frome Valley Walkway, Willsbridge Mill and the River Avon Trail.

Bristol to Bath Railway Cycle Path

Image: Bristol to Bath Railway Cycle Path

54. Arnolfini

Currently undergoing a significant change, Arnolfini has a free programme of visual arts, performance, dance, film, music and events.

Arnolfini

Image: Arnolfini  - Credit Jamie Wood

55. Audio tours

We’ve put together and gathered some of the best free audio tours of Bristol and the surrounding areas including the Brunel Mile & City Docks, the Bristol Literary Trail and the Bristol Churches Trail which are all free to download and follow your own self-guided tour.

Audio Tours of Bristol

Image: Audio Tours of Bristol

56. Walk around the harbour

Explore Bristol’s Harbourside with a circular walk taking in many of the city’s most famous sights.

Bristol Harbourside - Credit Dave Page

Image: Bristol Harbourside - Credit Dave Page

57. Explore the small museums of Bristol

There are some charming small museums in and around Bristol. Glenside Hospital Museum, Frenchay Village Museum, Thornbury and District Museum and Yate and District Museum are all free to visit.

Glenside Hospital Museum

Image: Glenside Hospital Museum

58. St John on the Wall

Discover medieval Bristol at St John on the Wall. Explore this hidden church built into the old city wall and descend into the vaulted crypt.

St John on the Wall

Image: St John on the Wall

59. Badock's Wood

Located in North Bristol in Westbury-on-Trym, this hidden wood has winding paths, a bubbling stream and is so peaceful you’ll feel as though you are miles from the city as soon as you enter.

60. Upfest

Upfest is Europe’s largest street-art and graffiti festival and completely free. It’s held in Bedminster and Southville to the south of the city and as a result the whole area is covered in colour and art all year round. Although Upfest is actually taking a year off in 2019, there’s so much free street-art to discover and you can head to the Upfest Gallery on North Street for regular graffiti and street-art exhibitions.

Upfest - Credit Paul Box

Image: Upfest - Credit Paul Box


 

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