Lonely Planet recently gave their team of travel experts the task of whittling down the UK’s top 500 experiences for their Ultimate United Kingdom Travelist. We were happy (but not surprised!) to see some of the most-loved sights and things to do in Bristol and the surrounding area in the list.

Featuring Banksy, balloons, Brunel and more, here are the Bristol experiences that made the final cut. We think you’ll agree they fit the criteria of ‘memorable, beautiful, surprising and compelling’.

Follow the Banksy trail

Banksy is one of Bristol’s home-grown icons, whose street art is celebrated the world over. From early beginnings in the 1980s to the present decade, his artwork has graced the city’s walls and as Lonely Planet have recognised, a Banksy-themed tour is a must for any fan visiting Bristol.

You can follow our guide to Banksy pieces or download the Banksy Bristol Trail app. For a more thorough history of Banksy and Bristol’s street art scene, join a Where The Wall walking tour or even give graffiti a go yourself with Graft.

Banksy's The Mild Mild West in Stokes Croft Bristol

Image credit: Morgane Bigault

Climb aboard Brunel’s SS Great Britain

A masterpiece of innovation and engineering in its heyday and still just as awe-inspiring in the 21st century, it was inevitable that Bristol’s number one attraction would land on the Ultimate UK Travelist. A day out here can include dressing up in Victorian garb, getting inside the mind of ingenious engineer Brunel at the award-winning museum, and even climbing the rigging. And that’s on top of exploring the ship inside and out – the dining saloon, weather deck, steerage, galley and more.   

Weather Deck on Brunel's SS Great Britain

Image credit: David Noton 

Cross the Clifton Suspension Bridge

Brunel strikes again, with a walk across his magnificent Clifton Suspension Bridge hailed as a must-do experience. We recommend getting a better understanding of this symbol of Bristol by stopping into the free-to-enter Visitor Centre. Uncover the story of the bridge from conception to the present day and pick up a souvenir to remember your visit by in the shop.

It’s also worth heading to Clifton Observatory for a glorious panoramic view of the bridge through the camera obscura or from the Giant’s Cave on the cliff face of the Avon Gorge.  

Clifton Suspension Bridge over the River Avon

Image credit: Dave Pratt

Admire Georgian terraces and fine views in Clifton

Tick off another experience from Lonely Planet’s Ultimate UK Travelist in Clifton, one of the most beautiful and exclusive Bristol suburbs. The area flourished in the late Georgian period, which is why elegant Regency and Victorian-style houses from that era dominate the streets. Royal York Crescent is without doubt the most impressive row of houses – a sweeping crescent of fine Grade II listed buildings with some of the best views in Bristol.

Georgian terraced houses on Royal York Crescent in Clifton

Image credit: Tamany Baker 

Fly the skies in a beautiful balloon

With a long history of hot air ballooning and as host of Europe’s largest balloon festival, Bristol is one of the UK’s top places for a balloon ride. Adventurous and peaceful at the same time, there’s nothing quite like the sensation of sailing through the skies and admiring breath-taking views below – an experience you’ll never forget and an unbeatable angle to see Bristol from.

The experienced pilots at Elite Air (UK) Ltd, Bailey Balloons and Bristol Balloons can all take you on a ballooning adventure, when conditions are right. For the most magical flight possible, try to snag a dawn or sunset spot. 

Hot air balloons flying over Bristol

Image credit: Plaster

Road-trip through Cheddar Gorge

In 2018, data scientists officially pinpointed the road through Cheddar Gorge in the Mendip Hills as the most pleasant to drive in the UK. While the scenic meandering road back dropped by rolling hills and limestone cliff faces certainly is an experience in itself, don’t drive through England’s largest gorge without stopping to explore the caves.

As well as being a fantastic natural wonder, there’s a Museum of Prehistory where you can see the ‘Cheddar Man’ skeleton and Jacob’s Ladder, 274 steps leading up to stunning views from the Lookout Tower. If you’ve still got energy left after that, head out on the three-mile long cliff top walk. For the seriously adventure-hungry, caving, rock climbing and a unique leap of faith experience called the Black Cat Free Fall should satisfy your appetite.

View over Cheddar Gorge

Image credit: Cheddar Gorge Caves

Beware the wicked witch who lurks in the caves of Wookey Hole

The spectacular Mendip Hills are home to a second experience on the Ultimate UK Travelist – Wookey Hole Caves. The largest cave system in the country has impressive chambers and formations aplenty, as well as a host of onsite family-friendly attractions like Dinosaur Valley, Monster Mill and the Cave Diving Museum.

As for the Witch of Wookey, the story goes that she was turned to stone. However, brave The Witch’s Laboratory 4D Experience today and you might just cross her path! 

Family inside a cave at Wookey Hole

Image credit: Wookey Hole Caves

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