The Coronavirus pandemic has meant the doors to Bristol’s attractions are temporarily closed, until they can safely open them to visitors once again. In the meantime, there are still many ways to experience the city from the comfort of your sofa. 

Culture lovers, travellers and school children alike can explore Bristol’s heritage, street art, galleries, historic museums, music and top attractions online, with virtual tours, podcasts and playlists. Here’s our round-up of the best ways to virtually visit Bristol. 

Brunel’s SS Great Britain 

Take a virtual wander around Brunel’s iconic Victorian luxury ship, the SS Great Britain. The world’s first great ocean liner is one of the city’s top visitor attractions today, lovingly restored to her former glory after an incredible rescue from wreckage and homecoming 50 years ago (more on that here). Hover over the blue flags for additional sensory information and learn about this ship’s pioneering past. 

Look out for #VirtualArchiveInFive videos by the SS Great Britain team on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram too, bringing fascinating finds from their archive collections into your home. 

The weather deck on Brunel's SS Great Britain

Image - Brunel's SS Great Britain

We The Curious 

Both kids and grown-ups love playing with the 300+ interactive exhibits and experiments at We The Curious, there to test out mind-bending ideas and surprise you with things you never knew about the inner workings of the world. Marvel at what’s on offer through their virtual tour, from a ball run through a hungry skeleton to giant whisper dishes that carry your messages metres away.

Mum and daughter in the Greenhouse at We The Curious

Image - We The Curious, credit Paul Blakemore  

A 360 view of Bristol attractions

Featuring Brunel’s SS Great Britain and We The Curious along with Bristol Aquarium, Bristol Zoo Gardens, M Shed and Leigh Woods, get a snapshot of these awesome attractions with locals sharing what makes them so special.

Watershed

While you can't currently catch a flick on the big screen at independent cinema Watershed, you can still enjoy great films from one of its partners, as MUBI is offering three months of free access to their streaming site. The current programme includes Bacarau, which was screening at Watershed before they had to close. 

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery 

Enter the magnificent Bristol Museum building in their online tour. Housed here are all kinds of treasures, some of which can be spied on your virtual way round, including Banksy’s Paint Pot Angel, a Bristol Boxkite and the Egyptian and Assyrian galleries. 

Lose yourself in the online exhibitions archive for Bristol Museum and M Shed too, revisiting past exhibiitions or experiencing them for the first time. Those available online include Masters of Japanese Prints, Empire through the Lens, and death: the human experience. 

Google Expeditions

You can also use Google Expeditions to access Bristol Museums' wider collection. Once downloaded, search for ‘Living as a Georgian’, ‘Blaise Castle House Museum’ and ‘Elizabethan life in Bristol’ to find tours of Georgian House Museum, Red Lodge Museum and Blaise Castle House Museum.  

Bedroom in the Georgian House Museum, Bristol

Image - The Georgian House Museum, credit Destination Bristol

Bristol Old Vic Theatre

If you're missing trips to the theatre, tune in for the online broadcast of Jane Eyre (9 April) by the National Theatre. This acclaimed reimagining of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel is a collaboration with the historic Bristol Old Vic, directed by Bristol-based Sally Cookson. 

Usually projected on the foyer wall every night before a show, you can also watch the motion mapped video Aardman and Limbic Cinema created for the theatre on YouTube. Over on Soundcloud, listen to the Women of Bristol Old Vic sound installation, featuring interviews and stories bringing the voices of women in theatre to the forefront and celebrating their achievements across history. 

Bristol Cathedral  

Bristol’s beautiful and historic Cathedral has almost certainly stood on the site for over a thousand years, but it came to prominence in 1140 when Robert Fitzhardinge founded the Abbey of St Augustine. Before the lockdown, Bristol Cathedral was streaming their services live, but as this is no longer possible, you can still see The Cathedral's spectacular stained-glass windows and find out about its history via their online tour. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for pre-recorded videos of the Cathedral Choir singing as well. 

Clifton Suspension Bridge 

Their lockdown resources page offers loads of activities, challenges and educational resources. Also, their history pages are full of stories about the iconic bridge. On their YouTube channel, you are able to go on a virtual tour of the Leigh Woods Vaults. Their archives have been digitalized for you to explore as well!

Bailey Balloons

Ever wanted to experience a Hot Air Balloon ride over Bristol? Now is the perfect time for a taster! Take a virtual balloon ride with Bailey Balloons and if those incredible views inspire you, then you can buy their flight vouchers now, which will be valid for 12 months from when they resume flying. Up, up and away!

The New Room 

The world’s oldest Methodist chapel is a historic 276-year-old Grade I listed church originally built by John Wesley shortly after he arrived in Bristol in 1739. You can visit it virtually via The New Room’s online tour and see inside this historic chapel, which was also used as a filming location for Poldark.  

Entrance to John Wesley's Chapel, The New Room

Image - The New Room

Banksy tour 

Bristol is world-renowned for the vibrant street art that adorns its walls, including many of born-and-bred Bristolian Banksy’s earliest and most famous pieces. To see some of the anonymous street artist’s marvellous murals from your phone, including his latest 2020 Valentine's piece, download the Banksy Bristol Trail app. It gives you the lowdown on the early history of Banksy as well as articles with photos about the Banksy vs Bristol Museum show and his Dismaland exhibit. 

The Girl with the Pierced Ear Drum, Banksy in Bristol

Image - The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum by Banksy 

Hotel hop from home

See which Bristol hotels take your fancy for future visits with the virtual tours on offer. Sneak a peek at the Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel, with decor inspired by the local art scene; the atmospheric Hotel du Vin & Bistro, based in a converted sugar factory; the 4 star luxury Mercure hotel Holland House, and the modern Cleyro Serviced Apartments in the Finzels Reach quarter.

Bedroom at Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel

Image - Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel

Virtual Ferry Tour with Bristol Ferry

At 5pm on 27 March, two of the Bristol Ferry team (staying 2 metres apart) will be taking us on a virtual tour around the harbour via a live stream on Facebook and Instagram. Since all their regular services are on pause for now, consider making a donation in return for the virtual trip to support this not-for-profit, community-owned business. 

A 360 view of Bristol’s food scene 

Enjoy a taster of Bristol’s brilliant food and drink scene in this 360 video. From lunch with a view of Brunel’s famous bridge at Clifton Observatory to globe-spanning street food at St Nick’s Market, check out just a handful of the vibrant places that make dining out here a treat. 

Westonbirt, The National Arboretum

Spring is one of the most beautiful times of year at Westonbirt and while you can't see trees in person this year, browsing the photos in their springtime Flickr album is the next best thing. 

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral have launched an interactive virtual art tour for people to enjoy from home. This remarkable show brings together work from some of the most important and influential contemporary artists of the 20th and 21st century, including Antony Gormley, Shirazeh Houshiary, Henry Moore, Grayson Perry, Conrad Shawcross, Stanza and Mark Wallinger.

St John on the Wall

The hidden church built into the Old City wall is offering several virtual activities. Firstly, their online 360 tour lets you explore the 12th century chruch from the comfort of your sofa. Secondly, they offer you a free virtual audio tour.

St Thomas the Martyr

The Church of St Thomas the Martyr is a fine Classical building dating back to 1792-93. It was designed by James Allen and, with its handsome east end fronting onto a busy commercial street, has something of the style and impact of a church in Rome. You are now able to experience their virtual 360 tour from your sofa!

Bristol History Podcast 

Brush up on your Bristol history through the back catalogue of this podcast, made in collaboration with Bristol Cable, a magazine produced by locals. The podcast has several episodes and interviews outlining the city’s history including the role of Caribbean migration in the city, Polling Day in 18th century Bristol, natural history of the West Country, Bristol’s overseas trade in history, street art and many more topics to delve into from your sofa.  

Bristol History Quiz

Developers First Base have devised a 15-question history quiz together with Visit Bristol. This quiz is replacing the Old Market walking tours planned for April and May, and is a great opportunity to put your knowledge to the test. Take a step back in time and uncover the area's untold stories and best kept secrets.

Bristol music on Spotify playlists 

As the birthplace of ground-breaking music from legendary acts such as Massive Attack, Portishead, Roni Size and Tricky, Bristol is well known for its rich music heritage. Listen to this Spotify playlist to rediscover some of Bristol’s iconic sounds, or hear the new sounds from the city including Beak>, IDLES, Heavy Lungs, Fenne Lily and Harvey Causon.

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Experience Bristol from your sofa: A virtual visit to the city

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