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Bristol for Weekends
Clifton Suspension Bridge
An architectural masterpiece consisting of two massive towers neatly perched on the steep sides of the Avon Gorge, the Clifton Suspension Bridge is an iconic and unmissable landmark in Bristol which dates all the way back to 1831.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel is a popular name in Bristol, and when you visit you’ll find out why. If you’re visiting in a group then why not embark on a completely free guided tour of the bridge - running every Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday from Easter to October. They generally last around 45 minutes to an hour, and you’ll find yourself ending up at the Visitor Centre on the Leigh Woods side of the bridge. The tour guides are friendly and knowledgeable, so you’ll certainly learn a lot about Bristol’s architectural history. There are many benches along the way if you need a pit stop – but be sure to dress appropriately as its all outdoors.
Even more remarkable than the actual bridge itself, is that underneath the supporting stone foundations, there’s a vast array of hidden vaults which are occasionally opened up for public viewing. Interestingly, it seemed they were accidentally built when the plans for the foundation of the bridge were lost. It wasn’t until 2002 that, whilst undergoing replacement works, a manhole cover hiding the secrets of the vaults was uncovered. Under this manhole cover, there was a deep shaft leading to other shafts which in turn lead to twelve massive vaults about the height of three double decker buses, completely buried away in the depths of Bristol’s past life. You can explore these intriguing vaults for yourself by adventuring down a steep path to a vertical ladder ultimately leading you to a new entrance drilled out in the side of the bridge. Notice the walls are extremely thick – it’s no wonder they remained undisclosed for so long!
Bristol Packet Boat Trips
Embark on a downstream boating adventure whilst you enjoy spectacular unique city views when you opt to take part in a Bristol Packet Boat Trip. Bristol has a wealth of history and culture waiting to be uncovered, making this a great excuse to learn whilst travelling down the iconic River Avon.
Tickets are priced at an affordable £17 for adults, £15 for seniors and £13 for children, whilst the trip itself usually lasts around three and a half hours. Running commentary during your journey will teach you all about the vibrant city of Bristol and its endless culture. The award-winning commentaries can be adapted to suit the requirements of the group for special educational trips, so be sure to enquire if this relates to you. If you need to quench your thirst, there’s also an on-board bar serving hot and cold drinks throughout the duration. Alternatively, just wait for the boat to stop at waterside pubs and tea gardens along the way.
Take in your surroundings as you sail through the floating harbour into the Junction Lock, here you’ll lock down onto the tidal part of the Avon. But this isn’t the only trip on offer - check the official website, as alongside their most popular Avon Gorge sightseeing excursion they also have special themed boat tours throughout the year such as Cream Tea Cruises, City Dock Tours and upstream afternoon adventures. The boats are also available for special events and parties – you can enquire through their website if you’d ever like to hire this floating venue. Around 20 – 100 passengers can fit on board, so whether it’s an intimate celebration or a lavish social event this tour would be a highly unique way to celebrate in style along the river.
We have lived in Bristol for many years but had never done a cruise up the Avon Gorge before. It was sensational. Beautiful views and a terrific commentary from skipper Ben. One of my top things to do in Bristol from now on.
Those looking to shop until they drop will love a day trip to Bristol’s modern shopping centre, Cabot Circus. It’s been uniquely designed to make the most of its spacious surroundings to give a wonderfully pleasant indoor-outdoor shopping experience. You’ll notice Cabot Circus is shaped like a dome with a glass roof to keep you dry during rainy days.
Many famous favourites such as Zara, Topshop, River Island, JD Sports and the west’s flagship House of Fraser (which impressively spans all three floors) can be found inside, but check the website before you visit for the full list. As well as high street shops, there are also a wide range of restaurants covering everything from Thai to American diner-style when you need a pit stop or even if you’re looking for somewhere to dine out one evening. Well-known chains such as Five Guys, Nandos, Wagamamas, TGI Friday and Giraffe can all be found up on the top floor. After your meal head over to the 13-screen Showcase Cinema De Lux to watch a film, also situated on the top floor of the shopping centre. Alternatively, walk in the opposite direction to try your hand at crazy golf and take part in exciting VR games inside ImmotionVR.
Your shopping experience doesn’t have to end there! Once you’ve explored every store in sight, continue across Penn Street into Quakers Friars which is only seconds away from Cabot Circus. Many designer shops can be found here such as Apple, Oliver Bonas, All Saints and Michael Kors. There’s another variety of eateries here, slightly more high-end, including Côte Brasserie, L’Osteria and Piccolino. When the weather gets warmer, you can dine alfresco in many of the piazzas restaurants and cafes whilst watching the relaxing stream of the decorative water foundations.
Be dazzled by the excitement and glam of a theatre performance at one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions and Bristol’s answer to The West End - Bristol Hippodrome. Whether you’re watching a family-friendly pantomime or enjoying a romantic evening with that special someone, the Hippodrome truly is an experience everyone can enjoy. From musicals to opera performances and stand-up comedian shows, the venue has a vastly busy programme with something to suit every individual.
Such a good place to watch shows whether you’re with family, friends or work colleagues. I’ve watched plenty of shows here and I love it every time I’m here!
Frank Matcham was the architectural genius behind the Bristol Hippodrome back in 1912, interestingly it was one of the last major theatres he had built after the London Palladium, the London Hippodrome and Blackpool’s Tower Ballroom. It was a very ambitious project showcasing a fine example of the grand construction of the late Victorian era. Although the theatre today is mostly famous for its frequent residencies straight from The West End and Broadway, you can also enjoy ballet performances, concerts, children’s shows and many other exciting entertainment pieces here. The Hippodrome’s schedule isever-changing so keep checking the official website as new events are announced almost daily.
Notice the spectacular domed roof above the stalls, originally it was opened to reveal the sky and stars above whilst keeping the theatre cool. Since being fully-fitted with air-conditioning, the roof is never usually opened up anymore but this doesn’t stop guests from requesting it! Ticket prices greatly fluctuate depending on the show, the date and where you want to sit but the general rule of thumb is tickets closer to the front are the most expensive. Celebrating something special? Some amazing discounts can be offered to bigger groups, as well as top-notch service and superb seats so make sure you enquire if this applies to you.