Bristol’s best cultural venues

By Rebecca Burns

Bursting with exciting cultural venues, Bristol packs in major concert halls, diverse museums, art house cinemas, striking architecture, and wonderful art galleries. Whatever your cultural preferences – from Shakespeare to graffiti – Bristol will tickle your tastebuds.

Graffiti and street art

It’s in Bristol that fans of graffiti and street art can admire one of the world’s largest outdoor art exhibits. See No Evil is a unique project set up by artist Inkie and Bristol music promoters Team Love who together managed to get permission from the local council to transform the façades of 10 multi-storey buildings along the once bland Nelson Street into enormous murals that have become a permanent cultural feature of the cityscape.

Bristol Beacon

Just a few minutes’ walk from Nelson Street, one of the city’s largest and most easily recognisable cultural hubs is Bristol Beacon, which is more than 150 years old. Hosting an eclectic mix of jazz, classical, pop, rock, folk and world music, as well as stand-up comedy and other performances, the building is an iconic part of the city’s skyline thanks to its gleaming copper façade and contemporary foyer. Even if you aren’t heading there for a ticketed event, you can pop in to see if there’s anything free happening in the foyer, which is often the venue for one-off gigs, craft markets and family events.

Bristol Beacon

Enjoy an evening of live music at Bristol Beacon

Bristol Hippodrome

Just around the corner from Bristol Beacon you will find the historic Bristol Hippodrome, a Grade 2-listed building best known for its touring West End theatre shows and annual pantomime – although it also welcomes regular visits from the Welsh National Opera, the English National Ballet and other leading international performers. The domed theatre was designed by Frank Matcham for Australian-born British theatre manager Oswald Stoll, and opened on 16th December 1912, creating a stage that remains one of the largest outside of London.

St George’s Bristol

If you head around the corner and up Park Street, you will find another well-established cultural venue, St George’s Bristol, tucked up along a leafy side road. Housed in a former church that boasts superb natural acoustics, this relatively small concert hall was built between 1821 and 1823 by the architect Sir Robert Smirke.

Following the completion of an impressive contemporary pavilion-style extension, the venue is back to hosting its busy schedule of more than 200 events every year. Concerts feature internationally-renowned artists from the worlds of jazz, folk, classical, world music and opera, alongside professional home-grown groups such as the Bristol Ensemble, while the new annexe is used for additional functions such as special events and educational workshops.


The Harbourside area is packed with cultural venues dotted about within the historic dockside buildings. Arnolfini – Bristol’s centre for contemporary arts – has a fantastic waterside location and an exciting programme of changing visual arts exhibitions, plus film screenings, dance, performance, talks and family events. The converted warehouse also holds an impressive arts bookshop as well as a popular cafe bar serving local and seasonal produce. Entry to the building and exhibition spaces is free, and there are some seats with a prime waterside view outside on the quayside if you fancy a drink on a sunny day or evening.

Arnolfini, Bristol

Arnolfini is Bristol’s International Centre for Contemporary arts, presenting an eclectic programme of visual art, performance, dance, film and music

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

Exhibits cover all sorts from rocks and fossils to dinosaurs and other natural history, and there is a small but excellent section looking at ancient Egypt. Upstairs, the art gallery holds collections of British, French and other European art; modern and contemporary art; Victorian art; and pottery, ceramics, carvings and glass.

Unique museums

You can also visit some unique museums during your stay, depending on the time of year, such as The Georgian House Museum and The Red Lodge Museum, both of which are historic houses offering a snapshot into Bristol lives in a different time (both open April to December).

Alternative history

For a bit of “alternative” history, check out beautiful Arnos Vale Cemetery. It may sound like a morbid suggestion, but in fact this Victorian cemetery is packed with fascinating history. Situated close to the heart of the city, it is spread over 45 acres and offers walks, wildlife, historic architecture, talks, tours and seasonal events. Many notable people are buried there, too, including educational and social reformer Mary Carpenter, and Georgian geologist Samuel Stutchbury, who named the Thecodontosaurus, which is sometimes described as “Bristol’s own dinosaur”.

Go behind the scenes at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

Read more

Top 10 reasons to visit Bristol

How to spend 48 hours in Bristol

History and heritage of Bristol

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Image credits: ©Bristol Beacon; Bristol Culture/Bristol Museums; Electric Egg Ltd/; Evan Dawson/St George's Bristol; Nick Fewings/Unsplash; Video: Youtube/Natural History Consortium

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