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How to spend 48 hours in Bristol

By Kingfisher Visitor Guides

There’s so much to do and see in Bristol that you could easily spend a week touring its highlights. Relatively compact, the city is easy to get around and is an ideal base for exploring further afield such as Bath, the Cotswolds and South Wales. But if you do have only 48 hours to spend here, there are certain attractions that you simply have to experience.

Day one

Start your visit by hopping onto a ferry and taking a trip around the Harbourside. Seeing Bristol by boat is a fantastic way to get a real flavour of the city and to experience its wealth of maritime heritage, Bristol Ferry Boats offer extensive tours. 

The Harbourside has had a massive facelift over recent years and many of its industrial buildings have been converted into trendy restaurants, cafes and bars, art galleries and museums. There are some great pubs on the waterside and a number of moored-up ships and barges have been turned into restaurants and cafes. A pre-booked trip can take you all around the Harbourside, past Brunel’s SS Great Britain and out onto the River Avon to the magnificent Avon Gorge and Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Don't miss a ride down the river with Bristol Ferry Boat

Returning back to the Harbourside, jump off the ferry at the SS Great Britain and take a tour of this magnificent ocean liner. Built and designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, this handsome ship has been meticulously restored to its former glory. Step back in time and take a look at the ship’s cabins, engines and dining saloon and take a wander on the stunning Promenade Deck. Nearing time for lunch, hop onto a ferry again and alight by the city centre.

Just a few minutes away is Arnolfini. One of Britain’s leading centres for contemporary art, take a browse and nip into the well-stocked bookshop. Either have lunch here or check out one of the many great food establishments nearby such as the cafe on the first floor of the Watershed, which has great views over the harbour and tables on the balcony in summer. 

Follow lunch with a little retail therapy. For pure indulgence, head to Cabot Circus. This £500 million development has more than 120 shops including Harvey Nichols, House of Fraser and many top designer fashion stores. With a number of eateries for weary shoppers to rest their feet, remember to have a break and enjoy a quick latte or a tasty snack. Try not to get too carried away in Cabot Circus, as there is so much more to do as the evening approaches.

Shopaholics can engage in a bit of retail therapy at Cabot Circus

Shopaholics can engage in a bit of retail therapy at Cabot Circus

Take an early dinner in one of the many stylish restaurants around the Harbourside. Check out what’s on at the Bristol Beacon, the Bristol Old Vic or the Hippodrome, or head over to Southville to visit the Tobacco Factory Theatres. 

After such a busy day you deserve to chill out in a relaxing pub. But if your energy levels permit, put on your dancing shoes and dance the night away in a nightclub. Check out the Thekla or SWX Bristol. If big name DJs are more your thing, try Motion near Temple Meads Station – a club in a converted skatepark.

Day two

Get out of the city centre today and head up to leafy Clifton Village – actually not a village at all, but the area around Bristol’s famous Suspension Bridge. Start the day by going to the Primrose Cafe, one of the great Bristolian breakfast institutions. Then take a walk across one of Bristol’s favourite open spaces – Durdham Downs. On the far side of The Downs, as locals refer to it, you find great views across the River Avon and the Avon Gorge and back to the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Close by is the Bristol Observatory. 

Back in Clifton Village, admire the wonderful Georgian architecture and take your pick from one of the many up-market independent shops and boutiques. About Face is brilliant for fashion jewellery. Or, head down to Clifton Triangle, where you can find Oriental noodle and vegetarian dishes at Wagamama; a whole array of international dishes at global banquet restaurant COSMO; and modern European food at the elegant Brown’s Brasserie, housed within a striking building which was inspired by the Doge’s Palace in Venice. Or, head off to Bristol Lido. Dating back to 1849, the Lido has undergone a major transformation and now offers spa treatments, a restaurant and bar as well as a heated outdoor pool, sauna, steam room, and sundeck. It’s a great place to spend a few hours in the afternoon.

There's plenty of places to enjoy a nightcap

There’s plenty of places to enjoy a nightcap

Before dinner, wander back into town and take in the breathtaking architecture of the Bristol Cathedral. Head to the centre with its many fountains and meander round to the Christmas Steps. A myriad of independent shops and galleries, it’s a great area to pick up something unique. 

For a special place for dinner, try the nearby Hotel du Vin. A winning mix of great style and sophistication, housed in a magnificently-restored 18th-century sugar house, this gorgeous establishment never fails to impress. Round off the evening with some great live music. Try the Old Duke in King Street, or No 1 on the harbourside before calling it a night.

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Image credits: ©Adam Gasson/SS Great Britain; antb/Shutterstock; Grayling PR/Cabot Circus; Vadim Guzhva/

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