Day trips are great because you get to pack a full adventure into just one day! For this post, we dive into a day trip from London to Bristol. Fun fact: I was supposed to get a master’s degree in Bristol, but they canceled the program I was entered, so I didn’t go. And I still haven’t been! Shame on me!
So, for this post, I’m excited to introduce you to Danny from What’s Danny Doing?, who has lived in Bristol and is excited to give you this huge, epic, and ultimate look into Bristol and to help you find your way. Give him some love in the comments!
Londoners love Bristol. And they’re flocking there at an impressive rate.
It’s no surprise. Bristol was recently named as the trendiest city in Europe by National Geographic. Clearly, despite all the awesome things to do in London, Bristol is well worth a visit!
If you’re a Londoner yet to see what the hype’s all about, or simply someone in the UK capital looking for a change of scenery, then perhaps it’s time for a day trip from London to Bristol. For those with a longer stay in London, be sure to make the most of your time and take advantage of these London itineraries to get you to all the right places.
Keep on reading to find out how to spend a day in this scintillating southwestern city.
How to Get from London to Bristol
But first, how to get there. Bristol is one of the UK’s most popular cities, which means it’s super easy to access from London. Car, coach, and train are probably the easiest ways into the city.
Thankfully, driving to Bristol from London is straightforward. Take the M25 onto the M4 (which takes you most of the way), before exiting onto the M32 to Bristol.
You can also reach the M4 by driving through central London. If you’d rather avoid the notoriously busy M25, and don’t mind the stresses of Central London driving, you might prefer this route!
The trip usually takes around 2.5-3 hours, depending on traffic and how fast you drive!
Coach is my favourite way of getting from London to Bristol. It’s cheap, easy and comfortable. Plus, you get to ride on a double-decker coach, which is just downright awesome…right?!
The coach (National Express or Megabus) leaves regularly from Victoria Coach Station and weaves through central London (past the Thames, which is quite nice) before hitting the motorway. After 2.5 hours or so it’ll drop you at Bristol Bus and Coach Station, right in the heart of town.
If you buy early enough you can find some mega-cheap tickets too. A return ticket can cost as little as £15 but expect between £25-35 as standard.
Taking the train to Bristol is just as easy as the coach. The train leaves every 5-15 minutes from London Paddington (and London Waterloo, too) and can take you directly to either Bristol Parkway or Bristol Temple Meads Station.
In the interest of seeing Bristol though, definitely head to Temple Meads station. It’s well placed in Bristol’s city centre (Parkway station is far further away), meaning you’re closer to the city’s main attractions.
This is also the quickest way to get to Bristol, which is an obvious bonus with only a day to spend here. Depending on the train, it should take between 1.5-2 hours.
Expect to pay around £40 for a well-priced return ticket (cheaper tickets are possible though). However, be sure to buy in advance! As always, prices increase rapidly if you leave it to the last minute.
What to See in Bristol
When taking a day trip to Bristol, you will want to make the most of it. Bristol is full of fun and fascinating things to see and do. Here’s a selection of some of the best bits to highlight some of what you might want to do.
The Arnolfini is one of Bristol’s most famous buildings. It’s an amazingly located art gallery/hub, just on the banks of the River Avon in the city centre.
Unfortunately, a lack of funding means it is currently functioning only as a bar-café/reading space. Thanks to its prime location, chilled out vibes and awesome food/drinks, it’s still well worth a visit though.
The M Shed is another awesome (and free) waterfront attraction. It’s a museum of Bristol’s history and is situated less than a 5-minute walk from the Arnolfini. It’s well worth a visit if you’re interested in Bristol and how it’s changed over the years.
SS Great Britain
Keep walking along the river away from the M Shed and you’ll get to the famous SS Great Britain- a well-known relic of Bristol and Britain’s boating past. This giant ship is a sight to behold and has a long and impressive history. You can pay for the privilege of exploring it.
Stokes Croft is cool. It’s sort of like Bristol’s answer to London’s Shoreditch and Dalston, except with less of the pretension and more of the raw and authentic.
Cafes, bars, and restaurants abound here. As does a general artsy, subcultural and anti-system atmosphere. It’s a buzzing, interesting community that’s polar opposites to other parts of Bristol. I thoroughly recommend wandering around and experiencing it for yourself.
Hamilton House (The Canteen)
Located in the heart of Stokes Croft is Hamilton House. This somewhat garish building is a valued community hub that hosts events, workshops and all manner of other things. On the ground floor is The Canteen, a popular bar/restaurant too (more on this below).
To the dismay of the local community, there’s a plan to demolish Hamilton House. You’ll see ‘Save Hamilton House’ posters in windows all over the city. Hopefully, the many campaigns to keep it will prevail. But you should head there now while it’s still there, just in case they don’t.
For more cafes, bars, restaurants, and music venues head up the hill from Stokes Croft to reach Gloucester Road. A similar atmosphere reigns here and it’s a popular destination for a night out.
However, with limited time in the city, you might consider leaving it for a future date, when you have more time (and opportunity for a night out!).
Whether you’re religious or not, Bristol Cathedral is an impressive building to see. It’s just up the road from the Arnolfini, so if you haven’t yet satiated your cultural interests, you could head here too!
A trip to Bristol isn’t complete without a stop at The Christmas Steps. This famous staircase and building in the heart of the city seem frozen in time and provide a flash of insight into what Bristol may have looked like in years gone by.
There’s a lot of history held in this tiny stretch of the city. Surrounded by the modern buildings of our time, the fantastically crooked and warped buildings of the Christmas Steps are in stark contrast. You’ll find a great pub and a board game café here, as well as numerous independent shops and galleries to enjoy.
Cabot Tower (Brandon Hill)
To escape the busy streets and buildings of Bristol, head to Brandon Hill for a flash of green and open space. It’s a little park that’s tucked away up the hill, close to the Cathedral and the Will’s memorial building (part of Bristol University and an impressive building to see in its own right).
At the centre of Brandon Hill is Cabot Tower, a tall building that provides incredible panoramic views over the city and into the distance. The tower is a great vantage point from which to see the city; the park below is a cool place to escape it.
Clifton Suspension Bridge
Onto what’s arguably Bristol’s best known and impressive landmarks and attractions. The suspension bridge connects the cliffs high above the River Avon. Walk across, feel the abyss below, and revel in the views around you.
It’s a genuinely impressive architectural feat that anyone visiting Bristol should witness. There’s also an observatory just next to the bridge, which is another cool little stopping point.
Clifton itself is also a nice place to wander around. It’s traditionally the upmarket part of town. Built off the back of the slave trade, the monstrously sized buildings are something of a bleak reminder of the city’s murky past. That aside, there are masses of trendy shops, bars, cafes and restaurants to enjoy.
Ashton Court Estate and Leigh Woods
Ashton Court Estate and Leigh Woods are two places on the other side of the suspension bridge that offer a well-deserved break from the hub of the city centre.
Follow the road from the suspension bridge to reach Ashton Court Estate. The Estate is a wide expanse of grass and woodland that offers great walks and views over the city. There’s also a golf course there if you fancy a spot of golf.
Leigh Woods is to your right as you cross the bridge. It offers more lovely little walks.
Where to Eat & Drink
You’re in for a treat if you’re thirsty or a foodie in Bristol. There are a huge number of bars, restaurants, and cafes to choose from. It’d be impossible to list them all, but here are a few of my favourites.
Located on the bottom floor of Hamilton House in Stokes Croft, The Canteen is a cool, laid-back bar/restaurant that offers amazingly tasty food of the highest quality.
During the evening time, it transforms into a lively music venue too, with a different act every night. Whether you’re into jazz, hip-hop, world music or more, you’ll be sure to have a great night out in the Canteen.
Poco Tapas Bar
At the foot of Stokes Croft, on Jamaica Street, is this awesome little Tapas Bar. There’s an emphasis on local and sustainable produce and every dish is of a real, top notch standard. The general vibe is very cool too!
If you fancy pizza, pie and/or cider on the waterfront of the city centre, head to The Stables. There’s a giant range of ciders to choose from in this popular place, as well as a large number of delicious pizzas and pies.
There’s often live music playing in the evening too, which adds to the lively atmosphere.
Café Kino (non-profit/vegan/famous in Bristol)
This award-winning vegan café is another well-loved hub in Stokes Croft. With great food, coffee and atmosphere, it’s a great spot for lunch. Many events are held here too. Be sure to drop by to see what’s on.
If you’re looking for a pub, then you’ll want to go to King Street. It’s lined with pubs, bars, and restaurants. The Apple and the Old Duke are two favourites.
The Apple is technically just off King Street. It’s actually a boat on the river, which is cool (seating on land is also available). Cider is the order of the day here, with all manner of ciders from near and afar on offer.
The Old Duke
This well-loved, old-school pub always has an amazing atmosphere. It’s a cool, folky, music hub, with live acts every night of the week. If you fancy a pint and a dance, then definitely head to the Old Duke.
St. Nicholas’ Market
St. Nick’s market is, without a doubt, one of the best spots to grab your lunch in Bristol’s city centre. Just up from the river (from the direction of Temple Meads Station) and with an indoor and outdoor area, you can enjoy reasonably priced, delicious food from all over the world.
Suggested One Day Bristol Itinerary
I’ve included all of the above so that you can decide for yourself how you’d like to spend your day in Bristol. However, here’s a suggested one-day itinerary to help you on your way. It’s all doable by foot!
First stop: Christmas Steps
Begin at the Christmas Steps for your insight into the Bristol buildings of old. Peruse the local shops if you wish.
Second stop: The Waterfront
A 5-minute walk from the Christmas Steps takes you to the waterfront and all that’s on offer here. Grab your morning coffee at the Arnolfini.
Third Stop: M Shed
Having enjoyed your coffee on the waterfront, continue onto the M Shed to learn (for free!) more about Bristol’s past. Head further along the river to the SS Great Britain if you fancy seeing the famous ship.
Fourth stop: Lunch at St. Nicholas’ Market, then Brandon Hill
Head back the way you came, away from the waterfront and to St. Nick’s for lunch. Take it away with you to eat at Brandon Hill. Eat your lunch in the Brandon Hill Park, then head up the tower to enjoy the view.
Fifth Stop: Clifton and the Suspension Bridge
Continue up the hill from the park, heading in the direction of the suspension bridge (there are signs). It’s about a 30-minute walk.
Optional: If you want some more greenery, continue onto Ashton Court Estate or Leigh Woods. If not, then head back the way you came.
Sixth Stop: Stokes Croft
Head from Clifton to Stokes Croft. It’s a bit of a walk, but it’s worth it to see the contrast that’s on offer in Bristol.
Grab your dinner at one of the many restaurants here. Poco Tapas Bar would be a good bet!
Last Stop: Kings Street
After a long day’s sightseeing, you’re bound to be tired. Before heading back to London, grab a drink on King Street, which is about a 15-20 minute walk from Stokes Croft. You’ve deserved it!
Time to Wrap Up
There you have it: what to do on a day trip from London to Bristol. Whatever you end up doing in Bristol you’re sure to have an amazing time. It’s truly an awesome city. But hopefully, the ideas and information here have provided some inspiration for what to see and do!
What did you think? Drop a comment below with where you’d head first!
Ready to take the trip?
Here’s your toolkit full of links so you don’t have to go searching!
- Get more info on your destination through guidebooks.
- Find the right hotel for you on Booking.com through the incredible amount of filters available.
- Discover the perfect experience through GetYourGuide. From transit tickets to food tours, it’s all right here.
- Need a flight? Gotcha covered with Skyscanner (USA people, THIS link is for you).
- Already in Europe and just need a bus or train. We always use Omio because it’s so easy!
Now, go and have an AMAZING time! Don’t forget to tag us on Instagram (@awanderlustforlife) so we can see you memorable experiences.
About the author:
Danny Newman is a travel enthusiast with a passion for writing and inspiring others to live fully. He
runs a travel blog called What’s Danny Doing?, which is dedicated to helping aspiring travellers travel for the
first time. For Danny, the essence of travel is found in the feeling it elicits. He wants to inspire and
support as many people as possible to experience this ‘travel feeling’.