Last weekend we had a chance to visit the cool town of Bristol – a mere 2-hour train ride West from London. Here is the ultimate Bristol walking guide of main sights to see within a day while walking through the town.
Upon our arrival in Bristol, early in the morning, before 9 am, we were greeted by the beautiful architecture shimmering in the sunshine. The Temple Meads railway station is something to look at from outside – dating back to the 1840s it was designed by the British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel – a name that will come across repeatedly while walking through Bristol.
Stepping out of the station our attention was first caught by the irresistible aroma coming from a nearby bakery. A little search led to the Hart´s Bakery, situated just under the railway arches, below the station. This artisanal bakery needs to be spoken of due to its absolutely amazing cakes and pastries! Probably one of the best finds in Bristol, everything is baked right there in an open kitchen, in front of the customers´ eyes with the queue winding out of the door on the busier days – and rightfully so! I had the best tasting custard tart and the most amazing brownie of my life – its creamy consistency had a touch of hazelnuts mixed in. I could probably go on and on about how amazing their mini quiches and coffee were (didn´t really get to sample more), but it´s time to move on to the streets of Bristol.
As we didn´t have too much time to spend and visiting Bristol for the first time in just a day, the goal was to get a good overview of the town centre. Most of the sights were viewed just from the outside while walking past.
The first sight to pass on our way was St Mary Redcliffe Church. Dating back to the 12-15th centuries, it´s a beauty of Gothic architecture.
The town centre is made of a canal system and a floating harbour, which plays an important role in keeping the steady water level within the basin. Crossing a few bridges, we found ourselves next to the M Shed – Bristol town museum. The former harbour pier in front of it is lined with old cranes, which used to load the ships. Across the water, at the Millennium Square Landing, a beautiful sailboat was stranded.
Continuing along the Museum Street, we passed a few more remarkable vessels and constructions, for example, the Matthew boat – a 21-year-old replica of a 500-years old boat, sailed by John Cabot to Newfoundland in North America, in 1497. The ship looks similar to the one from the Asterix film and has frequently been used in the BBC and Disney movies.
The road lead to the Brunel´s SS Great Britain – a museum ship that once sailed the seas of the world from Bristol to New York. The former passenger steamship sailed the seas for nearly 100 years, 1845 to 1933 and is now open for visit.
Unfortunately, not having time to pop in this time, we carried on along the Bristol Marina with colourful modern houses lining both sides of the canal. Quite a pleasant walk, I must say.
Turning at the Underfall Yard power house, from where the floating harbour was controlled, the road took us past the Brunel Lock Road and across the river over Brunel Way, to Ashton Court Mansion. The historic estate is situated just outside of the town, among spacious meadows and a populated deer park.
From there another half hour walk led to probably the most breathtaking sight of Bristol – the Clifton Suspension Bridge. One of the world´s great bridges it is 101m above the high water level. Planned by the engineer who takes credit for many other famous constructions of the town and opened in 1864, the bridge joins two cliffs high above. Although the bridge´s weight limit is 4 tonnes, I could feel it slightly shaking while crossing over.
The magnificent view from the bridge above the town was so high, it felt quite eerie.
Above the bridge there is Clifton Observatory. It´s worth climbing up there for getting the best images of the bridge and the town behind it.
In conclusion, Bristol is a beautiful town that absolutely deserves to be visited and then visited again to explore further…