Planning a Bristol day trip from London is a great way to explore one of England’s most dynamic and interesting cities in a short period of time. So many visitors to the UK capital concentrate only on the city itself or on the more conventional day trips to places like Cambridge, Oxford, Seven Sisters, York, Stonehenge and more. However, cool and edgy Bristol has a lot to offer travellers and it’s well worth visiting.
Spending one day in Bristol is enough to get a great feel for the city and to get to know one of England’s most underrated tourist destinations. From a fantastic street art scene to a fascinating maritime history, Bristol has so much to explore and lots to see and do. You may not be able to pack in all of the great things to do into a one-day trip to Bristol, but one thing is certain — you will never be bored!
So if you’re interested in planning a Bristol day trip from London and want to know what to do in Bristol in one day, you’ve come to the right place. Bristol may, arguably, be England’s coolest city and really deserves to be in the spotlight a bit more. Here’s how to plan the best day trip to Bristol from London.
How to Get to Bristol from London
Before I jump into the ideal 1-day Bristol itinerary, we need to discuss how to get to Bristol from London. Being a major metropolitan area in England, Bristol is very well connected to the capital and there are numerous options to get to this Western English city.
London to Bristol by Train
The easiest, quickest and most comfortable way to get from London to Bristol is by train. There are numerous trains to Bristol per day and it is one of the easiest ways to get to the city.
Trains to Bristol leave from Paddington Station in Northwest London and, as I mentioned earlier, there are numerous departures per day. The train to Bristol takes about 2-3 hours depending on the type of train you take. Keep in mind that the central station in Bristol is called Bristol Temple Meads and not Bristol Parkway — the names can be confusing for visitors!
Another thing to consider is that it is almost always far more affordable to take the train if you book your tickets as far in advance as possible. Fares tend to get more expensive the closer to your date of travel. Click here to book tickets and view the latest timetables.
London to Bristol by Bus
A far more affordable but less comfortable way to get to Bristol from London is by bus. Like the train, there are lots of buses that leave daily from the capital to Bristol and it is quite a convenient way to get to the city. Coaches leave from Victoria Sation frequently and can be far more affordable than the train, especially if you book in advance.
Like the train, the coach is much more affordable if booked in advance of travel, but even if you don’t, you’re still going to find that it’s generally cheaper than the train. Click here to book tickets and view the latest timetables.
London to Bristol by Car
Finally, if you would rather drive than take a coach or train, it is fairly straightforward to reach Bristol from London by car. The drive from London to Bristol takes about two and a half hours along the M4 motorway if you don’t make any stops, however, if you do have your own vehicle, it can be a great opportunity to do some sightseeing along the way.
If you go to Bristol from London by car, it’s only a slight detour from the road to visit some of West England’s most famous attractions, including Stonehenge, Salisbury and the beautiful, historic spa town of Bath (though the latter really deserves more time than just a couple of hours to be dedicated to exploring it).
If you need to hire a car for your Bristol day trip or just for your trip to England in general, we recommend browsing RentalCars.com to find great prices on a rental car across many major companies. If you want to know more about this platform, make sure to check out our RentalCars.com review.
Bristol Day Trip Itinerary
Begin your time in Bristol at one of the city’s top attractions, the Bristol Cathedral. This beautiful Gothic Cathedral is one of the most stunning in the entirety of England and is filled with interesting history. Originally constructed in the 13th century, it has been reconstructed and added to many times in its lifetime, the last being in 1877.
Not only does the cathedral boast beautiful Norman, Gothic and Neo-Gothic architecture, but the interior is also donned with gorgeous vaulted ceilings and lovely stained glass windows.
There is no admission fee to the Bristol Cathedral, making it also a great tourist site to see if you’re trying to visit Bristol on a tight budget. There is no denying, even if you’re visiting Bristol for more than just a day and are planning 2 or 3 days in Bristol, you cannot miss this beautiful building.
About a 10-minute walk from the Bristol Cathedral and located in the middle of the lovely Brandon Hill park lies Cabot Tower, a major Bristol landmark and an unmissable sight in the city.
The tower, built in the late 19th century, was erected to commemorate the 400th anniversary first sailing of John Cabot from Bristol to what was later to be known as Canada. Due to its location at the top of Brandon Hill, the Cabot Tower can provide fantastic views of the city.
Entry into the tower is free and it is open daily. It is very much worth taking the time to climb to the top of the tower and enjoy the incredible views over Bristol.
You can see a lot of these sites and more on a free walking tour of Bristol. This is a great way to take in the top sites of the city and get a lot of historical context with a local guide. There are also a number of affordable paid tours such as this Blackbeard to Banksy Walking Tour.
SS Great Britain
One of the top attractions in the city, no visit to Bristol would be complete without exploring the incredible SS Great Britain. This historic passenger steamship designed by the famed Isambard Kingdom Brunel (who also built the Great Western Railway — which is the railway you would have taken to Bristol if you travelled by train), and had her maiden voyage in 1845.
At the time of launch, the SS Great Britain was the largest passenger ship in the world, was the first iron steamships to cross the Atlantic, and spend the majority of her career sailing from England to Melbourne, Australia during the Australian Gold Rush of the mid 19th century.
At the end of the 19th Century, the ship was abandoned in the Falkland Islands before she was recovered and brought back to Britain in 1970. After much restoration, the ship now resides in Bristol Dry Dock, where she was originally built, and operates as a museum where you can learn all about the SS Great Britain herself, along with Bristol’s vast maritime history.
Ticket prices for the SS Great Britain are £18 for adult passengers, with discounts available for students, children and seniors.
Discover Bristol’s Street Art
If you’re visiting Bristol because of its hip arts and culture scene rather than for its historic sites (or you’re just interested in both), you would be remiss if you didn’t spend a good portion of your Bristol day trip checking out the city’s incredible street art scene. As the hometown of the legendary and elusive artist, Banksy, there are few cities in the world that boast a better street art scene than Bristol.
You can’t walk anywhere in the city without being confronted with countless beautiful murals and smaller pieces of artwork, but if you want to learn more about street art in Bristol, including its history and the culture of it in the city, then it is worth going on a street art tour like the tours operated by Where the Wall. These are run by local artists who take you to some of the most interesting pieces of art and explain the historical context.
If you would rather take your time and explore the street art scene on your own, this map is a great way to check out some of the top murals and pieces of art in the city.
St Nicholas Market
It’s likely you’ve worked up quite the appetite with all that sightseeing and now would be a great time to find a bite to eat for lunch. One of the best places to do this in Bristol would be at St Nicholas Market.
Located about a 20-minute walk from, this market has countless food stalls and fantastic cuisine from all over the world, making it the perfect place for an affordable bite to eat. It’s also a great place to really appreciate how wonderfully multicultural the city of Bristol is.
If you’re looking for something a bit closer to the SS Great Britain Museum to find a place to eat and you want to experience some the trendy nature that Bristol oozes, then make sure to head to Wapping Wharf. This area, located about ten minutes from the ship museum, is a relatively new area of renovated shipping containers that is home to countless hip and trendy restaurants and cool shops and artists’ spaces.
There are lots of restaurant opportunities here and you’re sure to find something that suits your tastes. It is worth mentioning that Wapping Wharf is a better choice for lunch if you’re looking for a sit-down restaurant and St Nicholas Market is a better choice if you’re looking for cheap, street food eats. You really can’t go wrong with either one and if you choose to spend 2 days in Bristol, you can visit both!
After you’ve filled yourself up at lunch, it’s time to head to another museum and learn more about Bristol as a city. And there is no better place to do this than at the M Shed, one of the best museums in the city. Located adjacent to Wapping Wharf, this museum is situated in a refurbished dockside shed.
M Shed is probably the best museum to visit if you want to have a holistic view of life in Bristol, both historically and in the present day. Across a number of floors, there are numerous exhibits that compile countless artefacts and personal items from Bristolians throughout time and it gives visitors incredible insight into the history of this city and also what makes it so special.
M Shed is also a free museum, meaning that there is no entry fee. You should plan to spend at least a couple of hours here as there really is a lot to see and learn.
Enjoy Bristol’s Craft Beer Scene
After enjoying all there is at the M Shed, it’s likely that you could use a pint to take the edge off such a busy day. Luckily for you, Bristol has a hopping (mind the pun) craft beer scene that is sure to impress.
There are countless brewpubs and craft breweries scattered throughout the city, but if you’re looking for a drink that is located close to the M Shed, I recommend visiting the Wild Beer Co’s brewpub in Wapping Wharf. This local craft brewery has a number of fantastic and delicious experimental beers and a lot of seasonal favourites, as well.
Wander Around Stokes Croft
If you’re interested in experiencing a cool, hip neighbourhood that is is away from the typical tourist trail in Bristol, then consider heading up north to the edgy Stokes Croft neighbourhood of the city. This area is known to be a haven for local artists and creative types, has a lot of cool street art to explore and a number of hip cafes and bars to enjoy a beverage at.
Stokes Croft is perhaps most famous for being home to one of Banky’s first and most famous murals, the “Mild Mild West,” which features a bear throwing a Molotov cocktail at riot police and is indicative of the political art that the artist later became so famous for.
Stokes Croft has a lot more to offer than just that one mural, however, and it’s worth wandering up in this area if you like exploring some “alternative” neighbourhoods when you travel.
Clifton Suspension Bridge
If you’re only spending 1 day in Bristol, then you may have to choose between visiting the Stokes Croft neighbourhood or heading to the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge as they are both located quite far from each other. However, both are also worth visiting so it just depends on your preferences.
One of the best ways to end your one day in Bristol is by watching the sunset behind the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which is arguably the landmark that jumps to most people’s minds when they imagine this western city. This massive bridge that spans the Avon Gorge over the river Avon was opened in 1864 and is based off a design from Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Considered to be the symbol of Bristol, the Clifton Suspension Bridge is the perfect place to end your active and exciting Bristol day trip.
Where to Stay in Bristol
If you’ve decided that there is just too much to see and do in Bristol for just a day trip and would rather spend a night or two in this lovely English city, then you’re going to want to find a great place to stay. If you’re wondering where to rest your head in Bristol, check out these great options:
The Bristol Hotel — If you’re searching for a luxury stay in Bristol, you can’t go wrong with this centrally-located hotel. Situated within easy walking distance of almost all of the city’s top attractions. They have countless plush rooms available and a great restaurant and bar on site. Click here to see their availability
Victoria Square Hotel Clifton Village — If you’re looking for a tranquil, sedate stay in Bristol, then consider this boutique hotel. Located in the lovely Clifton neighbourhood of the city, it is within easy reach of all of Bristol’s attractions, they have a number of comfortable rooms available and a great breakfast included in the room rate. Click here to see their availability
YHA Bristol — If you’re travelling solo or on a budget (or just want the social atmosphere that hostels provide!) then this is a great choice for you! Centrally located, they have a range of both dorm and private rooms available, great common areas, and lots of opportunities for meeting other travellers. Click here to see their availability
Private Rental — If you would rather stay in a local Bristol home rather than traditional accommodation, then finding a private holiday rental is a good option for you. There are countless options available such as this trendy harbourside flat. Click here to browse the best Bristol holiday rentals
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Bristol hotels!
Planning the perfect Bristol day trip itinerary is not hard to do, in fact, the hardest part is trying to pack everything into just one day! Bristol has so much to offer travellers that it’s always worth visiting, no matter how long you have to spend.
Are you thinking of going on a day trip to Bristol from London? Have you visited the city before? Let us know in the comments!