There is something magical about visiting a city when it’s gearing up for the festive period. And, even though we had blue skies and bright sunshine, our recent weekend in Bristol with the kids, was particularly lovely – glittering colourful lights, Yuletide stalls and events to mark the beginnings of the Christmas season.
Regardless of the time of year – Bristol is a perfect city for a weekend break. Voted the best place to live in the UK a staggering three times, it is a city with a big heart and shaped by centuries of history. Full to the brim with artists and creatives, independent shops, restaurants, cafes and bars – it’s a hive of activity where old sits in harmony with the new.
Cleyro Serviced Apartments
Although there are many hotels and accommodation options in Bristol, we opted for a self-catering apartment in the centre of town. Cleyro Serviced Apartments has a prime position right on the River Avon with spectacular views across the water to St Peter’s Church and beyond.
Our journey to Finzel’s Reach, a development in the heart of Bristol, was seamless – and we were met by the welcoming Zoltán who showed us to our parking space underneath the building and then up to our first-floor Superior Two-Bedroomed flat – a meet-and-greet service which is part of your stay. As soon we entered, we were all amazed by the huge bedrooms and the floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on to the water.
Meanwhile, with two bathrooms and fluffy white towels, as well as a modern living room and kitchen which was stocked with tea, coffee, milk, tea towels and even washing up liquid, we didn’t want for anything. And the comprehensive welcome book including local takeaway numbers meant we were all set for our first night in and didn’t have to leave the warmth to venture outside. The husband and I happily snuggled in for the evening watching TV and having a glass of wine, while the kids were in bed. It was a relaxing start to our trip before we set off exploring the next day.
Waking up in the morning and pulling back the curtains was a real treat, and all of us, even the kids, spent time just watching the hub of activity across the park on the river. In fact, The Finzel’s Reach development was the perfect location for us to explore Bristol on foot – with many of the activities below just 15-20 minutes walk away, as well as the shopping complex of Cabot Circus, and we loved walking across the Castle Bridge to access the centre of Bristol.
Things To Do In Bristol With Kids
There are so many Bristol activities and days out in Bristol that it would be impossible to be able to do them all in one weekend. However, I think we really gave it a good shot and it is a testament to how easy it was to enjoy exploring Bristol that the kids even managed to be out the whole time without too much complaint. Here are our suggestions for the Top Things To Do In Bristol With Kids.
We The Curious
We The Curious is part indoor festival and science centre rolled into one – with the aim of igniting curiosity in young minds. Close to the Sky View Wheel, visitors can discover over 250 exhibits including the Aardman Animation, the human body exhibits and space gallery.
During Christmas, We The Curious also hosts a Festive Fair in Millennium Square. We got to sample some delights at the Winter Food Market, and also go ice skating on the rink next to the At-Bristol Planetarium glitter ball. Monkey adored his time on the ice with his skating buddy, the penguin! Although he did get a wet bum from all the falling over!
We The Curious One Millennium Square, Anchor road, Harbourside, Bristol, BS1 5DB
Brunel’s SS Great Britain
Although we could have easily walked to the Great Western Dockyard, we decided to head over to Brunel’s SS Great Britain via ferry. Picked up from the Cascade Steps, it was a fun way to see Bristol from the water.
After alighting, and making our way to one of history’s most iconic ships, the SS Great Britain is an impressive sight. Even the kids were excited when we told them it was possible to go on board.
From learning about one of the 19th Century’s engineering masterminds, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, to what life was like onboard one of the longest passenger ships in the world from 1845 to 1854, we had a fascinating and interactive experience. From encountering the smells of the time (really!), mopping the decks and watching brave adventurers climbing to the top of the mast, SS Great Britain is an attraction not to miss in Bristol.
Brunel’s SS Great Britain Great Western Dockyard Gas Ferry Road, Bristol BS1 6TY
Exploring Bristol’s Harbourside
Bristol’s harbourside is a buzzing hive of activity with tons going on – from waterfront eateries, food markets and trendy coffee shops to the rather marvellous M Shed museum and its imposing 1950s cranes. The Arnolfini and Spike Island should be priorities if you’re a fan of contemporary art, while there’s more maritime fun with The Matthew – a replica of the boat used by explorer John Cabot when he discovered Newfoundland in 1497. If none of the above tickles your fancy, just wandering along the waterfront and people watching is a great way to enjoy the area and we did just that. The kids loved having the freedom to run about and explore, as well as watch all the hustle and bustle of the ships.
Clifton Suspension Bridge
Tucked away in the suburbs of Bristol, some five minute from the city centre is Clifton, which has a stunning array of Georgian and Victorian architecture, as well as a pretty village. Of course, it also has one of Bristol’s most recognisable landmarks, Clifton Suspension Bridge. Drop in at the Visitor’s Centre to learn more about its history and construction, and take a free tour across it (3.00pm every Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday between Easter and October) or climb up to Observatory Hill for epic views, as well as an exhilarating way down on the rock slide! We chose a quiet spot in the gardens to take in the view of the bridge, as well as grabbing some tea and cake in the Village.
Discover Bristol Street Art
Just by walking around the city you’ll come across plenty of awe-inspiring street art – and that’s because Bristol is home to some 200 street artists – and the most famous of them is, of course, Banksy, who is Bristol-born. You can take official street art tours and discover new works of art on a weekly basis and find some of Banksy’s earlier work. But for families like us who are on limited time, it was just wonderful being able to spot as many as we could by ourselves.
Other Days Out in Bristol
Although we didn’t get the opportunity to do the Bristol activities below, they have been highly recommended to us by those in the know. At least it gives us several more reasons to return…
You’ll probably need a whole day to explore all there is to see at Bristol Zoo Gardens, which is set in 12 acres of parkland and it one of the fifth oldest zoos in the world. There are over 400 different species of animals from all over the globe including lions, gorillas, meerkats, African penguins and red pandas. Plus with different events and activities for the whole family, there is much to discover about so many amazing creatures and the work the zoo is doing to conserve wildlife.
Bristol Zoo Gardens Clifton, Bristol, BS8 3HA
Another attraction located in Bristol’s harbourside, the Bristol Aquarium is home to thousands of different sea creatures from sharks to puffer fish and is the only UK aquarium to feature an urban jungle filled with tropical and exotic plants. You can also wander through two underwater tunnels and watch marine life swim around you.
Bristol Aquarium Anchor Road, Bristol, BS1 5TT
Brandon Hill and Cabot Tower
Brandon Hill is Bristol’s oldest park. With a pond, a nature conservation area, plenty of hills and a playground it’s the perfect outdoor space for families to enjoy. Meanwhile, if you climb to the top of the park’s famous 105ft Cabot Tower – built in 1897 to commemorate John Cabot’s voyage from Bristol to the continent of North America, you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of Bristol’s skyline and the harbourside.
Brandon Hill Park, Just off Park Street, West End, Bristol
Disclosure: My visit was organised through Visit Bristol as part of their Merry Bristmas Campaign. All opinions are my own.