SS Great Britain and the Matthew
Most of us will have heard of the saying ‘Shipshape and Bristol Fashion’ and finding out about Bristol’s rich maritime history is a great way to acquaint yourselves with this vibrant and diverse city.
As a child I can remember visiting the SS Great Britain and have vivid memories of walking along narrow, wooden pathways stretching between scaffolding poles within the vast iron shell that it was. The transformation into this beautiful vessel has been incredible and you can now savour the sights, sounds and smells of life as it would have been on board.
Events are run throughout the year and cover a vast array of activities, talks, interactive activities and tales which run alongside the museum which tells about this hugely important historical ship. For our teens the rich history of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s SS Great Britain gave context to some areas of their school studies – they were learning without even realising it.
Something that we particularly like is that once you purchase an entry ticket, it is valid for 12 months so you can revisit using your ticket as often as you like during that time. If you happen to be called Isambard you receive free entry into the attraction!
If you fancy heading out around the Bristol Docks or along the Avon Gorge then The Matthew is the ship for you. This newer Matthew was built to coincide with the 500 year anniversary of John Cabot’s journey to Newfoundland and back and amazingly this journey was recreated in 1997 by the vessel that you can visit in Bristol. The trips vary in duration and are only on certain dates so be sure to check their website for their sailing times.
Clifton Suspension Bridge
This iconic bridge is synonymous with Bristol and is fascinating not only to see, but also to learn about. The walk to the bridge through Clifton is beautiful, and when you arrive at the visitor centre you can find out about this incredible piece of engineering. There are a number of walks and tours that you can go on and find out about the bridge but you can also just stand and admire the views of the hills that surround the city.
Bristol Old Vic Theatre and the Bristol Hippodrome
These are two fantastic theatres in the city. Both venues offer a selection of different performances ranging from ballet to opera, musicals to comedy and pantomimes to sing-a-longs. Performances at either of these venues will not fail to impress – we’ve always been thrilled and inspired by all the performances that we’ve seen.
If your teen enjoys the limelight check out the Bristol Old Vic masterclasses. These are age appropriate classes that run at certain times in the year so keep an eye out for dates that are added.
M Shed is part of the Bristol Museums group and is a free to all. It’s packed with amazing exhibits that tell the story of the City of Bristol from pre-historic times and all the way through to today. Many of the displays are interactive and encourage the visitor to think beyond what they are seeing.
M Shed put on activities and there are different themes throughout the year, many of which link to a particular current issue or something relevant to that time of year.
You will want to devote plenty of time for shopping in Bristol where you will find a huge variety of shops and great places to eat. Shops in Bristol are spread over a large area and we find it a good idea to think about what we are looking for before heading out to the most appropriate area to shop.
The centre of Bristol is home to the Shopping Quarter and has all the high street names and large department stores such as Debenhams, House of Fraser and Harvey Nichols plus a wide range of independent retailers.
Moving away from the Shopping Quarter we enjoy walking past the book shops, music shops and trendy boutiques situated on Park Street and then make our way up the hill to Clifton Village. Wandering along the side streets in Clifton Village, finding unique and interesting shops that sell jewellery, gifts and home interiors is always great fun. Be sure to keep your energy levels maintained by popping into one of the many cafes, bars and restaurants that are there – it would be rude not to!
If you want something a bit different, check out the markets that Bristol has to offer. Head to the old part of the city, which is great to do without the shopping, and then find the Exchange Building which is where St Nicholas Market can be found. Local traders sell food, drink, clothes, crafts and many other goodies from this indoor market. The traders will happily stop and chat about the story behind what they are selling.
The markets aren’t just contained to the Exchange Building and the paved areas around St Nicholas Market host an exciting collection of markets held on different days of the week. Maybe kickstart you week with a trip to the Bristol Vegan and Wellness Market (Mondays), then later on in the week savour the delights of the Street Food Market and the Farmer’s Market. Finish off by buying some unique vintage, antique or retro items as a fond reminder of this intriguing place.
If your teen is a budding journalist , then this might be just the ticket. This tour immerses you in the world of media and lets you look not only behind the scenes, but also have a go at being in front of the cameras and present the news or the weather.
The BBC in Bristol is particularly renowned for it’s Natural History department and you will get the opportunity to learn more about how programmes such as The Blue Planet are made. Each tour promises to be unique, fun and informative – sounds good to us!
Parks and Green spaces
Despite Bristol being a bustling and densely populated city, the green and rolling hills are not far from view. In fact if you stand at Bristol Docks and stare out into the distance you will see that the city is surrounded by countryside.
In the centre of Bristol there are open green spaces such as Castle Green, which sits alongside the river, and also Queen’s Square which, in the Summer, is a good spot to sit and eat a picnic and watch the world go by.
Slightly further out from the centre of city is the Ashton Court Estate – this 850 acre area of woodlands and grassland is a super place for walks, somewhere to kick a ball around, have a picnic or walk the dog. In the Summer, Ashton Court Estate hosts the Bristol Balloon Fiesta and is well worth going to if you are visiting at the beginning of August.
Another great open space is Blaise Castle Museum and Estate. This is slightly smaller than Ashton Court but still boasts 400 acres of woodland which is peaceful and very beautiful. Blaise Castle House Museum is open to the public and you can discover household objects from the Victorian period and there is also a café just in case you get hungry or thirsty.
River Trip around the Docks
Over the years Bristol docks have been renovated to create what is now a charming, vibrant and fun place to be. One of our favourite past times has been to take a trip around the harbour on one of the boats tours.
There are a number of boat trips that either take you around the floating harbour or you can venture further afield and take a trip towards the Bristol Channel where you will see the spectacular sights of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. The locks and mechanisms that hold the water away from the city are an amazing feat of engineering and learning about how the floating harbour was developed is very interesting.
Walking Tour and historical heritage tours
Evidence of Bristol’s past and recent past can be seen around the city. Walking tours to reflect each part of this City’s fascinating and often controversial past are there for you to learn about, see and experience.
The Haunted and Hidden Tours take you through the older parts of the city where you will visit a 16th Century church and a 17th Century pub and hear tales of ghosts and ghouls that have never left the city.
Not a fan of ghosts? Not a problem. There are numerous walks around the city that tell of the history of Bristol. Pirates, trade within the docks, famous landmarks, churches, famous actors that grew up in the city and Saxon walls are some of the things that you can learn about. If you like to take things at your own pace then the Treasure Island Trail app will guide you round the city and take you to some of Bristol’s most famous attractions and sites.
A walk that will appeal to the arty teen is the Bansky walk. Banksy’s street art can still be seen and the guided tours show more recent work and some of the older and more faded works that are tucked away.
This is just a fraction of the things on offer if you visit Bristol. We haven’t even mentioned the aerospace museums, country parks, Safari parks, city farms, caves and country homes that are not far from the centre of Bristol. We can guarantee that there is certainly something for all the family to see and do in this great city.