Bristol is a popular family destination thanks to its fascinating history and its range of activities to suit all ages. What’s even better for families on a budget is that you can see many of the city’s sights without even opening your wallet! Looking for free things to do in Bristol? Look no further – we’ve got the best options right here.
Quiet time in the city
Bristol is as renowned for its parks as it is for its waterways, meaning there’s no shortage of scenic walks and trails to explore. Castle Park is right in the heart of the city and is a beautiful urban oasis with the Grade II-listed St Peter’s Church and its ancient remains, the Normandy Landings tree memorial, and a castle-themed playground for the kids with local artwork and even a medieval stone throne.
Cross over to the other side
Walking over the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge is one of the best free activities in Bristol. Spanning the River Avon, Brunel’s legendary landmark is free to walk over and sits an impressive 75m above land. Once over the other side, you can explore Ashton Court Estate, an 850-acre city park home to a deer park, several golf courses, mountain biking trails, and a miniature railway.
Go bird watching
Just underneath the Clifton Bridge is the Avon Gorge, the nesting place for Peregrine falcons, some of the fastest birds on the planet. If you follow the path to Clifton Downs, you’ll find a viewing area where you might be lucky enough to spot one of these incredible animals.
Fly high in the skies
The famous Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is held at the Ashton Court Estate every summer. It’s a popular event on the Bristol calendar as thousands of visitors come to see the brightly coloured hot air balloons of all shapes and sizes take to the skies in a stunning spectacle.
Try to spot a Banksy
The anonymous artist is the pride and joy of Bristol’s cultural scene and you can still see some of his original works scattered around the city. The best way to see all of his quintessential street art is by taking a self-guided Banksy Walking Tour – download a map and try to find the graffiti treasure tucked away on the sides of buildings, boats and other obscure places.
Go back in time
For an interesting take on the history of the city, make sure you stop by M Shed, a 1950s transit shed turned museum. Go on a centuries-long journey starting from Bristol’s prehistoric past, through its infamous slave trade days, onto the 20th century and right up to modern day. You can go on a historical walk, explore behind the scenes tour and even take a train trip on a Britain’s only dockside steam railway.
The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery is completely free to enter so you can spend the whole day wandering around the 19 galleries spread over three floors. See archaeological collections, the Bristol dinosaur and paintings by British and European artists.
To market, to market
There are lots of markets scattered throughout the city where you can admire local arts and crafts, fresh food produce and community musical performances. The Bristol Farmers Market is on every Wednesday morning and the Harbourside Market is a weekend event with up to 100 traders displaying their wares. St Nicholas Market is in the city centre and has stalls with jewellery, vintage clothes and an old-fashioned sweet shop.
Talk to the animals
Get up close with some four-legged friends at St Werburghs City Farm, just outside Bristol. The charity farm has several pigs, sheep, goats, ducks and rabbits, as well as information about working farm life.
Take off for the day
Just three miles out of Bristol city centre is Oldbury Court, a historic parkland with lots of children’s playgrounds. Pack your lunch and enjoy a picnic in the grounds, while kids of all ages can play on the pirate ship, sand pit and zip wire.