Bristol rooftops from the park

Fun & unusual things to do in Bristol

Thinking of heading to Bristol? With it’s elegant Georgian architecture, bustling markets and fantastic food it’s easy to see why. This diverse city, full of energy is definitely worth taking time to explore.

Home to one of Britain's most important ports, maritime trade has always been a crucial part of its history. Piracy was rife in Bristol between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This was a time known as the Golden Age of Piracy. This makes it the perfect place for a treasure hunt!

We’ve pulled out our top five fun and unusual things Bristol has to offer.

1. Llandoger Trow

The ancient Llandoger Trow inn at sunset

The Llandoger Trow by Michiel Jelijs

Good for: Pirate geeks • Unusual • Photos

At the top of our list for fun and unusual things to see in Bristol is the Llandoger Trow. Bristol's history is full of fascinating pirate tales and this 17th century inn has some noteworthy to tell!

It was in the Trow that Daniel Defoe met Alexander Selkirk. Selkirk had recently been rescued having spent four years marooned on an uninhabited island. After hearing his thrilling story of survival, Defoe felt inspired to write 'Robinson Crusoe.'

This ancient inn was also where a young Bristolian named Edward Teach often sank a flagon or two. His name might not be familiar to you, but later he became known as the infamous pirate Blackbeard.

The Trow is found on King Street. The outside has remained pretty much unchanged to this day. While sadly it closed its doors in April last year, it still stands as a fantastic moment to the city’s pirate past.

Kings Street itself is well worth exploring too. This beautiful cobbled street is slap bang in the historic centre of Bristol. It was home to many sailors in the 17th century. It's easy to imagine them staggering out of the taverns to board their boats at the nearby port.

2. The SS Great Britain

The SS Great Britain looking magnificent in the sunshine

SS Great Britain by Hugh Llewelyn

Good for: Families • Engingeers • Afternoon

Brunel’s SS Great Britain is one of the most important historic ships in the world. It's a must-see when visiting Bristol.

Launched on the 19th July 1843, she was the most experimental steam ship of her time. Her whopping iron hull, driven by propellers, was revolutionary in ship-building. She was billed as the world’s first great ocean liner! This style of ship would go on to replace the more traditional wooden sailing boats of the time. Her iron hull measured a whopping 98 metres, that’s more 30 metres longer than any ship before. I’m not sure how keen I’d have been jumping onboard a ‘prototype’ boat, mind you!

The ship has been beautifully restored and the museum is fantastic. It's got just enough information not to be overwhelming and caters for all ages. Take you time to explore steerage and see how passengers would bunk up, before exploring on deck. If you're feeling brave you can even climb the rigging! It’s full of atmosphere and easy to imagine being a passenger on the ship travelling to the far corners of the world.

The one-way system they’ve introduced since reopening will give you plenty of time to take it all in. Plus the staff are all super knowledgeable and helpful. A must see.

3. St Nicholas Market

The Glass Arcade of St Nicks Market with people browsing street food stalls

Covered St Nicholas market by Paul Arps

Good for: Street food • Browsing • Photos

Back in the city centre you’ll find this vibrant market housed in a Georgian corn exchange. The Glass Arcade is absolutely stunning. On a sunny day the light streams in over the mix of independent food stalls and tiny shops. There’s a huge selection here, so you're bound to find something catches your eye. Whether you’re on the hunt for books, wine, art or souvenirs, it’s a treat. Our advice, take your time shuffling through this maze of shops.

If you're hungry, the food here is fantastic too and there’s about 15 or so high quality street food traders here. Eat a Pitta serve up amazing falafel and hummus. If you’re after something with a bit of kick, we recommend Chilli Daddy. They serving up the best mouth-watering Szechuan noodles.

Bristol is fast becoming known for its vibrant food and drink scene. After eating in St Nicks you’ll understand why.

4. Underfall Yard

Underfall Yard's main pump room with boats moored around

Underfall Yard by Shawn Spencer-Smith

Good for: Boat buffs • Budget

A short stroll upriver from the SS Great Britain, you’ll find Underfall Yard. This is a working boatyard which welcomes visitors. Historically Underfall Yard has been crucial to the habour’s operation and maintenance. It's been dredging the sludge from the riverbed and powering the harbour for over 100 years!

Today the yard has been beautifully refurbished. It’s now home to a range of maritime businesses involved in boat building, marine engineering, and metal working.

It’s lovingly cared for by a bunch of friendly and knowledgeable volunteers. Spending some time with them, you'll find their passion is infectious!

At the moment, only the outside areas of Underfall Yard are open 9am – 5pm. The Café is open for takeaway service between 10am – 3:30pm, Tuesday to Friday and 9am – 5pm Saturday and Sunday.

A unique industrial attraction. And it's free!

5. Redcliffe Caves

Good for: Hidden gems • Pirate geeks • Budget

Walking around Redcliffe, you'd be surprised to hear that underfoot is an extensive warren of man made tunnels.

In the middle ages, people dug into the red sandstone to provide sand. This sand made pottery and glass bottles for rum and beer. Later, the caves held prisoners of war. It’s rumoured that smugglers and pirates also used them to stash their booty!

Scheduled tours are super rare - if you get the chance to go inside, grab it! That said, there is a heritage trail of the inner harbour around Redcliffe. It'll take you on a walk past some of the warehouses and buildings that have access to the caves from their cellars. If you stop for a drink in The Ostrich Inn, you can peer into one of the caves through part of their wall they’ve demolished!

Looking to discover more fun and unusual things?

We think you'll love... Treasure Hunt Bristol

A fun activity you can do while social distancing

Solve satisfying clues and follow beautiful maps sent to your phones.

Spot things other people take for granted!

You’ll learn interesting facts and stories about Bristol's past.

Treasure Hunt Bristol will take you on a beautiful tour, and send you to fab places, all at your own pace.

Because it’s all on your phones, it’s super flexible and there’s nothing to print.

Perfect socially distanced activity!”

We thought it was the perfect level of difficulty to make you pay attention to what's going on around you while not being so hard it's disheartening.

Alana, Tripadvisor ★★★★★

We really got to see Bristol!”

The game worked really well and we found out lots of things that we wouldn’t have had we not used it.

Andy, Tripadvisor ★★★★★

Featured image: Bristol by Andrew Gustar

“Really enjoyed getting our bearings around Bristol in a fun way! The pirate theme worked well and the clues made you think but weren’t too complicated”

—Ruth, Tripadvisor

Telephone: 0117 325 2430
Text us: 07380 309380

The Waterside Wander starts from:
St Peter's Church, Castle Park, Broadmead, Bristol, BS1 3XD