An old town lined with cobblestone streets, a harbour with boats gently bobbing on the calm water, and one of the most impressive suspension bridges (with epic gorge views) in the country – there are so many things to do in Bristol.
Many of these attractions are completely visitable in winter, as plenty are inside, and there are also lots of walks that are perfect for brisk winter days.
Plus, the city comes alive in the festive period, with a Christmas market, ice skating rinks and services in the beautiful Bristol Cathedral.
But it’s not only worth heading to Bristol in the festive season.
Whether you’re visiting Bristol in December, January or February, there’s plenty to do! Read on for the best all-weather attractions in Bristol.
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Weather in Bristol in winter
As Bristol sits in the south of the UK, it’s never too cold – it does snow in the city, but nowhere near as much as in other parts of Europe.
The weather usually hovers between 0-10°C throughout the winter months.
It can be quite cloudy and rainy, but you’re also fairly likely to have a nice brisk winter’s day with some sunshine!
I find that the Met Office usually has the most reliable weather forecast for Bristol.
Best things to do in Bristol in winter
Walking tours of the city
There are quite a few walking tours of Bristol, and they run throughout the year.
Most famous is perhaps Blackbeard to Banksy Walking Tour, which tours the city centre and gives an overview of Bristol’s history and its most colourful characters, up to the modern day.
There are quite a few other tours that you can take in Bristol too. For example, this Guided Walking Tour of Bristol Old City and Harbour focuses on Bristol’s beginnings and the modern culture around its harbour, whereas this Brunel Guided Tour is all about one of the city’s most famous architects, Isambard Kindom Brunel.
Or, if you’re more into beer than history, check out this self-guided craft beer tour of Bristol!
Bristol Christmas Market
One of the South West’s longest Christmas markets (it runs from early November to just before Christmas day!), Bristol Christmas Market is the ideal place to get in the festive spirit.
Shop at the many stalls for items from nearby Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire farms and artisanal businesses, try some local produce or take a seat in the bar for a Bailey’s and hot chocolate or a mulled wine.
Vintage Winter Wonderland Millenium Square
Another attraction that keeps the festive spirit all winter long is the Vintage Winter Wonderland in Millenium Square.
Taking inspiration from the bigger Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, London, this smaller Christmas festival boasts rides like dodgems, plenty of food stalls and bars to enjoy a mulled wine!
Wintery walk in Ashton Court
A stone’s throw from the city centre sits the gorgeous Ashton Court.
I used to live a 20-minute walk from here and spent many a winter’s morning walking around the park, enjoying the woodland and saying hello to the resident deer!
It’s perfect for a sunset walk, although keep an eye on the closing times – the gates lock as early as 4:00 pm in the winter months.
Cafe hop in Stokes Croft
When it’s cold outside, why not spend a day exploring Bristolian cafe culture?
In my humble opinion, the best cafes in Bristol are located in Stokes Croft.
One of my favourites is Cafe Kino, which is an all-vegan community coop that sometimes has events. You could also check out The Canteen, which has a similar atmosphere.
When night falls, Stokes Croft is one of the best places to go out in Bristol – I love The Full Moon for live music and dancing.
Christmas carols in Bristol Cathedral
Bristol Cathedral isn’t as famous as others in the West Country, but it’s still worth checking out!
It’s usually free entry, and it has a history spanning back to 1140 AD. I actually graduated from university in this cathedral!
On select days in December, you can visit the cathedral for Carols by Candlelight, where you can sing along to classic Christmas carols and hear some festive bible verses.
Vintage shopping on Gloucester Road
Gloucester Road is a short distance from Stokes Croft and it’s home to the longest row of independent shops in Europe!
So, it’s the ideal place for some retail therapy – whether you’re looking for Christmas presents or want a pick-me-up to beat the January blues.
Even if it’s cold or rainy outside, the sheer amount of independent stores means that you can dash in and out of them quickly!
See the museums
There are a few excellent museums in Bristol which make the ideal winter weather activity. And you won’t need to worry about your budget when museum-hopping here – many of them are free!
- M Shed: A free exhibition about the culture and people of Bristol – and an excellent place to visit if you want to learn why Bristolians are so passionate about their city!
- Bristol Museum and Art Gallery: This museum and art gallery focuses on history in and around Bristol and the wider world. The permanent exhibition is also free entry.
- Blaise Museum: Situated by Blaise Castle, this is a historical look at people through the ages.
- John Wesley’s New Room: The oldest Methodist building in the world, this museum is located in the heart of Bristol City Centre.
Strap on your boots and go ice skating
While winter sports like skiing and snowboarding typically require a bit of travel, there are a few ice skating rinks that you can enjoy right in the heart of Bristol!
One of these is Planet Ice in Cribbs Causeway, which is a shopping mall to the north of the city. Planet Ice offers seasonal “Skate with Santa” and “Christmas Carol” sessions, as well as standard skating!
Learn about history at the Clifton Suspension Bridge
Dating back to 21st June 1831, this bridge was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (he actually won a competition to be the person to design it!) and spans over the narrowest part of the Avon Gorge, and when strolling over you can take in phenomenal views into the river below.
If the weather’s not great, pop into the Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre where you can learn all about its history.
Alternatively, this guided tour will show you the bridge and detail its hidden secrets!
Climb aboard the SS Great Britain
Climbing on board a boat might not be the first thing that comes to mind in winter, but the SS Great Britain is mainly indoors and is suitable for visiting year-round.
The SS Great Britain was a revolutionary ship when it was created; she was the largest and fastest in the world and used the most powerful steam engine.
She was used as a passenger boat, then a migrant clipper to take Brits to the US and Australia, and was then used to transport cargo.
She was ultimately abandoned in The Falklands, before a mission to “bring her home” in 1970, when she crossed the Atlantic Ocean on a massive floating pontoon, and to her current position in Bristol Harbour.
The boat is in five parts: an exhibition about its history, the top deck where you can enjoy epic views of Bristol harbour, the inside of the boat which has been made up to look like it did when it was a migrant clipper, and an exhibition all about Isambard Kingdom Brunel (as well as the bridge, he also built this boat!).
This is a must-do if you’re looking for fun activities in Bristol in January or February, and in December the boat usually has a Christmas theme!
Shop til you drop in Cabot Circus, the Bristol shopping quarter
Cabot Circus is in Bristol’s city centre and is home to the largest collection of shops in South West England.
You’ll find chain stores like Primark, The Body Shop and Bershka here; it’s ideal for Christmas shopping or January sales!
See Christmas steps (Bristol’s Diagon Alley)
While these steps aren’t actually anything to do with Christmas (the road was originally called Queene Street after Queen Elizabeth I visited Bristol in 1574), they’re still a fun winter place to visit in Bristol!
They’ve been coined “Bristol’s Diagon Alley” thanks to the fact that they’re charismatic and broody, with lamps dotted up the steps.
They’re the perfect place to get some wintery photos!
The steps sit in the Christmas Steps Art Quarter, which is an area full of independent stores and arts galleries, another great place for shopping in Bristol.
There’s a board game cafe here too called “Chance & Counters” which I think is a fabulous name for such an enterprise!
If the weather isn’t so kind while you’re in Bristol, how about a cocktail class?
This session will teach you all about mixology, and it includes three delicious beverages!
It’s a private experience, so it’s perfect if you’re with a group.
Enjoy a hearty pub meal
There are plenty of pubs in Bristol that serve delicious pub grub! A few of my favourites are:
- The Mall: This Clifton Village pub always has a great selection of delicious British-inspired meals.
- The Ashton: My favourite roast in Bristol, this is right by the bottom gates of the Ashton Court Estate.
- The Ostrich: Right by the River Avon, this Butcombe pub is most famous for its beer garden, but it also serves a delicious supper menu with hearty British specials like pies and fish and chips.
Festive food is on the menu at many of Bristol’s pubs throughout November and December!
Spa Day at Bristol Harbour Hotel
If you need to warm up from the cold, why not opt for a spa package at one of the city’s best hotels?
The HarSpa at Bristol Harbour Hotel has a range of packages, so whether you want a soak in the hot tub, a massage or a swim, there’s something here for you!
Explore Bristol Aquarium
Bristol Aquarium is the only one in the UK with a giant botanical house – that is a huge greenhouse-like garden that you can walk around in!
It’s also home to a range of sea animals, including rays, sharks and seahorses.
Although I’m not personally the biggest fan of aquariums, I recognise that they’re great places for educating and hopefully conserving our seas.
Wake the Tiger
Another fantastic winter attraction in Bristol is Wake the Tiger.
This is the world’s first AMAZEMENT park; an experiential art gallery, film set and interactive theme park, this exhibition blends the lines between real and fictional!
You can read more about Wake the Tiger and book the experience on their website.
Take a wintery day trip
If you’re spending a few days in Bristol, then why not get out of the city for a day? There are lots of places around Bristol that have excellent year-round attractions. These include:
- Bath: With the Abbey, Roman Baths and the Thermae Bath Spa, there’s plenty on offer in Bristol’s neighbouring city – plus it’s only 10 minutes on the train! Read my Bath in winter guide for more inspiration.
- Exeter: Exeter sits just over an hour to the South of Bristol, and it’s home to the magnificent Exeter Cathedral, Medieval architecture like the House that Moved, and a gorgeous quay.
- Weston-super-Mare: The closest beach town to Bristol, Weston-super-Mare is perfect for a brisk winter’s day when you want to breathe in some sea air. Enjoy the world-famous Grand Pier, excellent museums and a street art trail.
- Quantocks: The Quantocks are an often-forgotten part of Somerset, but they’re perfect for a nature-based winter day trip from Bristol – I went here once in December and loved it. They’re a series of hills that peter out towards the sea, ideal for winter walks!
- Mendips: Another fantastic day trip destination, the Mendips sit just seven miles to the south of Bristol and they’re perfect for winter walks. Check out the Black Down hike which is one of my favourites.
- Glastonbury: One of the quirkiest towns in the South West, Glastonbury is famous for its Tor and high street with independent shops (and the festival, of course!).
- Wells: The tiny city of Wells has a magnificent Cathedral, the UK’s oldest purely residential street and the dynamic Bishop’s gardens.
- Cotswolds: A Cotswold road trip is wonderful any time of year – but in the winter, enjoy scenic villages with barely any other tourists!
Where to stay in Bristol in winter
The aforementioned Bristol Harbour Hotel & Spa is a wonderful hotel to relax in; the spa boasts treatment rooms, a hydrotherapy pool, sauna and indoor swimming pool.
Rooms are magnificently decorated with bright wallpaper and boutique features, and there’s a bar and award-winning restaurant on-site.
Number 38 Bristol this boutique hotel boasts individually styled rooms with impressive views of Clifton Village and the Downs. A full English breakfast is served every morning.
Paintworks Apartments are quirky flats for 2-4 guests.
Incorporating gorgeous decor, these flats are self-contained and are a short walk to both Bristol Temple Meads and the city centre.
Two-day winter Bristol itinerary
If you’re visiting Bristol in winter, here’s my suggested itinerary!
Day 1: Begin at the SS Great Britain and spend a couple of hours walking around the boat. Visit Bristol Cathedral and check out Park Street and the Wills Building.
Then, head to Whapping Wharf for lunch. After lunch, visit the M Shed free museum and take a walk around St Nick’s Market.
For dinner, head to Southville, check out some of the street art and enjoy dinner at Souk Kitchen.
Day 2: Head to the Clifton Suspension Bridge and check out the Clifton Observatory.
Then, walk/ uber/ bus through the leafy suburb of Redland to reach Stokes Croft and have lunch in Cafe Kino. Check out Stokes Croft’s street art and walk back via Cabot Circus; check out the shops before circling back to Welsh Back and King Street, where you can enjoy dinner and drinks in one of the many pubs and restaurants.
How to get to Bristol
Bristol is easy to access by car, train or coach.
It sits on the M4 motorway, which connects to Wales and London, and the M5, which runs from Exeter to Birmingham. Read more about driving to Bristol here.
You can take a train from many cities across the UK to Bristol Temple Meads or Bristol Parkway, it’s main two stations.
Alternatively, Megabus and National Express coaches connect the city with destinations in the South West, London and other places in the UK.
How to get around Bristol
Although it’s hilly, Bristol is quite walkable. If you can’t or don’t want to walk, First Bus connects the city centre with destinations in the suburbs and beyond. Uber is also operational in Bristol.
Does it snow in Bristol?
It does snow in Bristol, but it’s infrequent. Like many UK destinations, snow is becoming less and less common in the city.
When I lived there from 2020-2021, we only had one day of proper snow! So, if it snows on your winter trip to Bristol, count yourself lucky!
Is Bath or Bristol better?
Neither is better, they’re just different!
Bristol is bigger, and has a much more “waterfront” vibe with its harbour, and also has plenty of suburbs with different vibes.
It’s definitely the city to go for if you want to see quirky street art, go cafe hopping or have excellent nightlife! Plus it has a wider range of attractions for all ages.
Bath is much smaller and is famous for its Georgian buildings and Roman Baths. Both are great for history, but Bath’s is much more compact and is slightly more aesthetic (although I think Bristol is gorgeous too!).
What’s Bristol famous for?
Bristol is famous for its seafaring history, its incredible suspension bridge, being the home of Banksy, and more recently, it’s incredible nightlife scene.
Is Bristol worth visiting?
Absolutely! I feel like I spend a lot of time telling people how much Bristol has to offer – it’s my favourite city in the world for a good reason!
It has literally something for any age, with plenty of kid-friendly attractions, incredible restaurants, epic nightlife and centuries of fascinating history.
Plus, it’s a welcoming place, with locals keen to show all visitors how epic their city is!
There’s so much on offer in Bristol in winter – and you’ll tap into its immense history and culture after even a short visit.