Are you looking for things to do in Bristol in the rain? There are a surprising amount of attractions – read on for more information!
Bristol is one of my favourite cities in the world and my real home (I lived in London until I was 18, but have lived here for five years since and spent the other five travelling). Despite it being so livable, it has plenty of tourist attractions and really doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
Bristol has the epic Clifton Suspension Bridge, the SS Great Britain which is a famous boat, a beautiful harbourside and charismatic suburbs. There is even a tonne of things to do in Bristol in the rain – so don’t let bad weather put you off coming here for a day trip or a whole weekend!
If you’re visiting Bristol and the weather isn’t what you hoped for, don’t fret. You might not be able to enjoy many walks in Bristol, but this local guide will show you plenty of activities that are suitable for any weather.
Things to do in Bristol in the Rain
Check out the museums
There are so many excellent museums in Bristol, some of which are completely free!
- The M Shed is free to enter and tells the story of Bristol and its people – and will help you understand why people here have such a fierce spirit!
- We The Curious is Bristol’s Science Museum – it’s one of the best things to do in Bristol in the rain if you’ve got children in tow! With lots of interactive exhibits, it’s a fun learning experience for kids and adults alike!
- Aerospace Bristol is located in Filton, a northern suburb, and it discusses Bristol’s contribution to the Aerospace industry. It’s a popular family attraction and a must for aviation enthusiasts!
- The Bristol Museum & Art Gallery is a free museum that both focuses on the history of Bristol and has exhibits about the wider world around us.It has regular exhibitions about local history, as well as temporary exhibits about various topics.
- The Georgian House Museum depicts, you guessed it, a Georgian house – this is when the city prospered, regrettably on the back of the awful slave trade. It is important to learn about this side of Bristol’s history while here, and the Georgian house is a good place to start (M Shed has a small exhibition about Bristol’s links to slavery as well, and there is also a walking tour which gives more information). Bristol is full of Georgian buildings, but this museum is the only one where you can see the interior.
- Glenside Museum is an interesting museum on UWE Glenside campus, that discusses their growth as a health establishment and the work that they have undergone to reduce the stigma of mental health issues.
- The Palestine Museum and Cultural Centre (only open Saturdays and Sundays) is a free permanent exhibition about Palestinian history.
There are so, so many more – I’ll write a post about them all one day, but for now here’s a directory from Visit Bristol.
The SS Great Britain
The SS Great Britain is a museum, but it’s so interesting it deserves its own section!
The SS Great Britain is the first stop on many people’s Bristol itineraries. It costs just under £20 to enter, but if you return to Bristol in the next year, you can use the same ticket again.
It’s also one of the best museums in the country (in my opinion) – it tells the story of this remarkable ship which changed nautical history.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed and engineered the SS Great Britain in the 1850s, using many modern inventions to create what was – at the time – the largest vessel in the world.
The SS Great Britain primarily functioned as a passenger ship, but she had a brief stint as a warship before being abandoned in the Falkland Islands.
After a lot of fundraising and TLC, she was bought back to Bristol, where she was created all those years ago.
Part of the museum is in buildings around the ship, and the boat itself depicts what the SS Great Britain was like as a passenger ship. There’s also a ‘Being Brunel’ exhibition all about the genius engineer, which has lots of interactive displays and exhibitions to help you learn about this interesting character.
For social history enthusiasts, the place is fascinating. It’s also a fun ship for kids, as it is a hands-on way to learn about history.
Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre
The Clifton Suspension Bridge, which connects Clifton village to North Somerset, is an interesting place to visit in rain or shine. At one end is the Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre, a small exhibit that details the construction of the bridge and how it is such an important place in Bristolian history.
It’s on the Somerset side of the bridge, so you will need to walk here from Clifton – it’s very rarely closed, even in bad weather, so you should still be able to enjoy the spectacular views over the Avon gorge!
Whether you are a child or adult, bowling is an exceptional rainy day activity! And there’s no better place than The Lanes, which is located in Bristol City Centre.
The Lanes isn’t your average ten pin bowling alley, oh no – it’s a retro bar, pizza restaurant, a vintage shop and bowling alley all in one! If you’re really not sure what to do in Bristol in the rain, the bowling alley is loved by all ages. It’s a great place for families, groups of friends, dates… you name it!
Bristol Escape Rooms
If the weather is making you feel like you want to lock yourself away, why not do just that – and then try to escape? There are actually quite a few escape rooms in Bristol centre – the most famous being Locked in a Room in Millenium Square, and Escape Hunt at Cabot Circus.
Locked in a Room has three different rooms; you can choose to escape a jungle, a lab or solve a kidnapping mystery. Escape Hunt has four different games including ‘Blackbeard’s treasure’, a pirate-themed room (with Bristol links!) and ‘Our Finest Hour’, which is WW2 themed. They are some of the best rainy day activities Bristol has to offer!
See Stars at the Planetarium
The Bristol Planetarium is part of We The Curious. It is the only 3D Planetarium in the country, so it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Bristol on a rainy day!
The Planetarium has a few 45 minute shows each day (for latest times, check the We The Curious website), where you’ll be able to soar past planets, through star constellations, and around the moon! If you just want to stargaze, you can visit on their special Planetarium Nights.
The Planetarium is located in Bristol Centre – in Millennium Square near the Harbourside.
Wills Memorial Building Tour
Between Park Street and the Clifton Triangle sits the Wills Memorial Building, which is often mistaken to be Bristol Cathedral (that’s at the bottom of the same hill!). The Wills Memorial Building is a branch of Bristol University, built to commemorate Henry Overton Wills, who initially funded the university. The building is neo-Gothic, and has many interesting features.
It is accessible by a guided tour every Saturday at 1pm.
I do think it’s important to note that Henry Overton Wills gained his wealth from the tobacco industry, which was only so profitable because they used slaves. Sadly, a lot of Bristol was built on slavery, and I think it is very important to acknowledge this when walking around the city.
There have been campaigns for the Wills Building to be renamed which haven’t come to any fruition yet, but I will support anything that makes the building – and Bristol – a place where Black Bristolians and visitors feel comfortable.
Bristol Cathedral does not have quite the fame of other Cathedrals in South West cities – Bath Abbey, Exeter Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral are far more dramatic – but it’s still an interesting place to visit.
The Cathedral was consecrated in 1148, and a small part of the building still dates from the 12th century, with the Elder Lady Chapel dating from the 13th century. The rest of the building was built in the 14th century with significant restoration in the 19th century. It is, therefore, an amazing place to visit to get a snapshot of several different centuries.
Bristol Cathedral is located on College Green, at the bottom of Park Street. It is free to enter.
Bristol is an active city, and even in the rain you can do some adventurous things – how about indoor climbing? There are a few fantastic centres in the city, including Flashpoint (which is better for rope climbing) and Redpoint (which is exclusively for bouldering).
You can book online for just one session – you don’t need to be a member – and it costs around £8 for 2.5 hours. It’s one of the cheapest things to do in Bristol on a rainy day!
Jungle Rumble Adventure Golf
Another way to spend a rainy afternoon is Jungle Rumble Adventure Golf in Cabot Circus. This is one of the best Bristol date ideas if it’s raining, but it’s also one of the best activities for children or groups too. Simply pay to use the courses for a set amount of time. There’s an on-site bar as well.
Tour or watch a play at Bristol Old Vic
Not only does Bristol have the UK’s only 3D Planetarium, it is also home to the oldest continuously working theatre in the English-speaking world! Established in 1766, it nowadays looks very different, but you can tour the theatre to learn about its history.
Or, if you’re looking for things to do in Bristol in the evening when it’s raining, why not see a show? Countless plays have performed there over the years. You could also check out the Bristol Hippodrome for plays too.
St Mary Redcliffe Cathedral
Thought to be ‘the fairest goodliest and most famous parish church in England’ by Queen Elizabeth II, St Mary Redcliffe is a large church located near Bristol Temple Meads Station.
It harks back to the 12th-15th century, and demonstrates some beautiful Gothic architecture. Inside, you can marvel at the stained glass windows, ironwork from the 18th century, and a majestic organ.
Catch a show
Bristol is an arty, musical city – and there are load of places to catch a show.
Whether you want to see something theatrical, or would rather go to a gig, you’ll find something for you!
I recommend checking out what’s on at the following venues:
- Bristol Hippodrome (West End productions that tour in Bristol)
- Bristol Beacon (live music and comedy)
- The Fleece (local Bristolian bands)
- The O2 Arena (various different gigs)
- The Bristol Fringe (a small pub in Clifton Village that does live gigs)
Bristol Harbour Spa
If you want a day for adults, I recommend visiting the Bristol Harbour hotel and Spa. The HARspa has a hot tub, steam room, sauna and jacquizzi and costs £15 for a pass. There are also a range of natural and holistic treatments that will have you whirling into a state of relaxation! Definitely visit here after a long day of sightseeing!
Estates Near Bristol
There are lots of interesting estates near Bristol, but many of them – like Oldbury Court Estate and Blaise Castle – are much better to visit when the weather is dry. They have acres of woodland walks, which are really lovely on a dry day, but not so pleasant when it’s wet!
There are, however, two places that are worth checking out in the rain.
Clevedon Court is a historical National Trust property that was built in the 14th Century. In poor weather, you can walk around the fascinating manor house and learn all about its history.
Tyntesfield is located in North Somerset and is a Gothic Revival House that dates back to the Victorian era. Again, you can walk around the house and learn about its origins.
If the rain stops, you could enjoy a walk around the grounds of either property too!
Shopping in Bristol
There are plenty of places to shop all over Bristol. Park Street has lots of vintage stores, whereas Clifton Village is home to boutiques. Cabot Circus is the main shopping area with chain stores, but head to Gloucester Road for the longest line of independent shops in Europe. You can see my post about shopping in Bristol to learn more about where to go.
Enjoy Bristol’s Foodie Scene
Bristol has one of the best foodie scenes in the UK. While British food isn’t as famous (and rightly so) than other cuisines – although we do excel at preparing potatoes – the diversity of the UK and Bristol, especially the food scene is fantastic.
Some of my favourite eateries are:
- Urban Tandoor, which serves up fresh and healthy Indian food.
- Cargo Cantina, located in the Whapping Wharf bar and restaurant quarter, serving up authentic Mexican food (I’m claiming this as someone who has spent a while living in Mexico!).
- The Athenian, which serves mouthwatering wraps – as well as a few meaty offerings, they have halloumi, vegan halloumi and vegan chicken and gyros! The Athenian is also located in Whapping Wharf.
- The Burger Joint, a great burger bar in Southville where you can order customisable burgers.
- Purezza, a vegan pizza restaurant on Gloucester Road.
- Cafe Kino, a hearty cafe in Stokes Croft.
Pubs to shelter at in Bristol
Many people’s solution to a rainy day on holiday is probably the pub – and there are plenty of these in Bristol! Here is a very non-conclusive list of places to shelter in case of a sudden downpour:
- The Anchor, Gloucester Road (a huge pub with loads of tables, serves up good food)
- The Bristol Flyer, Gloucester Road (equally huge with a covered garden area at the back)
- No 51, Stokes Croft (more of a bar, but good for the evenings)
- Kings Street Brew House (as the name suggests, brews its own beer and is located on the historic King Street)
- Greenhouse, bottom of Park Street
- The Albion, Clifton (tucked away in the arcade, cosy little pub)
- The Mall, Clifton (it’s got a huge downstairs and good food)
- The Spotted Pig, Bedminster
- The Ashton, an upmarket family-friendly pub with great food. It is right by Ashton Court, a 10 minute walk from Southville.
Which Bristol rainy day activity will you choose?
Whether you’re visiting Bristol in the rain or the sun, I guarantee that you’re going to love this city. With amazing attractions like the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the SS Great Britain, as well as a fun, quirky vibe – it’s a fascinating place that keeps on giving.
I’ve travelled to 50+ countries, and it’s my favourite place in the world! Hopefully, this list of things to do in Bristol in the rain has helped inspire your trip there – check out the rest of my Bristol posts for more.