Are you looking for the best things to do in Clifton, Bristol? Here’s a list of the most impressive attractions!
The beautiful suburb of Clifton, sitting high on a hill above the city of Bristol, is one of the most popular places to visit in the city.
I actually lived here for two years while I was a student at Bristol UWE, and spent many a summer’s day lazing on the downs or enjoying views of the suspension bridge from the White Lion Pub!
The suburb has a rich history – it’s famous for its Georgian architecture and is often thought of as a “little Bath” – but nowadays it’s also known for independent retailers, fantastic restaurants and, of course, the incredible suspension Bridge.
I’ve put together this list of the best things to do in Clifton to inspire your visit here; these attractions include my favourite activities from when I was a student and some other gems that I’ve discovered on my subsequent trips back to the city (I try to visit Bristol at least once every two months!).
So, let’s dive into the best things to do in Clifton!
Where is Clifton?
Clifton is a suburb sitting in West Bristol, right next to North Somerset.
The name “Clifton” is usually associated with Clifton Village, although the term can be a more generic way to describe areas like Park Street, the Clifton Triangle and Whiteladies Road.
In this article, I include attractions that span the length of Park Street (up to College Green by the harbour), and some in the Whiteladies Road area, plus a couple of places in North Somerset, just over the bridge.
All of these locations are walkable or busable from Clifton Village!
Things to do in Clifton Bristol
Walk over the Clifton Suspension Bridge
The Clifton Suspension Bridge is a renowned Bristol landmark, spanning the short distance between Clifton Village and North Somerset.
Designed and created by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the mastermind architect who also built Bristol’s famous ship, the SS Great Britain, the Clifton Suspension Bridge is an incredible Victorian masterpiece that offers spectacular views of the Avon Gorge.
Visit the Suspension Bridge’s visitor centre
It’s also worth visiting the discovery centre of the suspension bridge to learn all about this engineering marvel!
This is completely free to visit, and it’s an informative gallery detailing all you need to know about the creation of Isambard’s bridge.
Ascend in the Clifton Observatory
The Clifton Observatory is another bucket-list attraction in Clifton Village.
Offering panoramic views of the suspension bridge, plus a rare Victorian Camera Obscura and plenty of photographs of “Old Bristol”, this is somewhere to take in the splendour of the Avon Gorge and surrounding area.
There’s a cafe on-site, and you can just enjoy a drink at the roof bar while taking in the views, or visit the actual observatory and learn about the building’s history.
It costs £5 to visit the Clifton Observatory and this includes a trip down into the Giant’s Cave – more on that below!
Plunge down into the Giant’s Cave
The Giant’s Cave is such a cool Bristol hidden gem.
I never knew about this place when I lived in Bristol!
It’s a giant cave in the rocks by Avon Gorge, given its name because it was legendarily the home of giants.
Nowadays, the cave is connected to Clifton Observatory by a passageway that consists of over one hundred slippery steps!
When you reach the bottom, you’ll have a chance to step out onto a metal grating and see the roar of cars beneath you, plus catch an epic view of the bridge.
As the cave is connected to the observatory, your ticket covers both attractions!
Relax on a giant balcony at The White Lion
The White Lion is a popular Clifton pub and beer garden with impressive views over the beautiful Avon Gorge.
I used to frequent this pub a lot in my university years!
While the views are spectacular, the drinks and food aren’t anything to particularly shout about – but I would recommend visiting for the scenery!
Enjoy the boutique restaurants and cafes
Clifton Village has turned into a gastronomical destination for foodies, and there are quite a few independent restaurants and cafes to check out while you’re here!
Whenever my mum visited me during university, we’d always go to one of these cafes.
- Clifton Sausage: This is one of the most popular restaurants in Clifton, and for good reason – they do a mean sausage. I did have one of these in my first years of uni (I am now vegetarian), and remember it being fantastic – I haven’t been back since I’ve been veggie but I have heard that there is a veggie sausage option on the menu!
- Fishers: This is my mum’s favourite restaurant in Bristol – a delicious seafood restaurant serving incredible fish and chips along with mains like River Exe mussels, salmon fillets and yellowfin tuna steak. There’s usually at least one veggie option.
- Bosco Pizzeria: This pizzeria serves up a range of different, fresh pizzas with options for all dietary requirements. It’s not independent – there are other branches on Whiteladies Road and in Bath and Cheltenham, but the pizzas are fresh and the atmosphere impeccable. I actually used to work at a restaurant on this site, but back then it was called Pizza Provencale!
Explore the crescents
The Georgian crescents of Clifton are perhaps what gives it the reputation for being very similar to the gorgeous city of Bath!
There are a few beautiful crescents to explore in Clifton. My favourite (and the most famous) is Royal York Crescent, but you could also check out Cornwallis Crescent and Victoria Square (which is more of a row than a crescent, but still pretty cool!).
Go shopping at the Clifton Arcade
Dating back to the Victorian times, the Clifton Arcade boasts 17 unique shops and is the perfect place if you fancy a spot of shopping in Bristol.
Whether you’re looking for jewellery or beautiful ornate gifts or even fancy a trip to the hairdresser, you’ll find something beautiful and unique in the arcades!
If you don’t want to spend any money, it’s also perfect for window shopping!
Walk through the birdcage
Birdcage Walk is more of a quick photo stop than anything, but it is a path going through an old graveyard, which was bombed pretty much to destruction in World War Two – only a few headstones remain.
The “birdcage” is two rows of trees that grow up and meet each other in the middle.
It’s right by the Clifton Arcade in the village and is a popular cut through, so it’s worth swinging by while you’re in the area!
Walk around Leigh Woods
Sitting just over the suspension bridge, Leigh Woods is a beautiful area for hiking.
I used to come here a lot when I lived in Ashton a few years ago, as Leigh Woods connects Clifton with Ashton.
The large woody area has a few marked trails, and you can even catch views of the suspension bridge in some parts!
Leigh Woods is quieter than other places for walks in Bristol, so it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in Bristol and in the mood for a stroll!
Walk or picnic on the Clifton Downs
The other way, you’ll find the beautiful Clifton downs.
I used to frequent this area LOADS when I was a student.
It’s a huge grassy expanse running from Clifton Village, parallel to Whiteladies Road.
It’s ideal for large outdoor events or longer hikes!
See Brandon Hill Park
Brandon Hill Park is another huge open space (there are so many of them in Bristol!), close to the Clifton Triangle.
It’s the oldest park in the city, dating back to the 17th century.
Part of it’s a wildlife reserve as it’s home to lots of local fauna and flora.
You’ll also find Cabot’s Tower here. Climb up the winding staircase to the top, and you can take in some of the best views in Bristol.
Explore Ashton Court
Ashton Court is a large park that’s just over Clifton Bridge from the village.
Famous for its deer, the park is another wonderful place for walks and views.
In the middle sits Ashton Court Mansion, but you can’t go inside – it’s now council buildings.
Ashton Court is home to a few festivals thorughout the year, including the legendary Bristol Balloon Fiesta which takes place in August every year.
Take a dip in Bristol Lido
The Lido is Bristol’s outdoor swimming pool, and it’s walking distance from Clifton Village!
Perfect for summer days, you can take a dip here and enjoy food at the poolside cafe.
Do a guided tour around the Wills Memorial Building
The Wills Memorial Building is around 100 years old and is part of the University of Bristol.
It’s a gorgeous example of architecture, and you can do guided tours to educate yourself all about the history, both of the building itself and of Wills.
He was a famous character in Bristol and funded the university, but he had links to slavery, and many people have raised the fact that the name of the building should be changed, just like the name of Colston Tower was after his statue was toppled in 2020.
Tours should discuss all of this. You can read more information about them here.
Vintage shopping in Park Street
Park Street isn’t really in Clifton, but it leads down from the Clifton Triangle and if you love vintage shopping, it’s definitely a place to check out!
My all-time favourite vintage shop was BS8, but they closed in 2020 and are now online only.
Other popular shops include Uncle Sam’s Vintage, Sobey’s and The Vintage Thrift Store.
At the end of the street, catch the famous Banksy portrait “Well Hung Lover”, which shows a man hanging off a window, presumably hiding from a woman’s husband after an affair.
It was painted on the site of an old sexual health clinic!
Places to stay in Clifton Bristol
Here are some of the best places to stay in Clifton!
The Clifton Hotel is a friendly establishment offering comfortable rooms with en-sutie bathrooms and free WiFi.
Breakfast isn’t included but you can have it at extra cost; there are options for all dietary requirements. The rates are great value for money too!
Set in the middle of Clifton Village, The Rodney Hotel boasts 31 rooms with Freeview TV and tea and coffee-making facilities, along with an AA Rosette restaurant on-site complete with a bar and outdoor terrace.
The hotel is in a Georgian building, which only adds to its luxury!
The wonderful townhouse hotel of Number 38 is one of my favourite places to stay in Bristol.
It’s a boutique hotel with just 12 bedrooms, each decorated differently but all boasting a “home away from home” vibe.
Some rooms have a stand-alone bathtub and city views. Breakfast is included in the room rate (and it’s delicious!).
With dramatic views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the Avon Gorge Hotel is connected to the White Lion Pub, but it does have its own cocktail lounge!
It’s a glamorous hotel, with elegant stairways and picturesque rooms, each with a comfortable bed, mini bar and en-suite bathroom.
Clifton Bristol travel guide
The beautiful suburb of Clifton is definitely not one to miss – even if you’re just visiting Bristol for a weekend! With gorgeous architecture, spectacular views and excellent restaurants, there’s so much to do in this Bristol suburb.