When I was researching flights from Reykjavik, Iceland to Lisbon, Portugal, the most inexpensive option by far was an Easyjet flight that included a two-day stopover in Bristol, England. It felt like a little gift – a quick peek into a city I would not have otherwise visited. Budget travel is standard for me on this year-long adventure, but I especially wanted to keep it cheap in Bristol because it was not a top destination for me.
Bristol truly was a little gift – a lovely city with plenty of budget-friendly destinations to fill two days of exploring on foot without spending a lot. I was in the city on a Monday and a Tuesday, which was a help to my wallet, as most of the attractions requiring a fee are closed on those days. Here’s how I filled my 48 hours in Bristol.
I stayed at Rock & Bowl Hostel in Bristol’s city center, just a quick walk to shopping, parks, eateries and a tourism information center. Upon arrival on Sunday night, I visited the tourism center, where an enthusiastic employee pulled out a map and circled several of Bristol’s key attractions, including Clifton Suspension Bridge, at the far southwest end of Bristol.
Early the next morning, I set out with a hooded sweatshirt and an umbrella in disappointing, chilly British drizzle. I walked for about 20 minutes through a maze of winding streets and grassy parks, stopping along the way to snap a few photos, especially in the beautiful neighborhood of Clifton.
I finally arrived at Clifton Suspension Bridge, and though the weather was rainy, the views were indeed beautiful, as the nice lady at the tourism center had promised.
I crossed the bridge and had stopped to take in the views from the opposite side when suddenly, the rain stopped. The sky cleared and the sun came out, revealing a perfectly beautiful day!
I spent some time relaxing and taking in the views of the suspension bridge and surrounding area from the nearby park and Clifton Observatory. In total, I spent 2 pounds to check out the camera obscura, which was installed in the 1700s and is one of few left in the UK.
I spent the rest of Monday exploring St. Mary Redcliffe Cathedral, climbing the narrow, winding steps to the top of Cabot Tower, walking along the Bristol City Docks and through Queen Square, seeing the historic Christmas Steps, browsing around St. Nicholas Market, and popping into little shops that I passed around town. All of these activities were free and completely enjoyable in the beautiful weather.
In the late afternoon, I purchased a ready-made sandwich, drink and salad for 3.50 pounds from a small grocery store and joined hundreds of students, residents and visitors on the grounds of castle park, where I watched the people pass by until dusk. It was a truly wonderful day.
Tuesday included a morning coffee at a great coffee shop called Cafe Bristow, which was recommended by a girl who worked at the hostel’s front desk. I enjoyed a latte and answered emails in the cafe’s fun and quirky space.
I also stopped in a tiny, historic coffee shop adjacent to the chocolate factory, and had a delicious violet chocolate. I also toured John Wesley’s Chapel, which was fascinating and free, before catching the bus to the airport for my 5pm flight to Lisbon.
My quick visit to Bristol really was a gift. I spent very little and thoroughly enjoyed the experience!