Vibrant central Bristol is the city's historic and present-day heart. It's packed with restaurants, pubs and bars, and stacked with sights ranging from unique hands-on heritage attractions to counterculture street art. Here you'll find a broad range of places to sleep, an exciting cultural offer and, in the harbour area, a thriving, attractive space with a fun-loving vibe.
Heading straight for the SS Great Britain and the ships and cranes of the M Shed museum gives you a great grounding in the city's industrial heritage and a sense of how it shapes the present – allow at least half a day at both, more if you can. While there make sure you take in the Banksy art works in the area – his street art is another defining characteristic of the contemporary city.
The waterfront links the south of the neighbourhood with the old city. Eateries, pubs and bars line the quayside making for attractive places to eat by day, and a lively vibe at night.
The though-provoking We The Curious, a kind of creative, 21st-century take on a science museum, deserves at least a few hours of your time, the old city's shops and thriving St Nicholas Market, with its wealth of food stalls, are just a short walk away.
The Bristol Museum & Art Gallery is slightly further north – head here for Egyptian artefacts, dinosaur exhibits and another Banksy; you can take in two more of his artworks en route – the Castles Stencil and Well Hung Lover.
Central Bristol isn't huge, but you could end up walking a couple of miles end to end – a DayRider bus pass (£4.50) is a good option. Or hop on one of the services of the Bristol Ferry Boat Company. That way you get to travel and see this historic port city from the water – ideal.
- SS Great Britain Prowling the decks and climbing the rigging on one of history's most significant ships.
- M Shed Riding on steam boats, cranes and trains at a captivating dock-side museum.
- Bristol Museum & Art Gallery Encountering artefacts from ancient Egypt, dinosaurs and cutting-edge art.
- Street Art Tours Discovering Banksys and trying your hand at graffiti, stencils and tags.
- We The Curious Being playful and asking questions in an ultra-modern, hands-on learning space.
Many explore Bristol's waterfront on foot, and that is a great way to immerse yourself in the atmosphere. But it's worth considering travelling around – and especially arriving – by boat. The ferry system that runs from Bristol Temple Meads train station to the central harbour (and links the main sights) is an infinitely more atmospheric way to enter the city than by bus or taxi.