Bristol Harbourside is a fantastic place to visit. Steeped in history but with a modern, vibrant twist, Bristol definitely has a style of its own. Much of Bristol’s unique character is down to its position on the river Avon. Once a busy port, Bristol Harbourside bustled with ships, sailors, cargo and merchants. Today it bustles with workers and tourists visiting trendy cafes, bars, street markets and businesses flourishing in the area.
It hasn’t always been this way. The Bristol Docks fell into decline in the 1970s as ships became too large to navigate the River Avon and deeper water docks were downstream. By the 1980s Bristol Harbourside was in a sorry state, littered with abandoned warehouses, and generally an area to be avoided.
Throughout the 1980s Bristol Harbourside saw a regeneration scheme that followed the successful examples set by other British cities such as Glasgow and Southampton. The old tea warehouses and other buildings have been lovingly restored creating a vibrant hub in the centre of the city. Bristol Harbourside is now the beating heart of Bristol, with an exciting mix of museums, galleries, exhibitions, markets, bars and nightclubs. Much of this turnaround has also been due to Bristol’s culture, independent spirit and drive for sustainability, aspect of which are all clearly visible as you visit the area.
Bristol’s importance in naval exploration is recognised by two important ships being located in the Bristol docks.
The SS Great Britain returned to Bristol in 1970 and underwent conservation work in 1998 which involved protecting the ship’s hull with a glass plate, and it reopened to the public in 2005.
The Matthew is also an important part of Bristol heritage. It a replica of a ship sailed by John Cabot in 1497 from Bristol to North America. He was considered to be the first European to set foot the continent. Some of the details about the Matthew’s voyage are sketchy but there were enough details to allow a replica to be built to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the voyage. The Matthew replica was introduced to Bristol Harbour in 1996, and she was relocated to her new home outside the M-Shed in 2012.
Housed within an old transit shed right on the waterfront you really can’t miss the ‘M Shed’ as it is so large and in such a central location! It replaced the old Bristol Industrial Museum which closed in 2006, and is home to a range of Bristol museum exhibits telling the life of the docks.
These four iconic structures are the last of 30 such cranes which surrounded Bristol Harbourside from when they were built in 1951 to when they were last used commercially in 1974. The four remaining cranes underwent a restoration project which restored them to full function and they now form part of the M-Shed Museum. They are an important reminder of the City’s historic past, and make for a great backdrop for Bristol Harbourside photos.
If you are a train enthusiast and you are visiting Bristol on a Sunday or a Bank Holiday over the summer, then be sure to check out the Steam Train that runs for less than a mile along the Harbourside from the M-Shed to the Vauxhall Bridge. The journey takes around 15 minutes and you can book tickets on board on the day. Check out the M-Shed website for the dates the train operates.
Again located right on the Bristol Harbourside, We are Curious, is a wonderful hand's on science centre where you are encouraged to touch and play with all the exhibits. A great place for all the family from kids, to students, to grandparents!
The Watershed is a media centre right on the harbourside. This opened back in 1982 and has become a leading digital media centre in the South West. Today it is home to three cinemas, a café and bar and a media studio. Bristol is also fast becoming a creative hub and is seeing the growth of the Bristol Creative Quarter.
Centred around the Paintworks, in a collection of old industrial buildings, this exciting venue on Bristol’s Harbourside is host to events and a range of businesses such as architects, artists, website designers, film and photography studios etc…
If you are looking for things to do when you visit Bristol, we do recommend you spend some time at the Bristol Harbourside. Take a walk along the quayside, or even better a ferry ride. Stop off at some of the museums or other recommended sites en route. Visit some of our favourite Bristol Restaurants and if you are lucky you might even be able to catch a Bristol Festival.
If you are looking for somewhere to stay, then our Cleyro apartments at Finzels Reach are part of a brand new development right on the Bristol Harbourside. You are just a 15 minute stroll from the M Shed, the SS Great Britain and all the harbourside attractions as well as the Temple Meads Rail Station.