From London to Bristol: A Day Trip to Remember
Claire is a South West England local. She was born in London but has lived in Bristol and Devon her whole adult life, and she writes about her experiences traveling in the West Country and internationally on her three travel blogs. Find out more
London and Bristol are two of the UK’s most interesting cities. Of course, as the capital city, London attracts more crowds, but Bristol is well worth visiting while you’re in the UK.
Bristol is where the legendary anonymous street artist Banksy, the pirate Blackbeard, and many other colorful characters throughout the years have hailed from. The old city retains its Medieval layout, has a gorgeous Victorian bridge (the Clifton Suspension Bridge), and is famous for its seafaring history.
Here are the best things to do in Bristol on a day trip from London.
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Visit Stonehenge on the way
If you’re driving to Bristol from London, you could visit Stonehenge on the way. It isn’t exactly on the way, but it’s a very possible detour as long as you leave London early.
Stonehenge is an ancient druid stone circle. Nobody’s all that sure why it was created, but there are theories that it was used as an ancient sundial, or perhaps as a burial site.
What’s even more contested is how it was created in the middle of the Salisbury Plain. The rock the formation is composed of came from South Wales, some 140 miles from Stonehenge, and it was built long before the invention of the wheel.
As you see the stones with your own eyes, you’ll feel a kind of enchantment, and there’s no denying that it’s a very special place — well worth visiting on your day trip to Bristol from London.
Stonehenge opens at 9:00 AM and you can purchase your tickets with GetYourGuide before visiting Stonehenge.
Discover Bristol on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour
When you arrive in Bristol — either by road, by train to Bristol Temple Meads, or by coach — you will probably want to orientate yourself with the city. The hop-on, hop-off Bristol Discovery bus tour is the perfect way to do just that.
Drive around some of the most interesting parts of the city, taking in useful information and fascinating stories from history as you go. If there’s an area or attraction you’d like to explore more, you can just jump off the bus, see it, and then catch the next one.
See Bristol’s best attractions with the Clifton Suspension Bridge Vaults Experience
Visiting the Clifton Suspension Bridge is one of the best things to do in Bristol.
This bridge was built in 1831 by architect Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The design was actually part of a competition; Bristol Council decided they needed to create a thoroughfare to link the increasingly busy suburb of Clifton with North Somerset over the deepest part of the Avon Gorge.
It’s worth visiting this architectural marvel for the spectacular scenery of Avon Gorge. If you want to admire more of Brunel’s work, he also built the SS Great Britain, Bristol’s famous ship which lives on a dry dock near Bristol harbor.
It’s free to visit the bridge and visitor center, or you could have a drink in the White Lion bar overlooking the bridge. Alternatively, there’s a new, totally unique experience that you can try while you’re here: the Clifton Suspension Bridge Vaults Experience.
These vaults, which lead underneath the bridge, were only discovered 20 years ago and are home to amazing stalagmites and stalactites. They’re tastefully lit to feel as if you’re inside a half-manmade, half-natural cathedral.
If you want to do something completely different on your London to Bristol trip, I highly recommend the Clifton Suspension Bridge Vaults Experience, which will give you lots of fascinating information about the bridge as well.
Immerse yourself in mystery of Banksy
Bristol is the home of Banksy and his first piece of street art, and the perfect place to learn more about this mysterious character. This legendary street artist creates artworks that often allude to popular culture or news events. However, he’s completely anonymous — nobody knows who really creates these pieces.
It’s unlikely you’ll work out who the artist is in the Banksy & Street Art City Exploration Game (people have been trying to solve the puzzle for years), but it’s well worth learning a little more about them on this self-guided tour.
As you explore Banksy’s artwork, you’ll learn more about the artist themself and hear some incredible stories by local artists. And it’s a game too — as you explore, you’ll be given clues that you must unravel as you move onto each story.
Explore the Old Market on a craft beer tour
Something else that Bristol does well is delicious food and drink. Book this self-guided craft beer tour in advance, and spend your day in Bristol visiting some of the best watering holes in the Old Market. This is a vibrant part of the city that’s great for nightlife, and is more of a local hangout than a tourist hotspot.
This self-guided beer tour includes a visit to one of Bristol’s best beer gardens, a brewery tap room, a craft beer bar, and a traditional British pub.
You’ll have a guide with you at the first three tastings, and then you’ll be left to enjoy the rest of the pubs at your own leisure. Pair this with a couple of the ciders Bristol’s famous for and you’ll be feeling like a local in no time.
Learn Bristol's darkest secrets
Once nighttime rolls around in Bristol, why not take a spooky tour to learn a little more about the city’s macabre side?
This 2-hour darkest secrets tour takes place as night falls, with your expert local guide telling you gruesome stories of Bristol’s past. Some of these tales involve pirates who frequented the city in centuries gone by, other stories may involve mysterious murders that happened on these very streets.
One thing’s for sure, you’ll have goosebumps throughout the 2-hour walking tour of a dark Bristol.
Easy transport routes for your Bristol day trip from London
The train to Bristol departs from London Paddington (another Brunel building) and takes over 1.5 hours, arriving in Bristol Temple Meads. From there, it’s just a quick taxi to downtown Bristol, or the pretty village of Clifton, where you’ll find the suspension bridge. When it’s time to return to London from Bristol, it’s just as easy as getting there.
If you prefer to drive, the M4 motorway (that’s British for freeway) that takes you pretty much all the way from London to Bristol. This takes 2-3 hours, depending on where in London you set off from. If you add on a trip to Stonehenge, you can expect to add at least 2 hours for the journey and time to walk around.
There are a few bus companies which take you all the way from London to Bristol city center, including National Express and Megabus. There are plenty of pick-up points in London, but London Victoria bus station is usually the departure point. This takes around 3 hours.
Bristol is an incredible city with a long history, but also a very modern, multicultural, and welcoming feel. It has something for everybody. Plus, it’s easy to visit on a day trip from London, whether you’re driving or taking public transport.
Have fun exploring this wonderful city!