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As a city and a county in its own right, and the gateway to the south-west, Bristol is a unique and special place. Alongside its eco-credentials and being named the UK’s greenest city, Bristol has built its reputation as a distinctive and thriving city. While offering a diverse blend of culture and history, it’s also a hotbed of everything that’s modern and contemporary. A booming city, effortlessly attracting people to live, work, and visit, Bristol never disappoints.

Days out in Bristol

Though a relatively small city, Bristol really packs a punch when it comes to days out and things to do and see. But Bristol stretches far beyond it’s buzzing city centre and offers a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities and things to do for kids, adults, and families alike. Whatever is the order of the day, take your pick from a vast choice of culture, history, art, landmarks, and attractions.

Visit the city’s harbourside to see the world’s first ocean liner, Brunel’s SS Great Britain, take a step back in time at the M Shed for a look back at Bristol’s rich history, visit the inhabitants of Bristol Aquarium, or take to the water for a riverboat trip to see Bristol, and even the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge, from a different perspective.

Back on dry land, a Banksy walking tour around the city will let you take in plenty of the infamous artist’s work, some hidden, some in plain view. Bristol Museum and Art Gallery lets you discover everything from dinosaurs to Egyptian mummies and modern and contemporary art from around the world. And the Bristol Aerospace museum will let kids imagination run wild.

Just outside the city centre, there’s still plenty to see and do. As the world’s fifth oldest zoo, Bristol Zoo Gardens in Clifton is still going strong and a perfect day out for all the family. And what better way to get the adrenaline pumping than to put your pedal to the metal at the Teamsport indoor karting track in Avonmouth or try the high ropes and outdoor activities at Mojo Active in Almondsbury?

Topography, geology, and climate

Beneath its outer layers, Bristol predominantly lies on a variety of different rock types, including sandstones, limestones, and mudstones. Collectively, they provide the distinctive land qualities we see today in its surrounding gorges and riverways and the regions different soil types.

Enveloping the inner city and reaching out in an easterly, westerly, and southerly direction, are largely wet, floodplain soils of loam and clay. This is capped in the north and south of outer Bristol by fertile loam and clay soils with a slight acidity, before becoming lime-rich on the city’s southern and northern outskirts. To the east of the city, soils are predominantly a mix of low fertility loam and seasonally wet clay. The loamy and clay soils also feature heavily in the west before turning to coastal flats.

As with other south-west counties, Bristol has a warm and temperate climate enjoying warmer temperatures in both summer and winter. Though partially protected the Mendip Hills to the south-west, the city is exposed to the weather coming in from the Atlantic and into the Bristol Channel before reaching the Severn estuary in the west.

However, temperatures average around 3ºC (37ºF) in winter and around 21ºC (70ºC) in the summer. But with some seasonal variations, Bristol can be wet with annual rainfall across the county averaging around 800mm (32”).

Bristol’s parks and gardens

Bristol has a selection of open spaces, parks, and gardens to explore and enjoy, both in the city and the rolling countryside beyond. From Bristol city council parks and gardens giving you the chance to sit back, relax, and watch the world go by as you explore the city to larger estates and gardens beyond for a family day out.

Inside Bristol City

In the heart of the city centre, Castle Park is something of a Bristol landmark. Overlooking the river, it’s home to the ruins of both St. Mary Le Port Church and St. Peter’s Church, which now serves as a memorial to those who lost their lives in the Bristol blitz. A large, green space, Castle Park is an inner-city oasis to explore and relax in, and you can also experience the Castle Park Psychic Garden containing a sensory display of foliage, herbs, and flowers.

Don’t miss the famous Queen Square not far away. An elegantly designed, tree-lined Regency garden with gravel paths and lawns, surrounded by Georgian townhouses.

Just a couple of miles away in Clifton, you’ll find the University of Bristol Botanical Gardens. With over 4,500 species, there’s an impressive array of collections featuring native, Mediterranean, and evolutionary plants, alongside a 640m2 glasshouse divided into tropical, subtropical, warm, and cool zones, each displaying a diverse selection of plants flowering throughout the year.

And nearby, also in Clifton, the Brandon Hill Nature Reserve is a 5-acre haven for wildlife. Explore the pathways taking you through informal gardens, open grassland, and wildflower meadow, before racing the top to see the impressive Cabot Tower, providing stunning views across the city.

Outside Bristol City

Just on the eastern outskirts of Bristol, near the village of Wraxall, The National Trust’s gothic Tyntesfield House and Gardens sits in 540 acres of extensive gardens, parklands, and walks. Along with a collection of magnificent trees in the arboretum, you can explore the walks around the estate, and take in the extensive kitchen garden, rose garden, formal terraces, and a wonderful display of springtime daffodils around the grounds.

Some 10 miles east of the city, another popular National Trust property, Dyrham Park, is a wonderful place to explore. Sitting on the edge of the Costwolds, this 17th-century house is surrounded by over 270-acres of gardens and Grade II listed parkland. Created by garden designer, George London, the grounds include a mix of formal gardens and beautiful borders with snowdrops, daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, and alliums providing a glorious display of colour alongside a stunning winter garden.

And, though just a few miles from the city centre, Ashton Court Estate is a beautiful country park and mansion set in 850-acres of open parkland. The majestic, expansively landscaped grounds, designed by landscape gardener, Humphry Repton, in the 19th-century, offer a fine display and feature hundreds of daffodils during the spring, while the formal rose garden is a glorious highlight. With far-reaching views across the city together with extensive walks and plenty of open space to enjoy, Ashton Court makes for a great family day out.