Family city breaks

Find out why Bristol is brimming with family fun this summer

Last updated 7th July 2023

If a UK city break is on your 2023 bucket list, then visit Bristol. It’s certainly one of the best cities for family fun right now, as Katie Amps and her clan discovered on a recent weekend getaway.


Ronnie getting a closer look at Bristol street art

As a family we like a city that’s going to wear our youngest, Ronnie, right out with attractions. And Bristol doesn’t disappoint. In fact, there aren’t just a few reasons to visit, there are heaps and whether your kids are interested in art, nature, animals, or theatre there’s something for everyone. Ronnie is four years old so naturally we picked activities that felt best suited for younger children and he could not have been more entertained.


A jawesome day out at Bristol Aquarium

Take an undersea safari at Bristol Aquarium

Top of the agenda was Bristol Aquarium where we spent a good part of the first day mesmerised by an undersea safari. The Aquarium is open daily, and features more than 40 naturally-themed displays and thousands of amazing aquatic creatures, including rays, seahorses, puffer fish, piranhas.

Ronnie especially loved the underwater tunnel and watching fascinating marine life swimming overhead. For us older ones, we loved the giant botanical house, which was more like an urban jungle: we even saw a few bananas growing! After a good look around, we headed out to the café which had a small play area so Ronnie could let off some steam before we started our next adventure.


M Shed Museum, Bristol

Head to M Shed and learn about the city’s history

M Shed is the history museum of Bristol and tells the story of the city. Situated on the historic Harbourside the museum is inside a 1950’s transit shed. We wanted to find out more about Bristol’s past and had a great time discovering how the city has developed from prehistoric times to the present day.

Ronnie loved the working exhibits including steamboats, trains and cranes. The fact that M Shed is more living museum than traditional museum really appealed to us, and we were amazed how easily stories of the past sparked discussions about the future. Although we’d have happily paid, this one is absolutely free to visit.


Brunel SS Great Britain, Bristol

Come for one of the UK’s Top 10 Museums

Whilst at the dockside we headed over to see the most extraordinary time-machine: Brunel’s SS Great Britain, the world’s first great ocean liner.

This is one of the UK’s top ten museums and an award-winning visitor attraction. Rescued from rust and wreckage in 1970, and since lovingly restored to her Victorian hey-day, a visit to the SS Great Britain is so much more than a dusty old museum, this is a living and breathing, atmospheric experience. Ronnie loved the Riggers’ Yard and the Great Western Dockyard, with interactive displays, storytelling and games.


Bristol Cathedral, summer evening

If you plan to visit Bristol, we can highly recommend the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel in the city centre. Everywhere you turn here, there’s something spectacular to see and do and Bristol Cathedral itself is right next door to the hotel. Having stood on the same site for over 1000 years, it’s a bit of an icon and again, free to enter. Plus, it’s open 365 days of the year and the architecture is breath-taking. Time it right and you might be as lucky as we were to hear the choir practicing which made it all the more special.


Bristol Harbour Festival

This summer you should visit for the big birthday

Over summer there are even more family friendly reasons to visit Bristol. This year marks the 650th anniversary of its becoming a city and county and no surprise to find there are many major celebrations in the pipeline. There’s also the re-opening of Bristol Beacon, and that’s before we even mention the usual vibrant, world-renowned festivals and events.

Bristol 650: celebrate over six decades of brilliance

This year marks the 650th anniversary of Bristol becoming a city and county and there’s a lot going on. So much so in fact, that Visit Bristol even has a microsite dedicated to anniversary celebrations. That’s the place to find out what’s happening, when and where all over the city in 2023. But to get you started we’ve picked out a few events that work brilliantly for families.


Bristol Harbour Festival © Paul Box

Visit Bristol Harbour Festival it’s free and fantastic fun

The Bristol Harbour Festival is on from 15 to 16 July. As always it’s the city’s prime, maritime event and expected to attract more than 250,000 visitors with its popular mix of world-class circus and on-water activities. There won’t be any shortage of live music and family entertainment across the weekend, as well as a strong line-up of food stalls. And, of course, our top reason to go with Ronnie: the many ships which sail into the harbour just for festival.


Bristol International Balloon Fiesta

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta takes to the skies in August

From 10 to 13 August, Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is set to stun visitors once again. It’s now Europe’s largest hot air balloon event and known for its mass ascents, when over 100 hot air balloons take off and fly over the city at dawn and dusk. The free-to-visit fiesta also has daytime aerial displays, fairground rides, entertainment, music and many food stalls, too.


Unicorn Festival sculptures overlooking Clifton Suspension Bridge

Don’t miss the rare and remarkable Unicorn Fest

As part of Bristol 650 events, UnicornFest will be a public art trail of unicorn sculptures, painted by Bristol artists and on display at famous landmarks. The trail will bring local artists, schools, communities and businesses together and the colourful, fun unicorns will be located at several iconic Bristol and south west locations, from Clifton Suspension Bridge to the Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare.


Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel

Where to stay: Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel

Perfectly located in Bristol city centre in a Grade II listed Victorian building, Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel has been welcoming guests for more than 150 years.

The preciously restored hotel offers an elevated experience in a prime city centre location next to Bristol Cathedral and a short walk from the train station, Cabot Circus and Bristol Hippodrome Theatre. After a restful night’s sleep in elegant accommodation, guests can work out in the fitness centre or enjoy a meal at Miller & Carter steakhouse, offering the finest steak hand prepared by master butchers and exceptional chefs.

We were lucky enough to have two nights in a family suite with king sized bed and sofa bed in the living area. This provided us with a specious setting to kick-back and rest after a busy day sightseeing. We ate at Miller & Carter where the food was divine and the atmosphere, although formal, was still relaxed. The restaurant also featured a good kids menu with a range of options, however, as big steak lovers it was the grown-ups who were really in their element.

How to visit Bristol with your kids

How to get there

Trains from London Paddington to Bristol take from 1 hour, 35 minutes

Where to stay

Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel, Deluxe Double Room, from £129 per night (2 adults, 2 children)

Find out more and book Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel

Sneak peek at summer 2024 Bristol brings brilliance to the table with brand new BOXHALL

From the creators of BOXPARK in London, BOXHALL is a new and hotly anticipated dining concept with a modern food hall structure set to open on Bristol’s waterfront in 2024. With high-quality product ranges and carefully curated, authentic cuisine from local, independent street food traders and city restaurants, BOXHALL will be spearheaded by its Food Ambassador and renowned local chef, Josh Eggleton.