Day 2. Exploring Bristol – Clifton & Banksy

After sleeping soundly, we headed out of the lovely apartment in Clifton where we were spending the weekend to explore the local neighbourhood.  It’s an affluent suburb of beautiful Georgian townhouses, close to the centre yet far enough away to have its own charm.

Entrance to Bristol Zoo
The entrance gates to Bristol Zoo Gardens

Bristol Zoo Gardens was our first planned attraction of the day, just a short walk along leafy streets and located on College Road.  Bristol is the 5th oldest zoo in the world and was founded by a local physician as far back as 1835.  The zoo continues to maintain its mission through breeding and conserving endangered species and is in a scenic parkland setting on the edge of the city.

A red panda in Bristol Zoo
A Red Panda appearing through the bushes

Standard admission to the 12 acre gardens is £16.22.  There are over 400 species to be seen including red pandas from China, gorillas from the tropical rainforests of Cameroon, a golden lion and African penguins.  Usually associated with cold climates the penguins at Bristol are more accustomed to the warmer temperatures of South Africa and Namibia.

Herbaceous borders at Bristol Zoo
Beautiful herbaceous borders in the Zoo Gardens

The landscaped gardens are beautifully maintained with colourful planting intermingled with walk through zones housing small creatures such as meerkats and reptiles.

A gorilla swinging from branches in Bristol Zoo
A gorilla swinging from branches

It was fun watching a very agile gorilla swinging from the trees and then viewing the seals take a leisurely dip in the water before lazing on the bank.   There’s a one way signposted route around the gardens with the option of missing sections out if preferred.

African penguins at Bristol Zoo
African penguins at the zoo

We spent around two hours happily wandering around learning about the creatures and their natural habitats.  As well as coming to see the animals, the gardens with their collection of unusual trees, shrubs and plants from around the world provide an enjoyable botanical experience for plant lovers.

Avenue of Trees, Clifton Down, Bristol
The Avenue of Trees at Clifton Down

On leaving the zoo it was then a pleasant fifteen minute walk through an attractive avenue of trees along a footpath lying parallel with Clifton Down Road to the Clifton Observatory overlooking Avon Gorge.

Clifton Observatory, Bristol
Clifton Observatory

Entrance to the observatory is £5 which is good value as it includes visiting the museum, camera obscura and also allows access to the Giant’s Cave.  We started off at the Observatory tower which is home to the museum that includes an interesting timeline of the observatory’s history, early photos of Bristol and information about its historic camera.

Camera Obscura, Clifton Observatory, Bristol
Camera Obscura, at the Clifton Observatory

Up on the top floor, tucked away in a small darkened room is William West’s Camera Obscura, one of just three working in the U.K.  This feat of engineering has sat on top of Clifton Tower since 1828 and we were intrigued to see how it worked.

View from the Camera Obscura, Bristol
View from the Camera Obscura, Bristol

We followed instructions to rotate a long handle and this provided us with a 360 degree view of Bristol on a screen below.  It was amazing that the camera was still able to project real time images almost 200 years since it was installed.

Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol
The Clifton Suspension Bridge as viewed from the Observatory

Through the opened windows of the top floor there were splendid views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Avon Gorge and down to the observatory cafe below.

Tunnel from Clifton Observatory leading to the Giant's Cave
Tunnel from Clifton Observatory leading to the Giant’s Cave

After carefully making our way back down the spiral staircase to ground level, it was then time to go underground to explore the Giant’s Cave.  We followed a path cut into the limestone rocks of Avon Gorge, needing to bend down occasionally so as not to bang our heads as we passed through the 60m tunnel which opens out onto the cliff face 76m above the River Avon.

Giant's Cave balcony, Avon Gorge
Giant’s Cave balcony, Avon Gorge
Avon Gorge, Bristol
Avon Gorge viewed from the Giant’s Cave 

Stepping out onto the balcony we enjoyed more splendid views  of the bridge and gorge from a different perspective then after a few minutes rest we disappeared back into the tunnel and climbed back up to ground level.

Walking across the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol
Walking across the Clifton Suspension Bridge

We’d seen the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge from afar and now it was time to walk across it.  This beautiful icon of Bristol was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and took 33 years to build.  Sadly, Brunel never got to see his masterpiece as he died five years before its completion.

The Giant's Cave balcony and Clifton Observatory Bristol
The Giant’s Cave balcony and Clifton Observatory viewed from the Clifton Suspension Bridge

A one way system is currently in operation for pedestrians crossing the bridge but this worked well as it meant we were able to enjoy different views in each direction.  The suspension bridge links Clifton, Bristol to Leigh Woods in North Somerset where there is a free visitor centre run by volunteers documenting its history.

Clifton Village, Bristol
Clifton Village 

It was then just a short walk from the bridge down to Clifton Village.  Spending at least a couple of hours here should definitely be on everyone’s Bristol itinerary as it’s absolutely beautiful.   There’s an eclectic mix of shops ranging from independent designer boutiques, to antiques, vintage and the best of the high street with the likes of Crew Clothing, White Stuff and Joules.

Clifton Arcade, Bristol
The beautiful Clifton Arcade

Centred on the village is the elegant Victorian Clifton Arcade which originally opened in 1878 and is now home to galleries and upscale small stores.  The entire neighbourhood has a vibrant continental feel to it with its many cafes,  wine bars and restaurants all spilling out onto small squares and pavements.

Pavement cafes, Clifton Village, Bristol
Pavement cafes, Clifton Village

With so many dining options close at hand we were spoilt for choice from wonderful independent coffee shops like Spicer & Cole and the Primrose Cafe to restaurants such as No.4 Clifton Village and a branch of The Ivy.

Clifton Village, Bristol
Pedestrianised streets of Clifton Village 

After a relaxing lunch, we were feeling refreshed and ready to embark on a self-guided Banksy street art walking tour of the city.  From Where The Wall  an app can be downloaded for £10 enabling two devices to be used over a 24 hour period.

Street art on the Banksy Where the Wall self guided tour
Street art on the Banksy Where the Wall self guided tour

The Piece of Banksy walking tour is fully narrated and uncovers the story of this illusive Bristol street artist and can either be started at the Harbourside or Stokes Croft.  Banksy is known all over the world for his anti-establishment and thought provoking street art and with 13 pieces spread out over a wide area of the city, the tour can easily be broken down into smaller chunks if preferred.

Banksy Street Art, Bristol
More Banksy street art we viewed on the self guided tour

I would suggest wearing comfortable shoes as from our selected starting point at Stokes Croft we followed the route up and down Bristol’s steep hills seeking out Banksy’s street art.  Not only that, it was also an opportunity to explore some interesting parts of the city that we were unfamiliar with.

The Christmas Steps, Bristol
The Christmas Steps, Bristol

Interesting sights we came across included the Christmas Steps, a quaint narrow passageway with a very unusual name and surely one of the most picturesque streets in the older part of the city.

Foster's Alms Houses, Bristol
Foster’s Alms Houses, Bristol

Our walking tour also took us past the beautiful Foster’s Alms houses on Colston Street.  These alms houses were founded in 1483 by a local merchant and designed in French Gothic Revival Style with their turrets and tall brick chimneys.

The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum, Bristol
Banksy’s The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum

Banksy’s street art is wide ranging some of which I found more appealing than others.  My favourite was the very last one on the tour located quite close to SS Great Britain.  This was of the Girl with the Pierced Eardrum depicting a take on Vermeer’s famous Girl with a Pearl Earring, replacing the girl’s earring with a burglar alarm.

Bristol Harbourside
Bristol Harbourside

Completing our street art tour at the harbourside, we rounded off the day enjoying a meal in one of the waterside restaurants after such a fun filled day exploring the delights of Bristol.


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Exploring Clifton & Banksy in Bristol



62 thoughts on “Day 2. Exploring Bristol – Clifton & Banksy

  1. A beautiful city and surrounding area. We saw the Camera Obscura at Greenwich. Like you say, it is amazing these keep on working. Love the cave observatory for the bridge and the bridge is an engineering marvel. Thanks for taking us there, Marion. Allan

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My pleasure. I’m so pleased you enjoyed this post on Bristol. Hopefully you’ll be able to come over before too long and visit for yourself. It will be something nice to look forward to. Thank you for taking the time to comment, it’s much appreciated. Marion


  2. The Bristol Zoo Gardens looks like a fun way to spend the day. The landscaped gardens look beautiful and I love your picture of the red panda. The Giant’s Cave seems like a cool experience and a great way to get a gorgeous view of the Avon Gorge.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks so much for taking an interest in this post on Bristol. The suspension bridge is an amazing feat of engineering and I’m certain you would adore a stroll through Clifton Village with its wonderful little shops and cafes. Hope your week is going well and you are settling into your new role. Marion

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a lovely taste of Bristol from your post! I’ve heard of the city before, but never really knew what it had to offer. The zoo certainly has such adorable animals and Clifton Village is an incredibly charming place to stroll in. Must have been a wonderful visit there!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Wow, the views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge as viewed from the Observatory are stunning! The Banksy Tour looks fantastic, I was very fond of him at one point in my life as he seemed like an interesting person, and I still have ‘Wall and Piece’ on my bookshelf. In addition to a massive number of photographs of his creations, there are some interesting background notes and comments from Banksy himself, giving some works a whole new meaning. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xxx

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The Clifton Suspension is a stunning piece of engineering and visiting the observatory and trying out the old camera was interesting too. I’ll have to look out for ‘Wall and Piece’ about the elusive street artist. It always puzzles me that no-one ever sees him creating his art work! Hope you are surviving the heatwave Aiva. Thanks so much for your ever welcome thoughts. Marion xx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am enjoying your posts about Bristol very much indeed as Bristol is one of my favourite cities and Clifton is one of my favourite areas. Your accommodation looked amazing! I have also been lucky enough to see the African penguins at Boulders Beach when we visited S. Africa, seems like another era now. The Banksy Tour looks brilliant and I would definitely like to experience this walk some time in the future! Hope you’re surviving the heatwave, Marion.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. How wonderful that you have seen African penguins in their natural habitat. I’ve never been to South Africa but would love to visit there when the coast is clear! Yes, we’re fine here at home in the heatwave and I’m writing this from the garden under the shade of a parasol whilst my husband is hard at work cutting the hedge which we have rather too much of! Marion

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Our trip to SA was for a special birthday (my husband). It wasn’t a country that was at the top of my travel list but I fell in love with the sheer beauty of the place. It’s very hot for gardening and I get the impression that everything has run riot – in our garden, anyway! June

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah, it was great to see the African penguins (we’ve watched them many times in Simonstown, near Cape Town going in and out of the sea).
    And what a lovely view you had of the Suspension Bridge, as well as from Giant’s Cave. I found the Foster’s Alms Houses beautiful – already coming from 1483 … wow!
    This was a lovely tour, thanks Marion!

    Liked by 3 people

        1. Bath and Bristol are only fifteen minutes apart by train so perhaps you can take a look sometime. We’re enjoying a spell of hot, sunny weather now and we were sitting in the garden last night until nearly 10.00 p.m. as it was so still and warm!

          Liked by 1 person

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