Because the floating harbour weaves in and out of the city centre most of this area is flat and easily walkable unlike the rest of Bristol which grew up in the hills and valleys surrounding the old walled city and now spreads over 3 miles in every direction.


While walking you might like to try and explain the slave trade and the role of the Merchant Venturers who gave so much to this city. In Clifton where the merchants built their houses (on the hill away from the smell of the city) you will find a vibrant village bordered by the Downs, the Avon George (and bridge) and Bristol University buildings like Goldney Hall. Down in the Cumberland Basin area you can see the site of the Hot Wells (Georgian spa) and the long disused Clifton rocks railway etc. This is where the lock gates join the floating harbor to the tidal river Avon and provides a great view of the Clifton Suspension bridge. You can make the I.K.Brunel link (the bridge, the ship & the station too) oh and by the way he also worked on the redesign of the floating harbour and dry dock as well (is there anything he didn’t do?)

Bare in mind you can chug around the docks on a water taxi from several pick up/drop off points and get a different perspective, The SS Great Britain has had a revamp and now looks like its floating in the dock where it was made? I have written a simple route that could easily be covered in an hour at a fast pace or enjoyed at leisure in two, there is plenty to see and places to stop along the way if you have half a day or longer.The City Council and tourist information give free maps of central Bristol, available in lots of public places and in the Council House reception (good excuse for a look inside).

 St Nicks Market, Bristol

Walking from Temple Meads railway station towards the city centre/shops,  go across (around) the large roundabout into Victoria Street which leads to Bristol Bridge (10 mins) and the start of Castle Park the site of the original Castle and City walls. You will find the shell of a church burned down in the Bristol Blitz and have a good sense of the vast shopping area (The Galleries, Broadmead & Cabot Circus. On the park you will find some information boards and some diggings exposing parts of the old castle. Bristol (Brig-stow, the place of the bridge) was founded at the junction of 2 rivers as a natural trading point and easily defended town. From Bristol Bridge you will find St Nicholas church and across the road behind it the way into St Nicks covered market and the old Corn Exchange (cup of tea and a bun maybe) and out the far end and you are into Corn St, where you can find the original ‘Nails’, large brass tables on which deals were struck and paid for “on the nail”. Have a good look at the decorations on the buildings around you and you will find clues about the trades, the goods and the places that brought wealth to the city.

the Nails, corn Street, BristolLook up in Corn Street

Turn right and at the top of Corn Street you will find the area where the Registry Office, Law Courts and Chambers are, past the clock on St Ewans church (quarter-jacks strike like clockwork) and left into Broad Street (joke) down past the Thistle Grand and down towards St John’s Arch and chapel built into the old city wall, on your way you can find a couple of allyways that give you a better idea why this one is concidered broad. Through the arches and over the road and across the main drag to find the renamed Christmas Steps (artist quarter?) now dwarfed by a red brick office building, certainly the oldest (and once the best) fish & chip shop in town and the 3 sugar loaves real ale pub. At the top of the steps is the church of the 3 kings and the Foster Alms Houses (donated by an ex mayor, and worth a look). From the steps (top or bottom) walk into the City Centre (which now covers the river Frome still secretly flowing through the city) past the Hippodrome and along towards the water sheds (if time is pressing carry on along the watershed quay and find millennium square to your right) if you take the road sloping uphill to the right it leads to College Green where the Council House and Cathedral are (at the bottom of Park Street). There is a “Great” arch between the cathedral and the Library that will take you down to the Millennium Square where @ Bristol can be found. The @ Bristol centre on Millennium Square has loads to do on a rainy day and this area is becoming a popular venue for outdoor events.

  Christmas Steps, BristolChristmas Steps

From Millennium Square and the watershed there is a new footbridge across to the Arnolfini gallery that sits on a major junction in the Harbour and is a nice place to sit on a sunny day. You might like to go over the swing bridge to find the M Shed and steam exhibits. The Great Britain and Mathew are a short walk from there along the railway lines/quay side. The recently opened 'M' Shed free museum has all the Bristol airplane stuff, cars, buses and some interactive exibits with lots of local neighbourhood stories etc. Beyond the museum alongside the river Avon are the walls of the old Prison and the Louisiana pub that sit next to a disused lock and swing bridge that once led into the harbor. If you have time to walk around the small harbor/marina, between the old General Hospital and the Ostrich pub you may be able to see the boarded up entrance to the Redcliffe tunnels. Follow the tiny footbridge and the quayside to take you back to the swing bridge.


Back over the swing bridge past the Mud Dock and turn right into the Grove and first left (Grove Ave) then across Queens Sq (where the original poll tax riots happened). Going straight across will lead you into King Street (one block over) which is full of every kind of architecture, Alms houses at each end and the Old Vic in the middle, don’t miss the oldest pub in England. At the end of King Street turning left along Welsh Back past the glass boat will take you back to Bristol Bridge. By now you will have noticed all the new harbourside developments and old industrial buildings converted to apartments and numerous leisure craft and houseboats. Bristol is a thriving city and still growing.