Navigating any new city can be a challenge. Fortunately, Bristol is incredibly easy to get around. For one, it’s not massive like London, or as sprawled out as Manchester. Bristol is also incredibly walkable, with the most fashionable neighborhoods and the best shopping districts clustered around the Old Town and Harbourside.
Getting from Bristol Airport to the city centre is easier than most other major cities in the UK. Public transportation thoroughly covers most of Bristol, with dedicated bus service from the city centre out to desirable areas like nightlife hotspot Stokes Croft and Park Street. Bristol is also an incredibly bike-friendly city, with dedicated lanes and plenty of rental options that make it easy to get around town while getting a nice workout.
Bristol is a world-class city to visit, and there are hundreds of amazing things to do and see. Don't fuss with your luggage getting on and off trains and buses. Instead, take your bags to a Bounce storage facility in Bristol and save yourself the hassle. Here’s a guide on how to get around Bristol so you can make the most of your trip!
Getting to The City Centre From The Bristol Airport
If you’re flying into Bristol Airport (BRS), there are a number of convenient and affordable ways to get into the city centre where all the best tourist activities, restaurants, and the best nightlife are located. Taxis and Carshare pickups are always an option, and Bristol City Centre is only seven miles away from the airport. Traffic during the commuting hours can make this slightly less convenient, given the cost, but generally taking a car will get you to Bristol city centre within 40 minutes even at the height of traffic.
The Airport Flyer bus service is the best and most economical option. The shuttle service runs 24 hours a day, and buses can leave as frequently as every 20 minutes. The A1 Service goes directly to both Bristol Bus Station near The Shopping Quarter, running through the city centre, and also Bristol Temple Meads Train Station. Just about every destination that tourists seek is accessible from the Bristol Airport Flyer’s route.
How to Get Around Bristol by Train
Most visitors travel into town via train, and it’s one of the most convenient ways to get to Bristol City Centre. Bristol Temple Meads Train Station is the go-to destination for out-of-towners, and it’s only a 15-minute walk from Old Town, Bristol Shopping Quarter, and about 20 minutes to Bristol Harbour. Many of the best neighborhoods in Bristol are easily reached on foot from the train station. Bristol Parkway Train Station is another option for traveling into Bristol's outer neighborhoods and suburbs.
Taking the train in is very economical, as Bristol is a major hub in the national railway network. Another key feature of traveling via train is the option of purchasing a PlusBus Pass, which will combine fares and help you travel around Bristol cheaply during your stay. Another option is the GWR Freedom Travel Pass, which covers most buses and all the train tickets within the Great Western Rail Network, with the maximum amount of travel flexibility.
Bristol Temple Meads Station
Located less than 20 minutes (by foot) to the city centre and harbour, this is the most common destination for visitors traveling from London, Manchester, Birmingham, and Scotland. There is also local service to the nearby cities of Gloucester, Taunton, and Weston.
Temple Meads Railway Station comes with all the perks you can expect of a world-class train station. Bicycle storage, a massive car park (parking lot), WiFi access for business travelers and YouTube addicts, and a variety of food stalls and vending machines are all available. There are also designated pickup/drop-off platforms, as well as a taxi stand for those who are taking a car into the city centre or outer neighborhoods.
Bristol Temple Meads Station is wheelchair accessible, with staff assistance available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is step-free access for all boarding platforms and facilities via lifts. There is an assisted travel meeting point at the customer information office for any traveler in need of special care. Extra wheelchairs are on hand to meet any additional needs of elderly passengers.
Bristol Parkway Rail Station
Located north of the city, this is Bristol’s out of town train station, which is accessible to the outer neighborhoods and suburbs. Services include loading and unloading platforms, a taxi station, free WiFi, vending machines and a café, and bicycle storage. There is a substantial parking lot as well, as many commuters use this train.
Like Temple Mead, Bristol Parkway Railway Station prides itself on accessibility and inclusivity. All ticket machines and stations and customer help points are wheelchair accessible. All boarding platforms are wheelchair accessible via ramps, and there are step-free lifts for boarding all trains and buses. There are Assisted Travel meeting points for customer assistance as well.
Bristol Parkway and Temple Mead train stations are linked together, making the suburbs and city centre easy to navigate. It’s a short trip, so finding lodging or staying with family or friends outside downtown is an option with full access to the city centre and harbour.
How To Get Around By Bus
There is so much more to Bristol than the harbour and city centre. With neighborhoods like Stokes Croft and College Green, it’s crucial to leave downtown at some point to get the full Bristol experience. Luckily, the city is incredibly walkable, and for when the trek is a little further, the bus network has you covered.
Freedom Travel Pass
If you are planning on using the bus throughout your trip to Bristol, then the Freedom Travel Pass is the best way to make it as convenient and affordable as possible. With this purchase, you’ll have unlimited access to the majority of all bus and train services within Bristol. This includes service to nearby Bath, one of the most iconic small cities in the UK in terms of beauty and historical significance, and most of the South West.
You can purchase the Freedom Travel Pass at the ticket office of any bus or train station. A single-day bus ticket can be purchased directly from a bus driver any time you board. You will need to specify which ‘zone’ you wish to have access to. Zone A includes central Bristol, and all the best activities and landmarks near the city centre, the best shopping in Bristol, College Green, and Bristol Harbour. Zone B includes the areas southwest of Bristol, including several suburbs.
This popular service is aptly named, as it’s an entirely free bus line that runs on Saturdays. This is a dependable route that loops through the city centre from Bristol Temple Meads and back. It’s a brilliant option for locals visiting from the suburbs and it’s incredibly reliable. Even if you’re only going a short trip between places in the city center, hopping on the free bus can save you time otherwise spent walking, and it won’t cost you a thing!
If you are traveling throughout Bristol to its many iconic landmarks, neighborhoods, parks, and museums, then you will definitely benefit from the Metrobus. Some of their best routes include tourist stops like Brunel’s SS Great Britain, Bristol Ferry boats, M Shed, and the harbour. They are also connected to Temple Meads and the Coach Station. Metrobus is also speedier than normal bus routes in that they run “express routes” between certain parts of the city, instead of normal bus routes that would make stops at most intersections and are more oriented to residents and commuters.
Metrobus is quicker to board because you buy a pass before boarding at one of their convenient iPoint kiosks. These stations are more than just a ticketing machine; you can plan your route and receive live updates on wait times and status updates. Because all passengers have already purchased their tickets, boarding runs quickly and smoothly. There are also free WiFi and USB stations at many seats on the Metrobus, which is crucial for travelers who need their phones to navigate or keep in touch throughout a full day of sightseeing.
Metrobus vehicles are also wheelchair and limited-mobility accessible, with dedicated seating, larger entrances, and lifts for those that need them. It’s one of the many convenient options for travelers that need assistance boarding and exiting buses.
The prices for the Metrobus tickets are reasonable. A single adult ticket is £2.25, students and passengers aged 16 to 21 travel for £1.60, children (5 to 15-years old) cost just £1.15, and children under 5 travel for free. There are weekly, daily, and monthly ticket options available as well. The First Bus App is another nice feature in that you can go cashless by buying bus fares through the app.
National and regional coach bus services also have a presence in Bristol, with the Bristol Coach Station having a prime location near some of the best things to do in Bristol, including the Shopping Quarter, College Green, and Park Street. This station has service from Megabus, Falcon, and National Express, which run routes throughout the UK.
How To Navigate Bristol By Car
Bristol is an easy city to get to by car, with access from both the M4 and M5 Motorways. Once you arrive in Bristol and are driving around to various activities, it’s a considerably easier city to navigate by car than London or Manchester. There are dozens of city centre car parks, and street parking is widely available. That being said, Bristol is relatively small and very navigable, so walking, biking, or taking the bus for longer trips might be the better option. Bristol’s harbour, Old City, and inner neighborhoods are perfectly walkable, and the scenic route is probably the better option than searching for parking for every activity.
If you are driving throughout Bristol, you’ll find street parking relatively easy to find. There are street meters and signage for all street parking spots, and they are very easy to find in most neighborhoods. There are car parks for Bristol Shopping Quarter and Old City. The latter is one of the most convenient because you will have easy walking access to Brunel’s SS Great Britain, The Aquarium, the Hippodrome, and even M Shed once you’ve parked.
How to Get Around By Foot
Bristol is often described as one of the most walkable cities in the UK. It’s big enough that there are plenty of areas worth exploring, but not so big that you can’t walk from the city centre to many different tourist attractions and neighborhoods.
The Old City and Harbourside are the areas that are best to walk around. The most charming streets, architecture, restaurants, and atmosphere can be found here. This area is easy to navigate, with plenty of maps, and friendly locals that can point you in the right direction if you get turned around. But luckily, the area is compact, so you can’t have gone too far wrong. The Harbourside in particular is friendly towards walking tourists, as it’s been mostly pedestrianized, so you won’t have to worry about dodging traffic while you’re walking the waterfront taking in the sights and sounds.
Walking to areas like College Green and Park Street are perfectly doable for most groups. Most treks can be managed within 15-20 minutes, and the routes are scenic enough that it will absolutely not feel like a chore. Even getting to Stokes Croft or the Shopping Quarter from The Old City is only about 15 minutes on foot. If the steps are adding up, it’s always convenient to take a bus from one place in your itinerary to another.
Getting Around Bristol On Two Wheels
In the same way that Bristol is an incredibly walkable city, it’s also a VERY bikeable city. There are bike lanes on most major thoroughfares, and there are countless bicycle parking spaces throughout the city. Bristol has made a point to have all of its tourist areas accessible to visitors with two wheels. The terrain is also not particularly hilly, so there isn’t too much huffing and puffing involved in getting from Point A to Point B.
For cyclists visiting Bristol, there are plenty of places to rent bikes. Webb’s Cycle Shop and Pedal Progression are two solid options, but there are stores all over Bristol where you can rent a bike, a lock, and a map for relatively little money. Just beware of the at-times unreliable weather of England’s South West. Otherwise, enthusiasts will find Bristol to be a perfectly accommodating cycling city. It’s a great way to work off calories from the delicious street food and pints of ale!
Whether you are navigating Bristol by foot, on two wheels, or on four wheels, it’s an incredibly easy and fun city to explore. Use one of the many Bounce storage facilities to make getting around Bristol even easier!