From stunning views and iconic landmarks to sensational independent shops and the best cider in the city, Clifton is often the envy of Bristol. The area’s majesty is undeniable. And whether you live nearby (lucky you) or are simply visiting for the weekend, there are surprises to discover around every corner. We’ve rounded up some of the very best things to do in Clifton to get you started.
1. Go beneath Clifton Suspension Bridge to explore its secret chambers
Arguably Bristol’s most iconic landmark, there’s only one place to start when you visit Clifton. Brunel’s most famous bridge is an engineering marvel that has attracted visitors for centuries. If you have grown a little tired of seeing it again and again, however, then may we suggest looking at Clifton Suspension Bridge from a new angle.
It was 20 years ago that a builder accidentally discovered 12 secret vaults hidden beneath the bridge. During the summer months, two of these are accessible to the public via Hard Hat Tours. You’ll never look at Clifton Suspension Bridge the same way again. To learn more head here.
A stone’s throw from Clifton Observatory is a free activity every Bristolian knows about. Made shiny and smooth by generations of bums, is Clifton’s natural rock slide. While there is no official access, it’s hard to miss due to the often long queue of people waiting to slip down. It’s the cheapest thrill you’ll find in all of Bristol. Just please don’t blame us if you hurt yourself!
Afterwards, why not head over to the Observatory’s camera obscura? One of only three still working in the UK. It’s sort of like a Victorian CCTV that lets you view the surrounding area in real-time. While from there you can also climb down Giant’s Cave – home to the local legend of Goram and Ghyston – for views of Avon Gorge.
Litfield Rd, Clifton, Bristol BS8 3LT
3. Go shopping at The Clifton Arcade
This beautiful Victorian shopping arcade is packed with small independent shops. So everyone is guaranteed to find something they like. Not only does it include one of Bristol’s best art galleries, Hidden Gallery, but you’ll find jewellery, antiques, furniture, house plants and so much more for sale. This mini-shopping experience will certainly wear you out, however. Luckily Primrose Café is perfectly situated outside The Clifton Arcade for you to put your feet up before continuing to explore Clifton.
The Clifton Arcade, Boyce’s Ave, Clifton, Bristol BS8 4AA
4. Sample the local cider at The Coronation Tap
It hardly bears repeating that Bristolians love their cider spots. And when on the hunt for this sweet nectar of the gods, look no further than Clifton’s only, and Bristol’s oldest, cider specialists. Said to be older than the Clifton Suspension Bridge, The Coronation Tap (or Cori Tap as locals call it) has been around since the 18th century. Exclusively brewed Exhibition is a must-try but is strong stuff at 8.2%.
8 Sion Pl, Clifton, Bristol BS8 4AX
5. Check out Clifton’s antiques shops
Clifton has a rich history. One that even pre-dates the rest of Bristol back to the Iron Age. But the grand Georgian houses of Royal York Crescent are enough to convince anyone of the storied past here. So why not take a step closer to those who came before by visiting one of several antique shops found in Clifton Village?
The one we find ourselves at most Saturday mornings is Rachel’s & Michael’s Antiques. But Focus On The Past is also worth a look-in. Both offer an array of unique items, where you might find anything from binoculars to luggage cases, vinyl records to video cameras, as well as clothes, cutlery, books, boxes, cutlery, furniture and so much more. You never know what you might find.
Rachel’s & Michael’s Antiques, 30 Princess Victoria St, Clifton, Bristol BS8 4BZ
Focus On The Past, 25 Waterloo St, Clifton, Bristol BS8 4BT
It’s the oldest surviving heated pool in the country – although not quite the oldest – but is as noteworthy for its Mediterranean cuisine as its swimming facilities. Situated near Whiteladies Road, Bristol Lido offers a relaxed space with food cooked visibly in a roaring hot Italian clay oven.
The main restaurant sits above the pool, while the poolside bar has a lighter, tapas-style menu. Of course, you should also take a dip if you’re here. To swim, you can pre-book a two-hour session – which includes the pool, sauna, steam room and hot tub – from £25. Learn more here.
Oakfield Place, Clifton, Bristol BS8 2BJ
7. Stroll down the Birdcage Walk
No matter the time of year, Birdcage Walk is the most magical walkway in Bristol. Notably bombed during the Second World War, it is a haunting leafy shortcut through Clifton’s cemetery. But thanks to arching trees overhead, overgrown graves lining the edges and a genuine sense of peace, it will leave an instant impression on anyone visiting. No wonder it was immortalized in Helen Dunmore’s novel of the same name. If you’d also like to help with the care and improvement of Birdcage Walk head here.
Birdcage Walk, Clifton, Bristol BS8 4EH
8. Stock up on Mexican goods at Otomí
We’ve yet to decipher Clifton’s Mexican connection. But those looking to celebrate Cinco de Mayo or the Day of the Dead, or just want to make tacos for dinner, should look no further than Otomí on Boyce’s Avenue. It’s a one-stop shop for all your Mexican needs. From cupboard store goods to kitchenware, Frida Kahlo-inspired folk art to handmade tequila shot glasses, it has anything and everything you might need. Arriba, Arriba!
4 Boyce’s Ave, Clifton, Bristol BS8 4AA
9. Seek out Cliftonwood’s colourful houses
The story goes that Bristol’s former mayor, George Ferguson, was the first in Cliftonwood to paint his house back in the 1970s. As a student, he and his friends bought a house together but their dream was almost upended when developers threatened to tear through the area to build tower blocks.
In response, they painted the house terracotta red with the whole street shortly following suit and kickstarting Cliftonwood’s iconic look. Some doubt the truth of this story, but it does not undermine the dazzling beauty of the area and its colourful houses.
10. Support Clifton’s independent bookshops
There are two stand-out bookshops in Clifton. Firstly, the independent Heron Books in The Clifton Arcade has packed in wall-to-wall novels, poetry collections, classics and much more in a tiny space. Only opening in 2022, it has quickly become our first port of call for unique and new releases when in the area.
But if looking for a cheaper surprise then head to Clifton Community Bookshop. Run by volunteers, and providing low-cost books, it also hosts several regular events such as a book club and yoga classes, as well as more one-off book readings and music gigs. Great for all the community.
Heron Books, Unit 5, The Clifton Arcade, Boyce’s Ave, Clifton, Bristol BS8 4AA
Clifton Community Bookshop, 10 Clifton Rd, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1AF
Afternoon tea is all the rage these days in Bristol, but there is nothing quite like the Japanese-inspired serving at KIBOU. Maintaining the dainty, elegant presentation we love, KIBOU adds a Japanese twist with a range of sushi, sashimi and traditional Japanese sweets, alongside a range of teas. It combines the classic British pastime with flavours from Japan for something extra special.
16 King’s Road, Clifton Village, BS8 4AB
12. Unwind with a glass of wine at Bar 44
Is there a better way to relax after a long weekend than with a glass of wine? Make a final pit stop at Bar 44 for a tipple. Serving a large selection of Spanish wines, paired with a delicious and seasonal tapas-style menu, it’s one of our favourite wine bars in Bristol. It’s the perfect place to unwind after a busy weekend exploring Clifton.
18-20 Regent Street, Clifton Village, BS8 4HG