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The UK’s eighth most populous city, Bristol has a diverse mixture of attractions, from historical sites to public art installations. There is so much to see and do in Bristol that it is often difficult to fit everything into one visit, and Bristol is also a great place to use as a base for visiting other top destinations. Cities such as Bath and Cardiff make for great daytrips, as do natural attractions such as the Exmoor National Park, the Cotswolds and the Mendips. Arranging car rental is the best way to get out and explore Bristol’s surroundings, although it is best to get around by public transport in the city centre itself.
Who to Book With
Car rental offices can be found all over the city as well as at Bristol Airport, with top suppliers such as Thrifty, Avis, Budget and National having a presence here. Booking car hire online ahead of time is highly recommended and is the best way to guarantee availability. It is also a great way to snatch up the best rates on the vehicle that most fits your criteria.
Best time to go
As it is one of the warmest cities in the UK, Bristol can be enjoyed throughout the year, although the most popular time for visitors is during the summer. Bristol plays host to numerous annual festivals, at which times hotel and rental rates are at their highest.
Need to Know Essentials
Documents needed when retrieving your vehicle include:
- A UK driving licence (both parts)
- Some other form of identification
- The credit card used when the reservation was made
- Conformation of your booking, printed if possible
Bristol’s city centre is made up of predominately one-way streets that newcomers often find frustrating. Parking in Bristol is plentiful, however, with both NCP car parks and on-street spaces available. Some areas of Bristol have controlled parking zones, with spaces reserved for permit holders only. There are also three cheaper Park and Ride lots outside of the city centre for those wanting to avoid bringing a car into town altogether.
Bristol is bordered by both the M4 and the M5 motorways, with the M32 giving direct access to the city centre. The M5 connects the city south to Exeter and north to Birmingham, while the M4 links it west with Swansea and east with London. Other major routes out of the city include the A4, the A37 and the A38, which link to Bath, Ilchester and Burnham-on-Sea, respectively. All routes in and out of Bristol are toll-free with the exception of the M4 and the M48, for which a toll must be paid to cross the River Severn into Wales.
Bristol has an extensive bus network, with most buses operated by the First Group. Many visitors prefer to travel on the CitySightseeing bus, which stops at most major attractions and offers one and three-day passes. Another great way to get around is on the Bristol Ferry Boat, which links Bristol Temple Meads Railway station with the city centre, as well as to other locations along the harbour. It is also possible to cycle around Bristol, as it is on the National Cycle Network, while some also prefer to explore the city on foot.
There are a number of railway stations in Bristol, all which are operated by National Rail. Bristol Temple Meads Railway station is the busiest railway hub in the city. It has lines run by CrossCountry, First Great Western and South West Trains, connecting Bristol to Manchester, London Paddington, York, Southampton and London Waterloo, among other cities. For railway connections to Wales, head to the Bristol Parkway station in the suburb of Stoke Gifford. From here, you can get on First Great Western’s South Wales Main Line.
Licensed taxis in Bristol run on the meter, with rates set by the city council. Daytime rates start at £2.60 and then go up by £0.20 every 200 metres thereafter, while rates between 19:00 and 23:00 start at £3.20. If you take a taxi after 23:00, expect to pay upwards of £3.40 from the off. Private taxis are also available for hire to take travellers to destinations outside of the city centre or to Bristol Airport.
Buses in Brighton are plentiful, although they are not the cheapest way of getting around. Buses 8 and 9 are the most convenient for visitors. National Express operates buses from Bristol Bus and Coach Station to London, as well as to other cities throughout the UK, while Megabus offers budget coaches to the London Victoria coach station.
Bus tickets for public routes can be purchased on the bus, at a PayPoint outlet or at the First Travel Shop, located at the bus station. Single journey tickets within the city centre and the Greater Bristol area cost around £4 per person or £8.50 per family of five, while a 10-ticket package is just £23.50. Tickets for the CitySightseeing bus cost £12 for a single day ticket or £26 for a family ticket. They can be bought online or directly from the driver.
Bristol is well connected to the rest of England and Wales, making it a great choice of holiday destination. There is a wealth of stunning scenery and historical sites close by, and the city’s great road network means that there are plenty of options for daytrips. Beaches, national parks, historical landmarks and areas of outstanding beauty are all within close proximity, offering great drives to those that want to escape this lively city.
Bath - The historic Roman city of Bath sits just 12 miles southwest of Bristol and is a phenomenal place to spend a day. It is arguably one of the UK’s most beautiful cities, famous for its Roman baths, magnificent cathedral and historical Theatre Royal. Bath is also home to a number of museums, art galleries parks and golf courses.
The Wye Valley - This is an area of outstanding beauty in Wales, sitting just on the other side of the River Severn. The entire area is accessible by car, making for a stunning excursion for those seeking striking natural scenery. The area’s wide variety of landscapes makes for fantastic photographs, while the castles and abbeys are also unforgettable. While here, don’t miss the impressive 13th century Tintern Abbey and the lovely Chepstow Castle.
Exmoor National Park - Has a wealth of things to offer visitors, including woodland, moorland, valleys and high cliffs overlooking the Bristol Channel. The park consists of 267 square miles of breathtaking landscapes, with plenty of opportunity to catch sight of a variety of wildlife. Visit sleepy villages, go on scenic walks, explore a castle or just enjoy the picturesque views.
Weston-super-Mare - This is the closest beach resort to the city and a great place to escape to on a hot summer day. Weston Bay is the biggest draw, although there is also plenty to do here for those not wishing to work on their tans. Check out the Wheel of Weston, the Helicopter Museum, the Seaquarium and the Grand Pier.