There's a reason that Bristol wins city awards year in and year out; it's a vibrant, youthful place brimming with creativity and culture, with a (sometimes mental) love for a Thatcher's Gold, a can of spray paint, and a good old fashioned session until the early hours.
Whilst we all want to go to Bristol to sink a pint of cider and dance the night away, this summer, we may be a bit skint to do so. Thinking about this, we wanna show you some of the free things to do in Bristol, so you can still have a top time but not break the Bank(sy).
Do a walking tour of Banksys hometown art
When: Open all year round
Where: Dotted around the city
Everyone loves a bit of Banksy, right? That man has done more to capture the public mood with paint, stencils and brick than most politicians could ever dream of. So, if you're in town you might as well have a little mooch and see them all. From Mild Mild West to the Well Hung Lover (get your head out of the gutter, you don't think he'd paint that do you), there are 11 different original Banksys to see dotted around the city, and if you're after some free things to do in Bristol this should be first on the list.
There's a handy app you can download and plan your walk, or there are loads of guides on google, so if you're a fan or just wanna see what all the fuss is about, go have a look for yourself.
Experience a slice of history aboard The Matthew
When: Open to visit when moored, check their website for details.
Where: Wapping Rd, Bristol, BS1 4RN
Anybody wanna explore an old boat and pretend to be Jack Sparrow? If your answer is yes (weirdo) then The Matthew is an essential place to stop by on your Bristolian adventures. The ship is a pretty faithful reconstruction of the one used by the explorer John Cabot when he discovered Newfoundland in 1497, and whilst those with a bit of dosh can buy a ticket for one of its voyages, anyone can have a free look around when docked opposite the M Shed.
So, even if you don't wanna pretend to be a pirate, this is a cool free thing to do in Bristol and is deffo worth a visit.
Discover the story of Bristol at the M Shed
When: 10am - 5pm Tuesday to Sunday
Where: Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd, Bristol BS1 4RN
Bristol's history is checkered, to say the least. Being one of the UK hotspots of the transatlantic slave trade, the city has laboured with its past for generations, a struggle that we all found out about in 2020 with the toppling and sinking of the Colston statue. If the history of the place intrigues you, it certainly does us, then The M Shed is the place to be.
Inside expect a comprehensive look at the city from prehistoric times to the 21st century, the M Shed paints itself as a new kind of museum, one that aims to challenge traditional ideas, where the stories of the past spark discussions about the future. Amongst the exhibits, you will also find the fished-out Colston statue, which in itself is one hell of a thing to see.
Boogie to jazz at The Old Duke
When: Free live music every night of the week
Where: 45 King St, Bristol BS1 4ER
You can't beat a bit of free live music, can you? If you're in Brizzle then there's no better place to catch some than The Old Duke. This place has been about for more than a minute, records show it dates back to 1775, and is renowned as one of the most important venues for the UK jazz scene.
They do free jazz on Mondays, Friday and Sundays, with other nights being host to Blues, Country, Funk and Soul, as well as an open mic night every week (free beer if you perform so test out your chops.)
Whilst entry for the nights is always free, it'd be a bit strange if you didn't get a pint of their finest cider to go alongside the top-tier tunes, and whilst we are on about the free things to do in Bristol, a little can go a long way.
Climb up and see the views from Cabot Tower
When: 8:15am - 5:15pm Everyday
Where: Brandon Hill Park, Park St, Bristol BS1 5RR
If you're up for a mooch, and ready to sacrifice your legs to some stairs, then you can't get a better view of the cider-drenched shores of Bristol than when up Cabot Tower. Plonked in the middle of the picturesque parkland of Bristol's oldest park, Brandon Hill, the 105ft tower is over 100 years old and built to commemorate John Cabot's famous voyage to North America.
An iconic part of the skyline, it's an essential visit when looking for free things to do in Bristol, just get ready for the steps.
Watch traditional glass blowing at Original Bristol Blue Glass
When: 10am - 4pm Monday to Saturday
Where: 357-359 Bath Rd, Arno's Vale, Bristol BS4 3EW
Now this one is a bit more left-field, ever wanted to see glass made in the traditional English method? Well, the guys at Original Bristol Blue Glass have got you covered. Created in 1988 in an attempt to not lose traditional English methods of glassmaking to the passage of time, the workshop has been a haunt of many an intrigued tourist. you can go in for free and watch the glass being made, as well as have a gander at the shop.
If your pocket allows it, then you can do it yourself for £25, but we know this is about free things to do in Bristol, so we'll leave it at just watching.
Wander the beautiful Victorian grounds of Arnos Vale Cemetery
When: 9am - 5pm everyday
Where: Bath Rd, Arno's Vale, Bristol BS4 3EW
If you've been following the free things to do series, you may have seen a few graveyards listed; I promise I'm not a morbid sod, some of them are just really bloody pretty. None more so than Bristol's Arnos Vale Cemetary.
The site is internationally recognised as one of the UK's best examples of a Victorian garden cemetery. located in a 45-acre Arcadian landscape, dotted with classical buildings, monuments, and leafy walkways. The area provides a pretty relaxing escape from the bustle of the city centre and is a great place to lose yourself in and unwind.
Watch the sky fill up at Bristol International Balloon Fiesta
When: Thursday 11th August - Sunday 14th August
Where: Ashton Court Estate, Long Ashton, Avon, Bristol BS41 9JN
Now if you're looking at going down to Bristol at some point in the summer, we'd advise planning around this weekend. One of the biggest annual events in Bristol, the International Balloon Fiesta is an absolute dream to watch. An international collection of latex aeronauts descend on the city for this weekend, where they dominate the sky with an array of colours, and it truly is a sight to behold.
Whilst this is definitely the most time-sensitive choice on this list, we'd also argue that it's one of the best things to do in bristol, paid or free, so get down for the weekend, camp out on a hill and enjoy the incredible view.
Indulge in contemporary art at Spike Island
When: 12pm - 5pm Wednesday to Sunday
Where: 133 Cumberland Rd, Bristol BS1 6UX
Spike Island (put away your bucket hats not that one) is a place built entirely with creatives in mind. From its range of galleries to spaces for creative businesses and artists to work to its frequently held debates and discussions for audiences to engage. Basically, if you're an artist, or you love art, you are guaranteed to find a home here.
The site is located on the southern end of Bristol’s historic docks in a former tea packing factory. But don't let the industrial location fool you, inside is clean and modern, and a feast for the eyes awaits around every corner. So if you're after free things to do in bristol, and want to appear smarter than you are at your next pub chat with your mates, then get yourself here.
Enjoy a range of free live music at The Canteen
When: Free live music six nights a week, check their website for details
Where: Hamilton House, 80 Stokes Croft, St Paul's, Bristol BS1 3QY
There seems to be free live music dotted all over the harbour town of bristol, but, if you ask us, there are few that do it better than The Canteen. The stokes croft building is an institution in the city and has been providing food, drinks and free music to Bristolians for years.
The building is right next to Banksy's Mild Mild West mural, has over 10 beers on tap, and Pink Floyds Roger Waters even popped in one Thursday afternoon to do a little set.
If you're looking for some free live music and a relatively cheap night alongside then look no further.
To find even more events happening around Bristol in 2022, click or tap - HERE
Check out our What's On Guide to discover even more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.