Bristol (Avonmouth) Cruise Port

Port of Bristol (Avonmouth): An Overview

Bristol is a natural choice for a cruise port in the South West of England thanks to its proximity to the Atlantic and strong maritime history. With the relatively new Bristol Cruise Terminal, built in 2013, at Avonmouth Docks, and located just six miles outside Bristol city centre, it's the perfect place to plan a day out before or after a cruise.

Whether it's Banksy, Blackbeard or the distinctive West Country accent that comes to mind when you think of Bristol, this city is surprisingly cosmopolitan, with exciting art, media and music scenes. Bristol (or 'Brizzle', as it's known locally) also boasts some beautiful architecture, with hundreds of listed and landmark buildings in a hotchpotch of styles from medieval to modern. Many of the city's old buildings have been given new identities-- the city centre harbour, for example, has become a buzzing modern development since the relocation of the docks to the larger, deeper water sites at Avonmouth and neighbouring Portbury.

The largest concentration of sights and landmarks is clustered within the city centre and medieval Old City areas. In the charming Old City you can wander back in time to tick off historic landmarks like St Stephen's Church, the Old Council House, Queen Square and St Nicholas Market. You then have gorgeous architecture on Park Street, where the independent shops and boutiques contrast with the big brand names of the Shopping Quarter.

Other areas worth exploring include the lively Harbourside development and charming Old Market and Redcliffe areas around the Temple Meads Railway Station -- look out for the rainbow of colourful houses that make up Redcliffe Parade and the gothic stunner that is St Mary Redcliffe Church.

For history lovers who want to venture further afield, beautiful Bath -- Britain's only UNESCO World Heritage City -- is just 30 minutes away, while the home of Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle, takes just over an hour to reach. Shakespeare's home town Stratford-upon-Avon, the historic university town of Oxford and the mysterious, prehistoric site of Stonehenge are all 90 minutes away by road.

The new cruise terminal at Avonmouth Docks made cruising directly to and from the city possible. Cruise & Maritime Voyages is the main provider of cruises from Bristol, and made the docks its homeport in 2015. On CMV ships Astoria and Marco Polo, passengers can sail on varied itineraries ranging from two-night taster cruises and trips around the British Isles, to the beautiful Norwegian Fjords, the sunny Canary Islands and even as far away as the Amazon.

Find a Bristol (Avonmouth) Hotel

Hanging Around

As Avonmouth is an industrial port area there's not much to see in the immediate vicinity, and walking inside the dock estate is not permitted -- you need to have a car or arrange transport. There is a taxi rank to the right as you exit the cruise terminal, or you can arrange a pick up or organised excursion in advance. There are limited facilities including a seated waiting area, cafe and toilets.

Don't Miss

Blackbeard to Banksy, The Ultimate Bristol Walking Tour: This fun and kooky two-hour tour is a great way to get an easy-going grounding of what Bristol is all about. As well as showing you Bristol's best street art, your enthusiastic tour guide will walk you through Bristol's past, spinning tales of pirates, smugglers, Blitz raids and more. (Tours leave outside the Cathedral main entrance; 0044-7909-221-684; Thursday to Sunday, 11:30 a.m.).

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery: This free museum boasts a brilliant collection of exhibits, with something to interest everyone, including Egyptian mummies, the Bristol dinosaur and the famous gorilla 'Alfred' to excite the kids, and a good collection of paintings, pottery and glass for grown-up art lovers. (Queens Road; 0044-117-922-3571; Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

M Shed: Another free attraction, this art museum and media centre has a great position beside Bristol's floating harbour, and always has an exciting collection of exhibits, including film, photography, art and more. (Princes Wharf; 0044-117-352-6600; Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

Clifton Suspension Bridge: This world famous bridge is one of Bristol's best-loved landmarks, designed by Victorian engineer Brunel. Set into the cliffs of the Avon Gorge, it's quite a sight and sits alongside pretty Clifton village, a great spot for independent shops. (Clifton Bridge Visitor Centre; Leigh Woods; Daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

Brunel's ss Great Britain: This award-winning Bristol visitor attraction is known as "the ship that changed the world", and was the first of its kind, as designed by master engineer Brunel. (Great Western Dockyard; 0044-117-926-0680; spring/summer opening, daily, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., autumn/winter opening, daily, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.).

Cabot Tower: This gothic-style tower sits in picturesque Brandon Hill, which is the oldest park in Bristol, and offers visitors great views over the city -- if they're willing to climb its steep spiral staircase. (Brandon Hill Park, Park Street; 0044-117-922-3719; open early morning, usually 8 a.m., until dusk; free entry).

Queen Square: This elegant garden square occupies the heart of the city, between the charming Old City and the revamped Harbourside. (Old City; 0044-117-903-1484).

Cabot Circus: Cabot Circus is part of Bristol's Shopping Quarter, with over 120 shops and stores, including Harvey Nichols and House of Fraser, under a shell-shaped glass roof.

Arnolfini: This international contemporary arts centre and gallery sits at the waterfront in Bristol's bustling Harbourside and has everything going on from video installations and sculpture to theatrical performances and live music. (16 Narrow Quay; 44-00-117-917-2300; Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.).

Stonehenge: If you've got an interest in Neolithic history, archaeology or spiritualism, the prehistoric stone circle at Stonehenge is well worth the 90-minute trip from Bristol. (Near Amesbury; 0044-370 333-1181; winter opening times, daily, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., summer opening times, daily 9:30 a.m. to 7 or 8 p.m.).

Getting Around

By Taxi: There's a taxi rank to the right as you exit the cruise terminal. Alternatively, you can pre-book a taxi in advance. North Bristol Cars is open 24/7 (32 High Street; 0117 966 6888.). Note: There is a very limited taxi service from Avonmouth train station.

By Rail: Avonmouth train station is two miles from the Bristol Cruise Terminal. There are one or two trains per hour connecting to Bristol Temple Meads Station, taking around 28 minutes. Because you need transport to get to Avonmouth Station, as there's no walking within the port area, it may be easier to use taxis between the cruise terminal and Bristol city centre instead. There are two train stations in Bristol -- Bristol Parkway and Bristol Temple Meads. Both provide good connections to London, Swansea, Cardiff, Birmingham and elsewhere in the U.K.

By Air: Bristol Cruise Terminal is 13 miles from Bristol Airport by road, and the airport provides direct flights to destinations within the U.K. and across Europe.

By Car: The cruise terminal is handily located for the M5 and M4, with access from the West Town Police Gate (no entry on foot). There are secure car parking facilities on site, which must be booked and paid for in advance, through a cruise line or travel agent. Baggage handlers collect bags from cars on arrival, before you park. There's also a drop-off area.

Lunching

Bristol is a city that loves its food, so you'll definitely be spoilt for choice when it comes to fuelling yourself for sightseeing. As a culturally diverse city, its different areas are known for different cuisines. St Mark's Road in Easton (East Bristol, where the city meets the countryside) is known for its Asian and Middle Eastern restaurants, while elegant Clifton dishes up perfectly presented traditionally British cuisine. If you want a really great burger, Park Street and the Triangle, in the Shopping Quarter, are the places to go.

While you can easily eat your way around the world, the city takes inspiration from its position in the South West of England, with some really good spots to take afternoon 'Devonshire Cream' teas -- including scones with cream and jam, and tea served in proper tea pots -- tuck into a Cornish pasty -- a pastry parcel stuffed with minced beef and vegetables.

St Nicholas Markets: This central collection of markets (known as St Nicks), is held in the beautiful Exchange Building and on the streets and squares surrounding it, and is a buzzing place to be, whatever day you visit. Foodies won't want to miss the Friday Food Market on Wine Street, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but you'll always find plenty of street food and quick eats here. (Glass Arcade; Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday breakfast, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Watershed: The Watershed is a culture hub at the Harbourside that also benefits from a cafe/bar that's a cut above the usual city centre chains. Food is fresh, local and seasonal, the coffee and cakes are always good, and the waterside views are unbeatable. (1 Canons Road, Harbourside; 0044-117-927-5101; Monday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Tuesday to Friday, 9.30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.).

La Casbah: Head to St Mark's Road in Easton and you'll be spoilt for choice if you like spicy food. La Casbah is a little different though, as a much-loved Moroccan and Mediterranean eatery. Try the lamb tagine followed by mint tea and sticky baklava pastries for a taste of exotic Morocco in Bristol. (96 St Mark's Road; 0044-117-939-8804; Monday to Thursday, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 6 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Sunday, 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.).

Azuzu Coffee Shop: This smart independent coffee shop boasts a brilliant position in the historic Almshouse at the entrance to The Galleries shopping centre -- a perfect place for a pit stop when you're laden down with shopping bags. (19/21 Merchant Street; 0044-117-927-9810; Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

Greens: If fine dining with an incredibly affordable price tag appeals to you then Greens will be right up your street. The bargain lunch menu is available Tuesday to Saturday, and typically includes tempting options such as ham hash cake with poached eggs for starters, and roast pork belly or smoked haddock mains. (25 Zetland Road; 0044-117-924-6437; lunch, Tuesday to Saturday 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.).

Riverstation: This modern waterside restaurant boasts great harbour views and a fresh, light and airy feel, thanks to a large outdoor terrace and huge glass windows. You can eat there for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner -- or just pull up a chair on the terrace for drinks from the impressive cocktail menu. (Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Maitreya Social: Vegetarians simply have to try this very highly rated restaurant on ethnic-hub St Mark's Road. This restaurant/bar/art gallery/live music venue is a lively and exciting place to be, and that's reflected in its meat-free menus which boast seasonal, local and, where possible, organic ingredients. (89 St Mark's Road; 0044-117-951-0100; Tuesday to Thursday, 6 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Bar Chocolate: If you're planning on a wander around smart Clifton village, make sure you pop into Bar Chocolate to satisfy a sweet tooth. The hot chocolates are legendary here! (19 The Mall, Clifton Village; 0044-117-974-7000; Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

Where You're Docked

The Bristol Cruise Terminal sits within Avonmouth Docks at the Port of Bristol.

Baggage handlers (identifiable by high-vis waistcoats) greet arriving passengers and collect their cases from their cars. The port has secure car parking, which must be booked through a cruise line or travel agent and a drop-off point. These are a short walk from the terminal entrance.

Bristol Cruise Terminal also has a team of 'Guest Experience Crew' who are on hand to guide passengers through the terminal. They can also offer advice on tourist attractions in the area.

Watch Out For

Banksy's street art is a massive boost to Bristol's cool, cultured credentials, and you shouldn't miss the chance to see his graffiti art up close if you're in what is widely thought to be his home city. There's information on the Visit Bristol website so you can easily do a self-guided walking tour.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The currency is pound sterling. Visit www.xe.com for current rates. There is no ATM in the terminal. The nearest ATM is outside a Premier shop at 186b Avonmouth Road. There's also a small branch of Barclays bank on Gloucester Road, just down from Avonmouth railway station.

Language

English -- with a distinctive Bristolian twang!

Best Souvenir

Brunel's ss Great Britain, is dry-docked at Bristol's historic Harbourside complex, and is one of the city's most popular attractions, so souvenirs relating to this famous ship and Bristol's maritime roots, are easy to find. Banksy-themed items are also popular souvenirs, including prints, photo cards, postcards, mugs, canvas bags, T-shirts, keyrings -- pretty much everything you can think of.

For More Information

On the Web: Visit Bristol

Cruise Critic Message Boards: British Isles/Western Europe

Independent Traveler.com: England Travel Guide

--By Roxanne Wells, Cruise Critic Contributor

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