Dog-Friendly Bristol: Visiting Bristol with a Dog

The city of Bristol in southwestern England is just 12 miles west of the popular destination of Bath, but quite a contrast. A former port city that has been revitalised in recent years, some of Bristol’s key attractions are its many street art murals and its industrial heritage. Check out my tips for visiting Bristol with a dog after my recent explorations.

Dog-Friendly Bristol

Dog-Friendly Sightseeing in Bristol

It’s easy to experience Bristol with your dog at your side, with many options to choose from. Take your pick from these dog-friendly attractions and experiences around Bristol.

#1 Check Out the Street Art

As the home of the enigmatic Banksy, is it any wonder that Bristol is one of the top cities for street art in the UK? The city has also held multiple street festivals, with the latest edition of Upfest, Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival, being held in the city in late May 2024.

Bristol Street Art
Check out the street art in Bristol with your pup

Going on a street art walking tour is a must when visiting Bristol, and the perfect activity for exploring the city with your pup by your side. I followed the walking tour set out in my Lonely Planet guidebook, but there are plenty of self-guided walks when you search online.

There is also the option of joining in a guided street art walking tour. Dogs are welcome to join you on the two-hour guided tours led by Bristol Street Art Tours. Check the dates of their upcoming tours on their website, or follow their self-guided option any day. Just let them know in advance you are bringing your pup.

Naturally, one of the highlights of a street art tour in Bristol are the multiple Banksy works that can still be found on the city’s walls. Three of his most popular works, Well Hung Lover, The Mild Mild West and The Girl With Pearl Earring (or Pierced Eardrum), are conveniently pinned on Google Maps.

Banksy Street Art Bristol
Banksy’s The Girl with Pierced Eardrum

You can also find The Grim Reaper inside the M Shed – although naturally this free museum is off limits to dogs (and closed on Mondays when I visited!)

#2 Take a Harbourside Walk

Bristol is still dominated by its harbour, even though it hasn’t been a commercial port since 1977. Many of its top attractions lie along the harbour and it’s a great spot to enjoy a relatively flat walk with your dog.

Bristol Harbourside Walk
Follow the Harbourside Walk in Bristol

A convenient route to follow is the Bristol Harbourside Circular on AllTrails. This 2.65 mile (4.3km) loop walk starts and ends at Queen Square. Alternatively, follow the Harbourside Walk signs that can be seen along part of the route.

One of the highlights of the walk is the Underfall Yard, one of the last surviving Victorian dock workshops in the world. When the yard is open (usually from Tuesday to Sunday), it’s possible to walk instead through the yard and find out more about the floating harbour. Unfortunately, a devastating fire occurred in the yard in 2023, but a full recovery is planned.

Underfall Yard on Harbourside Walk Bristol
The historic Underfall Yard

Also along the way you’ll pass Brunel’s SS Great Britain, a groundbreaking steamship now moored in the dockyard in which she was built. Unfortunately, only a glimpse of the ship is possible from outside the walls, with only trained assistance dogs allowed inside.

Dogs are also not allowed join you inside the free M Shed museum, although as you walk past it you can admire the former cranes still lining the edge of the harbour.

Dogs are allowed along the entire Harbourside Walk, including off leash in some parks. Make sure you keep your dog on a leash during the rest of the walk, especially close to the water’s edge.

#3 Enjoy a Harbour Cruise

Instead of walking around the harbour, it’s also possible to enjoy Bristol’s harbour from out on the water, including if you have a dog. There are multiple cruises on offer that are dog-friendly.

The Matthew is a sailing ship, a modern reconstruction of the ship used by John Calbot to sail to Newfoundland and back in 1497, departing of course from Bristol. Dogs are welcome onboard trips where food isn’t served, namely the 45 minute long Harbour Trip and the four hour Avon Gorge Cruise.

Just keep your dog on a short leash, and note that the final decision still rests with the skipper. It’s also free to visit the Matthew anytime it is moored at its dock near the M Shed, including with your dog, to explore the upper decks.

The Matthew of Bristol
The Matthew moored near the M Shed

Another cruise option is the Bristol Packet, which operates multiple 45 minute City Dock Tours throughout the day. Dogs are allowed on the City Dock Tours when they are run on outdoor boats (not the fully enclosed boats) – double check directly which departures are appropriate.

Bristol Packet Boat Trips
The Bristol Packet booking office

Another dog-friendly option are the Bristol Ferry Boats, which operate a daily timetabled waterbus service from April through to the end of September, plus on weekends and school holidays from November to February.

Both single tickets (starting from £2 for adults) and day tickets are available, with the option to hop-on and hop-off. Dogs are welcome onboard for free. Make sure you flag down the boat from the landing stages.

Bristol Ferry Boats
Or catch the waterbus around Bristol

#4 Walk Across the Clifton Suspension Bridge

There are two main attractions in Bristol that were designed by Brunel, one of the engineering giants of the 19th-century. As well as the SS Great Britain, which is off limits to pet dogs, just a short distance away is the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

This Bristol landmark connects Clifton to the southern side of the Avon Gorge. Taking around 40 years to build in the mid-19th century, Brunel’s winning design was partially designed not to “destroy the beauty of the views”. (Previous designs included supporters.)

Clifton Suspension Bridge Bristol
The Clifton Suspension Bridge is a Bristol landmark

Dogs are welcome to join you on walking across the bridge – just make sure you keep them leashed, although the walkway is quite secure. While there is a toll for vehicles crossing the bridge, it’s free for pedestrians and cyclists.

Walking Across Clifton Suspension Bridge Bristol
Leashed dogs are welcome on Clifton Suspension Bridge

It’s easiest to access the bridge from Clifton Village. While the western footpath was closed during my visit due to renovations to the bridge, I recommend crossing on one side and returning on the other if possible – that way you can enjoy the view in both directions.

View of Bristol from Clifton Suspension Bridge
The view from the bridge towards the Bristol city centre

Recently, an excellent free information centre has opened close to the southern end of the bridge. Unfortunately, pet dogs are not allowed inside the centre. However, on the day of my visit, there was a coffee cart at the southern side of the bridge that had dog treats for sale.

#5 Explore the Downs

On the far side of the Clifton Suspension Bridge are the Clifton Down and Durdham Down, or just the Downs for short. This large green expanse is great for exploring with dogs, although on the windy day of my visit the conditions on the clifftops were not the best.

Clifton Down Bristol
The Clifton Down

Close to the Clifton Suspension Bridge is the historic Clifton Observatory, home to the entrance to the Giant’s Cave, located in the cliffs below. Unfortunately pet dogs are not allowed inside, although the onsite cafe has a large terrace.

I was surprised to discover that the adjacent lawn was once home to Clifton Camp, an Iron Age hillfort. There are a number of interesting sites to explore at the Downs, with plenty of signs and maps to follow.

#6 Gaze Up at Bristol Cathedral

Back in the centre of Bristol, another historic spot to visit that warmly welcomes dogs is the imposing Bristol Cathedral.

The cathedral was built between 1220 and 1888, with the western towers completed in the latter year. The oldest part of the cathedral is the late 12th century chapter house, part of an abbey consecrated in 1148. The Harrowing of Hell, a stone carving inside, dates to around 1020-1060.

Bristol Cathedral Exterior
Dogs are welcome inside Bristol Cathedral

When I asked about dogs being allowed inside, the staff member that I spoke to believed that dogs had always been allowed inside the cathedral, that there was never a rule forbidding dogs (unlike other cathedrals in England that have recently become dog-friendly). Dogs should be well-behaved and kept on a leash.

Inside Bristol Cathedral
Inside the Eastern Lady Chapel

Inside the cathedral there is currently an exhibit called “All God’s Children”, which explore the impact of the slave economy on Cathedral life – a sobering reminder of this aspect of Bristol’s history.

Close to the Cathedral, across College Green, is the Lord Mayor’s Chapel. Well-behaved dogs are also allowed inside this chapel. Just note that it’s only open from Thursday to Saturday, so I missed seeing it myself, and a small admission fee applies.

Lord Mayors Chapel Bristol
The Lord Mayor’s Chapel in Bristol

#7 Ride the Avon Valley Railway

While dogs are allowed on regular trains across the UK, you can also enjoy a old-fashioned steam or diesel train ride with your pup by your side on the Avon Valley Railway.

Operating along a preserved section of old track, either stream or diesel engines operate the trains on this railway most weekends and on additional days during school holidays. The rides depart from Bitton Station, which can also be explored for free daily.

Dogs are welcome to join you on the train most days – there are some special occasions such as the Santa Steam Specials and Family events when dogs are excluded. Dogs are also not allowed on dining trains. However, there is water available at the station and I’ve also heard reports of dog-friendly ice cream being sold!

The six mile long round trip from Bitton takes about an hour, with tickets quite reasonably priced and not always required to be purchased in advance.

Dog-Friendly Parks in Bristol

There’s plenty of green spaces around Bristol to let your dog off leash, with one of the best spots being the Downs (see above). Dogs are allowed off-leash in any parks not covered by the Dog Control Public Space Protection Order – look out for the signs.

Closer into the city, a popular off-leash park is Brandon Hill, a large hilly park which includes Cabot Tower. Alternatively, head to the centrally located Queen Square or to Castle Park, on the banks of the river and home to the ruins of Bristol Castle.

Queen Square Bristol
Queen Square in Bristol
Castle Park Bristol
The riverside Castle Park

Pets on Public Transport in Bristol

The most common form of public transport in Bristol is bus, with most bus routes operated by First Bus.

According to their Conditions of Travel for Bristol, Bath and the West, only one dog or small animal may be carried per passenger. It is also at the discretion of the bus driver.

Citylines East Bus Bristol
Dogs are generally allowed on buses in Bristol

All dogs must be leashed and not travel on seats, plus dogs must be muzzled where they are likely to be dangerous or if the Dangerous Dogs Act applies.

Dog-Friendly Cafes in Bristol

The independently-run Society Cafe operates two cafes in the centre of Bristol: their Harbourside location near Queen Square, plus a second location on Baldwin Street. Both locations are dog-friendly, with an emphasis on artisan coffee, plus some excellent tea and hot chocolate options.

Society Cafe Bristol
Society Cafe Harbourside in Bristol

In the colourful neighbourhood of Croft Stokes is The Canteen, a community-run vegetarian and vegan cafe with locally sourced food. Canteen is open daily from 11am to late, with free live music most nights. There’s a great outdoor terrace plus dogs are allowed inside during the day, when live music isn’t on.

Canteen Cafe Bristol
The Canteen in Croft Stokes

Note that at the popular St Nicholas Markets, home to many street food stalls, pet dogs are not allowed inside the building, only in the outside area.

Dog-Friendly Pubs in Bristol

The Hole in the Wall is a country-style pub, yet centrally located in Bristol close to Queen Square. Dogs are welcome to join you in the downstairs area inside, plus of course in the large relaxed beer garden when the weather is fine.

The Hole in the Wall Bristol
The Hole in the Wall is a slice of the country in the city

When visiting the Clifton Suspension Bridge, I recommend stopping at The Mall, just a short walk away in Clifton Village. This gastropub welcomes dogs inside, plus there is a great beer garden. Advance bookings are recommended for the Sunday Roast.

Dog-Friendly Pub The Mall Bristol
The Mall in Clifton Village welcomes dogs

Dog-Friendly Accommodation in Bristol

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive commission if you make a purchase using the links. See my full disclaimer.

For a quirky but luxurious stay in Bristol, make a booking for the Artist Residence. Located in a Georgian townhouse and former boot factory on the edge of Stokes Croft, dogs are welcome in selected rooms and all public areas.

I recommend contacting the hotel directly to book a dog-friendly room. Note that a £15 per dog per night surcharge applies, to cover the provision of a dog bed, bowl and organic dog treats from Lily’s Kitchen.

A more modern dog-friendly alternative is the newly built Moxy Bristol. This hotel welcomes dogs up to 15kg for £15 per night. It’s also possible to book a Canine Comfort Package, with a Puptail on arrival and a welcome pack with treats included. Previous guests report that dogs are allowed to join you in the dining area.

Close to Temple Meads Station, the ibis Bristol Temple Meads is a convenient and affordable option. Pets are allowed for an additional fee of £10 per pet per night.

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About the Author

Photo of Shandos & Schnitzel

Shandos Cleaver is the founder of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel. She has travelled extensively with her Miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel, including to 33 countries across Europe, every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania, and 10 of the United States. She’s passionate about providing inspiration and information to others wanting to travel with their dogs, whether close to home or internationally.

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