5 Wheelchair Accessible Things To Do In Bristol

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Bristol is a city that’s completely new to me, and I had no preconceptions about the place ahead of our flying visit. All I knew was that it was only a short train journey away from the city of Bath (where we had spent two nights previously), and so we decided to extend our trip by adding on an extra night’s stay around the Cabot Circus area.

Though our visit was short and we could have easily spent much longer there, we found Bristol to be a vibrant city with so much to do that we almost felt spoilt for choice…

As a reminder, I’m an ambulatory wheelchair user with a chronic illness. I use my online platforms to share my own lived experiences and don’t represent every disabled person. However, I hope some of these suggestions come in handy if you’re considering a trip of your own!

1) Indulge in retail therapy at Cabot Circus

Pippa in her power-chair walking along an internal bridge in Cabot Circus shopping centre. She's wearing a hoodie and face covering, turning to look back at the camera with her arms in the air.

Cabot Circus is known as the ultimate shopping destination in Bristol. It was such a treat to wander around both high street and high-end stores, and visit brands I love that don’t have branches nearer to where I live. I don’t mind telling you that I squeaked a little bit when I saw they had a massive Pull & Bear and a Monki shop there, and it’s a miracle we emerged from there without doing serious damage to my bank account…

Inside Cabot Circus there’s also a range of cafes and restaurants, and we even spotted an Escape Hunt escape room and a Treetop Golf site set to open soon. The centre hosts bespoke events all through the year, and if you’re driving there are 75 accessible parking spaces on-site too.

The centre is covered, making it a great way to spend your time on a rainy day. It’s also easy to navigate as a wheelchair user, with smooth walkways to whizz across, lift access to every level of shops and restaurants, and a Changing Places toilet facility on the ground floor. I was really pleased to see there’s a Shopmobility branch in operation in here too, meaning you can rent manual or motorised mobility aids during your visit.

2) Go underwater at Bristol Aquarium

To be clear I’m not talking about a scuba diving excursion here, but spending time at Bristol Aquarium felt so immersive that you really could imagine you were sharing the waters with the sea life you’ll find there. As we made our way through the various themed sections, we became acquainted with sharks, rays and skates, tropical and freshwater fish, and plenty more. Sting rays will always have a special place in my heart, but an honourable mention must go to the Black Pacu fish who looks exactly how I feel on a bad fatigue day…

We were so impressed by the accessibility here, and you could tell the entire venue had been road-tested by disabled people. In previous visits to aquariums or sea life centres I’ve often had to battle-slam my way through heavy doors and confined spaces, but at Bristol Aquarium there was spacious and ramped access all the way through, meaning I could reach anywhere I wanted to and focus on enjoying the visit. I also absolutely loved that they had BSL signs scattered around near each exhibit, a really effective way of encouraging every passer-by to learn something new.

Pippa inside the Jurassic section of Bristol Aquarium, making her way down the ramped walkways in her wheelchair and pointing at a dinosaur statue to her right.

3) Explore the Clifton Village area

Pippa sat at an outdoor table at The White Lion bar, wearing a raincoat and holding up a gin. Clifton Suspension Bridge is visible in the background.

A short drive away from the city centre, we could have easily spent more time wandering around Clifton. We didn’t make it to The Clifton Arcade which we’d heard great things about, but we did appreciate all the Georgian architecture and gorgeous houses as we walked around, alongside having a nosey in various boutique and charity shops. You know how particular clusters of charity shops just always seem to have really great items? Obviously we had only visited one time, but I imagine Clifton would be one of these staple areas. So many gorgeous things.

The White Lion Bar also came highly recommended to us, and after wandering through the inside of the venue onto the vast terrace pub garden, it was easy to see why. Here, you can enjoy a drink with spectacular views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge towering over you. Turn your head the other way, and you can also take in the green rolling hills surrounding Avon Gorge and the countryside beyond – probably the most scenic view I’ve ever had while consuming a nice gin and lemonade.

It was easy to get around the whole venue at The White Lion, both inside and outside, and you can find an accessible toilet on the ground floor indoors near the bar. If you’re in the area, I cannot recommend this place enough. If we’d had the time during our visit, we definitely would have been back.

4) Enjoy Japanese Food at Kibou

Pippa and Izzy's table at Kibou. The dishes on the table include black lava salt edamame, dynamite cauliflower, oyster mushroom bao buns, and their signature Volcano Roll sushi, as well as gin and sake cocktails.

While you’re nearby, it would be rude not to make a stop at Kibou Clifton for some incredible Japanse food in beautiful indoor surroundings. There was so much choice on the menu, including plenty of nut-free and vegan options for me, and everything we tried was absolutely delicious.

Between us, we consumed black lava salt edamame, dynamite cauliflower, oyster mushroom bao buns, and their signature Volcano Roll sushi. We ended up so full, but we knew we wouldn’t be able to live with ourselves if we stopped eating any of the dreamy food in front of us…

It’s worth being aware that access is a little tricky via the pavements surrounding the outside of Kibou. If you’re a wheelchair user, I would advise getting and staying on the pavement on Clifton Down Road rather than trying to get up the kerb on Kings Road – but it’s definitely worth persevering with. Once you’re inside, you can relax within a gorgeous environment, among the loveliest staff, and enjoy truly excellent food.

5) Rest your head at Future Inns Cabot Circus

We stayed overnight in the Accessible Double Room at Future Inns Cabot Circus. This room had a *very* comfortable queen-sized bed, alongside a nice sofa that could also be made into a double bed. The accessible bathroom held a walk-in shower with grab rails, lowered sinks and shelving, and an emergency pull cord. We found it exceptionally easy to move around this entire hotel, with lovely wide corridors that not even I, with my remarkable lack of spatial awareness on a brain foggy day, could end up battling against while using my wheelchair.

There was also a lovely buffet breakfast offered in this hotel, served in a downstairs restaurant area that could be accessed from the ground floor via a platform lift. There was a good range of hot and cold choices, even for people like me with multiple dietary requirements, and additional vegetarian and vegan items can be prepared on request. There was non-dairy milk already out and ready to be used so you didn’t have to ask for it, and I was very impressed to see non-dairy yoghurts on offer too. A lovely, comfortable stay, and in a great location bang opposite one of the entrances to Cabot Circus shopping centre – an excellent perk for anybody who, like me, usually forgets at least one important thing when they’re packing and needs to nip out to pick up some essentials…

Press image of the accessible double room at Future Inns Cabot Circus, showing the double bed, desk and sofa bed, and plenty of room to manoeuvre a wheelchair.
Image Credits: Future Inns Cabot Circus

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If you’re planning a trip to Bristol and relying on public transport and taxis to get around, I urge you to do some research and ensure you save some taxi company numbers in advance. We did unfortunately run into several issues with being unable to pre-book, and then accessible vehicles not being available (a challenge not at all unique to Bristol and very similar to the situation in York where I live), and in the end we had to rely on walking or public transport, which I appreciate isn’t an option for every disabled person. However, it was delightfully easy to get an accessible blue Hackney Carriage from directly outside Bristol Temple Meads station when we arrived, and I believe there is a rank of accessible vehicles outside Bristol Hippodrome too.

I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to visit a thriving city that was completely new to me, and I really enjoyed our flying visit there. You can see more of what we got up in this Instagram Reel, and watch the vlog on YouTube. That video will take you along with us during the time we spent in the Harbourside area too, and may or may not feature a majestic steamship that I managed to explore every deck and every hidden corner of, even while using my power-chair…

Thanks for reading!

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