A day out at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

16 March 2022

On the outside a typically Victorian museum purpose-built in 1905, you get a surprise as soon as you walk through the doors of the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. Not only is there a historic plane flying overhead complete with pilot, but there’s an angel statue with an upturned paint bucket on its head: a piece by Banksy, who, after all, comes from Bristol.

Something for Everybody

Further inside, this museum develops room by room into the cliched ‘something for everybody’, in the best possible way. On the ground floor you can discover Egyptian mummies, learn about Assyria, an ancient Middle Eastern civilization, while also finding out more about the wetland wildlife in and around Bristol. Eclectic? You’ve seen nothing yet.

On the first floor, you can go back in time to the dinosaurs, pretty minerals, and weird and wonderful animal displays such as one not on the Tasmanian Devil, but the Tasmanian Tiger. Here you can also walk around the gallery and look at the plane in more detail.

Further up, on the second floor, you’ll find the art gallery. There are rooms full of pretty porcelain and pottery, art exhibitions, paintings by local and not-so-local artists, and forever-changing temporary exhibitions, such as the current netsuke exhibit, which showcased an incredible collection of tiny and intricately carved toggle decorations from Japan.

Alfred the Gorilla

And then there is Alfred (c. 1928 – 9 March 1948). Alfred is the in Bristol legendary gorilla who was the main attraction in Bristol Zoo because of his friendly character and rose to celebrity status when during WWII soldiers came to take him home with them, and his stories were told around the globe. After he died in 1948, he was stuffed and placed in a cabinet in the Bristol Museum but was stolen in 1956 by students at the nearby university as a prank, but returned to the museum three days later. He is still one of the most cherished exhibits in the museum.

Plan Your Visit

The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery lies in the heart of Bristol on Queens Road and is free to visit. You can get there on foot, in 15 minutes from the city center, or from Temple Meads Station by busses 1, 2, 8 and 9, stopping near the museum. There is a café in house and a great museum shop full of quirky souvenirs.