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24 September 2014

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You are in: Bristol > History > Museums > Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery

City Museum front

Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery

An impressive building in its own right, Bristol's City Museum and Art Gallery is a treasure trove of art and history located in the heart of the city's tourist trail.

The Museum and Art Gallery dates back to 1823, with exhibits moving into their current building in Queen's Road in 1905. 
The gift of philanthropist and tobacco tycoon Sir William H Wills, the building was intended as a statement of civic pride to compete with other major cities such as Birmingham and Manchester, hence the imposing frontage complete with carriage entrance.

Built at an estimated cost of £40,000, it was extended rearwards in the 1930s, at an additional cost of £98,337 19s 2d.

Today, the museum houses an impressive array of local and national treasures - so many in fact that they cannot all be displayed at one time.

The quality and significance of the collection is such that the museum is one of the few to have been awarded Designated status.


The museum's permanent exhibitions are arranged over two floors, although the buidling's unusual split-level layout gives the impression of three floors.

The wide, galleried entrance hall is dominated by a life-sized replica of a Bristol Boxkite aeroplane, suspended from the ceiling.

Alfred the Gorilla

Alfred the Gorilla 1930 - 1948

Manufactured in Bristol in the early 1900s, the replica is one of the original three used in the 1963 film Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.

Alfred the Gorilla, another famous and much-loved local exhibit, can also be found in here.

Captured in Africa in the 1930s he was brought to Bristol Zoo, where he rapidly captured local hearts with his character and tricks.

Alfred the Gorilla graphic - 2008

When he died in 1948 he was stuffed and put on display in the museum, where he continues to entertain visitors. In fact  in 2008 Alfred is the face of the museum's  latest family campaign to encourage people to visit the Museum and will be seen in a variety of cheeky poses throughout the summer

The art exhibition on the top floor includes a wide range of paintings and sculptures from old masters to modern art, with a display of decorative arts in adjoining galleries.

The lower floors contain a glittering collection of minerals, ancient fossils and a large archaeology gallery.

Close by is the world wildlife gallery containing many examples of endangered or extinct animals.

Here, you will also find the immensely popular Egyptology gallery with its real mummies and the impressive Assyrian Relief which is over 3,000 years old. This gallery is now fully open to the public after extensive re-development.

Events and activities

The permanent exhibitions are complemented with a programme of temporary exhibitions and a full programme of free public events to suit all ages.

Blue glass

the city is famous for its blue glass

Check out the website for a list of school holiday activities and seasonal events.

The museum is open every day of the year except Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Opening hours are 10am - 5pm and entry to the museum is completely free to everyone.

Disabled access is currently available from the entrance in University Road, but new facilities in the main entrance on Queens Road were due to open in spring 2004.

There is full wheelchair and lift access throughout the building.

The museum has its own gift shop. In addition to a range of books, cards, ceramics and novelty gifts, the shop also stocks locally produced Bristol Blue Glass.

The independently-owned cafe, situated at the rear of the museum, is rapidly gaining its own reputation as a trendy, relaxing pit stop.

Visitors will find snacks, hot food and drinks on offer.


The city's largest museum

Getting there

By foot

The museum is a 15 minute stroll from the city centre and bus station.

Follow Park Street from the centre and you will find the museum located at the top on the right, next to the Wills Memorial university building.

By public transport

Any of the following bus services will take you to the museum - 1,8,9,41,42,43,54,55,99.

By car

Car users should leave the M5 at junction 18 or 19 and follow signs for the city centre.

If approaching from the M4, exit at junction 19 and follow the signs for M32 and city centre. Follow the brown visitor signs for the city museum.

The nearest public car park, West End NCP in Jacobs Wells Road, is a five-minute walk to the museum. Limited meter parking is available in the surrounding area.

last updated: 14/05/2008 at 13:42
created: 07/02/2006

You are in: Bristol > History > Museums > Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery

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