Exploring England’s Industrial Might at the SS Great Britain

Hello from Bristol! This is a city that we haven’t covered in past editions of the Rick Steves Great Britain guidebook — but I’m writing it up now, starting with a fascinating sight: Brunel’s SS Great Britain.

This massive ship was built here in the 1830s, when Bristol was Britain’s gateway to the Atlantic and a critical link between London and New York City. The SS Great Britain is a museum now, serving up lots of Industrial Age thrills. If you visit, be sure to tour more than just the hull. Inside, you’ll experience a snapshot of life on board, 175 years ago. 

By the way, Bristol is like Belfast, Glasgow, and Liverpool — one of those rusty old port towns that are now emerging with a special creative energy, and well worth visiting. When I first researched and wrote my original Britain and Ireland guidebooks 25 years ago, I didn’t cover these cities at all. But in the last generation, they’ve all emerged as important destinations — and they are well-covered in my guidebooks. A guidebook is always a work in progress, and we keep hard at it, so you’ve got the very latest to design the smartest trip.