Camera Obscura

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Step into the past at Clifton Observatory…

“Mr William West, creator of Bristol’s Camera Obscura, begs most respectfully to inform you that the Observatory is now open, and upon the summit of the tower is placed an excellent and unusually large Camera Obscura. This Optical instrument can be rotated 360 degrees to offer a marvellous picture of the extensive and varied scenery around the Observatory. To those unacquainted with this engineering, will see it as truly magical” – Mercury, 1836.

William West’s Camera Obscura is one of the only working Camera Obscuras open to the public in the UK. This marvellous piece of Victorian engineering was first built in 1828 and still offers incredible experiences to visitors today. Using a series of mirrors and lenses to reflect a 360° panoramic image onto a viewing dish, the Camera Obscura is sometimes described as ‘Victorian CCTV’ due to the hidden bird’s-eye view it offers.

Discover the hidden secrets of Clifton Observatory’s history at the museum. With a past dating back to the Iron Age, there is much to learn about the Observatory’s past uses. As you ascend the tower to the Camera Obscura you pass through the museum which illuminates the story of Clifton Observatory’s past. 

Clifton Observatory is also home to the incredible Giant’s Cave where visitors can venture down a passage through the rocks to reach a natural limestone cave in the face of the cliffs. Visit the 360 café and rooftop terrace at Clifton Observatory for locally-sourced refreshments and snacks along with unparalleled  views of Clifton Suspension Bridge from the terrace.

Please note that Clifton Observatory and the 360 café are accessible by foot only and that the Camera Obscura and Museum are not wheel-chair accessible.


Key Features

  • Families

Specialist Features

  • Family Fun
  • Marketed towards families

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Camera Obscura and Museum


Litfield Place, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 3LT
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Tel+44 (0)117 974 1242

Opening Times

Open (1 Jan 2024 - 31 Dec 2024)

* Autumn/Winter (November 1st – March 31st)
10AM – 4PM (Last entry at 3:45PM)

Spring/Summer (April 1st – October 31st)
10AM – 5PM (Last entry at 4:45PM)

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