Fun festivals and events in Bristol

By Rebecca Burns

Festivals are huge contributor to Bristol’s dynamic cultural scene, with events happening throughout the year, and plenty to do that is completely free. Here are some of our top picks from Bristol’s year-round festival and events calendar.

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta

Perhaps the most famous of all is Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, which happens over four days in August, creating a spectacle in the skies above the beautiful Ashton Court Estate – and drawing visitors in their droves every year. Whether you pay for a ticket or not, you won’t miss the dramatic sight of the balloons drifting overhead during the festival. The event attracts around 100,000 visitors.

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta

See the wonderful Bristol Balloon Fiesta

Circus City

Circus City, the UK’s biggest festival of contemporary circus, presents awesome shows from all over Europe, from aerial acrobatics and risky ropework to adult satire and children’s interactive play.

Music festivals

When it comes to summer music festivals, Bristol also excels – with a diverse range of genres and musical styles at Love Saves the Day in May, and a selection of Americana at Grillstock in July, both of which are paid, ticketed events. Bristol Sounds is a five-night midsummer gig series on Bristol’s iconic Harbourside taking place in June. The amphitheatre is an incredible setting for live music. Then there are free annual celebrations that draw in crowds from way beyond the local community, such as the St Paul’s Carnival and Bristol Pride, both in July.

Bristol Harbour Festival

One of the UK’s largest public festivals, Bristol Harbour Festival is a chance for the city to showcase its rich musical and performance roots. The festival, which attracts 250,000 visitors, is a free dance, music and arts extravaganza at the Harbourside in July.

Bristol Walk Fest

This popular annual celebration of walking takes place in May. It usually attracts walkers from across the city and beyond and includes a range of activities, such as historical tours, nature walks, street art exploration and even walking sports.

Literary festivals

And literature lovers are not left out, either: the Bristol Shakespeare Festival is an annual festival taking place throughout July, hosting performances and events inspired by the legendary bard himself in a range of interesting and alfresco locations across the city. There’s also the Bristol Festival of Literature, an annual celebration of the creative word in Bristol, and newcomer to the scene: the Storytale Festival, an exciting new week-long children’s book festival taking place in various venues around the city.

The Lord Chamberlain's Men, Much Ado About Nothing performance in Bristol

The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Much Ado About Nothing performance at Bristol Shakespeare Festival

Bristol Light Festival

Renowned international light artists join homegrown talent across locations in Bristol to create a beautiful trail through the city.

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta at night

Read more

Top 10 reasons to visit Bristol

History and heritage of Bristol 

Bristol’s best cultural venues

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Image credits: ©Elinor Lower/Bristol Shakespeare Festival; Paul Box/Bristol International Balloon Fiesta; pjhpix/; Video: Bristol International Balloon Fiesta/YouTube

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